The Golden Age of Steam

Date: 19/10/2015 12:13

The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland are delighted to host ‘The Golden Age of Steam’. Celebrating the era of the steam train, this half-day conference will take place on Tuesday, 20 October, from 01:30pm to 4pm. Speakers from a variety of organisations concerned with the culture, history, and heritage of the railway service will be presenting at the conference, including Northern Ireland Screen’s own Francis Jones, who will be screening Ulster in Focus: Trains.

Produced by BBC Northern Ireland, and rarely seen, this episode of the hugely popular schools’ programme details the history of the railway in Northern Ireland and is presented by Liam Neeson – fresh-faced in one of his first onscreen appearances.

There will also be a preview of material from Railways on Film, a collection of film material recently digitised as part of the British Film Institute’s Unlocking Film Heritage project.

The relationship between the rail locomotive and the moving image is significant, with the heyday of the rail service coinciding with the advent of filmmaking and cinema. Steam train services – which were running on the island since the establishment of its first railway, in 1834 – were to peak in the late-19th and early-20th century.

Meanwhile, in Paris, in 1895, the Lumière brothers – French filmmakers, inventors and pioneers – were shocking the public with one of the first films, ‘Arrival of a Train’. Legend has it that audience members – seeing moving images for the first time - rushed to the back of the film theatre in an attempt to avoid the steam locomotive seen chugging towards the camera.

The Lumières would revisit similar subject matter in 1897, when they hoisted their camera onto a local steam train and filmed a journey from Belfast to Kingstown, bringing the viewer on a phantom ride through Lisburn, Sandymount, and Belfast Harbour.

This footage, like Ulster in Focus: Railways, is but part of Northern Ireland Screen’s Digital Film Archive, a collection that contains much to appeal to rail and transport enthusiasts and which is available to view, in its entirety, for free, at PRONI and across the network of Digital Film Archive locations. In addition, certain titles from the collection are available to view online.

For further information and booking details* for The Golden Age of Steam please contact PRONI.

E: proni@dcalni.gov.uk T: (+44) 028 9053 4800

*Please note that this conference is free to attend, but advance booking is recommended.

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