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Railway Collision, A (1900)


Main image of Railway Collision, A (1900)
35mm, black and white, 36 feet
DirectorW.R. Booth
Production CompanyPaul's Animatograph Works
ProducerR.W. Paul

A train jumps a signal and, while backing into position, is run into by an express train.

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Before the advent of computer graphics over eighty years after this film was made, the most cost-effective (and safest) method by which special effects designers staged large-scale disasters was to recreate them on a much smaller scale using miniature scale models.

W.R. Booth's A Railway Collision (1900) is one of the earliest examples of this technique in practice, as model trains are used to simulate a train crash on an embankment. Unlike some of his other films of the period, Booth does not attempt to enhance the effect by intercutting obviously full-scale material, though his successors would undoubtedly have added a shot inside a carriage full of screaming passengers.

Model trains standing in for real ones can be seen frequently in British films over the subsequent decades. Alfred Hitchcock was particularly fond of them, with Young and Innocent (1937) and The Lady Vanishes (1938) contain choice (if not always convincing) examples. By contrast, the miniature work in The Wrecker (d. Geza von Bolvary, 1928) was so effective that much of the footage was recycled in a later film, Seven Sinners (d. Albert de Courville, 1936), whose alarmingly realistic train crashes are leagues ahead of what Booth achieves in A Railway Collision. But their source is clearly visible here.

Michael Brooke

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'R.W. Paul: The Collected Films 1895-1908', with music by Stephen Horne and optional commentary by Ian Christie.

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Video Clips
Complete film (0:22)
Lady Vanishes, The (1938)
Seven Sinners (1936)
Topical Budget 734-2: 'Fundamentalism' v 'Evolution' (1925)
Young and Innocent (1937)
Booth, W.R. (1869-1938)
Paul, R.W. (1869-1943)
Paul's Animatograph Works: Trick Films