THE Great Train Robbery has always been a tale of criminal cunning as Cockney as jellied eels.
But Yorkshire – including the Filey coastline in North Yorkshire and parts of Goole in East Yorkshire – has stolen the show in a new BBC drama based on the Crime of the Century with a stellar cast led by Jim Broadbent as gang-buster cop Tommy Butler.
Other stars include Luke Evans, Jack Roth, Neil Maskell, Paul Anderson, Martin Compston, Del Synnott and Jack Gordon.
The Glasgow to London train was ambushed at the Sears Crossing in Buckinghamshire in 1963 by two London gangs who hid out 27 miles away at Leatherslade Farm to count the sackloads of bank notes.
Ring-leader Bruce Reynolds went on the run to the South of France, Mexico and Canada. After blowing most of his share, he was recaptured while attempting to lie low in Torquay.
But while the new BBC Worldwide production wants to faithfully retell the story, a shortage of suitable locations in the South led them to move the whole shoot to Yorkshire for the twin train robbery dramas – A Robber’s Tale and A Copper’s Tale.
The Great Train Robbery production ended up being masterminded from a base at Studio 81 in Kirkstall Road, Leeds.
Other locations used included various parts of Leeds City Centre including The Adelphi Pub, The Calls, Briggate, Hyde Park Picture House, and other parts of Hyde Park.
The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway doubled as the Sears Crossing while other scenes were shot in Bradford, Shipley, Howarth, and Goole.
And in a move which may have left tourism bosses on The English Riviera smarting, Filey upstaged Torquay as Reynolds’ final hide-out.
Chief executive Sally Joynson said: ‘’The Great Train Robbery is one of 20 major film and TV productions that have filmed in the region as a direct result of Screen Yorkshire’s work.
“It has a significant place in recent British History and we’re very proud to have attracted such a high profile and stylish BBC drama to Yorkshire.”
The BBC say there was a problem using Southern locations because many of them no longer looked anything like they did in the 1960s.
Leatherslade Farm was demolished in the mid-1990s. It was renamed by the owners who even diverted the nearby public footpath to further discourage the curious.
The hide-out, dubbed Robbers’ Roost, was surrounded by open countryside in 1963 and it became a challenge finding an alternative in increasingly built-up Southern England.
There was also a problem locating a suitable stretch of railway to film the heist - but The Keighley and Worth Valley line fitted the bill.
It then made sense to shoot the entire film in Yorkshire and a collection of farm buildings at Balne, near Goole, provided a match for Leatherslade Farm.
The twin dramas were due to be aired in August, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the robbery, but were delayed by scheduling issues.
The BBC says they will be shown on BB1 “before the end of the year” – leading to speculation they will fill one of the prime Christmas slots.
The worldwide exposure is expected to attract millions of pounds of investment to Yorkshire, creating many new jobs and boosting business for local companies.
• The robbers escaped with £2.6 million – the equivalent of £46 million today.
• Normally, the high-value coach carried £300,000 but it had been a Bank Holiday weekend in Scotland.
• Ronnie Biggs, although a small fish in the actual robbery, became the best known of the villains and even cut a best-selling single with the Sex Pistols.
• The robbers played Monopoly with real money at their hide-out and one of the tatty sets they used was recently valued at £200.
• One of their biggest mistakes was telling the captive mail train staff to wait 30 minutes before calling police – detectives realised the gang had not gone far to sort out the haul.