The Railway Children

The Railway Children

Infobox Book |
name = The Railway Children

image_caption =
author = Edith Nesbit
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United Kingdom
language = English
series =
genre = Children's
publisher = T. Fisher Unwin
release_date = 1906
media_type = Print (Hardcover)
pages =
isbn = NA

"The Railway Children" is a children's book by Edith Nesbit, originally published in 1906.

Plot summary

The story concerns a family who move to a house near the railway after the father is imprisoned as a result of being falsely accused of selling state secrets to the Russians. The three children, Roberta, Peter and Phyllis, find amusement in watching the trains on the nearby railway line and waving to the passengers. They become friendly with Perks, the station porter, and with The Old Gentleman who regularly takes the 9:45 down train. He is eventually able to help prove their father's innocence, and the family is reunited.

The theme of an innocent man being falsely imprisoned for espionage and finally vindicated might have been influenced by the Dreyfus Affair, which was a prominent world-wide news item a few years before the book was written. Also the Russian exile, persecuted by the Tsars for writing "a beautiful book about poor people and how to help them" and subsequently helped by the children, was most likely an amalgam of the real-life dissidents Sergius Stepniak and Peter Kropotkin who were both friends of the author. [ [ How did E Nesbit come to write The Railway Children? | Stage | The Guardian ] ]

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

The story has been adapted for the screen six times to date, as four television series, a feature film and a made-for-television film.

Television series

The story was adapted as a television series four times by the BBC. The first of these, in 1951, was in 8 episodes of 30 minutes each. A second adaptation was then produced, which re-used some of the film from the original series but also contained new material with slight cast changes. This had 4 episodes of 60 minutes each.

The BBC again revisited the story with an 8 episode series in 1957 and again in 1968. The 1968 adaptation was placed 96th in the BFI's 100 Greatest British Television Programmes poll of 2000. It starred Jenny Agutter as Roberta and Gillian Bailey as Phyllis. Of all the TV adaptations, only the 1968 version is known to be extant (it is currently available on DVD); the rest may be lost.


After the successful BBC dramatisation of the 1960s, the film rights were bought by the actor Lionel Jeffries, who wrote and directed the film, released in 1970. Jenny Agutter and Dinah Sheridan starred in the film. The music was composed, arranged and conducted by Johnny Douglas (conductor).

2000 version

In October 1999 ITV made a new adaptation. This time Jenny Agutter played the role of the mother. Others in the movie include Jemima Rooper and JJ Feild.


In 2005 the stage musical was first presented at Sevenoaks Playhouse in Kent, UK, with a cast starring Are You Being Served star Nicholas Smith as The Old Gentleman and West End star Susannah Fellows as Mother. Perks was played by Paul Henry. Music is by Richard John and book and lyrics by Julian Woolford. The score was recorded by TER/JAY records and the musical is published by Samuel French ltd, who also license it for professional and amateur performances.

A new stage adaption by Mike Kenny is currently being performed in the National Railway Museum. The adaption stars Sarah Quintrell, Colin Tarrant, Marshall Lancaster and features a working Stirling Single (GNR 4-2-2 No.1) steam locomotive on a real rail track.


External links

* [ HTML text with original illustrations, at Indiana]
* [ Free audiobook] from LibriVox
* [ British Film Institute Screen Online (1968 series)]
* [ Railway Children Musical]

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