BLOG: Making Tracks #1

Welcome to The Three Chimneys

SUP Theatre Company is taking audiences back to the Golden Age of Steam: SUP co-chair Stephen Fenerty introduces our January 2020 show and its author.

E. Nesbit’s The Railway Children is an acknowledged classic. Originally serialised in The London Magazine in 1905, it made its debut as a book the following year.

The story, in case you didn’t know, is about an Edwardian family forced to relocate from London to a house near the railway line in Yorkshire – the house is called The Three Chimneys – after the father, a high ranking civil servant at the Foreign Office, is imprisoned after being accused of spying.

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A classic image from the 1970 film version of THE RAILWAY CHILDREN

The narrative follows the central trio of children – Bobbie (Roberta), Peter and Phil (Phyllis) – in their various adventures and with the colourful characters they meet in and around the railway.

The book mentions the then-current Russo-Japanese war, which dates the events to spring, summer and autumn of 1905.

The railway setting is believed to have been inspired by the author’s walks to Chesfield railway station in the London Borough of Bromley, near where she lived, and her observing construction of the railway cutting and tunnel.

Described by her biographer as “the first modern writer for children”, Edith Nesbit (1858-1924) wrote or collaborated on more than 60 books. Incidentally, even though her name was Edith, she was always known as Daisy.

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Edith Nesbit – ‘Daisy’

A follower of the Marxist designer, poet and novelist William Morris, she was also a political activist and co-founded the Fabian Society, a socialist organisation that was later affiliated to the Labour Party.

The Railway Children is perhaps her most famous work, closely followed by The Story of the Treasure Seekers and Five Children and It.

Noël Coward was an admirer of her work, writing that she had “an economy of phrase, and an unparalleled talent for evoking hot summer days in the English countryside.”

The Railway Children has been adapted for the screen six times, including three serialisations on the BBC in the 1950s and 1960s, and a TV movie in 2000. The most famous version is Lionel Jeffries’ 1970 film. Jenny Agutter played Bobbie in both the BBC’s 1968 and the 1970 film version—and was re-cast as Mother for the TV movie in 2000.

The Olivier Award-winning stage adaptation being presented by SUP at NST Campus in January 2020 was first staged in 2008 and 2009 at the National Railway Museum in York, and later enjoyed highly successful runs at London’s Waterloo and Kings Cross rail stations.

Almost one hundred years after her death, E. Nesbit’s work is still with us, and continues to delight successive generations of children. As her biographer Noel Streatfeild wrote:

“When an author dies, as E. Nesbit did in 1924, too often their books are forgotten. This did not happen in her case, for the books have gone on, loved by generation after generation of children. Not all her books were great, but enough were for her name to belong forever to children’s literature.”


SUP presents THE RAILWAY CHILDREN at NST Campus, 22-25 January 2020

Book now: call 023 8067 1771 or click here

Tickets from just £10

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