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Filming "Hitchin Flyover opens"

Flyover viewed from Icknield Way

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History & Development

Hitchin is a station on the main railway line from London to Edinburgh. It's now known as the East Coast Main Line (ECML) but was originally built by the Great Northern Railway Company. In 1850 a branch line was opened from Hitchin to Royston - later extended to Cambridge. The turn out, called Cambridge Junction, was a 'flat junction. This meant that trains in the Down direction to Royston had to cross the other lines to reach the branch. At first this would have ony been the Up main line, but once the route became four tracks, it would entail crossing three lines, the Up and Down fast lines and the Up slow. Careful timetabling would ensure that there was a minimum of occasions when trains on other lnes had to wait while a Cambridge-bound train crossed over. However, when things were disrupted it caused annoying delays to the service.

With the increased line speeds and improved services from the 1970s onwards, particularly after electrification, the delays became more and more intolerable to passengers. Early plans for an underpass never came to fruition and eventually a flyover north of Hitchin was agreed. Work started in 2011 and was completed in 2013. The Wikipedia article gives more details

This map from the National Library of Scotland shows the original layout of the tracks at Hitchin. By using the change transparency slider in the left hand box, you can change the view to show the current day layout. Notice the 1937 version of the map depicts the former branch to Bedford, closed in the early 1960s. The embankment of the Bedford branch was used as the base for the new ramp to the flyover. The present layout is shown in this section of Open Street Map, which will help to clarify the geography described below.

A public walk through took place in May, which I attended. Sadly a cloudburst ensued as our party of walkers traversed the route. I was concentrating on holding an umbrella so didn't take any useful pictures. Instead I decided to be among the first passengers to use the flyover when it opened to traffic in June and to make a video record of the occasion.

Starter signal and feather
Starter signal with feather

My first journey

The flyover was scheduled to start carrying public services on Monday, 24th june 2013. I went down to the station armed with my camera, only to find that over-running engineerng works had postponed the start until the folowing day. Annoyingly I had arranged to take a trip to York on the Tuesday, so missed travelling on the very first public train. However, my friend Andy McDougall was able to take a ride and provided me with a picture of the new starter signal with the feather showing the path to the flyover.

12:57 to Letchworth
The 12:57 to Letchworth

I finally got my ride on Wednesday the 26th June. It turned out that this was the press day with reporters from the industry and local news present. I took along the trusty Canon G15 as used in my earlier St Mary's Bells video. I grabbed a seat by one of the small ventilation windows on the Up side and stuck the camera out, whilst keeping the strap round my neck for safety. I shot video with the camera mostly pointing to the rear and kept it running all the way until we re-joined the branch line. Those three minutes of footage were to form the frame around which I intended to construct the rest of my video. I took the video in 720p, medium high definition.

Sam being interviewed
Sam being interviewed

Poppies on the embankment

The train terminated at Letchworth and I took some shots of the press and passengers disembarking. Then my friend Roger Carvell and I joined the others crossing the footbridge to catch the next train back to Hitchin. It was at this point that Roger and I were acosted by the lady reporter from Anglia TV news. You can watch the interview at 1:43 in this clip recorded from the news bulletin broadcast in the early evening news. On the return trip I took more shots of the embankment where the poppies grew in profusion.

Wilbury way viewpoint
Viewpoint at end of Wilbury Way

Icknield way viewpoint
Viewpoint along Icknield Way

Shots from the ground

Note: The map extracts are all © OpenStreetMap contributors.

To flesh out the video I needed some footage taken from the ground of trains passing by. The first site I had spotted from the map was a field at the end of Wilbury Way.

The next train over the flyover was exactly one hour later. Roger and I hurried down there by car only to find that the Anglia News crew had beaten us to it. We set ourselves up out of each other's way to wait for the train - 13:57 from Hitchin. I had taken a step stool from the kitchen to gain a bit of height. The sequence appears in the final film from 1:40 to 1:45. It's remarkably steady considering it's entirely hand-held.

We had an hour before the final train of the day. The next site I had identified as being useful was half way down the Icknield Way path between Wilbury Hills and Ickleford. The distance called for a higher level of zoom and therefore a tripod. The path has a hedge along much of its length but with gaps into the crop field alongside. I climbed through a gap and set the tripod up. I made a test shoot to practice panning to follow the train. The resulting shot of the 14:57 from Hitchin is the opening sequence in the final video. It's blended into a second sequence shot later in the week from further down the Icknield Way path. The picture heading this article is a still from this sequence.

From field
View from field at end of Wilbury Way

Gerry's hole viewpoints
Viewpoints from footpaths

View from among the trees
View from among the trees
Crossing main lines
Crossing the main lines

I needed more ground shots, so went out on subsequent days. With only three trains a day there were limited opportunities. Occasionally the train would be formed of six cars which would have spoiled the continuity so the shots were unused.

There are a number of footpaths parallel to the track from the Icknield Way at Ickleford leading alongside the River Hiz. They start near a pond known as Gerry's Hole.

The sequence at 1:16 was taken from the point marked 'among trees' on the map.

The sequence from 1:19 was taken from the other spot labelled 'crossing main lines.'

The sequence from 2:06 was shot later in the week at the same time as the second part of the opening sequence.

Hunting Gate viewpoint
Hunting gate viewpoint

Joining the branch line
Joining the branch line

The last location used to shoot a train using the flyover was back in the industrial area. There is a car park at the end of Hunting Gate whose hedge backs onto farm fields with a view of the flyover. I climbed through a gap in the hedge and set up the tripod at the field's edge. This provided the shots of a train leaving the flyover and joining the main branch line wher it approaches Stotfold Road. The sequence from 2:17 was taken here.

Recording the voiceover
Recording the voiceover

Editing in Video Studio
Editing in Video Studio

Assembling the Video

By the end of June 2013 I had chosen the video sequences I wanted. I wrote a script, recorded the voiceover (left) and split it into the twenty voice cues needed.

All that remained was to stitch together the video clips and commentary using Corel Video Studio (right), but first I thought it needed a music background. The obvious choice for a train-related video was Coronation Scot by Vivian Ellis. The version I used is by Charles Williams conducting the Queen's hall Light Orchestra from an album called Fiddle Faddle, CDMOIR 539 - 'the cream of light music favorites'. It's just under three minutes long, making it ideal to suit the running length of my video.

Fiddle Faddle

Here it is

And so here's the finished product as uploaded to youTube. You can play it here by clicking the screen shot below or by going direct to youTube at

Hitchin Index