Gareth Evans talks to well-known professional photographer Jack Boskett about how he attempted to capture the feel of the original 1966 Great St Trinian’s Train Robbery film in 2019 through a series of black and white photographs. All photographs by Jack Boskett.
It’s an all-time classic – a ‘goodies and baddies’ tale with a railway element. Who can forget the sights and sounds of Wickham trolleys, Austerity 0-6-0STs, a WD 2-10-0, DEMUs and a Class 11 racing each other in a manner akin to a childhood model railway – not to mention Dora Bryan shouting through a megaphone: “I am the headmistress of St Trinian’s and I claim the reward!”
The Great St Trinian’s Train Robbery was a British film comedy set in the fictional St Trinian’s School, released in 1966. The railway scenes were filmed in colour on the closed, but not forgotten, Longmoor Military Railway, providing a valuable record of a network that became the subject of a failed preservation attempt.
Fast forward 43 years and Jack Boskett, a well-known professional photographer, whose work has appeared in a host of national and local newspapers, magazines, websites, books and journals, decided that it was time to try to recreate the feel of the original film with a black and white photo shoot.
In black and white
On August Bank Holiday Monday, Jack co-ordinated the shoot at privately-owned Gotherington station, which is located alongside the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway (G/WR).
“The idea was to recreate the original 1966 film, in which a group of schoolgirls rescue the loot from the robbers and take it away by train while using a pump trolley and a Wickham trolley,” explained Jack.
“The girls played a vital part in the photo shoot and they were the main focus on the day. Their challenge was to look ‘in character’ as much as possible – so with a little bit of research from photographs online from the 1966 film, they managed to pull it off, despite the weather being incredibly warm at 34° centigrade.”
The girls taking part included Isabel Beckett, Jess Beckett, Samantha Swinford, Sarah Scott, Michelle Vincent, Claire Boskett, Serena Gough and Charlotte Harris. Mike Mount and Jack Boskett starred as enginemen. The ‘headmistress’ was played by Adrian McPherson.
“I hired a professional make-up artist to work on Adrian,” added Jack. “She arranged the outfit and the wig for him and she did a superb job!”
Asked why he chose to do it, Jack replied: “Some of the girls in the shoot had been wanting to do a modern recreation for some time. They said it would be fun to do. I agreed, but suggested that if a heritage railway element could be incorporated, we could recreate the original film. It’s a classic – it resonates with many people.”
Explaining his choice of black and white for the photo shoot, Jack said: “Black and white is in fashion. I think it’s quite flattering. I find that it works well in portrait photography and also when attempting to recreate scenes from the past.
“Furthermore, although the original film was shot in colour, the still photographs were all taken in black and white. Therefore, the medium is correct, not only for the film scenes, but also for the period.”
Sympathetically restored it to its former glory by the owners, Jack said Gotherington station was a perfect venue for the shoot.
“It has so much to offer from a photography perspective,” he said.
“Not only do you have the passing trains on the G/WR, but in the station garden there are station platforms, a GWR Toad brake van, a host of out-buildings and original railway signs – plus a signal box and a covered ground frame.
“The station also has its own self-contained standard gauge line, which is operated using a pump trolley and a Wickham trolley, which looks like a car.”
Patina of time
“The beauty of the station is that it’s not a sparkling museum, so the artefacts retain a patina of time. The owners spend a lot of time taking care of the station – flowers are not in short supply.”
Capturing another element of the original film, Jack also brought in three cars. Among them was his own Austin 1300, which has featured in many of his photographs, often ‘broken down’ with the bonnet up.
Reflecting on the day, Jack concluded: “Nobody knew about our photo shoot at the G/WR, so it was a surprise to the train crew and the passengers. Some of them worked out that it was me, so they sent photos via Twitter. One person quipped that ‘Jack Boskett is up to no good with St Trinian’s girls!’ Joking aside, it was nice to see people smiling on passing trains when they noticed what we were doing.
The shoot was not intended to be smutty and sleazy – it was meant to be a classic. It was also the last day the blue King No. 6023 King Edward II ran on the G/WR and I wanted to get that in. Overall, it was fun!”
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