Bond was back at the Nene Valley Railway in early June. Fond memories of the late Sir Roger Moore (1927-2017), together with various accounts of the role played by former Bond star Pierce Brosnan, were very much in people’s minds as the railway celebrated its 40th Anniversary.
And some members of the Bond family were on hand as special guests: director John Glen, designer Peter Lamont, and two former Bond women, Carole Ashby and Alison Worth.
Thursday, 1st June, was a very special day for the Nene Valley Railway (NVR), as – 40 years previously – on 1st June, 1977, the newly restored railway was opened after a long and huge effort by a dedicated band of local volunteers and fund-raisers, and it has thrived ever since. It is no exaggeration to say that James Bond 007 has played a major role in this success story, which is why some Bond guests were invited along to attend the special 40th birthday celebrations.
The Nene Valley Steam Railway, with its main base at Wansford, is located just off the A1 motorway, near Peterborough, in Cambridgeshire (in the eastern region of the UK). The railway was used extensively for location shooting on Octopussy back in September and October, 1982, and was utilised again by EON for some location shooting for Goldeneye (1995), directed by Martin Campbell. Interestingly, among the numerous films, TV programmes and adverts that have used the NVR, the railway also hosted the making of a Diet Coke commercial in 1988, starring a young Pierce Brosnan hanging off the side of a train in a clear nod to the Bond movies!
All Time High
Back in 1982, Wansford Station was re-named Karl-Marx-Stadt for Octopussy, while further down the line the NVR’s Ferry Meadows Station was re-titled Gutenfurst for the film. On Thursday, June 1st, 2017, in a special 40th Anniversary ceremony attended by a representative of the Queen, together with the Mayor of Peterborough and other local dignitaries, Ferry Meadows Station was formally re-named ‘Overton Station’, as Overton was the original station’s name when it first opened way back in the 19th century (in 1854). And, in recognition of the way that James Bond has helped put the NVR on both the national and international stage, John Glen, Peter Lamont, and the two Bond women, were also special guests at the ceremony. Afterwards, they were able to meet members of the NVR staff who had been present at the original Octopussy filming and share many memories of the time. John Glen and his wife, Peter Lamont and his daughter, and Carole and Alison were also able to take the train and travel along the NVR line, which helped spark many further recollections of their enjoyable time making Octopussy.
In a tribute to the late Sir Roger Moore and also to the contribution of Octopussy and Goldeneye to the NVR’s funds, the railway opened on the same day a special 007 exhibition in the Ferry Meadows/Overton Station building, which has numerous Bond-related filming photos from the NVR’s archives. This Bond exhibition will remain at the Station for the rest of the Summer of 2017.
Rail Another Way
Both Octopussy and, later, Goldeneye, helped bring some welcome extra revenue into the volunteer-run NVR. Of the two movies, Octopussy spent the longer period filming at the railway. At the time, the film’s First Unit, under the watchful eye of director John Glen, spent a full week carrying out some main filming on the NVR, using Wansford Station as a key location and also as the Unit’s main base of operations. Roger Moore, Maud Adams, Louis Jordan, Steven Berkoff, Walter Gotell, Kabir Bedi and Kristina Wayborn all spent some time at the NVR carrying out filming, and Roger Moore was very happy to mingle with fans and public.
Many extras were recruited from nearby Peterborough, while some NVR volunteers were also used as extras, including the driver of the main locomotive which pulled the Octopussy circus train carriages. Numerous stunts were also carried out, overseen by stunt arranger Bob Simmonds. After the principal stars left for India, the Second Unit took over and spent another few weeks carrying out complex stunt-work and filming additional background footage.
In an interview given to the local Peterborough press in 2012, while on a special DVD visit to the location, John Glen recalled the filming and said: ‘Octopussy is still one of my best known movies, and we spent the best part of six weeks down here. I often get asked where I went for certain shots, and I must admit you forget a lot of locations. But I do remember Nene Valley railway well’. He continued: ‘It was a perfect location for the film. We had lovely shots going through the countryside and had a wonderful time here, so I was very glad to come back’. Glen added: ‘Everyone was convinced we had filmed in East Germany. A lot of people used to ask me if it was hard to film in East Germany! But that was the art of film-making’.
In other comments, John said he chose the location mainly because of the rail stock and the tunnel (the NVR’s long Yarwell Tunnel, where key scenes were shot with Roger Moore). The veteran director also pointed out: ‘Trains have always been an important part of James Bond’, stretching back to From Russia With Love (1963), with Sean Connery and Robert Shaw in the famous hand-to-hand fight sequence. He also referred to the train fight in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), where Roger Moore memorably confronted ‘Jaws’.
JBIFC on the Scene
Some Bond fans may remember that the JBIFC, in an exclusive report in its ‘007’ magazine (vol.1, no.12), was the very first organisation to report from the NVR Octopussy set back in 1982 (the report, ‘On Location in Peterborough’, appeared in our magazine in January, 1983).
Perhaps even the late Sir Roger Moore himself recalled our presence: on Saturday, September 11th, 1982, after Roger and John Glen had finished filming in the NVR’s main tunnel, some members of the Club were there to greet them as they climbed up a steep wooden stairwell from the tunnel entrance. A surprised and rather dusty Roger still found time to sign some autographs. What a true gent he was!
In 1995, EON Productions returned back to the NVR. Director Martin Campbell utilised the railway for some key scenes in Goldeneye, with Pierce Brosnan making his debut as the new 007, in succession to Timothy Dalton. An impressive armoured train was built for the sequences (or, rather, the shell of one was built at Pinewood and fixed in place over a locomotive that was then transferred up the NVR). The NVR filming saw some scenes shot at a former sugar-beet factory just outside Peterborough, using a rail-line that linked directly into the NVR, and with Gottfried John, Izabella Scorupco and Famke Janssen at the location. There was also some brief filming of the armoured train at Ferry Meadows (now Overton) Station, as it swept through at high speed.
Further down the line, at a small bridge, a one-day’s shoot for the main star, Pierce Brosnan, saw filming with the armoured train, with it being blown up by Bond’s tank, which was a very impressive sight to behold. The same day, Pierce and Izabella Scorupco shot their first love scene on an embankment just beside the railway, a kiss that was captured by a photographer and appeared in the national press very soon after.
Did You Know?
The NVR also once hosted some filming for the spy drama Reilly: Ace of Spies, which starred a young Sam Neill. The ITV series was based on the real-life 1920s British super-spy Sidney Reilly, who was eventually caught and shot by the Russians. Rising New Zealand star Neill, who played the dashing and womanizing Reilly, was later screen-tested by EON for the role of 007.
Pierce with Izabella in a scene shot at the Nene Valley Railway