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From Nene Valley With Love: The 40th Anniversary event

By: FSWL team
Nene Valley Railway Station
It was 40 years ago on 1 June 1977 that a small band of brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers with dreams of steam opened the Nene Valley Railway (NVR). The railway became linked to the world of James Bond when it was used as a film location for the thrilling train scenes in Octopussy (1983) and the Tank vs Train scenes in GoldenEye (1995).

So, on 1 June 2017, many of the founding members and volunteers that helped build and run the railway were given a day to celebrate at NVR before they open to the public at the weekend with a fantastic programme of events for their 40th anniversary.

Nene Valley Railway 40th anniversary 1977-2017
I write for the railways members magazine ‘Nene Steam’ and when the new General Manager, Sarah Piggott found out I was a big James Bond fan she asked if I knew anyone from Octopussy and GoldenEye who might like to come back for the 40th anniversary celebration.

Yesterday NVR welcomed back director John Glen, production designer Peter Lamont along with two of the Octopussy circus girls, Carole Ashby and Alison Worth, who were present during the filming of the train scenes. Everyone had great memories of the time the station was transformed into Karl-Marx-Stadt, East Germany for Octopussy and Peter again for GoldenEye.

Carole Ashby and Alison Worth at Nene Valley Railway
Alison also recalled a Diet Coke Bond spoof commercial which aired in 1988. The commercial featured steam trains adorned with ninjas and none other than Pierce Brosnan.

Out of over 200 films, TV shows and advertisements that have had scenes filmed at NVR since 1977, it's still the two Bond films that people talk about the most. Both paved the way for so many other film contracts and have brought in vital revenue that's helped keep the NVR to remain viable.

It was thrilling to have them all come back, especially as they could meet so many of the volunteers who helped on the films in various capacities behind the scenes.

For example Don Crick who in 1982, during the filming, had been stuck up in the signal box at Wansford/Karl Marx Stadt. He worked as a signalman for the NVR at the time and it meant he never got to meet any of the Bond girls. In 2017 he's now the NVR station master at Wansford station and is on the platform most weekends. It absolutely made his day when Carole said to him "C'mon Don. let me have my photo taken with you, I do love a man in uniform!'

Carole Ashby, Alison Worth with Don Crick at Nene Valley Railway
NVR chairman Keith Parkinson gave a short speech to the 250 guests and asked everyone to observe a minute’s silence for the victims of the Manchester terror attack which occurred on 22 May 2017. The silence was also for, in his words, ’The Nene Valley Railway’s great friend Sir Roger Moore’ who passed away the following day.

Afterwards everyone boarded a specially chartered train on the railway line for a picnic hamper buffet lunch. Along for the ride was Mr and Mrs John and Janine Glen, Peter Lamont and his daughter, Madelaine. Opposite them sat Carole and Alison who both insisted I sit with them - how could I refuse?!

On the journey, I could point out some of the spots that both John and Peter remembered from filming. Many of the volunteers came up through the carriages to talk to them including the rail guard, David Jackson, who was also the original rail guard on the inaugural train on 1 June 1977. David volunteered as rail guard during the Octopussy train scenes and was on board Octopussy's (played by Maud Adams) circus train during some of the filming although, alas, not seen on screen.

As part of the 40th Anniversary Celebrations, Ferry Meadows Station was officially renamed as Overton. Passenger disembarked and there was a short ceremony with a plaque unveiled by the Queen’s representative ‘Deputy Lieutenant’. I did try and get them to rename it ‘Gutenfurst’ as it had been called during Octopussy! However, ‘Overton’ was the original station name when it first opened in 1854 before it was renamed and later closed in 1942.

After the official renaming, Sarah and I made a short presentation to John and Peter by giving them a framed montage of Octopussy posters which all the volunteers who’d worked on the film signed. Due to the passage of time, there are many who are no longer with us, but I was able to get many of their family to sign on their behalf with a brief description of what their loved one did to assist. From painting the circus wagons pink to installing point work in the tunnel, to being on the footplate driving or firing the trains.

Peter Lamont, Sarah Piggott, John Glen and Marc Hernandez at Nene Valley Railway
John and Peter seemed incredibly touched by this gesture, and Peter said a few words thanking everyone who’d helped and made them all feel so welcome, both during the filming and today.

In the Overton/Ferry Meadows station building, we'd put up a display of many of the behind the scenes photographs from Octopussy and GoldenEye from the NVR archives. I was amazed later that evening when someone sent me a photograph of John holding up one of the display boards I’d put together myself and pose for a photograph with a huge smile on his face.

The filming display will be up for at least the rest of the summer and if yesterday is anything to go by will attract a lot more interest and visitors to the railway over the coming months.

Once we boarded the train and returned to Wansford, I managed to find John ‘JP’ Pentlow on board. John had been the NVR general manager in 1982, and the person who had agreed the film contract with Eon Productions. Despite the contract being extremely lucrative, it also meant a lot of hard work for both John together with his team of staff and volunteers. John was on-site every day during filming and for much of the pre-production at the NVR. JP's told me many times that the filming of Octopussy was his proudest achievement whilst at the NVR and I really wanted him to be part of today.

JP’s retired now, but last week when I rang him to check he was still coming to event, he told me he had just come out of hospital and wasn’t sure if he’d be able to. Without spoiling the surprise, I told him we had something special planned and to trust me, it would be something he wouldn’t want to miss.

On the journey back yesterday, he sat and reminisced with Peter and John and it was as if time had stood still for them all. Before the train stopped Carole said to me ‘Take a photo of this!’ and she planted a big kiss onto his cheek much to JP’s surprise. ‘Now, that I hadn’t planned!’ I told him.

John JP Pentlow with Carole Ashby at Nene Valley Railway
As everyone said their goodbyes at the platform, I mentioned to John Glen about the From Sweden with Love website and he said to me, ’Oh, everyone knows Anders!’

Hopefully, FSWL’s readers now know a little bit more about the Nene Valley Railway. We are grateful to have been featured in two James Bond films, and to be remembered by some of the warmest and nicest members of the James Bond family.

Written by Marc Hernandez. Copyright © 2017 From Sweden with Love. All rights reserved.



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