Chick Flick! Why would I bother with such a film, you ask? Why, it’s because one of the “Ladies” is the gorgeous Atlanta & West Point Railroad # 290, a 4-6-2 Pacific, built by the Lima Locomotive Works, Lima, Ohio, in 1926. As of 2022, A&WP #290 is still with us, currently being cosmetically restored for display by the good folks at the Southeastern Railway Museum, Duluth, Georgia.
Much of the railroad scenes were filmed in and around Juliette, Georgia using a former Southern Railway line (Macon to Atlanta). A&WP #290 and the railroad was used not only as a plot point, but can be seen in the background of some interior shots.
Fried Green Tomatoes anyone? All aboard for the Whistle Stop depot and cafe!
Isn’t she a beauty? Strutting her stuff for the cameras comes A&WP #290 past the “Whistle Stop” depot. Restored in 1989 for excursion service in and around Atlanta, A&WP #290 is seen here “hot” as it would have appeared pulling The Crescent between Atlanta and Montgomery, Alabama in 1926-1954. Photo courtesy SE Railway Museum website.
As the movie opens, Evelyn Couch (played by Kathy Bates) and hubby are lost on their way to visit his mother in a nursing home. They have stumbled into the little town of Whistle Stop. At Milepost 217, we see Norfolk Southern’s signaled and nicely-ballasted Macon-Atlanta mainline.
Long story short, all the train scenes are in flashback. Evelyn winds up chatting with a nursing home resident (Ninny) who grew up in Whistle Stop and entertains her with stories of the old times.
First story from Ninny (played by Jessica Tandy) concerns Buddy Threadgoode (played by Chris O’Donnell) seen here on the rope swing and on the tracks. Watching from the ramshackle overpass is his admiring little tomboy sister Idgie (here played by Nancy Moore Atchison) and Buddy’s main squeeze Ruth (played by Mary-Louise Parker).
Track conditions change dramatically from shot to shot making me think this scene was filmed in two separate places. Note the rail anchors and ribbon rail (which wasn’t around in 1920) that suddenly appear in the last shot.
Oh, dear. Buddy has got his foot caught in a guard rail. And of course, here comes the train. But…why did the railroad install a guard rail out there in the open like that with no obstruction to guard? (an overpass, a bridge, a switch, etc.)?
Great telephoto shot of the 4-6-2 (sporting an auxiliary tender) on a freight, rounding the curve. As Buddy fiddles with his boot, you can just see the head of the locomotive fireman peeking out above the running board — probably telling the engineer where to stop (“One more car….Thaaaaat’ll do.”)
Speeding towards and over the camera (and presumably, Buddy) comes the #290. Nice rods-down pose of the drivers.
Large, weepy section of the movie left off HERE
About 28 minutes in, the two gals decide to hop a freight at night. Idgie is now played as an adult by Mary Stuart Masterson. Beautifully-restored wooden boxcar both inside and out. Notice whilst the ladylike Ruth is wearing a dress, Idgie still wears the pants in the family. Oh my…
As the freight trundles by a hobo camp, our two heroines steal lading (food) from the boxcar to toss out to the poor. Nice little red caboose (chug chug chug) bringing up the markers.
I applaud the effort filmmakers made in stocking the boxcar with period food items such as wooden crates of Silver Lake and Ben Franklin canned fruit and 100# burlap sacks of Li’l Chief potatoes. Of course, Idgie HAS to have a smoke afterwards…
Finally, it’s time to LEAP off the train with the two gal pals winding up down by the swimming hole. The water COLD!
Another large chunk of movie lopped off…
At the 58 minute mark, we see our best runby of the movie. Now lettered for the fictitious Tallahassee & Albany, #290 steams past the Whistle Stop depot with some decidedly modern-looking steel box cars in tow. Great crane shot, however.
71 minutes in, a passenger train trundles into town. Look at that beautiful continuous welded rail (CWR) underneath #290. Notice the two onboard extras in the coach staring directly at the camera.
15 minutes later, some kids are walking the rails in the same spot where Buddy got offed. Will tragedy befall one of them? Of COURSE. This movie is a 3 hankie weeper. Anyway, the sheriff is NOT pleased with Ruth and Idgie for various reasons best not discussed here.
Instead, we enjoy the passing of T&A (get it?) #290 behind him.
At the 103 minute mark, it’s a new number and new railroad for the A&WP #290. As the fireman climbs down from the cab to “oil around”, #526 of the Something and Orleans RR curiously has a highway crossbuck attached to its tender. Nice detail shots of the locomotive, though.
Finally, 131 minutes in (cripes, this is a long movie!), one final crane shot of the Whistle Stop depot present day and the credits roll.
BONUS: From the “Making of” featurette and “Photos” extras, I was able to get additional views. First is a night time view of #290 passing over the camera; Second is lots of camera gear surrounding the #290; Third is the depot moved off the right of way and down the street in Juliette; Fourth is #290 from a different angle.
Here’s what IMDb has to say about Fried Green Tomatoes:
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The engine is lettered Mobile & New Orleans 526
Boy it’s a long movie, and all I remembered was Kathi Bates is in it 😉