Virgin Trains promotes Return of the Train

Virgin Trains, one of Britain’s leading train companies, made a drive in 2005 to win new passengers to travel by train, with a campaign featuring film stars from six movies: The Railway Children, Murder on the Orient Express, The Lady Vanishes, North By Northwest, Some Like It Hot and In Which We Serve. The campaign, launched in June 2005, shows present-day passengers the latest mod cons while mingling with the fictional characters from the past, in both colour and black and white. The super: “The Return of the Train. New Tracks. New Trains. New Timetable”.

Waterburys watch the Virgin Train go past

The 60 second television commercial opens with the Bobbie, Phyllis and Peter Waterbury, characters in the 1970 film, The Railway Children, running through fields to watch the Pendolino tilt train race past. To reinforce the 21st century feel a jet stream is placed in the sky behind them as they sit on the fence. “It’s magic!” “What is it? “It looks like a great dragon tail tearing by”. Actors are Jenny Agutter, Sally Thomsett and Gary F. Warren.

Poirot in conversation on Orient Express in Virgin Trains ad

On board, Hercule Poirot, the lead character in the 1974 film, Murder on the Orient Express, engages in conversation with a fellow diner, commenting on the use of the menu as a souvenir. Poirot is played by Albert Finney. Who’s the character he’s talking to?

In another booth a steward takes an order for Miss Froy and Iris Matilda Henderson, characters from the 1938 Hitchcock movie, The Lady Vanishes. “A pot of tea for two. Make absolutely sure the water is really boiling”. “Certainly Madam”. Actors are Dame May Whitty and Margaret Lockwood.

Cary Grant in Virgin Trains ad

As the train races through the countryside another Hitchcock conversation evolves. Roger O. Thornhill and Eve Kendall, characters from the 1959 Hitchcock film North By Northwest, raise the romantic temperature of the train. “The moment I meet an attractive woman I have to start pretending I have no desire to make love to her”, says Roger. “What makes you think you have to conceal it?”, Eve replies. Actors are Cary Grant and Eva Saint Marie.

Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in Virgin Trains ad

The train pulls up in Euston Station where Some Like It Hot (1959) characters Daphne (or Jerry), and Josephine (Joe), board the train wearing fur and high heels. “How do they walk in these things?” A porter drops a wad of papers, giving the cue for a leg shot. “Would you quit stalling? We’re going to miss the train”. The camera reveals a magazine rack and includes a Hello! front cover with the tag line, “Life’s a Drag!”. Actors are Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis.

John Mills as Shorty in Virgin Trains ad

Back on the line, Ordinary Seaman Shorty Blake, a character from the 1942 film, In Which We Serve, asks a 21st century traveller, “Comfy?”. “Yes, thanks”, she smiles. Actor is Sir John Mills.

The ad finishes by bringing together Miss Froy, Iris Henderson, Roger Thornhill and Eve Kendall. Miss Froy moves between carriages, commenting on how shy the honeymoon couple are. Thornhill takes a break from a kiss and says, “Beats flying, doesn’t it?”


Virgin’s Return of the Train campaign, also known as “Falling In Love”, was developed at advertising agency Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R by creative director Mark Roalfe, copywriter Pip Bishop, art director Chris Hodgkiss, agency producer Tim Page, and account manager Dahlia Nahome.

Filming was directed by Who? (Grant Hodgson and Liam Kan) at Great Guns, with executive producer Laura Gregory, producer Sheridan Thomas, and director of photography Denis Crossan.

Editing was done by Jerry Chater. Post production was done at Glassworks. S

ound was designed by Owen Griffiths at Jungle. Composer was James Brett.

Archive research was done at Reid & Casement.

Virgin Trains

Virgin hit the news yesterday with Richard Branson announcing a commitment to dedicating $3bn (£1.6bn) to combating global warming. The strategy will pour profits from Virgin’s air and train companies into the exploration of alternatives to fossil fuels with the establishment of Virgin Fuels and the sponsorship of other such companies.

Virgin Trains is seeing year-on-year passenger growth of eleven percent on both its CrossCountry and West Coast franchises. At the same time passengers are increasingly taking advantage of low cost tickets with sales of Value Advance fares up by 47 percent on CrossCountry and 43 percent on West Coast over last year.


Virgin has just released a follow-up campaign, Apache, which focuses on time, ideas and Western movies. See the press release at Virgin.