It is a film that holds a special place in the hearts of film-goers five decades after its release.
Now fans of The Railway Children will be able to rediscover the magic with the sequel The Railway Children Return, which begins filming in the UK next week.
Actress Jenny Agutter will return as Bobbie Waterbury, the character that propelled her to stardom when she was just 18 years old.
Now 69, Jenny’s career has gone from strength to strength in the decades since. She has won a BAFTA and an Emmy and for the last ten years has starred in hit BBC drama Call The Midwife as Sister Julienne.
But not all of The Railway Children cast have been so fortunate in their careers. Sally Thomsett, who played Phyllis, the youngest Waterbury, struggled to find her way back into acting after welcoming her first child in her 40s.
She also made headlines in 2019 when it was revealed she was still married to a man she had separated from in the Eighties because she had ‘no clue’ where he lived’.
Meanwhile Gary Warren, who played middle child Peter Waterbury, dropped off the showbiz map after a handful of acting gigs and has led a quiet life raising a family.
Here, FEMAIL reveals how the rest of the cast have fared since they waved their red petticoats at that oncoming train – from children’s TV legend Bernard Cribbins to Don’t Wait Up’s Dinah Sheridan…
JENNY AGUTTER (ROBERTA ‘BOBBIE’ WATERBURY)
Jenny Agutter played plucky Roberta ‘Bobbie’ Waterbury in both the 1968 TV and 1970 film adaptations of the children’s classic, The Railway Children. Right, in 2019
Jenny Agutter played plucky Roberta ‘Bobbie’ Waterbury in both the 1968 TV and 1970 film adaptations of the children’s classic, The Railway Children.
This made her a star at the age of 18, propelling her into Hollywood, where in 1972 she picked up an Emmy for The Snow Goose and massive critical acclaim for Nicolas Roeg’s coming-of-age movie, Walkabout.
Jenny was based in LA for 17 years where she had major success with a slew of movies including Logan’s Run, The Man In The Iron Mask and Equus, which earned her a BAFTA nomination. But Jenny never enjoyed the networking side of the industry.
‘I wasn’t very good at the celebrity stuff,’ she has said previously. ‘I’d go to parties and people would ask what I was doing and I’d say, “Oh nothing at the moment”, and then I’d be pulled to one side and told I must never say that. But I always just told the truth.’
In Hollywood Agutter was most definitely something of a sex symbol. She did not, however, behave like a sex symbol – there were no high-profile relationships, no broken engagements or unsuitable marriages.
In 1989 she returned to England to make the film King Of The Wind with Glenda Jackson and Nigel Hawthorne.
The Railway Children made her a star at the age of 18, propelling her into Hollywood, where in 1972 she picked up an Emmy for The Snow Goose (pictured)
Jenny was based in Los Angeles for 17 years where she had major success with a slew of movies including 1976’s Logan’s Run (left, with Farrah Fawcett) and 1971’s Walkabout (right)
While filming in Bath, and then nearly 40, she met her husband, the Swedish hotelier Johan Tham who was a director of Cliveden Hotel in Buckinghamshire.
The year after their marriage in 1990 their son Jonathan was born.
‘I was very lucky,’ she has said. ‘I had given up hope of being married and just thought marriage and motherhood isn’t my path. I love what I do but my family is an absolute blessing.’
In 2000 she returned to The Railway Children for a third time, appearing as the children’s mother in an ITV remake.
Jenny is now best known to TV audiences as Sister Julienne on BBC’s Call The Midwife, a role she has played since the show’s 2012 premiere. But when she first read the script she believed it would be a huge flop.
Jenny is now best known to TV audiences as Sister Julienne on BBC’s Call The Midwife, a role she has played since the show’s 2012 premiere
‘I thought, who in this day and age is going to tune into a series about midwives, nuns and a really impoverished part of London in the Fifties?,’ she said in 2019. Nobody is ever going to watch this. I prepared myself for just one series.’
Agutter, who was awarded an OBE in 2012, has even landed the Holy Grail of acting gigs in recent years: a Marvel film role (albeit a small one).
The actress played Councilwoman Hawley in The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Away from the screen, Agutter has raised awareness of cystic fibrosis, which she believes caused the death of two of her siblings and affects her niece Rachel McGrath.
SALLY THOMSETT (PHYLLIS WATERBURY)
Fresh-faced Sally Thomsett shot to fame playing 11-year-old Phyllis in The Railway Children (left), despite being 20 years old at the time. Right, on Pointless Celebrities in 2016
Fresh-faced Sally Thomsett shot to fame playing 11-year-old Phyllis in The Railway Children, despite being 20 years old at the time.
A year later, she appeared alongside Dustin Hoffman in the controversial film Straw Dogs, playing a seductive teenager. The same year, 1971, she married for the first time.
She later admitted that she realised she’d made a mistake just six weeks after the wedding to shipping magnate’s son Nigel Newman. The pair divorced soon after.
In 1972 Thomsett was appearing in a Bovril advert when she was spotted by directors Brian Cooke and Johnnie Mortimer, who cast her as dizzy blond Jo ITV sitcom Man About the House.
Throughout the Seventies, she cemented her appeal as a comic sex symbol, spending three years on the hit show alongside Richard O’Sullivan and Paula Wilcox.
A year after The Railway Children, Sally appeared alongside Dustin Hoffman in the controversial film Straw Dogs, playing a seductive teenager (pictured)
Throughout the Seventies, Sally cemented her appeal as a comic sex symbol, spending three years on Man About The House alongside Richard O’Sullivan and Paula Wilcox. Sally also famously enjoyed an off-screen romance with O’Sullivan that lasted for several years
Sally also famously enjoyed an off-screen romance with O’Sullivan that lasted for several years.
After Man About The House finished in 1976, Sally stepped back from TV but her personal life continued to be full of drama.
In 1980 Danish entrepreneur Claus Hede Nielsen hired Sally to model for publicity photos for the launch of an early cordless ‘Freedom’ telephone he was trying to market.
Born into one of Denmark’s most prestigious and wealthy families, Claus’s grandfather made the Hede Nielsen family fortune at the turn of the 20th century manufacturing industrial gases and bicycles.
The pair met after his secretary, noting that her boss was single and on the lookout for a new girlfriend, invited Sally to one of the legendary pool parties Claus used to hold at his mansion in Wembley Park, London.
The pair fell madly in love and just a week later the pair were married, surrounded by friends and family.
A couple of years into their marriage, Claus sold his Wembley mansion and the pair relocated to Los Angeles. Claus had plans to set up businesses there; Sally wanted to make her name in Hollywood.
However things weren’t to last and Sally eventually returned to the UK without him.
Sally fell pregnant with daughter Charlotte (above) when she was 46 years old. The mother and daughter at Kings Cross station to launch Millennium Cavalcade Of Steam in 2010
In 2019 Sally revealed she was still legally married to Claus and said she couldn’t divorce him because she had ‘no clue’ where he was living.
The Daily Mail later tracked him down to a modest house in Denmark but it is not known whether the pair are still married.
For her part, Sally has been with her current partner Paul Agnew, a landscape gardener, for some 30 years. The couple have daughter, Charlotte.
She became a mother for the first time at the age of 46 and struggled to get acting work after taking time out to raise her daughter. ‘But the timing didn’t turn out well,’ she said in 2019. ‘Reality TV was starting and they’d stopped making nice comedies. I’ve done a few chatshows and things like that, but actual acting is what I want to do. I’d say the chances of that happening are zilch.’
Sally has still yet to have had another credited acting gig.
GARY WARREN (PETER WATERBURY)
London-born Gary Warren, 67, was 16 when he appeared as Peter Waterbury in The Railway Children (left). Right, on YouTube music vodcast Word In Your Ear in August 2020
London-born Gary Warren, 67, was 16 when he appeared as Peter Waterbury in The Railway Children.
The year before the film was released he starred in the West End production of Mame, as Ginger Rogers’ nephew.
Although he landed a handful of TV and film roles – including in Catweazle, The Shadow of the Tower and Whacko – Gary did not enjoy the same acting career success as his on screen sisters.
His last credited role was in 1973, when he was still a teenager.
Gary has stayed largely out of the spotlight although he does attend cast reunion events. Pictured, with cast members Deddie Davies, Bernard Cribbins and Jenny Agutter in 2014
Gary has stayed largely out of the spotlight in the 50 years since, although he does attend cast reunion events.
There were widespread rumours Gary had left the UK to work in the fur trade in Canada but in reality he led a quiet life raising two children in Oxfordshire.
Speaking on YouTube music vodcast Word In Your Ear in August 2020, Gary revealed he also has a two-year-old granddaughter who lives in New York.
The doting grandfather explained he and wife Laura had arrived in New York early in the year and decided to remain there over summer so they could be close to their granddaughter.
‘I am pleased we can see her now the whole time,’ he said. ‘That’s a real bonus. She’s my first grandchild, it’s an amazing thing. She’s a genius actually.’
BERNARD CRIBBINS (ALBERT PERKS)
A legend of children’s film and television, Bernard Cribbins became the nation’s ‘Uncle Bernard’ when he started telling stories on Jackanory in the mid-Sixties. He appeared as stationmaster Albert Perks (left) in The Railway Children. Right, Bernard Cribbins in 2015
A legend of children’s film and television, Bernard Cribbins, now 92, became the nation’s ‘Uncle Bernard’ when he started telling stories on Jackanory in the mid-Sixties.
A few years later his friend Lionel Jeffries phoned to ask him to play Albert Perks, the stationmaster in a new film he was directing.
‘The movie was called The Railway Children — and, of course, neither he nor I had any idea it would become one of the best-loved British films ever,’ Cribbins wrote in his memoir. ‘Actors never do know that at the time.’
By then Cribbins was already a household name. After his West End debut in the Comedy of Errors in 1956, the actor made early film appearances in the Carry On films opposite Barbara Windsor – who he once described as a ‘breath of fresh air’ – and Casino Royale, as well as The Best of Enemies with David Niven and Two Way Stretch with Peter Sellers.
By then Cribbins was already a household name. Pictured, in Crooks In Cloisters with Ronald Fraser (left) and Barbara Windsor (centre)
His career went from strength to strength after The Railway Children. He voiced 60 episodes of The Wombles between 1973 and 1975
Cribbins also guest turns on seemingly every television programme made at the time, including a memorable appearance in Fawlty Towers (pictured)
He was even a pop singer in the early 60s with the novelty hits Right Said Fred and The Hole In The Ground.
His career went from strength to strength after The Railway Children.
He voiced 60 episodes of The Wombles between 1973 and 1975 and to guest turns on seemingly every television programme made at the time, including a memorable appearance in Fawlty Towers.
More recently he has played played Wilf, the grandfather of Catherine Tate’s character, Donna, opposite David Tennant’s Doctor in Doctor Who, and appeared in Coronation Street and Midsomer Murders.
In 2013 and 2014 he appeared in a string of Cbeebies shows: Old Jack’s Boat, Salty’s Waggy Tales and Old Jack’s Boat: Rockpool Tales.
In 2003 Cribbins appeared in Coronation Street as Wally Bannister (pictured with Roy Hudd as Archie Shuttleworth)
More recently he has played played Wilf, the grandfather of Catherine Tate’s character, Donna, opposite David Tennant’s Doctor (pictured) in Doctor Who
In 2013 and 2014 he made a string of Cbeebies shows: Old Jack’s Boat (pictured), Salty’s Waggy Tales and Old Jack’s Boat: Rockpool Tales
The sad irony of Bernard’s life, however, is that he and his wife Gill – who’ve been married since 1955 after meeting early in his career – couldn’t have children of their own in those pre-IVF days after she suffered an early miscarriage. Pictured, the couple in 2010
In 2009, was awarded a BAFTA for his children’s TV work.
The sad irony of Bernard’s life, however, is that he and his wife Gill – who’ve been married since 1955 after meeting early in his career – couldn’t have children of their own in those pre-IVF days after she suffered an early miscarriage.
Yet young people remain his favourite audience.
‘They’re wonderfully receptive,’ he said in 2014. ‘So although I don’t have any of my own, I feel very lucky I’ve got lots of other children who sit and listen to my stories.’
Cribbins battled prostate cancer in 2009 but said in 2018 he was in ‘good health’ with the exception of a ‘nagging back condition’.
DINAH SHERIDAN (MOTHER/MRS WATERBURY)
Dinah Sheridan, who died in 2012 aged 92, starred as Mrs Waterbury, who is forced to take her three children away from Edwardian London to a remote house in Yorkshire beside the train tracks, after her husband is falsely jailed for spying. Right, Sheridan in 1994
Dinah Sheridan, who died in 2012, starred as Mrs Waterbury, who is forced to take her three children away from Edwardian London to a remote house in Yorkshire beside the train tracks, after her husband is falsely jailed for spying.
But although she was the picture of domestic contentment in her film roles, her home life was somewhat more troubled and unsteady.
By the time The Railway Children premiered in 1970, Dinah had been married twice. She left first husband Jimmy Hanley, with whom she shared two children, for Sir John Davis, the head of the Rank film organisation which co-produced 1953 screwball comedy Genevieve.
The film was Sheridan’s greatest success alongside The Railway Children.
But the marriage to Davis was a disaster. Sheridan quickly realised she knew little of her new husband’s true nature – or his past.
Sheridan’s other great film hit was the 1953 screwball comedy Genevieve. Pictured, Sheridan with co-stars John Gregson, Kenneth More and Kay Kendall
Davis had told her something about two previous marriages, but he had neglected to mention the existence of two more. He had three children and, perhaps believing too much in her screen image, wanted Sheridan to be their perfect mother.
Davis forbade her to return to acting, even though producers were pleading to give her starring roles. The marriage struggled on for 11 years, before Sheridan was driven to a nervous breakdown. New-found religious faith helped save her – she was baptised in 1961, aged 41 – and she applied for a divorce.
Twenty years of hit roles on stage followed and she especially enjoyed doing classics by Bernard Shaw and Noel Coward.
Her third marriage, to the Canadian actor Jack Merivale, came in 1986 after many years of close friendship. It was a time for mothering of a different kind, as Merivale was seriously ill and needed constant nursing. He died from a kidney condition in 1990.
Sheridan dazzled as Nigel Havers’s mum in the long-running BBC sitcom Don’t Wait Up. The comic tension between Sheridan and her estranged screen husband, Tony Britton (pictured with Havers), was one of the elements that kept the show going for six series
By then, she was playing yet another maternal role, as Nigel Havers’s mum in the long-running BBC sitcom Don’t Wait Up. The comic tension between Sheridan and her estranged screen husband, Tony Britton, was one of the elements that helped the show to keep going for six series.
When Merivale died, Sheridan turned to an old friend, Aubrey Ison, an American film producer who had also been recently widowed. He became her fourth husband and they were together for 15 years, before he died in 2007.
‘I’ve had a very strange life,’ she reflected. ‘Whenever I’ve married, I’ve married for life. But things have gone desperately wrong.’
Sheridan, who died in 2012 aged 92, was survived by her two children. Daughter Jenny Hanley is an the actress best known as a presenter of the Seventies TV show, Magpie and her son Sir Jeremy Hanley is a former MP and was Tory party chairman under the Major government.
IAIN CUTHBERTSON (FATHER/CHARLES WATERBURY)
The Railway Children marked the film debut for the late Iain Cuthbertson, who played the children’s imprisoned father Charles Waterbury (left). Pictured right, in 1996
The Railway Children marked the film debut for the late Iain Cuthbertson, who played the children’s imprisoned father Charles Waterbury.
With just a handful of TV credits to his name including The Avengers, The Borderers and Mogul (later known as The Troubleshooters), Cuthbertson was in the process of establishing himself as an actor having spent several years as a theatre director.
Success came quickly and by 1980, Cuthbertson had appeared in no fewer than 35 TV programmes.
He achieved national recognition as Charlie Endell in the ITV comedy crime-drama Budgie from 1971 to 1972 and in the BBC drama Sutherland’s Law from 1973 to 1976.
Cuthbertson achieved national recognition as Charlie Endell in the ITV comedy crime-drama Budgie from 1971 to 1972. Pictured, alongside co-star Adam Faith
Cuthbertson also starred in BBC drama Sutherland’s Law from 1973 to 1976
Known for his sense of humour, Cuthbertson appeared in an episode of Michael Palin’s and Terry Jones’s Ripping Yarns (1977) and in the children’s ITV comedy SuperGran (1985-87). He also had small roles in long-running series including Doctor Who, The Avengers and Inspector Morse.
In 1982 Cuthbertson suffered a stroke which caused paralysis down one side of his body and speech loss.
It took him two years to recover to the point where he could act and he did not appear in live theatre again because he feared he would stumble over or forget lines.
However he did continue with screen work and was cast in films including Gorillas in the Mist (1988), starring Sigourney Weaver, and in Scandal (1989), portraying Lord Hailsham.
Cuthbertson did not have any children but was married twice. His first wife was actress Anne Kristen, best known for playing Olive Rowe in Coronation Street.
Cuthbertson died in 2009, aged 79.
DEDDIE DAVIES (NELL PERKS)
Deddie Davies, who died in 2016 aged 78, starred as Nell Perks, the wife of Bernard Cribbins’ Albert Perks (left). In the final years of her life she returned to her Welsh roots to play donkey owner Marj Brennig in Ruth Jones and David Peet’s comedy-drama Stella (right)
Deddie Davies, who died in 2016 aged 78, starred as Nell Perks, the wife of Bernard Cribbins’ Albert Perks.
Although she remained best known for The Railway Children, Davies also found success as a character actress, particularly in comedies.
After starting out in period dramas with The Forsyte Saga and Vanity Fair, Davies showcased her flair for comedy as Madame Fouache in nine-part series Clochemerle (1972) and later appeared in the likes of Both Ends Meet (1972), The Rag Trade (1972-1973) and the last two series of That’s My Boy (1985-1986).
Davies became a familiar face as a supporting character on TV, picking up roles in The Bill, Doctors and Whitechapel.
Mrs Davies in The Rag Trade (left) and That’s My Boy in the 1970s, when she was a household name as a comedy actress
In the final years of her life she returned to her Welsh roots to play donkey owner Marj Brennig in Ruth Jones and David Peet’s comedy-drama Stella.
Following Davies’ death of cancer, Jones paid tribute to her ‘remarkable’ co-star, saying: ‘She was one of those rare people who didn’t possess a grain of self pity and whose company always brightened your day.
‘A highly intelligent, joyful, talented and spectacularly spirited woman, who was an inspiration to us all.’
Of screen Davies dedicated her time to improving the quality of care in care homes and was a trustee of Compassion in Care.
In 2008 Davies went undercover to investigate the quality of life in care homes for BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, keeping an audio diary of her experiences.
WILLIAM MERVYN (THE OLD GENTLEMAN)
William Mervyn as The Old Gentleman in The Railway Children (left). He died six years after the film was released. Right, in 1966
Trained as a stage actor, William Mervyn had more than 50 credits to his name when he was cast as The Old Gentleman in The Railway Children.
Among the most notable were clerical comedy series All Gas and Gaiters and The Odd Man, as well as a role in Doctor Who.
Usually cast as an upper class character, Mervyn went on to play the Duke of Tottering in Tottering Towers (1972-1973) and The Hon. Mr Justice Campbell in Crown Court. He also appeared in Carry On Henry (1971).
However Mervyn died just six years after The Railway Children was released.
He was survived by his wife Anne, a theatre designer and architect, and their three sons, TV director Richard Pickwoad, production designer Michael Pickwoad and book-binding expert Nicholas Pickwoad.
By Stephanie Linning for MailOnline