The Flying Kipper 1989

Shepperton Studios

Henry the Green Engine! At age 6, I received this book which introduced me to the magical railway of the fictional Island of Sodor. Imagine my surprise when as an adult, someone started making little model railroad videos of the same stories I used to read as a kid. I was hooked.

This review comes from my DVD, “Thomas & Friends, The Early Years”. I am concentrating on just the story, “The Flying Kipper”, as that was one of my faves. Narrated by Ringo Starr, I will note the slight changes made in the story line from the book to the movie and present the images side by side for comparison. This episode was originally broadcast on 2 April 1989 (from IMDB.com).

The original books were written by The Rev. W. Awdry with illustrations by C. Reginald Dalby. The videos were created and adapted by Britt Allcroft.

Dontbesilly! Dontbesilly! Trock, trick! Trock, trick! Henry #3 is a 4-6-0 green engine with red stripes. Here he is hustling along with the Kipper in the pre-dawn darkness. Note in the book picture (right), he is pulling about 9 freight cars.

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High Noon 1952

Paramount Pictures

I first saw High Noon in my “Film as Literature” class at Mercer Island H.S. senior year (Hello, Blaine Dollard!). Loaded with symbolism, this flick has been analyzed to death, but fortunately I’m just interested in the railroad bits — which makes for a more enjoyable review.

Huh? You say it won 10 Academy Awards and is not obscure? Bah! The REAL star of this high-falutin’ oater is Sierra Railroad #3 pulling its coaches past the Hadleyville depot. The rest of that final showdown jazz is mere window dressing.

Well then, let’s enjoy a railfan’s delight as the little 1891 Rogers-built, 4-6-0 trundles into town. Do not forsake me, oh my darling!

Belching an ominous plume of black smoke, Sierra #3 slowly approaches the water tower. This scene, and the one above of the depot, was filmed at Warnerville, California.

The studio constructed the two-story Hadleyville station just for this movie (Hat tip to Larry Jensen’s The Movie Railroads book).

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Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid 1969

20th Century Fox

Having won 4 Oscars, today’s movie is hardly obscure, but the use of three, count ’em THREE steam locomotives makes this a flick worth reviewing. Filmed on the Denver and Rio Grande Western (D&RGW) narrow gauge as well as an obscure Mexican 3-footer, there is a tasty selection of railroad hype to sink our teeth into.

D&RGW K-28 2-8-2 Baldwins 473 and 478 are the big stars along with some studio-constructed baggage cars and D&RGW replica coaches 330, 335, 336 as well as business car B-7.

The main actors? Oh, them. Paul Newman played Butch Cassidy with Robert Redford as The Sundance Kid.

Grateful thanks to Larry Jensen and his magnificent book, “Hollywood’s Railroads – Volume Three – Narrow Gauge Country” for being my go-to source for all-things-railroad in this classic Western.

So grab the dynamite and let’s go rob a baggage car or two. Stick ’em up!

There’s lots of leaping in this movie. Here we see The Kid jumping from car to car in the second hold up and making like a bird, bailing off the cab of #473 in the third robbery.

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Death Valley Scotty 1955

McGowan Productions, Inc.

I first heard about this train-laced TV episode from an article in Trains Magazine of April 2012. “Speed and Spectacle” by John Hankey mentioned Santa Fe Railway putting together a replica of the Scott Special of 1905 (see above) including one of the actual steam locomotives used (ATSF #1010), for an episode of Death Valley Days. I was intrigued.

Built by Baldwin in 1901, #1010 is a 2-6-2 and was used on the Needles, CA to Seligman, AZ segment of the Scott Special’s run. It was refurbished by Santa Fe Railway in 1954 specifically for the TV episode. ATSF #1010 was donated in 1979 to the California State Railroad Museum where it is preserved as a static display.

Let’s explore Death Valley Scotty’s record-breaking run to Chicago. Highball!

Headlight extinguished and with both engineer and fireman in the gangway, Santa Fe’s replica of the Scott Special poses on double track for its portrait in this ATSF publicity shot from the above-mentioned “Speed and Spectacle” article.

Thanks to Trains Magazine for providing useful background information about Death Valley Scotty’s record-breaking run of 1905. Los Angeles to Chicago in just under 45 hours. Whew! Why, that’s an average speed of 50.4 mph!

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Black Train 2017

Universal Music Group

Domo arigato, Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi! I was researching future Obscure Train Movies and totally by accident, stumbled across this fantastic music video.

Mostly drone-filmed on the Nevada Northern Railway, Black Train features NN Ry.’s locomotive #40, a 1910 product of Baldwin Locomotive Works, towing a string of boxcars and caboose through the desert.

Of course, the entire thing is in Japanese, but every now and then, Tsuyoshi says, “Black Train” in clear English. Check him out above riding the front of the steam engine, and having the time of his life. C’mon, let’s review this video, the 4-6-0 and its consist!

This is my favorite screen cap of the engineer’s side of the train. #40 is towing four NN wood boxcars and a yellow caboose. More about them later. The nearby copper mines (Kennecott) were the railway’s raison d’être.

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Onion Pacific 1940

Paramount Pictures
A Max Fleisher Cartoon

It’s Popeye the Sailor (voiced by Jack Mercer) vs. Bluto (voiced by Pinto Colvig) in this 1940 cartoon send up of Paramount’s own epic movie Union Pacific 1939. In this black and white animation, it’s a race side by side on double track to win the state franchise (presumably to operate the railroad). Two steam engines (Bluto runs a 6-4-0, Popeye a 4-2-0) have to contend with choke points like a single track bridge and single track tunnel.

Being a cartoon allows many over-the-top gags and mishaps you simply could not do with real actors. Compared to a Warner Brothers Looney Tunes, the animation is not that great, but it’s fast with lots of action. I was able to review this picture from my Popeye The Sailor 1938-1940 DVD.

Now sit back and enjoy this train-laden feature from the early days of animation!

This sequence gets reused quite a bit as for much of the race, the two combatants are side by side, constantly trading the lead with each other. Notice animators left off one set of pilot wheels on Bluto’s locomotive making it a 4-4-0.

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Hello Dolly 1969

20th Century Fox

Well HELLO, Dolly! Pennsylvania Railroad #1223, a D16sb class 4-4-0 stars in this splashy, lavishly-costumed musical. Built in 1905 at Pennsy’s Juniata Shops in Altoona, PA for passenger service, this Belpaire-fireboxed beauty was painted up as New York Central & Hudson River Railroad (NYC&HR) #15 for the movie.

Along with a string of passenger cars, the high-stepping PRR #1223 was borrowed from excursion service at Strasburg Railroad and towed to Penn Central’s ex-NYC Hudson River line (east bank) for filming.

In addition to the opening credits, NYC&HR #15 and train featured prominently in a musical number 34 minutes into the picture. More about that later. All Aboard for Yonkers!

NYC&HR #15 struts her stuff along the Hudson River as small boys wave at the fireman in this nicely-framed shot.

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Railroadin’ 1929

Hal Roach Studios

Whilst grazing around on YouTube, I came upon this absolute gem of an early black and white talkie. Railroadin’ features the Little Rascals / Our Gang kids on location at Santa Fe Railway’s Redondo Junction roundhouse in Los Angeles.

The star of the show is AT&SF #1373, a 4-6-2 built by Baldwin in 1913 and scrapped in 1949. In addition, we catch glimpses of a whole bevy of steam locomotives at the roundhouse which I’ll try to sort out later in this review.

Many thanks to “chrisbungostudios” on YouTube for putting together a most useful “Filming Locations” video, which will be linked to further down in my write up.

It’s iron horses galore in the last golden days of the Roaring Twenties! Let’s check it out.

Santa Fe Railway #1373 belches copious amounts of black smoke skyward (sanding the flues) as it runs along a side track. Notice the string of boonie old “outside braced” wooden box cars in the background.

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Loaded For War 1944

Santa Fe Telefilm Recording

Wow, early first generation diesels star alongside Santa Fe Railway’s magnificent fleet of steam locomotives in this color film showing the AT&SF was doing its bit to help win World War 2.

As a vital link to the Pacific Theater, Santa Fe received the lion’s share of EMD FT diesel locomotives built before and during the war.

Let’s take a look at how one railroad hauled military, freight and passengers along with all the facilities needed to keep the system going. Santa Fe, All the Way!

An EMC E6 locomotive gets its slant nose scrubbed down as a Baldwin 4-6-4 backs up alongside; a 4 unit set of EMD FT’s pulls past a very smoky iron horse.

GM’s Electro-Motive Division designed the famous red and silver “Warbonnet” paint scheme as well as the more somber, but still classy blue and yellow for the freight FT’s.

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My Little Chickadee 1940

Universal Pictures

Sierra Railroad 2-8-0 #18 along with combine #5 and coaches #1 & #2, stars in today’s feature. The little Baldwin Consolidation, built for Sierra Railroad in 1906, received just 13 minutes of screen time, but what a cameo. A spectacular Indian attack highlights its trip from Little Bend to Greasewood through the untamed West.

Onboard, Flower Belle Lee (played by Mae West) and Cuthbert J. Twillie (played by W.C. Fields) ham it up in this spoof of western movies giving us a good look at the spartan but classic interior of the coaches (studio set).

It’s a wild ride under western skies for Sierra #18. Let’s check it out.

A. P. & S. Railway #8 (Sierra #18 in disguise) is pedaling furiously as it tries to outrun the Cleveland Indians. As it pulls out of Little Bend, we get a closeup of the tender and cab in this rods-down pose.

Does that short combine #5 look familiar? It is, if you’re a fan of Petticoat Junction. Combine #5 along with Sierra #3 was the entire consist of the “Hooterville Cannonball”.

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