Young fans were desperate to catch the Fab Four as they shot scenes for A Hard Day’s Night on board
The excitement was all too much for hundreds of Beatles fans when the band stopped off at a Somerset seaside town in March 1964 during filming for their highly acclaimed big-screen debut A Hard Day’s Night.
At Minehead, now part of the West Somerset Railway heritage line, one schoolgirl had to be escorted off the tracks by a police officer as she attempted to greet the Fab Four. While other youngsters stood in an orderly fashion next to the railway line, others stormed the tracks, clamouring at the windows of the restaurant car to get their pop idols’ attention.
Everywhere The Beatles went at the peak of their fame there were screaming fans, so the movie’s director decided to head west in search of filming locations off the beaten track for the musical comedy.
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Regarded as a classic of the period, its plot mimicked the group’s real life, with John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr seen charging through a busy railway station, pursued by dozens of teenage schoolgirls. Then they jumped on a train that, in the story, was transporting them to London for a TV show.
In fact, the engine and carriages they chartered for exclusive use that March carried the band, other cast members and the film crew, from Paddington Station to the branch lines of Devon and Somerset. On board, as the fields of the West Country flew by outside, they captured the amusing action scenes which make up the opening 15 minutes of the movie over several separate journeys.
The plan to avoid the madding crowds worked pretty well for a while, but some places where the train stopped weren’t quite the sleepy backwaters the production team were expecting. After word leaked out just where Britain’s biggest band were pausing on their trips, local fans couldn’t resist the opportunity to catch a glimpse of their pop idols so close to home.
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Another hotspot en route was the former station at South Molton, on the old Devon and Somerset cross country line between Taunton and Barnstaple. As The Beatles’ train came to a halt, a couple of hundred people were waiting there, including a clutch of eager press photographers. Ringo hopped out onto the platform with his own portable cine camera to record the scene.
Inside the restaurant car, the other Beatles smiled from the windows and fans also got a wave from supporting cast members Wilfrid Brambell (of Steptoe and Son fame) playing Paul’s grandfather, plus actress and model Pattie Boyd, who met George Harrison on the shoot and became his first wife two years later.
The band took it all in their stride and the film, directed by Richard Lester and released in July, 1964, went on to be a box office smash, also earning two Academy Award nominations.
Did you turn out to see The Beatles on their A Hard Day’s Night rail journeys? Let us know in the comments section below.
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