Available at www.rapidotrains.co.uk in 10 road numbers and several paint schemes. List price: £399.95 (approximately $496.00 as of this writing) Item no. 922001
Accurate models of the equipment used in the 1953 Ealing Studios film, DCC sound fitted locomotive, detailed interiors, free-rolling metal wheels, NEM coupler pockets, 3D printed figures representing the actors
Highly unusual prototype equipment with limited other uses
A splended rendering of a historic steam locomotive and a solid reproduction of the rolling stock as it appeared in the final act of the movie – fans of the 1953 film will want to own a set.
Rapido Trains UK Titfield Thunderbolt deluxe train pack: In 2022, Rapido Trains UK announced that in honor of the 70th anniversary of the film The Titfield Thunderbolt, it would produce a commemorative train set, as well as a few extra models to fill out nearly all of the key pieces of British Railway equipment used to make the 1953 film. Being a big fan of the classic movie, I was delighted to buy the deluxe OO scale set from Rails of Sheffield.
The film, written by TEB Clarke and produced by Ealing Studios, is a screwball comedy about a group of citizens from the fictitious town of Titfield who, in an effort to save their branchline railroad from closure, attempt to run it themselves. While they prove to be rather adept at running the little line, the local bus company makes multiple attempts to sabotage their efforts – including wrecking the railroad’s equipment the night before the railway inspector is supposed to call and grant them final approval to continue. At the climax of the movie, the citizens pull the Thunderbolt, an 1840s-era 0-4-2 steam locomotive from the local museum, as well as fashion a coach by placing the remains of a Victorian-era passenger car, formerly used as a private cottage, onto a flatcar. Without really giving anything away if you haven’t seen the film, the Thunderbolt obviously saves the day.
The Thunderbolt – aka L&M’s Lion
The star of the show is, of course, the Thunderbolt. For the film, producers secured the use of Liverpool & Manchester Ry. 0-4-2 Lion to represent the historic Thunderbolt. In the film, the citizens of Titfield pull the locomotive out of a museum for operational use after their former Great Western Railway 0-4-2T no. 1401 is wrecked by the owners of the bus company.
Lion has a fascinating history, as it comes from nearly the beginning of steam railroading. Lion was built along with sibling 0-4-2 Tiger for the L&M in the late 1830s. After a full career on the railroad, it was sold to the Mersey Docks & Harbour Board in 1859. It was used around the docks until 1874, when it was then installed in a pump house as a stationary engine for 40 years.
In 1919, Lion was rediscovered, but no effort to restore the locomotive succeeded until 1928, when it was removed from the pump house and headed to the London, Midland & Scottish Ry. (LMS) to be returned to working order. The locomotive’s look today is a result of the LMS’s rebuilding effort. Even though rebuilt Lion looked almost nothing like it did when it was first constructed, it was the star of the 100th anniversary celebration of the Liverpool & Manchester in 1930. It went on to make several other appearances in full steam.
The Titfield Thunderbolt was actually Lion’s third film appearance. Lion debuted in the 1937 movie, Victoria the Great, and then appeared in 1951’s The Lady with the Lamp. After appearing as the Thunderbolt in 1953, Lion was used in the TV show Lookaround in 1961. Lion last ran under steam in 1988 in celebration of its own 150th birthday. Today, Lion is installed on permanent display in the transport gallery of the Museum of Liverpool.
Rapido produced its models in full agreement with Studio Canal, owners of the Ealing Studios films. The set includes three models, Lion decorated as Thunderbolt, a Great Western Ry. Loriot Y flatcar with a movie set coach body mounted to it, and an AA20 brake van. Lion and the Loriot Y flat are both new models. Rapido released the AA20 brake van early in 2023, and I reviewed it elsewhere on Trains.com.
Thunderbolt is an impressive little steam locomotive. It’s 4-wheel tender clips to the engine with a 6-pin plug built into the drawbar. The tender’s hinged footplate extension rests easily on the locomotive and pivots smoothly during operation.
As this is a model of a one-of-a kind locomotive due to multiple rebuildings, I had no blueprints or drawings to work from. That being said, the engine matches its photos well and features many finely rendered details, including the delicate side rods, which should not be touched. When picking up the model, Rapido UK recommends handling it with a good deal of caution. The model in the set comes painted to match the Thunderbolt locomotive as found in the movie, however, Rapido also offers Lion as it appeared in the 1930s and in the 1980s for separate sale in appropriate colors.
I purchased the deluxe train pack, so my model came equipped with DCC and sound. The model is programmed to address 3 and operated very well straight from the box. However, Rapido UK recommends a 1-2 hour running in period for the smoothest operation to seat the drive and bearings properly.
As this is early British steam railroading, the main DCC operating sounds include on/off (F1) and whistle blast (F2). From there on, all other sound functions contain dialog clips from the movie, which are fun to play, as at least one of them includes the guard’s whistle, which is the single to the engine drive to leave the station.
The engine features a single hook and loop coupler mounted on the tender in an NEM pocket. The front of the locomotive has a decorative hook and chain, which I found acceptable, as I imagine most owners of the Thunderbolt will not want to use it in shunting (switching) service.
For nearly the first 100 years of British railroading, steam locomotives typically had open-topped cabs, and Thunderbolt/Lion is the same. You’ll want to place suitable figures in the cab of the engine, as they are completely visible. The deluxe set includes three figures representing characters from the movie, including Reverend Weech, the engine driver; his friend and fireman on Thunderbolt, Bishop Matthews; and Mr. Chesterford, the town’s squire turned train guard. All three figures are 3D printed in color and are easy to mount in the cab and brake van.
Rapido’s Loriot Y flatcar
At the climax of the film, the citizens running the railroad desperately need a coach to replace the one damaged the day before. They press into service an old coach body being used by the movie character Dan as a house, and they strap it to a Great Western Ry. flatcar. Much like the Toad brake van, also included in this set, the Great Western Ry. applied telegraphic code names for all of its rolling stock. Loriot was the code name given to flatcars, with a following letter designation for class. There were just two flatcars in the Loriot Y class, and they were designed to transport earth-moving equipment.
Rapido UK’s model of the Loriot Y is all-new. It features two single-axle wheelsets that are free rolling and in gauge. As it appears in the set, the flatcar’s plastic body has no markings on it, however the firm does offer this item for separate sale with all the correct markings for GWR in both road numbers, as well as a Department of Works version. The car features hook and loop couplers mounted in NEM pockets.
For the Titfield Thunderbolt set, what is important about this car is the load it carries, which is a disused coach body. This wasn’t a real railroad coach, but a specially built prop for the film that could split into three separate pieces and was used both on location and in the studio. Rapido has once again pulled out all the stops on this model, giving it a movie-accurate interior, complete with carpet on the floor and dishes in the cupboard. It also includes two different smoke jacks, one in the upright position, and one laying down for when the train ran under bridges – a comic effect in the film.
To access the interior, you need to release four tabs along the base of the coach. The floor is permanently attached to the flatcar. Because of the large windows, figures placed inside the coach would be easily visible.
The final car included in the set is a Great Western Ry. AA20 Toad brakevan. In the film, British Railways van W68740 appears in all the on-screen clips. Rapido UK released this model earlier in 2023, and as mentioned above, I reviewed it in detail elsewhere on Trains.com. Like the rest of the set, the brakevan features a detailed interior, which is easy to access by releasing the magnetic catches on the roof.
In addition, the set includes a fun, 40-page commemorative booklet that features all sorts of details about the creation of the film, its stars, and the railroad equipment used by the production. Fans of the movie will find this a welcomed addition to the set.
Rapido UK is offering three other Titfield Thunderbolt products for separate sale as well. One is the Buffet Car (item no. 922003) used in the first half of the film. This unusual 37-foot coach was one of two built for the Wisbech & Upwell Tramway. Rapido UK developed this model specifically for the film’s anniversary set, and it can be purchased decorated as the car appeared in the movie, as well as in original W&U paint and decorated in its later LNER and BR schemes.
You can also purchase the bus from the film that was intended by its owner, Pearce & Crump Ltd., to replace the railroad. Rapido UK is offering a model of a Bedford OB Duple Vista Coach in OO scale as it appeared in the movie. The model is item no. 920001 and was not yet available at the time of this writing.
Finally, item no. 922004 is a three-wagon pack of freight equipment inspired by The Titfield Thunderbolt. This set includes two 1907 five-plank wagons decorated in liveries for Pearce & Crump Ltd. and Titfield Coal Co. It also includes an ex-GWR Iron Mink van (boxcar) decorated for Valentine & Taylor Wind & Sprits. While none of these pieces of equipment appeared in the movie, they make a fun addition to the set, giving Thunderbolt something else to pull around the layout.
I won’t lie, Rapido UK’s The Titfield Thunderbolt train set is a deep-in-the-weeds product, and other than the AA20 brakevan, it’s filled with highly unusual prototypes. However, fans of the movie will be thrilled to have accurate models for this iconic little train. And much like it does for everything else, Rapido UK pulled out all the stops to make the components as detailed as possible for this 70th anniversary set.
Being a fan of the film, I’ve ordered one of everything from the collection. And while I do not yet have a UK layout, I’ve enjoyed running them on our HO scale MR&T – To start with, Thunderbolt (a.k.a Lion) is as cute as locomotive can be, and with the other movie-based models, it just gets better from there. Thank you Rapido UK for putting even more fun into model railroading with The Titfield Thunderbolt!