The Iron Maiden

The Iron Maiden (released in the US as Swinging Maiden) is a 1962 British comedy film. The film was directed by Gerald Thomas, and stars Michael Craig, Anne Helm, Jeff Donnell and Alan Hale, Jr. There are minor roles for Carry On stalwarts Jim Dale and Joan Sims, and the veteran actor Sam Kydd also appears with his then six-year-old son Jonathan Kydd. The film was widely perceived as an attempt to repeat the success of the film Genevieve, with traction engines in place of vintage cars.

The Iron Maiden
Film poster
Directed byGerald Thomas
Produced byPeter Rogers
Frank Bevis
Written byLeslie Bricusse
Vivian Cox
StarringMichael Craig
Anne Helm
Jeff Donnell
Alan Hale Jr.
Music byEric Rogers
CinematographyAlan Hume
Edited byArchie Ludski
Distributed byAnglo-Amalgamated Film Distributors (UK)
Columbia Pictures (USA)
Release date
1962 (UK)
7 June 1963 (Germany)
31 December 1963 (US)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


Jack Hopkins (played by Michael Craig) is an aircraft designer with a passion for traction engines and he owns one called The Iron Maiden. His boss (played by Cecil Parker) is eager to sell a new supersonic jet aircraft (actually an RAF Handley Page Victor bomber) that Jack has designed to American millionaire Paul Fisher (Alan Hale, Jr.). The first encounter between Fisher and Jack goes badly, and tensions only heighten after Fisher's daughter Kathy (Anne Helm) damages The Iron Maiden, rendering it impossible to be driven solo. Jack is desperate to enter the annual Woburn Abbey steam rally with the machine, but his fireman is injured (Sam Kydd breaks his leg by falling over his son's roller skate) and unable to participate. When all seems lost, the millionaire himself is won over by Jack's plight and joins him in driving the engine, and the two soon become firm friends.

After an eventful journey, Fisher and Jack reach Woburn Abbey and enter the rally, only for Fisher to injure his back at the last minute. When all seems lost, the sceptical Kathy appears and joins Jack in the engine. The two pilot The Iron Maiden from last place to first, winning the rally; at the finish line, Jack and Kathy embrace and kiss, while The Iron Maiden boils over and explodes. The engine is memorialised when Jack's new jet is named after it.

A Handley Page Victor military bomber is featured in the film as Jack Hopkins' supersonic jetliner. A number of sequences show a Victor in close-up, taxiing, taking off, climbing, flying past and landing with drogue parachute deployed. These scenes were filmed at Radlett Aerodrome.


History of the traction engine The Iron Maiden

The traction engine that featured as The Iron Maiden was a John Fowler & Co. 7 nhp showman's road locomotive (works no. 15657, reg no. FX 6661). She was built in September 1920 as a class R3 road locomotive for heavy haulage work and saw many years' service on the Isle of Portland, hauling blocks of stone from the quarries to the harbour.[1]

She returned to Fowler's works for conversion into a showman's engine, which entailed the addition of a dynamo bracket in front of the chimney, and a full-length canopy, among other things. Once converted she was based in Alfreton, Derbyshire, and undertook fairground work, until bought for preservation in 1952. From new she was named Kitchener until the film was made, whereupon she was renamed The Iron Maiden.[2]

The engine was first owned during restoration by John Crawley, the man behind its use in the production of the film. It was then sold to George Hawkins, before passing into the Dr Tony Marchington collection in Derbyshire, following its sale at the 1993 Great Dorset Steam Fair and became part of the same collection as Flying Scotsman. The Iron Maiden is today owned by Graeme Atkinson, who displays the engine alongside a collection of other engines and fair organs as part of the Scarborough Fair Collection, at his holiday park in Lebberston, near Scarborough, North Yorkshire. The engine was featured on the cover of the Official Programme for the 38th Great Dorset Steam Fair, in 2006, and continues to make regular appearances at that event.

It has also made at least one appearance at the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington near York to be photographed next to the Handley Page Victor belonging to Andre Tempest that is preserved there.


  1. 37th Great Dorset Steam Fair, 2005 Official Programme. Ian Allan. August 2005. p. 12.
  2. 38th Great Dorset Steam Fair, 2006 Official Programme. Ian Allan. August 2006. p. 12.
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