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LNER-Pathe Cinema Cars

This topic was covered in the book under Expresses: here are more pictures which space or quality didn't allow to be included, plus a look at the fittings (a model is taking shape), and a more detailed assessment of the workings from further research. A dedicated article is being prepared.

However, there are ups and downs. To begin with, it's hard to establish the rosters for the Cinema Cars, and the only whole-carriage pictures that I know of are in poor health. On the upside, "LNER Reflections" (based on the BBC Hulton Picture Library, now owned by Getty Images) has a fine picture of the attendant on the platform selling a ticket in front of the Cinema Car - showing details that cannot be seen elsewhere. For those without the book (where the picture is shown better) here is a link to the picture on Getty Images and what can be seen:

Getty Images

- The triple nameboard on the roof with its elegant shaded lettering - the background was red and the letters in Sans Gill style, shaded yellow.

- On the body, a glass-fronted noticeboard that displayed the programme, was labelled in three rows, "LNER PATHE", "CINEMA CAR", and "TODAY'S FILM PROGRAMME". This was blue and the lettering probably white. It is believed to have been stored by the attendant and only hung outside when passengers were boarding.

- All the windows, in the guard's ducket, too, are blacked-out.

- The vehicle is lined. When built it would have been unlined, but conversion to a passenger-carrying vehicle changed that and it was clearly spruced-up and re-varnished before returning to traffic in its new role.

Service pictures follow:

Cinema  car

The first of the carriage images that I can present is via Roger Carpenter and the negative is badly damaged. It's scratched and scuffed with fungal growth creeping in from the edges. I have spent quite a while repairing the print with Photoshop but there comes a point at which technical detail on the subject is affected. We have to accept what is still with us and it does usefully show several features:

It's the first conversion, No 4040, from a D.113 BG on turnbuckle trussing and while no longer in pristine condition, it's still on its original Fox 8' bogies (which were the norm on bogie vans until a little later when Gresley designed his 8' bogie). Later pictures in trains show replacement by Gresley 8'6" bogies, date unknown. The basic ventilation on the BG's roof has been enhanced over the viewing area - many people were heavy smokers and one can imagine the need to remove the fug!

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This is LNER Diagram, D.206, as issued to No 4040. I'll describe features common to both Diagrams under the later one, which is clearer. Stand-out features in the first cinema car are the original Fox 8ft bogies (changed later to Gresley standard 8'6" bogies), and extra batteries carried on the floor of the projector compartment. I would like to think that when the bogies were replaced, the extra batteries were moved and slung from the underframe but there are no clear pictures. We used a picture on p75 of what looks like 4040 about to enter Peascliffe Tunnel and the underframe looks rather spartan, so maybe the extra batteries stayed inside?

Click on the image for an enlargement

Cinema Car

This is the second conversion, No 4041, from a battered old print given to Dick Tarpey, Secretary of the GNRS many years ago, and I copied it. After his untimely death, the original disappeared but, more recently, re-appeared on eBay and I was glad to recover it. In this case all we have is the print and it is creased in several places and badly scuffed. I have tried to restore this too but hit the same problem of image degradation - don't be fooled by the outfits which promise to "restore your old photos": they use software that eliminates scratches and spots, while softening the whole image, followed by an increase in contrast which loses yet more detail. It's fine for pictures of people and pets, but unacceptable for a technical subject, so once again, I offer a partially restored version. It is seen with Gresley 8'6" light bogies as used on passenger carriages. Other fittings I have yet to identify, although a heavy duty dynamo stands out.

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The second conversion was of No 4041 and recorded under D.226, and shows 8'6" bogies from the start and 48 seats - an extra row compared with 4040, which was achieved by reducing the leg room and adding another row of seats at the front. Michael Harris (in his 1994/2011 book), states that the initial capacity was 52 seats, later reduced to 48. However, that would have meant uncomfortable cramming - actually, as per many a cinema, I suspect - and I wonder if it actually happened or was it just an early proposal? Neither of the Diagrams is dated and no amendments are shown, not even the changed bogies on 4040.

Interesting features common to both cinema cars was a telephone connection between the tiny vestibule at the passenger end and the projectionist. The later diagram shows a stool in the vestibule for the attendant, and a collapsible camp stool, which I reckon would have been fitted in 4040 pretty quickly - a remarkable oversight when it was built. Another oversight remedied in 4041 was the addition of a narrow door through the dividing wall, so that the projectionist could get to the lavatory, for example! Astonishing as it may seem, there was no such door in 4040, leaving the projectionist completely isolated during the journey. I find it as hard to believe as that it wasn't fitted later, probably quite quickly. As with the bogies, detail changes in carriages didn't warrant re-drawing of a Diagram and they would have gone unrecorded.

Provision of one seat in 4041 instead of two in 4040 suggests that fewer Pathe staff may have been deployed later. A feature that I cannot explain is a "spray", which was moved from the vestibule to the wall carrying the screen.

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In service

The first car, No 4040, was introduced in May 1935 and its use was described in the book with the heavy 10.10am from Kings Cross to the West Riding, return with the 3.15pm (later 3.10pm) from Leeds Central. Observations show this roster continuing through 1935-37 with the Cinema Car at the head in both directions. It appears to have been switched to different trains in 1938 but the records are too patchy to be more specific.

We described how 4041 went into service in the heavy (and somewhat roundabout) 9am Leeds City-Glasgow, return 4pm from Glasgow. The working commenced on 2nd March 1936 and it is now clear that the Cinema Car was allocated to the NE Area, although the GN Section number was retained, and that it was placed at the head of the train leaving Leeds, but only running as far as Edinburgh, where it was detached at 1.35pm. Four and a half hours later, at 5.10pm, it was re-attached to the return working, again at the head of the train, propelled by the new loco that took over the train.

Michael Harris states that it was then sent south and placed in the 1.13pm "Doncaster-King's Cross", returning with the 7.15pm ex-King's Cross from 3rd May 1937 although observations also describe the incoming working at 4.15pm with the 10.35/10.40am Newcastle-King's Cross, which actually began as the c8am from Edinburgh, remarshalled at Newcastle, for London. This Cinema Car working is not easy to pin down and it required a combination of observations, handbills, Carriage Working books and the Passenger Timetable to give a surprising result - that this Cinema Car was based at Doncaster and its first working of the day was by attachment to the Scotch express when it called at Doncaster, leaving at 1.13pm and reaching King's Cross at 4.15pm. There it was extracted and re-attached to the 7.15pm KX-Hull & Leeds. When the train called at Doncaster at 10.12pm, it appears that the train loco (all the trains involved in these workings were hauled by A1/A3 Pacifics) came off with the Cinema car and the Hull and Leeds portions were divided to be taken to their destinations by lighter locos.

We described some later rosters for the Cinema Cars and on that score, there's nothing fresh to add.

There were two screenings of the Pathe films in each direction, either side of Peterborough. An interesting sidelight for observers was that, with the Leeds train scheduled to arrive at 6.55pm and the Hull train to leave at 7.15pm, for about twenty minutes each evening, both Cinema Cars could be seen at King's Cross station.

Workings in 1939 are much less clear; I hope to add more as things develop.

Cinema car programme

Here is another example of the programme flyer that was handed out on the train, in this case commencing 4th September 1938. On which train, it is, as mentioned above, hard to be specific. Each of the items was a minute long and there were 38 of them, most notable to LNER fans being The L.N.E.R. celebrates an anniversary. Then again, in another item, have you ever heard of a Government Under Secretary trying out the RAF's latest fighter plane?

Now for three pictures we didn't have room for in the book:

Cinema car Markham

A scene at Markham Tunnel as A1 No 4479 Robert the Devil heads the 3.15pm Leeds Central-King's Cross. The Cinema Car and its prominent triple roofboards stands out. This would have been No 4040. As described previously, it had been transferred at Leeds Central from the head of a Down express. Behind it is one of the ex-GNR first-class twins (BFK Nos 44921/2). This pair was not to be modernised by LNER-built Gresleys (BFK,FK) for a few more years.

Cinema car express

A3 No 4480 Enterprise emerges from the tunnel at Greenwood with the 10.40am Newcastle-King's Cross and the Cinema Car behind the tender, almost certainly No 4041. This was an ECJS working with a BG rostered at the head leaving Newcastle for which a 56'6" ex-ECJS BG was provided.

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A late 1930s view near Greenwood with a Down express hauled by A1 2550 Blink Bonny with the Cinema Car behind the tender. It's on Gresley bogies but the number cannot quite be made out. Judging by the two large vents on the roof, it may be No 4040. The portion behind the tender is a recently built pair on steel-angle trussing (BTK,CK). Photo: Roger Carpenter Collection.

PS: I've always wanted to model one of these cinema cars, complete with the distinctive roof boards, but at present I only have the two pictures shown above from which to discern roof and u/f fittings. I don't think there was anything complicated externally compared with the normal BG and If anyone can help, please get in touch! There'd also be the matter of raising custom transfers or direct printing. Anybody interested, again, please say!

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