New York Central Railroad’s famed 20th Century Limited is the setting for a key portion of today’s movie review. Leaving New York City at 4:15pm and arriving Chicago at 9:00am, Westbound train #25 was a Pullman-only heavyweight train when the movie takes place (September 1936).
Train scenes were filmed in Chicago at Union Station, LaSalle Street Station, and the 43rd Street “L” station. There were also a few, brief railroad shots filmed in the Los Angeles area.
The onboard sequence appears to have utilized a heavyweight “section” sleeper made up for daytime configuration. They could have been using studio-owned passenger cars or even a set for this.
Let’s take a ride on the Century!
A view inside Henry Gondorff’s (played by Paul Newman) bedroom. Painted apple green, I really dig the fixtures and Pullman washcloths, but that huge liquid soap dispenser looks out of place somehow. Exterior of LaSalle Street Station in Chicago. It seems mighty dark for the train to be arriving at 9:00am!
Our first railroad location appears at the 7 minute mark. Johnny Hooker (played by Robert Redford) and Luther Coleman (played by Robert Earl Jones) run down some tracks on a signaled rail line. I’m not sure where this was filmed (Chicago or L.A.), but that boarded walkway and those unusual style crossing gates might be a clue. Anyone recognize the skyline?
33 minutes into the movie, we’re back in Chicago at LaSalle Street where Henry meets J.J. (played by Ray Walston) arriving on Track 10. No, J.J. isn’t picking his nose, it’s a signal to Henry.
The Hook. 40 minutes along, the Norman Rockwell-inspired title card features a NYC 4-6-4 Hudson J3a class streamlined steam engine. The distinctive locomotive shroud designed by Henry Dreyfuss debuted on the newly re-equipped 20th Century Limited in June 1938 — 21 months AFTER the movie takes place. Great looking machine, though… ;p
For comparison, I include this color-tinted image from an unknown photographer found via a Yahoo images search. Isn’t that a gorgeous looking filly? Sadly, NYC didn’t see fit to save any of their Hudsons for posterity. Not a one. Bastards.
Standing in for New York’s Grand Central Terminal (where the 20th Century originated) is Chicago’s Union Station. I believe this area is what is known as the “Great Hall”.
Larry D. Mann! One of my favorite character and voice actors plays the train’s conductor. I like the rat’s nest of train tickets he carries around. Here we see Gondorff bribing his way into the on-board poker game. Interesting view out the window of another heavyweight Pullman.
The movies’ only train continuity shots have me stumped. It appears to be a 4-6-2 or similar steam engine flying white extra flags and towing a string of dark green coaches (with yellow stripes and brown paint along the windows). There’s a lifted section in the white-painted running board of the engine (probably to accommodate some sort of pumps or appliance).
I can’t make out the number on this locomotive, but lettering on the tender appears to say, L & N R.R. (Louisville & Nashville?). These brief images are just too dark and blurry to be sure.
Update! Thanks to reader Tony Wilson, the locomotive is Reader Railroad #1702, a Baldwin 2-8-0 originally built for the US Army. This locomotive is still running on the Great Smoky Mountains Railway. This scene was filmed in Bay Saint Louis, MS for the movie “This Property Is Condemned 1966” — which I plan to review some day.
Inside the section sleeper we get a look at the corridor and the aisle with sections in daytime configuration. I believe that little alcove at the end of the car is a drinking water station. I like the red plush upholstery and light fixtures. It’s curious on an overnight train like this, we never see a section made up for sleeping.
The private room for the poker game. Lots of brown. I’m pretty sure this is just a studio set. Back on board the Pullman car again, Doyle Lonnegan (played by Robert Shaw) appears to be using the men’s room for his private office. There’s another of those enormous soap dispensers. Hefty metal trough sink.
Arriving in the darkness of 9:00am at LaSalle Street, Lonnegan and his boys give Johnny a ride back to his apartment. I like the “L” structure overhead.
Big swath of the movie left off HERE
Our next big “train” scene was filmed in Chicago in and around the 43rd Street “L” station.
Here we find Joliet cop Lt. Snyder (played by Charles Durning) chasing Johnny down the street underneath the “L” tracks.
Interior view of the station as Johnny jumps the turnstiles, climbs the stairs and races down the platform.
With Snyder in hot pursuit, Johnny does some spectacular leaping, winding up on the roof of the “L” station.
Note in the first view, behind Snyder, there appears to be a man (Chicago Transit Authority flagman maybe?) between the two tracks.
One more leap and Johnny is off the “L” racing through a shantytown as Snyder roars his displeasure from the overhead platform.
A very short train view at 101 minutes in. As the flivver bounces along the trackwork, notice the tall boxcar with the top, white band at the far left. That’s an “excess-height” or “high-cube” box car, first built in the 1960’s.
I include a photo of an Athearn Genesis HO scale modern 60-foot hi-cube boxcar for comparison.
Our final train scene, at the 112 minute mark is The Sting. I’m thinking the top part is a very good matte painting with a scale model “L” train coming towards us, with the bottom part an actual Chicago street scene.
Really entertaining movie to watch, although not terribly obscure (it won an Oscar for Best Picture in 1973). If anyone has insight about the identification of that locomotive briefly seen in the continuity shots, let me know and I’ll update this post. Cheers!
Here’s what IMDb has to say about The Sting:
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!
Another entertaining review! I had thought the term was ‘EL’ for Elevated Line.
The ‘oversize’ soap dispensers appear similar to ones I saw as a child (in public bathrooms), and don’t appear especially oversize.
It was/is “L” in Chicago and “El” in New York.
It is too noisy, I cannot work here… They bomb by day, they bomb by night…
Those barbarians! Dr. Venetti, you will be protected…
That steam locomotive looks to be Reader Railroad’s USATC S160.