The picturesque village of Titfield is linked to a nearby town, Mallingford, by a single track railway. Unfortunately, the railway loses money and is closed down.
The villagers’ pride is aroused, and, led by the Reverend Weech (a train enthusiast) plans are laid to run the line independently.
A rich, drunken eccentric called Valentine provides the money, and against much jealousy and opposition from the local bus company the new line is opened.
The bus company attempts various acts of sabotage, but without success, and are finally driven to wreck the train itself at night.
Weech, however, is not to be outdone. The original Titfield Thunderbolt is brought out from the museum, and, with Weech as driver and a visiting Bishop as engine-firer, makes a successful run to Mallingford, passing the approval of the British Railways inspector, who gives this sanction to the line’s continuance.
This latest in the succession of Ealing comedies written by T. E. B. Clarke started, as usual, from an ingenious and attractively anarchistic idea, and from the further advantage that most people enjoyed playing with trains.
The genial and whimsical characterisations of the villagers, the affectionate gibes at British customs and rituals, were other familiar elements, but here the invention was unfortunately below par.
The script itself is disconcertingly short on wit, and some of its invention appears forced, and Crichton’s handling fails to supply the charm that could still have been the film’s justification.
There are amusing moments, the Titfield Thunderbolt itself is a splendid and touching contraption, there are good performances by Holloway, Relph, Tearle, Wayne and the immortal Edie Martin, the Technicolor photography offers some pleasing landscapes, but the total result remains thin.