The Railway Children Return: Film stars descend on Yorkshire station for world premiere

A thrill of anticipation awaited a star-studded cast for a world premiere in Keighley of a new railway tale inspired by a beloved British classic.

This is a new story, in The Railway Children Return, yet set in the same Yorkshire landscapes from the 1970s film, based on the 1906 book by E.Nesbit.

To pay homage to this vista, screen stars gathered at Oakworth Station, before journeying the Worth Valley by steam to a red carpet crowd at Keighley’s Picture House Cinema.

There is a resonance to this setting, actress Jenny Agutter told The Yorkshire Post, reprising her role as the original Bobbie, now a grandmother. And more so to bring it forward.

Sheridan Smith and Jenny Agutter stars of The Railway Children Return at the World Premiere at Oakworth Station on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway to be taken to Keighley PIcture House to view the film.. Picture Tony Johnson

“I love the fact that things come back. It is a joy to return,” she said.

Radiant in red, she had laughed in delight as she clambered aboard a steam engine's footplate, to be reunited with train driver Nicholas Hellewell - who was also a driver in the original film.

Yorkshire’s own Sheridan Smith, who plays Bobbie’s daughter Annie, said there was a sense of nostalgia with the film staged in this setting.

“This whole area, and the history here, it’s just beautiful,” she added. “I’m so pleased we are having the premiere here.”

John Bradley who plays Perks arrives for The Railway Children Return World Premiere at Oakworth Station on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway to be taken to Keighley PIcture House to view the film. Picture Tony Johnson

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The original film told the story of a mother and her three children who move to the Yorkshire countryside after their father is falsely imprisoned.

The sequel, The Railway Children Return is set in 1944 as life in Britain’s cities becomes increasingly perilous and three evacuee children are sent to Oakworth.

Dubbed a heartwarming, moving adventure for a new generation, it features a dangerous quest to assist a hidden American soldier.

Cast members Tom Courtenay and Jenny Agutter arrive for The Railway Children Return World Premiere at Oakworth Station on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway to be taken to Keighley PIcture House to view the film. Picture Tony Johnson

The film is produced by Jemma Rodgers who used to live in Haworth, and shot in locations such as Oakworth Station and the Bronte Parsonage.

Such settings - gritty and rugged and resilient and passionate - define the film's feel, she said, while the region's heritage railways are "a gift".

Of the message, she said it was partly about children's resilience, and growing up too fast.

"It's about family, through friendship," she added. "I hope it brings a sense of hope."

Cast members for The Railway Children Return World Premiere at Oakworth Station on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway to be taken to Keighley PIcture House to view the film.. Picture Tony Johnson

Birthday celebrations

Ms Agutter, 69, was joined by cast members including Tom Courtenay, writer Danny Brocklehurst, and Game of Thrones' star John Bradley, who said he can distinctly remember watching the original film as a child.

And throughout the new movie, released July 15, there are hints at little snippets from the original story, filling in the gaps in the intervening years.

Bobbie would “definitely” have been a suffragette, speculated Ms Agutter. And then there is the eternal question - did she marry Jim?

“I never trained as an actor,” she said. “All I could bring to it was my imagination. It seems important to know there was a life in between.”

The new generation of Railway Children includes The Crown’s Beau Gadsdon, as well as KJ Aikens, Eden Hamilton, and Zac Cudby.

Director of The Railway Children Return Morgan Matthews at the World Premiere at Oakworth Station on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway to be taken to Keighley PIcture House to view the film. Picture Tony Johnson

Among the children is Bobbie’s grandson Thomas, played by Yorkshire’s Austin Haynes who also celebrated his 14th birthday on Sunday at the world premiere in his own home county.

Beaming, a bit shy, he said he was “very proud”, adding: “It’s surreal, I just cant believe it. We worked so hard, this is a dream come true.”

Crowd

And as the cameras flashed outside Keighley’s Picture House Cinema, a jubilant crowd clutched golden tickets. This was the world premiere.

Among those invited were seven nurses and physios from the nearby Manorlands Hospice, honoured in their roles as key workers. The film has “kept its magic”, they said.

To Ilkley’s Anne and Bill Marwick, college friends of cinema owner Charles Morris from 50 years ago, this was a celebration of Yorkshire’s place on the world stage.

“It’s that English tradition of filmmaking,” they said. “Something to warm the cockles of your heart.”

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Crowds watch the cast members arrive for The Railway Children Return World Premiere at Oakworth Station on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway to be taken to Keighley PIcture House to view the film.. Stars Tom Courtenay and Jenny Agutter. Picture Tony Johnson
Sheridan Smith and Jenny Agutter stars of The Railway Children Return at the World Premiere at Oakworth Station on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway to be taken to Keighley PIcture House to view the film.. Picture Tony Johnson
Jenny Agutter chats with train driver Nick Hellewell at the The Railway Children Return World Premiere at Oakworth Station on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway. Nick was reunited with the star after having a role in the original 1970 film. Picture Tony Johnson