Southern Pacific Railroad #9, a 1909 narrow-gauge 4-6-0 from Baldwin, stars alongside John Wayne in this gritty, parched western directed by John Ford. Indeed, before the opening credits start to roll, we see SP #9 trundling along through the vastness of the western desert.
This movie will make you thirsty. Have plenty of water on hand before watching. The film features a great deal of stumbling through sand dunes and sagebrush as the 3 Godfathers continually search for water.
But that’s not why we’re here. The movie makers treat us to a wonderful little train led by SP #9 painted up for the fictitious “Rio Bravo Mogollon Railroad”. Sister locomotive SP #8 was previously seen/reviewed in my review of Sinister Journey 1948.
Come along and see how MGM used a boonie narrow gauge line in the Owens Valley of California to tell their story.
SP #9 smokes it up coming into the God-forsaken water stop of Apache Wells. A white train? Hmmm….more about that later on in the review.
The first train scene is about 17 minutes in. The three outlaws have robbed the bank of Welcome, Arizona (must be a border town) and the sheriff is rounding up a posse to go hunt them down.
It’s a short train with just a horsie car (flat car with wood railings) and a baggage combine #400 behind the steam locomotive. Of course there’s always one horse who just doesn’t want to go up the ramp. The townsfolk give the posse train a big send off as it leaves the station.
Yee-ha! As John Wayne yells in triumph, the 3 outlaws (Wayne is flanked by Harry Carey, Jr. and Pedro Armendáriz) arrive at the water stop of Mojave Tanks.
Their jubilation is short-lived, however, as the posse train comes rolling up to the water tanks. Here we get a great runby of SP #9 and train with detail shots of the locomotive tender, flatcar and combine.
The outlaws will almost certainly head to water (the sheriff reasons), so 3 men are dropped off to lie in wait. Without further ado, the posse train heads off.
As the outlaws watch in frustration, one of the posse frivolously rinses his mouth out in front of them.
Much plot left off HERE
White train! Having just come through an enormous sand storm, locomotive, consist, man AND beast are coated with the gritty stuff. As before, men are dropped off here at Apache Wells to watch for the 3 outlaws.
MOST of the plot left off here. Including the scene where they become the 3 Godfathers.
Bringing in the Sheaves! Our final train scene (to end the film) finds the townswomen of Welcome, AZ on hand to give John Wayne a hearty hymn as he’s sent off to prison.
Once more, SP #9 smokes it up into the station as the lawmen yell for Wayne to get on board. It appears to be the same consist as the posse train.
Hubba Hubba, it’s Dorothy Ford who has taken a shine to redeemed bad boy Wayne! (she’s the daughter of the bank president).
Will you write me? Yes, I’ll write you! The posse train hauls Wayne off to the hoosegow as the credits roll.
Espee #9 is still around and on display in Laws, CA.
Another SP narrow gauge engine #18 has actually been restored to operation and ran for a while on the Durango & Silverton!
Here’s what IMDb has to say about 3 Godfathers:
If you have ANY information about this movie you’d like to share, please contact me at: Lindsay.Korst@gmail.com, or leave a comment. Thanks and enjoy the blog!
Virginia & Truckee #25 was also in this film.