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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 27 - Spring 1976

Play School

Play School at Quainton

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M Hanscomb - BBC TV Sarah and Swanscombe

In mid-December last year BBC Television discovered us. They wanted to film steam engines for the children's programme Play School and someone had remembered hearing of a Preservation Society when they did a programme from Aylesbury about 18 months ago. The Director, Albert Barber, arranged to visit Quainton on 23rd December, where he was shown round by Frank Boait and Anthea Hanscomb. Later the same day he met Austin Harland in London to discuss financial arrangements. Filming was fixed for 13th and 14th January and it was planned to use Swanscombe on the first day and the Beattie on the second but eccentric rod trouble ruled out 0314 and Swanscombe became the star of both days. The robin had also appeared on the 23rd and had his picture taken but he proved unco-operative when filming took place.

On Sunday, 11th January, stock was shunted around to clear the platform road and leave access to the water tower. Next day the BBC engineers arrived with several large vans which they parked in the Up yard. Miles of cable for the four cameras and for lighting ran from the vans over the footbridge and snaked their way around the Down yard. The programme was to be recorded on video tape which meant that the Producer and Director could watch it on monitor screens in the control van while it was being filmed and it could be played back immediately when required.

On Tuesday the 13th John Carter arrived at Quainton at 5.30 am to light up Swanscombe. John Mortham and Frank arrived later followed by Tim Stevens and Anthea who had called at Aylesbury Station to find out what trains were expected on the BR line during the day. There were more than expected but filming was not seriously affected and there may be a BR driver surprised to see himself on television.

The BBC production team, including the presenters, Sarah Long and Johnny Ball, arrived and filming started at about 10 o'clock with Sarah crossing the footbridge and asking the children to guess where they were.

Shots of a signal, a point, the coal heap and the water tower followed and then Swanscombe appeared passing the crossing and pulling into the platform. Then there was a brief glimpse of Station Master Rodwell! "It's a railway station called Quainton Road. Not an ordinary station, in fact it's rather special" said Sarah. Johnny Ball, on the footplate introduced the driver, John Carter, the fireman, Colin Copcutt, and the engine before they moved off to the water tower. Meanwhile Sarah was filmed pretending to be a signal in front of the platform starter which was operated as required by Tim Stevens. Roddy had the job of bribing the cattle in the next field with hay. They were required to stand by the fence for filming from the train on the following day but this was a run-through to get them used to the engine and the sight of so many people. They were quite unconcerned apart from one bullock who was most interested in Sarah's signalling.

Over by the water tower Swanscombe was in position for a demonstration of water filling. A cameraman with a miniature camera stood on the tank of the Pannier, Colin climbed on Swanscombe's tank to direct the flow of water with Johnny beside him to explain what was happening and John operated the chain. Four takes of this scene were necessary and by the end Swanscombe was overflowing and Colin was soaked. Luckily it was lunchtime so he could leave his overalls draped over the firebox to dry until filming started again.

After lunch there was a minor crisis when John discovered he had forgotten his hat (solved by borrowing Anthea's with a badge from the shop until his was retrieved) but filming was soon underway again with Colin firing and John demonstrating how an engine works. Both were fitted with tiny microphones and radio transmitters so they could explain what they were doing and the miniature camera filmed the proceedings from a wagon coupled behind Swanscombe. With the wagon removed again Swanscombe was then filmed moving backwards and forwards in clouds of steam with Johnny standing in the cab singing. The last sequence of the day was of Sarah seated on the Brill platform under the Station clock (specially positioned for the occasion) telling a story about a boy who couldn't whistle.

On Wednesday the Beattie was positioned on the long siding so that the camera in the Up yard could pan round from parts of the King to the corresponding parts of the Beattie. Smouldering oily rags were placed in the smokebox to give the impression that the Beattie was in steam. Attention then turned to the restoration building where Colin Blowers and Anthea were seen painting L44. Next it was Swanscombe again , this time on the long siding coupled to the Chatham and Great Northern coaches and with Sarah singing a song on the footplate. As they returned to the Station the cattle in the adjacent field were to have been filmed from the train but they had other ideas. They had been herded into the right place earlier but were not needed quite as soon as expected. It was a beautiful day with the sun shining and the feeling of Spring in the air made them quite frisky. In a matter of minutes they were through a missing gate and two fields away with Roddy, Anthea and Ray Hedley in hot pursuit. The animals were not hungry enough to be really interested in the proffered hay but eventually they were persuaded to return and stay in position long enough to be filmed. The herdsmen then went off for a well deserved lunch.

The final scene had Johnny waiting for the train and looking at the clock while Roddy, on duty again as Station Master, consulted his watch. Another song from Johnny and the train pulled in with Humpty Dumpty, a character well known to Play School viewers, on board. Then Trevor Paice, the guard, blew his whistle, waved his flag and the train steamed off towards the restoration building with Humpty Dumpty waving goodbye, "Back in Play School tomorrow", said Sarah and that was that.

Cameras and cable rapidly disappeared into the vans and soon only six members remained shunting stock into its original place. There was a feeling of anti-climax like the end of an Open Day but everyone had enjoyed helping and who knows? .... They may want to do another programme.

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M Hanscomb - On Location!

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M Hanscomb - He waved his flag........

The text in this Quainton Railway Society publication was written in 1976 and so does not reflect events in the 39+ years since publication. The text and photographs are repeated verbatim from the original publication, with only a few minor grammar changes but some clarifying notes are added if deemed necessary. The photos from the original publication are provided as scans in this internet version of this long out of print publication.

Play School at Quainton - Quainton News No. 27 - Spring 1976

Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
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Page Updated: 05 November 2017