North Eastern Locomotive Preservation Group

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Home News News and announcements Downton Abbey Filming – Top Secret!

Downton Abbey Filming – Top Secret!


In late October 2018 rumours were circulating that the NELPG’s Q6 and J27 may be required for a filming job on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. What this actually was – a TV programme or film was not known, because there was a great deal of secrecy involved.

The planned new filming event at Pickering on November 13th 2018 I believed should be recorded photographically for the loco owners NELPG and NYMR membership magazines and permission was granted by the NYMR. A 6 am departure in darkness from Teesside over the Moors to Pickering was with rostered driver Terry Newman. The rumour was the filming was about Downton Abbey, the well- known TV series but that series had finished. Upon arrival at Pickering it was clearly evident the filming was not for a further TV series, but for a major film of the same name. Outside Pickering station were large power generators. Large floodlights had been mounted at key points, a make-up room had been established and the Q6 had been given a new livery as LNER No 2235 whilst the J27 had its front number plate removed. A total surprise was to see, in the train formation of Gresley vehicles, the Travelling Post Office sorting van smuggled in from the Great Central Railway. The film was set in 1927 and the Q6 was to be portrayed hauling a mail train out of Kings Cross in the hours of darkness. All a bit make- believe but filmed in the darkness could be very dramatic.

Clearly the NYMR had a lot of staff coordinating the event for some time with great attention to detail. One camera was mounted on a P Way trolley, especially adapted and the scene in the film of the Q6 dramatic departure from Kings Cross will be from that camera.

Some of the staff and volunteers involved included driver Terry Newman, fireman John Steels and trainee James Conway on the J27, whilst the Q6 had two shifts. The morning shift had driver John Hunt and fireman Pete James whilst the evening shift for the main action had driver Neal Woods and fireman Phil Acaster. There were so many other people involved including Keiran Murray C&W, Laura Strangeway Marketing, Darren Palmer Control, and three guards, these being David Tibbet, Mat Donald and Stuart Bell.

All those involved in the filming had to go to the make-up room and this included the footplate crew and to the amusement of NYMR members as one driver was transformed and had grown a good head of hair! The other driver did not need any make up! Read that whichever way suits!

Various shunting movements took place in daylight to have the stock in precisely the right spot but as darkness fell and the floodlights came on and the scene was transformed. By now the whole station had ring of security staff to prevent local people getting pictures on social media. In a discussion with the producer he explained the considerable difficulty film makes of today have in keeping the storyline secret, until the film is released especially with modern media. Film makers of the past certainly did not have this problem. He also explained, that in the North East , there could be up to four films being made at the same time such is the popularity of the area. The NYMR were also under contract not to release images for the same reason.

So, pictures were taken of only the locomotive action by using a telephoto lens, a high ISO rating and no flash guns but in the full knowledge no one would ever see the pictures till after the film release date, that being September 13th 2019. In the still night, photography by the huge floodlights, the Q6 departure, with Neil Woods at the regulator, was both noisy and dramatic as it passed me within six feet.

The film Downton Abbey will now be on at cinemas near you and judging by the trailer it should be a period drama classic. I for one cannot wait to see the Q6 depart Kings Cross on the night mail!

NELPG’s Q6 in a temporary livery as LNER No 2235 is prepared for its secret filming at Pickering that in the film is Kings Cross on 13th November 2018 - Maurice Burns

 - Maurice Burns

 - Maurice Burns

Prior to the night time filming the Q6 in its new film livery as LNER No 2235 basks in the autumn sunshine - Maurice Burns

The Q6 and J27 shunt the coaching stock with fireman Pete James in the cab, prior to the after dark filming - Maurice Burns

Whilst the filming was supposedly secret the large generator vans for lighting the station must have given a hint something was afoot - Terry Newman

Large floodlights were located around the whole station site. This one is just south of the station - Maurice Burns

In Pickering station car park a Bentley is about to be unloaded as actors walk by - Maurice Burns

An extra in the film walks by the Bentley in Pickering car park - Maurice Burns

The film was set in 1927 but one actor clearly was using a memory aid from a different era to remember his lines! - Maurice Burns

The Gresley Travelling Post Office sorting van owned by the Railway Vehicle Preservations Ltd based at the Rothley  on the Great Central Railway was secretly moved from the Great Central Railway to Pickering and was marshalled in the train set - Maurice Burns

In the steamy atmosphere of Pickering station Driver Terry Newman gives instructions to his J27 fireman  John Steeles  about the planed shunting movements - Maurice Burns

Actors in period costumes pose for the camera on Pickering station with the Great Central Railway Travelling Post Office sorting van behind them - Maurice Burns

Driver Neil Woods who had a major part to play in the filming poses in the cab of Q6 No 2235 - Maurice Burns

One of the NYMR’s longest serving and Top Link driver Terry Newman who needed no make up for the film, poses in the cab of the J27  - Maurice Burns

Smooth operators. The coordination on the ground involved a lot of people with  Keiron Murray C&W, Darren Palmer Control, , and guards , David Tibbet, Mat Donald and Stuart Bell all playing a key part of the days operations - Terry Newman

Two film extras look the part after being fitted out as porters in 1927 clothing - Terry Newman

As the light faded the Q6 marshals the stock ready for the evening shoot - Maurice Burns

The standby locomotive throughout the night time filming was the J27 with its BR identity removed from the smokebox - Maurice Burns

With space at Pickering a premium the J27 is placed on the turntable between shunting duties - Maurice Burns

With space at Pickering a premium the J27 is placed on the turntable between shunting duties - Maurice Burns

J27 takes water from the LNER water column with trainee fireman James Conway assisting whilst the Q6 can be seen in the station - Terry Newman

For one part of the filming both engines were used and made ready to depart the station - Maurice Burns

The J27 departs the station during the night time filming - Maurice Burns

With the J27 out of the way a camera mounted on a P Way trolley is moved alongside the Q6 being manually pushed into position - Maurice Burns

A picture that sums up the atmosphere of the filming after dark. Q6 driver Neil Woods (on the platform) receives instructions from the producer on the track whilst fireman Phil Acaster prepares the fire  prior to the dramatic departure - Maurice Burns

The Q6 makes a dramatic night time departure from Pickering station being transformed during the editing process into Kings Cross - Maurice Burns

Last Updated on Saturday, 05 October 2019 20:04