Cat no. 143

Rolling Along

Running time~18:45 Black & White Silent 1949 Southend-on-Sea, Essex

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The opening of the new pier railway at Southend-on-Sea.


DocumentaryIndustrial / Sponsored FilmTravel / Travelogue

The film opens with shots of the old coaches travelling along the Pier. There are fishing boats moored on the sea. Some shots are taken from these coaches. These look out to sea and we see it pass another engine. There are also people walking along the pier. The scene alternates between the workshops of A.C. Cars of Thames Ditton, Surrey, and the pier.

At the factory engineering workers are engaged in building the wooden frames of the new carriages and in constructing the electric cables. Later the coaches are polished the ready for dispatch. On the pier, men are working on the track and painting the pier ready for the opening. Preparation for the change over includes laying extra track out onto the promenade to enable the new coaches to be delivered. These new coaches are loaded onto a low loader and hitched to a lorry. The film follows their journey, over the river and along the roads to Southend where it finishes on the promenade, by the pier entrance. The complicated process of manoeuvring the carriage off the low loader and onto the rails to be hauled onto the pier is covered at some length. This is itself a tourist attraction and the crowds have turned out to watch. The work goes on into the night. Eventually the carriage is onto the rails and pulled by a team of men onto the pier. A second follows. In daylight again the testing of the coaches begins. The train has a test run and then doors and windows are checked to be in working order. In the cab, the driver is filmed familiarising himself with the new controls.

The arrival of the Lord Mayor of London to the Borough of Southend. His party is met at the Borough boundary and continues into Southend. The motorcade halts at a substantial house and the parties alight. There are shots of the chauffeurs standing around waiting. In Southend, the crowds gather along the streets and at the pier. There are some policemen filmed, including a mounted policeman. The procession approaches the pier on foot and the dignitaries mount a dais. The principals offer speeches and there are shots of the crowd. A long shot of the pier. There is a shot of the old train, full of cheering people, pulling into the 'station'. The Lord Mayor poses for the camera, enters, the new train and drives the train through the ribbon. The final scene is of the crowds queuing for tickets and then flooding onto the pier, open again.

Background Information:

The electric railway was opened on Southend Pier in 1890. In 1929, at the same time as the opening of the Prince George extension, the track was doubled and full signalling was used for the first time. The Pier was closed between September, 1939 and March, 1945. During the war the electric trams, or 'Toast Racks' as they became known, covered 300,000 miles ferrying service personnel and supplies along the railway. Some coaches were converted to carry stretchers. By the end of the war it was estimated that the 'Toast Racks' had carried 65 million passengers. The railway re-opened to the public in May, 1945.The first of the new trains arrived in March, 1949 and the inauguration took place on 13th April. That date also marked the first time the illuminations were switched on after the wartime blackout. The 'chunk chunk' noise of the new trains was unique and could be heard two miles away.Southend Pier had a long standing association with the Lord Mayor of London. In 1829, William Haygate, a former Lord Mayor, settled in Southend in a house called Porters. (This is now the official residence of the Mayor of Southend.) Haygate formed a company to build the original pier under Royal Terrace

Featured People:

Alderman S.F. Johnston, J.P, The Mayor of Southend; The Lord Broadbridge KCVO; The Rt. Hon. The Lord Mayor (LT) of London; Alderman A.H. White, Chairman of the Pier and Foreshore Committee; Capt. J.C. Johnson, Piermaster and Foreshore manager; Mr. E.C. Goble, Chief Engineer

Featured Organisations:

A.C. Cars factory, Thames Ditton. Rolling Along.

Featured Events:

The opening of the new Pier Railway, Southend-0n-Sea

Featured Buildings:

Southend Pier; A.C. Cars factory, Thames Ditton

Belfairs Films

Frank Pigram

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