What happened to The Railway Children cast? Child actors then and now, 50 years on

17 December 2023, 16:10

The Railway Children cast, then and now
The Railway Children cast, then and now. Picture: EMI/MGM/Getty/ITV

By Tom Eames

The Railway Children was a big hit upon its release in 1970, and went on to become a British film favourite for decades to come.

It was such a beloved film from director Lionel Jeffries, that The Railway Children Returns finally hit UK cinemas in 2022, set 40 or so years later during World War II.

Jenny Agutter has returned for the long-awaited sequel, but what happened to the other young cast members?

Watch the trailer for The Railway Children Return

  1. Jenny Agutter (Roberta 'Bobbie' Waterbury)

    Jenny Agutter in The Railway Children
    Jenny Agutter in The Railway Children. Picture: EMI/MGM/Getty

    Jenny Agutter first played oldest sibling Roberta in the 1968 TV version of the novel, before returning for its 1970 movie adaptation.

    A year later, aged just 16, Jenny starred in Walkabout and she became a fully-fledged movie star. She moved to Hollywood and starred in films such as The Eagle Has Landed, The Man in the Iron Mask, Equus, Logan's Run and An American Werewolf in London.

    In more recent years, she has been best known for playing Sister Julienne in the long-running Call the Midwife series.

    In 1990, she married Swedish hotel manager Johan Tham and they had a son together. She said: "I had given up hope of being married and just thought marriage and motherhood isn't my path. I love what I do but my family is an absolute blessing."

    Jenny is the only star to return from the original film in The Railway Children Return, with Sheridan Smith playing her daughter.

  2. Gary Warren (Peter)

    Gary Warren in The Railway Children
    Gary Warren in The Railway Children. Picture: EMI/MGM/Getty

    Gary was aged 16 when he starred as Peter Waterbury in The Railway Children.

    He had a few TV and film roles afterwards, including in Catweazle, The Shadow of the Tower and Whack-O!

    However, his last credited role was in 1973, when still a teenager.

    He later quit acting to live in Oxfordshire. Now in his late 60s, he still appears at Railway Children reunion events.

  3. Sally Thomsett (Phyllis)

    Sally Thomsett in The Railway Children
    Sally Thomsett in The Railway Children. Picture: EMI/MGM/ITV

    Despite being aged 20 and thus older than Jenny Agutter, Sally Thomsett played 11-year-old Phyllis in the film. The film won her a BAFTA for best newcomer.

    Sally soon married her first husband Nigel Newman after five years together, but their marriage ended just six weeks after the wedding.

    Other roles included 1971's Straw Dogs opposite Dustin Hoffman and as Jo in TV comedy Man About the House.

    She then went travelling and married Danish film producer Claus Hede Nielsen. Some years later, while estranged from her husband, she met Paul Agnew and got pregnant at the age of 46 with daughter Charlotte.

    In 2019, she said: "I thought when she's old enough, I'll go back to work. But the timing didn't turn out well. That was the time of reality TV starting, and they'd stopped making nice comedies."

  4. Chris Witty (Jim)

    Chris Witty in The Railway Children
    Chris Witty in The Railway Children. Picture: EMI/MGM/Chris Witty

    No, not that Chris Whitty.

    Former actor Chris Witty played the "the fourth Railway Child" as injured Jim in the film.

    In the new film, it's discovered Jim married Roberta and they had a daughter called Annie, but he sadly died in the First World War.

    Now aged 72, Chris moved away from acting, but he's still fond of his time in the film.

    According to his LinkedIn page, Chris "chose to give up the [acting] business in order to pursue a career in motor sport journalism."