Skip to main content

'The Railway Children Return' — why everyone should be excited by this movie sequel

The Railway Children stars Bernard Cribbins with Jenny Agutter (on right), Gary Warren and Sally Thomsett.
The Railway Children stars Bernard Cribbins with Jenny Agutter (on right), Gary Warren and Sally Thomsett. (Image credit: EMI Films)

The announcement that The Railway Children Return  — a sequel to the famous 1970 film — is going into production is majorly exciting for any child of the 1970s like me. I was taken to the cinema to see The Railway Children around 1974 — yes I was six years old so a cinema outing in those days was a treat well remembered. 

It was a double bill feature with another 1970s classic Swallows & Amazons, also favourite of mine from the era. The fact it was my late dad who took me back then makes it all the more poignant whenever I watch The Railway Children now, generally at Christmas or Easter, as the story is essentially about Edwardian kids losing their father (to prison, wrongly accused of spying). The final station scene in The Railway Children is, in my opinion, the greatest tearjerker of all time! 

The fact that one of those 1970s’ Railway Children kids, Jenny Agutter — who made that tearful last scene happen with such poignancy — is reprising her role of Roberta ‘Bobbie’ Waterbury only adds to my excitement. Jenny has now reached almost National Treasure status playing Sister Julienne in BBC1's drama hit Call The Midwife, but I'll always remember her best as Bobbie waving her red bloomers frantically, along with her brother Peter and sister Phyllis, trying to stop an oncoming train from crashing into a landslide. Yes it was all-action and thoroughly dramatic! 

As my excitement grows about seeing this sequel here’s a rundown of everything we know about The Railway Children Return...

The Railway Children Return release date…

The Railway Children Return is due to be released on April 1 2022 — date for the UK so far, but will no doubt have a worldwide release date, including the US, too in due course. After we see the movie in its full glory on the big screen it will probably head to a big streaming service some time after and we'll update then! We can also see this as a big Christmas movie on the BBC within the decade!

The Railway Children Return — what we know so far…

Directed by Morgan Matthew, The Railway Children Return will feature a new generation of children who are evacuated to a Yorkshire village during the Second World War, where they encounter a young soldier who is also far from home. There they will also meet Roberta ‘Bobbie’ Waterbury who has lived in the Yorkshire area since Edwardian times when her adventures as a teenager featured in The Railway Children book and film. The script of The Railway Children Return is by Danny Brocklehurst, whose TV credits include Shameless, Brassic and Clocking Off.

The Railway Children Return cast…

Of course leading the way on The Railway Children Return is the ever brilliant Jenny Agutter back as Roberta Waterbury, aka Bobbie. Jenny’s now 68 so wartime Bobbie is around five decades older too. Sheridan Smith and Sir Tom Courtenay are part of the cast too, but we’re yet to find out about their roles. Other cast should be announced soon, especially if there are any other actors, like Jenny, from the original film.

Jenny Agutter in Call the Midwife

Call the Midwife's Jenny Agutter (above) has started filming The Railway Children Return, and is playing Roberta Waterbury once again, although the character is many years older during World War Two. (Image credit: BBC and Nealstreet Productions)

The Railway Children Return — is there a trailer?

As production The Railway Children Return is only getting underway there’s no trailer yet, or even any pictures from the set! But we’ll be posting when they arrive! Meanwhile, here's a lengthy trailer for the 1970 film...

The Railway Children Return locations…

What is so exciting about The Railway Children Return is how most of the original locations for the 1970 movie are being used, particularly along the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, plus Oakworth Station in Haworth, West Yorkshire, and the nearby Bronte Parsonage which doubled as the local doctor's house...

Remembering the 1970 movie The Railway Children…

Where do we start with the amazing 1970 movie The Railway Children, a real passion project for its director Lionel Jeffries (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang). The music and enchanting theme from The Railway Children were by Johnny Douglas (see trailer clip above to listen to and watch the highlights).

The film, like the book, follows three children Bobbie, Peter and Phyllis who, along with their mother, move to a Yorkshire country cottage called 'The Three Chimneys' after their father is wrongly jailed for spying and the family is forced to downsize from their expensive London house due to their lack of money. Alongside Jenny Agutter as Bobbie, there’s Sally Thomsett (Man About the House) and Gary Warren (Catweazle) as younger brother and sister Phyllis and Peter, while established screen star Dinah Sheridan (Genevieve) played their caring mother who home-schooled the three, sold stories to papers to earn money so they didn’t starve (although she mainly bought iced buns for tea!) and generally did good throughout the story! Bernard Cribbins played Perks the station master who the children befriended after he mended Peter’s broken toy steam engine. 

Among the children's many adventures were helping a mysterious Russian gentleman who’d had a breakdown, stopping a train crash when they spotted a landslide (see the scene below), and saving a schoolboy with a broken leg who got trapped in a railway tunnel. Of course (spoilers!) Bobbie had a tearfully happy reunion with her father at the station on his release from prison, helped by the "kindly old gentleman" who’d wave at them from his train and who turned out to be the grandfather of the schoolboy with the broken leg they’d nursed back to fitness. It was a feelgood story to remember with lots of bumps and diversions along the way!

You can watch the 1970 movie The Railway Children through our link above.

The Railway Children flag down a train after a landslide.

The Railway Children flag down a train after a landslide. (Image credit: EMI Films)

The Railway Children in 1970 - Bobbie, Phyliis and Peter.

The Railway Children in 1970 — Bobbie, Phyllis and Peter. (Image credit: EMI Films)

The television productions of The Railway Children...

Jenny Agutter's first time as Bobbie in BBC1's 1968 adaptation of The Railway Children.

Jenny Agutter's first time as Bobbie in BBC1's 1968 adaptation of The Railway Children.  (Image credit: BBC)

Jenny Agutter had played eldest child Bobbie in a 1968 TV adaptation of The Railway Children on the BBC. This had also starred Gillian Bailey (The Double Deckers), Anne Castle and Neil McDermott. Jenny Agutter also went on to play the mother character in The Railway Children for the 2000 version of the story on ITV which features Michael Kitchen (Foyles War) as the father, Gregor Fisher as Perks, plus Jemima Rooper, Jack Blumeneau and Clare Thomas, and Sir Richard Attenborough as the "kindly old gentleman". Going further back to the 1950s, Tenko star Jean Andersen played the mother in two black and white BBC versions of the story in 1951 and 1957.

Here's how to watch the 1957 and 1968 TV Versions of The Railway Children on the links below...

The Railway Children author Edith Nesbit…

The Railway Children author Edith Nesbit.

The Railway Children author Edith Nesbit. (Image credit: Alamy)

The Railway Children was a popular story written by 'E Nesbit', aka Edith Nesbit. It was first serialized in The London Magazine in 1905 before the book was published in 1906. Edith wrote over 60 children's books, including The Five Children and It, The Phoenix & The Carpet and The Story of The Treasure Seekers. The Railway Children is a fantastic read — yes I only just got round to it during the pandemic, and was surprised to find quite a few more adventures for the kids that were left out of the film, including a dramatic fire aboard a canal boat! Perhaps the movie budget in 1970 didn't stretch to destroying a boat!

Edith Nesbit was a political activist, actively supporting the Labour Party, and she co-founded the Fabian Society with her journalist/author husband Hubert Bland. Edith died in 1924 aged 65 but her books were a direct or indirect influence on many subsequent writers, including PL Travers (Mary Poppins), JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame and CS Lewis who wrote the Narnia books.