Hollywood star Liam Neeson at Whitehead for movie scenes

On the film set at Whitehead Railway Museum
On the film set at Whitehead Railway Museum

Movie stars Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville put in an appearance at Whitehead Railway Museum for the shooting of scenes in upcoming film ‘Normal People’.

The crew took over The Edwardian Tea Room and the Excursion Platform for filming while the adjacent car parks were packed with support vehicles and chuck wagons.

In the movie, Neeson and Manville portray happily married couple Tom and Joan, who together face the challenges thrown at them when Joan is unexpectedly diagnosed with breast cancer.

The unit was on site from dawn to dusk on July 23 and the filming involved former Irish Rail diesel locomotive GM 142 gently propelling one of the Mark IIs carriages gently up and down the platform siding. RPSI volunteers were involved in liaising with the crew and operating the train to their requirements during the afternoon. Cameras were rigged up on one of the society’s flat railway trucks which was used to shadow the train as it moved up and down the site.

Brian J Falconer, producer on Normal People, said: “Spending a day filming at the Whitehead Railway Museum was an absolute pleasure for our cast and crew.

“Not only were we given incredible hospitality, but I do not believe any other facility exists that would have provided what the WRM did. I really hope that I will be back there filming soon.”

Locations in Greenisland and Newtownabbey have also provided backdrops for Normal People in recent weeks.

Siobhan Dillon, RPSI general manager, said: “We were pleased to be able to facilitate the company and delighted that everything went so well.

“The museum boasts an extensive collection of heritage vehicles which have in the past caught the eye of film-makers. Indeed, the RPSI was involved in the making of the Michael Collins movie in 1995 in which Liam Neeson and Julia Roberts starred, along with our steam engines No. 171 and No. 461.

“And as far back as 1978 the RPSI was a major partner in the shooting in the Republic of The First Great Train Robbery, starring Sean Connery, Lesley-Anne Down and Donald Sutherland.

Filming scenes in Whitehead for the new Liam Neeson movie.

Filming scenes in Whitehead for the new Liam Neeson movie.

“When they are not involved in film production, the steam engine stars involved in such films can be seen at close quarters within Whitehead Railway Museum.”

Whitehead Railway Museum recently facilitated the Lyric Theatre in Belfast which used heritage coach No. 68 for a period-style photograph of an actress who will be starring in the forthcoming production Dear Arabella, which opens on October 13.

Whitehead Railway Museum is open every week Thursday to Saturday (10am to 4pm) and is also open on Sundays (12.30pm to 5pm) in August.

On Saturdays in August there is an added attraction - steam train rides up and down the museum siding with locomotive No. 3BG which dates from 1919 and which used to shunt at the Guinness Brewery in Dublin.

For further information check out the website at www.steamtrainsireland.com