Page last updated at 16:31 GMT, Friday, 19 February 2010

Railway Children stars on working with Lionel Jeffries

Jenny Agutter and Sally Thomsett in The Railway Children and Bernard Cribbins
Agutter and Thomsett (left) played sisters in The Railway Children, while Cribbins (right) played kindly stationmaster Albert Perks

Lionel Jeffries, who has died in Dorset at the age of 83, made his directorial debut with The Railway Children in 1970.

Jeffries also adapted E Nesbit's novel about three children in Yorkshire whose quick thinking averts a rail disaster.

Here cast members Jenny Agutter, Bernard Cribbins and Sally Thomsett recall what it was like to work with the actor turned director on the classic children's film.


He was delightful; he treated Sally and myself as children.

I thought of myself as quite sophisticated at 17, but on set one felt like a child. He would give us pocket money if a scene went well.

Jenny Agutter in 1968's The Railway Children
Agutter (l) played the oldest sibling in The Railway Children

Sally and I went out one night and I remember him waiting up for us in the hotel and saying, 'You shouldn't be out late and I hope you know your lines tomorrow.'

And it was only because he really cared and he wanted to make us very aware that we were kids.

He was the most magnificent actor and a terrific director - I think The Railway Children is an extraordinary piece of work. It's coming up to its 40th anniversary and they are releasing it again.

He wrote the screenplay and had the imagination to bring to life Nesbit's story, and he did that directing other pictures as well.

But also as a performer, I always loved his work.


It was a lovely film to have been involved with - a great location up in Yorkshire, lots and lots of laughs, nothing but a happy time.

The loving care and attention he gave to The Railway Children is very evident.

Lionel Jeffries
According to Cribbins, Lionel Jeffries was "a bloody good actor"

He was just as intense and nervous as a director as he was as an actor. He was a very intense actor; he didn't like people messing about.

He took his job extremely seriously, which you have to if you want to be funny.

He was an exceptionally fine character actor. Whatever I saw him in was always extremely polished and finished and complete.

I remember the films I made with him with great affection, and also the parties we used to have at Lionel's house which were fairly riotous.

I said to my wife when I heard the news, 'There'll be an awful lot of people all over the place who'll be sad today'.


We stayed with his family at his home in London while we were filming at Elstree Studios. I had a wonderful time.

He's going to be greatly missed. He had a great sense of humour and was a lovely warm, friendly person.

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Actor and director Jeffries dies
19 Feb 10 |  Entertainment
Obituary: Lionel Jeffries
19 Feb 10 |  Entertainment

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