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The Railway Children Return: Plot, Cast, and Everything Else We Know



The Railway Children Return

On its release in 1970, the film adaptation of Edith Nesbit’s novel The Railway Children was a runaway success. It is a period piece detailing the trials and tribulations of an affluent English family who fall on hard times. When the father is unjustly arrested on suspicion of spying, they seek refuge in the countryside.

Critics praised the performance of future The Avengers star Jenny Agutter, then at the beginning of a career that would see her win Emmy and BAFTA Awards, for her work as eldest daughter Bobbie. Starring opposite Agutter was Bernard Cribbins, best known to today’s audiences as Uncle Wilf in David Tennant-era Doctor Who, but known in the 1970s as a mainstay of British comedy, a sometime pop star, and a noted Carry On

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The original film was excellently reviewed and, even today, is one of the very few films that holds a coveted 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It comes as no surprise, then, to find a sequel in the offing. Due for release later this month, here’s what to expect from The Railway Children Return.

Filmmakers taking on a sequel to The Railway Children face a fundamental dilemma — how to write a sequel set in the Edwardian era, which began in 1901 and was over in less than a decade, without compromising the nostalgic, turn-of-the-century feel that made the original such a hit with audiences. Simple — update the nostalgia instead.

Writer Danny Brocklehurst, whose Netflix series Safe (2018) and The Stranger (2020) both garnered critical acclaim, took the wise decision to situate the action not prior to World War One but during the Second World War. Unlike many countries, in the United Kingdom, it was felt that the best way of safeguarding the children living in cities vulnerable to aerial attack by the Luftwaffe was to evacuate them to the countryside. Over one million children were sent from London and other cities such as Manchester and Liverpool to towns and villages in rural areas during the course of the war. This episode in history has been the basis for many films and TV shows, the most famous of which is the film adaptation of C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

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The Railway Children Returns begins with this premise, seeing three evacuees — Lily, Pattie, and Ted — sent by their mother from Manchester to the sleepy environs of Oakworth in Yorkshire. This is the same village Bobbie and her siblings found themselves in forty years previously, which Bobbie never left.