This film is part of Free

View from an Engine Front - Train Leaving Tunnel

And we're off! Take a ride on a steam engine into total darkness, but never fear, there's light at the end of the tunnel

Non-Fiction 1899 1 mins


They called them "phantom rides" - these hugely popular films gave audiences the spooky sensation of movement while sitting still. Early film-makers would attach their cameras to trains and film the changing views. This particular film plays an extra trick on the audience, starting with a static shot of a train coming towards the camera, so when we start to move it's more of a surprise. And there's extra drama when the train enters the darkness of the tunnel - and emerges into daylight again.

Having gained permission from the South Western Railway Company to shoot a series of these phantom rides, Cecil Hepworth constructed a camera for the purpose. He described it as a "long, narrow, black box, rather like a coffin standing on end" and it could hold 1,000 feet of film. It was tied to the engine's safety rail, with a seat for Hepworth and the station master. In early British film The Kiss in the Tunnel (1899), a couple in a train carriage enjoy a quick clinch in the dark. How many lovers in the audience for this film would have taken the chance for a private moment?