An old 1938 era tube train pulls into a tube station, and rather than being the classic red – the whole train is bright yellow. It wasn’t popular as passengers flee in panic from this yellow terror.

This was, of course, a film, and a very curious one that’s largely forgotten today.

The Boy Who Turned Yellow (c) BFI

Released in 1972, The Boy Who Turned Yellow is a fantasy about a boy who is upset after losing a pet mouse on a visit to the Tower of London. Sent home from school he heads home via Chalk Farm tube station, and on his trip, in a suspiciously empty tube train, he and his sole passenger suddenly TURN YELLOW

And the train, and the train driver — all bright yellow.

As the train pulls into Hampstead station, the public are horrified and when the boy runs out of the train they flinch away in fear.

It’s a very odd film.

The Boy Who Turned Yellow (c) BFI

Although set in Chalk Farm, it was actually filmed at Holborn station, on the disused Aldwych platform – and if you look carefully, you can see that the same posters and layout appear in both the station he leaves from and the one he arrives at.

(ignore the opening scene with the red tube train arriving at… Embankment!)

What’s absolutely fascinating is how they did the yellow effect, which initially I thought was a yellow filter on the camera, but there’s a small bit of the train interior left untouched, and you can see that the carriage behind is also untouched.

As impressive is that they repainted the entire outside of the train in yellow.

Not bad for a low-budget TV film made for kids.

The Boy Who Turned Yellow (c) BFI

You can watch the film on the BFI archive – and the tube conversion clip in all its jaundiced horror is here.

Addendum – there was once a genuine bright yellow train on the London Underground – when Yellow Pages sponsored an entire Circle line train. Garish yellow inside and out.

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14 comments on “London Underground’s yellow tube train
  1. Pamela Budden says:

    I like to read the history of London. Cause I’m born and bred in London, and even born at home.On a sofa at london E.6…. Please send me a reply, l would like to see and know you do read these texts & messages… Thank you. Ms P Budden.

  2. Kevin Too says:

    Fascinating Ian, great set on links too, most entertaining 😀

  3. Winda Dahuti says:

    Hi I do interested with this yellow tube 😅

  4. Rob Healy says:

    I remember watching this film at my local library in the late 70s. Don’t forget, Aldwych wasn’t ’disused’ when the film was made (1972).

    • Harry says:

      If I remember correctly, Aldwych was shown as a dotted line in the carriage maps, to indicate that it was peak hours service only. So, there would have been daytime hours when it was not in use, rather than requiring filming at night.

  5. Fiona Spencer says:

    Ian, thanks so much for this! It’s put a huge smile on my face this morning during what’s been a rather difficult week for me. Never heard of this film but it looks like my kind of thing! I must watch it! 🤓
    Great website overall, so very interesting.

  6. Roger Flynn says:

    Did they get the 1938 train from the Isle of Wight? They are still in use here….just.

  7. SteveP says:

    I do miss the fashion 🙂 And the iPad was prescient, no?

  8. Julian Dyer says:

    The last film from the great Powell and Pressburger, must watch it now! It never reached our school. Looks as if they painted with yellow distemper which washes off easily – there’s no reflection from the yellow, which artfully avoided the ceiling and the windows. Rather disconcerting in the train until it dawned on me it’s moving the other way than it started, an obvious problem with using the Aldwych branch.

  9. Jennifer says:

    “It wasn’t popular as passengers flee in panic from this yellow terror.” – Ha! Nice one, Ian. I do love the colour yellow but probably don’t have the patience or temperament for a 1970s b-movie. Though the woman’s fabulous A-line yellow minidress in the picture is nearly enough to make me want to watch it just for the fashion!

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