A Look Back at Pierce Brosnan’s ‘Goldeneye’ Shoot at Nene Valley Railway

Golden Memories

In April 1995, a quarter-century ago, a picturesque corner of Cambridgeshire became the backdrop for an iconic moment in cinematic history. The James Bond franchise, renowned for its action-packed sequences and exotic locations, descended upon the Nene Valley Railway, near Peterborough, to film a pivotal scene in “Goldeneye.” This marked the debut of Pierce Brosnan as the suave and enigmatic 007, James Bond.

pierce brosnan goldeneye
pierce brosnan in “Goldeneye”

Before the main unit arrived, the second unit had been hard at work for three days preparing for the shoot. Their focus? Action sequences involving a locomotive, adding a thrilling dimension to Bond’s escapades. Nene Valley Railway, a volunteer-run railway, was no stranger to the world of James Bond, having played a crucial role in Roger Moore’s “Octopussy” in 1982.

As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of “Goldeneye” in 2020, it’s the perfect time to reflect on those memorable Nene Valley Railway sequences. Interestingly, this wasn’t Brosnan’s first visit to the Nene Valley Railway. In 1988, he filmed a Bond-esque Diet Coke advertisement that premiered during the 1988 American Superbowl, giving him a taste of Bond’s world before officially donning the tuxedo.

Returning as James Bond must have been immensely satisfying for Brosnan, who had been denied the role in 1986. EON Productions began discussions with the Nene Valley Railway in August 1994, meticulously evaluating the changes since 1982 before securing an agreement.

Nene Valley Railway
Nene Valley Railway

Under the guidance of director Martin Campbell, the 17th EON Bond installment filmed two pivotal sequences at the Nene Valley Railway in early April 1995. These scenes featured a Russian armored train, Bond’s daring attempt to stop it using a ‘borrowed’ tank, and his dramatic rescue of Natalya, played by Izabella Scorupco. Additionally, a brief shot depicted Trevelyan’s helicopter taking off from the train’s roof, adding to the film’s heart-pounding action.

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The Bond crew, a team of approximately 30 main crew members, along with an array of support equipment, cables, caravans, vehicles, and emergency services, made use of three key Nene Valley Railway locations. The old Sugar Beet factory at Woodston, near Peterborough, served as a Russian rail depot for the film, connecting to NVR tracks. The Nene Valley Railway’s Ferry Meadows Station transformed into St. Petersburg for a high-speed chase along the tracks, while the Mill Road Bridge at Castor was meticulously altered to resemble a tunnel.

Izabella Scorupco
Izabella Scorupco

The dedication and attention to detail of EON’s behind-the-scenes crew were on full display during these sequences. The locomotive chosen for the imposing armored train, an old British Rail class 20 diesel locomotive with a couple of Mk. 1 coaches, underwent a remarkable transformation by Production Designer Peter Lamont, a veteran of 18 Bond films, including “Octopussy.

The transformed locomotive made its way to Wansford Station from the main studios at Leavesden near London, closely guarded by a vigilant security guard. Witnessing the transformation left all who saw it impressed by the remarkable workmanship.

The most critical and perilous shots occurred on the second day of Main Unit filming at the Mill Road Bridge. Director Martin Campbell, despite battling a heavy cold, oversaw Pierce Brosnan’s intense scenes, including Bond’s daring attempt to stop the armored train and the spectacular collision. Careful planning minimized damage during the collision, with a fiberglass shell representing the tank in filmed sequences, and the bridge ingeniously disguised as a tunnel mouth.

The day was filled with multiple takes, with Brosnan exiting the tank and leaping to safety just before the collision. Additional shots captured the train speeding toward the “tunnel,” complete with unexpected fiery surprises along the way. The climax of the day featured a massive fireball explosion, a breathtaking spectacle that required meticulous preparation and safety measures, overseen by SFX expert Derek Meddings.

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Following the explosion, as the day turned to evening, Bond and Natalya were filmed sitting beside the track, their characters taking a moment to recover from the chaos. A romantic kiss added to the intensity of the scene, capturing the essence of a classic Bond moment. With the scene successfully captured, Brosnan and Scorupco wrapped up their day’s work.

As Brosnan, now donned in a black leather jacket, left the set at 6:00 pm, he waved graciously to those present, marking the conclusion of a remarkable and eventful day for all who were fortunate enough to witness it. The Nene Valley Railway had played its part in creating a golden highlight in the history of James Bond, forever etched in the annals of cinema.

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