Holiday Affair 1996

USA Network
RKO Pictures

Merry Christmas! Thanks to a 2016 challenge by good friend Carl Swanson, I am reviewing the 1996 USA Network remake of Holiday Affair 1949. The story line is just about the same, freshened up with 1990’s accoutrements.

Once again, Lionel model trains are the real star and major plot point for this movie. It appears filmmakers whomped up a custom-made trainset painted a very shiny shade of silver, with a red/white/blue stripe high along the sides of the cars and locomotive. The consist used is an EMD F3A unit, coach, baggage/coach, full baggage car and dome observation car, in that order (a somewhat unusual arrangement). A brief search turned up little about the particular cars used. Perhaps modelers out there can enlighten me in the comments?

Filmed in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, we are also treated to quick glimpses of the city’s subway system and a real, live peek at VIA Rail’s Canadian in Union Station. Pour yourself a cocoa or glass of wine and enjoy this holiday story of a boy and his trains.

A Lionel train set by the fireplace, Christmas morn. What red-blooded American (or Canadian) kid wouldn’t wish for something like that?

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Pal Joey 1957

Columbia Pictures

Sinatra does San Francisco! Frank Sinatra plays Joey Evans, a crooning, womanizing cad, unceremoniously tossed onto a Southern Pacific train headed for the Oakland Mole. We are treated to Frank’s encounter with SP #4443, a GS-4 class 4-8-4 locomotive in Espee black/silver. In addition, is footage inside the Mole and a ferry boat ride across the Bay.

I originally reviewed just the Pal Joey movie opening credits (see bottom of this posting for link). Once I started researching the movie, however, I discovered there were additional railroad-related scenes (Berkeley train station, Embarcadero building, Alco switcher & cable cars), so I wound up purchasing the DVD for those scenes as well.

The movie itself is a lot of fun with Rita Hayworth (rahr-RAHR!) and Kim Novak (hubba-HUBBA!) as rivals for Frank’s affections. Let’s take a closer look at San Francisco rails from the last golden days of the 1950’s. Highball! (very dry, please…).

Two soldiers jog past SP #4443 as it comes to a stop with its short train (baggage car and 3 coaches).

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The Great Train Robbery 1968

20th Century Fox

Batman! When I was a wee lad, this was the hottest show on T.V. Mind you, we didn’t have a color TV set yet, and most of the campy humor and famous guest stars went right over my head. It wasn’t until I was an adult, that I could watch the DVD’s and really appreciate all this series had to offer.

There’s not much in the train department of this episode, but with a title like that, I just couldn’t pass up a quick review. Besides, this 3rd season episode included Batgirl (played by Yvonne Craigrahr-RAHR!). Fair reader, consider it your Christmas bonus.

In this second episode of a two-parter, Batman (played by Adam West) and Robin (played by Burt Ward) are battling Shame (a parody of Shane) and his gang, whose plans include robbing a train of a large sum of legal tender.

As stated previously, because the railroad optics are so thin, I’m going to include some colorful Batman classic scenes. It’ll be fun!

The only actual railroad scene (from archival footage) is this brief clip of a Southern Pacific mail, express, and passenger train seen here. More details about this clip later on, including a guess as to which train it might actually be.

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Racing With The Moon 1984

Paramount Pictures

Spicoli and The Skunk! Yes, Ridgemont High’s favorite pothead is back — walking the tracks of the California Western Railroad in this “coming of age” picture set during World War 2.

Of course, the real star of the show is California Western #45, a Baldwin 2-8-2 class of 1924 originally built for an Oregon lumber company, coming to C.W.R. in 1965. Happily, #45 is still with us in Fort Bragg, CA and at last report is operational.

Let’s watch buddies Henry “Hopper” Nash (played by Sean Penn) and Nicky / Bud (played by Nicolas Cage) hop freights along the C.W.R. and say their goodbyes (finale) at the really cool Fort Bragg depot.

Hey, there might even be a brief interlude between Hopper and Caddie (played by Elizabeth McGovern) somewhere in this review. All in good taste.

Read on and enjoy!

Here comes California Western #44 with a short freight as the picture begins. It was renumbered #44 after a rebuild to operational status specifically for this movie. Later, (movie’s ending), the 2-8-2 would get her #45 back.

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Webs of Steel 1926

Anchor Film Distributors

Wow! This obscure, little gem is just PACKED with railroad action. While many/most of the early B&W movies I have reviewed (such as Murder in the Private Car 1934 and The Block Signal 1926) were filmed on Southern Pacific or Santa Fe rails, Webs of Steel was filmed mostly, if not entirely on Union Pacific Railroad (UP) in the Los Angeles area.

More specifically, we are treated to a whole slew of oil-burning, beefy 2-8-0 Class C-57’s, lettered for UP subsidiary LA&SL (Los Angeles & Salt Lake).

The heroine of this silent flick is the plucky Helen Webb (played by Helen Holmes). Actress Holmes came from a railroad family and did all of her own stunts in this movie as well as a string of other railroad-related pictures.

Two UP 6000 series 2-8-0’s are blasting along during the elopement scene. Helen and her beau (the engineer) are trying to stay ahead of the second 2-8-0 bearing her father — who does not approve of this joining! Sparks are sure to fly (groan…) when Dad catches up with them.

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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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