Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
John Betjeman Goes By Train (1962)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

At King's Lynn station, John Betjeman boards the train to Hunstanton, which then departs. He enthuses about the potential offered by country line journeys, on which he claims one can see far more than is possible on a road trip.

The train crosses the open flatland at the mouth of the Wash, the part of Norfolk nearest Lincolnshire - long lines of level plains before the North Sea. They then enter the "royal country" of Sandringham, "guarded" by Wolferton Church, which the driver acknowledges with a quick toot on the horn.

The train pulls into Wolferton Station, which Betjeman says is different from all other stations in England. It was built at a time when no expense was spared - Betjeman highlights carved stone from a local quarry, the porch in the style of a Norfolk manor house, and the arch that may date from the late fifteenth century. The station lantern is decorated with a crown. There are no posters, and the signal box has been styled to match the adjacent cottages. The stationmaster's house dates from 1897, the platform from 1894. The station has won thirty prizes in the Eastern Region, not least for its impeccably maintained waiting room.

The train pulls into Snettisham (pronounced 'Snettsham'), where Betjeman disembarks and decides to wait for the next train. He sits on the bench and outlines the difference between Snettisham and Wolferton. The name is cut into the hedge, and the Great Eastern Railway logo is incorporated into the cast ironwork. Next to a lilac bush, an 18th century Norfolk farmhouse. On the other side, there's a poster incongruously advertising Bavarian holidays.

As the train leaves Snettisham, Betjeman describes the changing architectural styles. The landscape becomes briefly hilly, then flat marshland. The train pulls into the terminus at Hunstanton and Betjeman gets off. He hands his ticket in and shows the green at Hunstanton, complaining about the concrete lamp standard spoiling the effect. He looks at the sea and expresses happiness that there were children on the train, as they're clearly being taken to the sea.