Groundwork For Progress (1959)
28 minutes

With this film, we are taken into the traditional exciting world of railway Civil Engineering. Here we see a length of rail heated until, quite suddenly and dramatically, it buckles. There, a bridge is tested for metal fatigue. The film shows some of the opportunities which British Railways Modernisation is providing for the young Civil Engineer.

Director: Bill Mason
Photography: Ron Bicker
Editor: Cynthia Barkley
Music: David Wooldridge
Commentary: Bill Mason
Narration: Anthony Marsh, Arthur Bush
Producer: Stewart McAllister
Executive Producer: Edgar Anstey

Certificate: U
Distributor: New Realm

16mm & 35mm (2,520 ft)

Review in Monthly Film Bulletin - March 1960 (spotted by Robin Carmody)
(Joint review of Fully Fitted Freight, Groundwork for Progress and A Future on Rail)

These three new British Transport documentaries indicate the current determination of many writers and directors, working on subjects somewhat lacking in immediate appeal, to humanise such topics by concentrating on the people behind the work rather than the job itself. But while all three suggest the problem posed by such an approach, none of them get very far towards a solution.

Groundwork for Progress is a straightforward survey of the preparatory work involved in laying new lines, with some impressive sequences showing the deliberate buckling in a laboratory of what looks like a hundred yards of railway line, and the scientific testing of strain and movement on different sections of a bridge. Each man shown is named, and the commentary is frequently left to the worker concerned with each operation. But the effect is merely to increase the film's choppiness.

Review from The Reel Image website:

The prospect of reviewing a near-half hour look at the exciting world of railway engineering repeatedly put this release on the back boiler where it has remained for the last two issues. only repeated requests for the return of the review print and threats of the bailiffs calling round (and the failure to find a sucker to review it for me - so much for fellow reviewers John Kane and Peter Haigh supposing to be friends) finally prompted me, with time fast running out, to stump dejectedly beside the projector at 8.15am one wet and windy morning.

What unfolded in Cinema One of the Wilton household was a most pleasant surprise. Far from being a total bore this release is quite fascinating, and educational in the very best sense of the word.

Besides footage of glorious steam trains rounding sweeping photogenic country bends and crossing graceful viaducts, this documentary shows how the railways maintain the various bridges and lines and, more importantly, how modern methods have replaced the blood, sweat, tears (and shovels) of the navies who built what was the most extensive railway system in the world.

Pre-fabricated concrete tunnels, manufactured and then ' assembled section-by-section before your very eyes, even as the ground ahead is dug out and shipped out by conveyer belt.

Huge marshalling yards are constructed on what was once shifting sand and new methods of supporting old and failing bridges are shown - just a few of the many varied subjects covered here including the heat testing of new types of track - amazing to see a -length of which buckles and twists at critical point in the test.

There is far two much in the three-reeler to be encompassed here. Just take my word for it, if you love railways then you will certainly enjoy this release.

The print is slightly grainy - otherwise the B&W reproduction is fine with reasonable definition and contrast range.

The sound had very slight distortion in places, often heard on these type of releases so it's nothing to get worked up about.

This review refers to an 8mm print.

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