British Universities Film & Video Council

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Railways Today


Series Name
The March of Time 13th Year


Issue No.
Date Released
Jan 1948
Length of issue (in feet)
Stories in this Issue:
  1. 1Railways Today


Story No. within this Issue
1 / 1
The March of Time synopsis: In the United States, says the film, though railways are carrying more traffic than ever before, their future is not bright. For years their financial position has been precarious, and today, handicapped by the deterioration of tracks and equipment due to the war, they are threatened with serious competition from road and air transport. The March of Time shows what the American railways are doing to meet this challenge by increasing the comfort of passenger trains, and by the employment of new devices that will ensure a greater efficiency in operation. No longer relying solely on automatic signals, they have adopted such innovations as radio and the induction telephone, by which the engine driver can keep in constant communication with signal boxes along the line; with the guard at the end of his own train; and with trains on other lines.

To keep trains moving, the railways must work ceaselessly at the monumental job of maintenance, and at regular intervals every engine must go to the shop for checking and repairs. After every hundred thousand miles of operation, most engines are completely stripped down and rebuilt; the steel tyres on wheels are sweated off and replaced; and when engines are remodelled they receive the same series of speed and efficiency tests given to the new types. On first-rate lines, every foot of main line track is inspected at least once a day, and sections which show flaws are promptly repaired and replaced. The most revolutionary changes in US railway operations are in the field of motive power. Seeking to make the most efficient use of the cheapest fuel, nine railways and four coal companies have organised the Locomotive Development Committee, which is working on a coal-fired gas turbine engine. Results so far indicate that this new type of locomotive will be more than three times as effective as the old steam engine, besides being cheaper to run. In the meantime, the coal-burning steam engine is being superseded by Diesels, which though twice as costly to build, are far more efficient and less expensive to maintain.

Over Britain’s fifty-two thousand six hundred miles of railways, travels the world’s heaviest concentration of passenger traffic, but because they do not operate over such vast distances as those in America, they have fewer fundamental problems. Damage by enemy action, and lack of materials for repairs and replacements, have impaired the long record of skilful operation held by the British trains, but improvement is being steadily achieved. Within the next two or three years, eighty-five heavy electric locomotives are to be built; the main line between Sheffield and Manchester will be entirely electrified; and to improve the quality and safety of rolling stock, railway shops are used many scientific devices. By means of spectroscopes, cracks or flaws in axles and other metal parts can be readily detected. Whether under nationalisation, the Transport Commission can match the efficiency of experienced owners is still a hotly disputed question, but says the March of Time, as materials and manpower for railway operation become more readily available, the British people can reasonably expect to find their railways once more running as efficiently and economically as any in the world.
Researcher Comments
This story was included in Vol.13 No.12 of the US edition.
Written sources
Monthly Film Bulletin   Vol.15 No.169 January 1948, p8.
The March of Time Promotional Material   Lobby Card, Used for synopsis
Production Co.
Time Inc.

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