UNSEEN footage from a well-loved television series documenting the golden age of steam is being safeguarded in York for future rail enthusiasts.

The National Railway Museum (NRM) and the Yorkshire Film Archive are embarking on a major programme of preservation to protect the historic collection of the popular Railway Roundabout.

This year marks the 50th anniversary year since the first broadcast of the films, which featured on the BBC’s Children’s Hour slot over four years.

Once the preservation work is completed, the films will be digitised and shown to a new generation of rail enthusiasts through the NRM’s £4 million archive and research centre, Search Engine.

People will also be able to view the films on the museum website, at special exhibitions and screenings of the programmes.

The NRM purchased the films, documenting the steam era during the 1950s and 1960s, from creators John Adams and Patrick Whitehouse in 1980.

Chris Hogg, NRM curator of the film archives, said: “This unique collection of films has skilfully captured Britain in the prosperous post-war era.

“We are sure there is a whole army of baby boomers who will share an overwhelming sense of nostalgia watching them. It is a real insight into how we used to be.”

This is the first time the whole collection will be made available for viewing.

Chris said: “The museum owns the entire Adams and Whitehouse collection, including the rushes, which will never have been seen by the public before.

“This really represents what Search Engine is all about – making the NRM’s vast reserve of previously unseen archive material accessible to the public.”

The original 16mm colour and black and white films and accompanying soundtracks are stored in the temperature and humidity controlled vaults of the Yorkshire Film Archive in York. Staff, including director Sue Howard, are embarking on the painstaking work to restore the films to their 1950s glory.

Sue said: “Film, like any other photographic medium, deteriorates over time, and can succumb to any number of fairly distasteful sounding attacks, such as mould, or the dreaded ‘vinegar syndrome’, which attacks the base of the film and eventually renders it unwatchable.” She added: “While all this may sound like a black art to most of us, problems like these are all in a day’s work for a film archivist, carefully examining, cleaning and repairing every frame of film – there are 25 frames for every second of television – to ensure that the films are brought back to their original state.”

It is hoped some of the newly-restored films will also feature in a film festival to be held by the NRM in September 2009.