Let’s hear it for the Post Office! Or to quote from the film’s opening with triumphant march music playing in the background: “We’re proud of our Post Office, because we have confidence in its efficiency”. Well, things have changed a bit since 1950, but back in the day….
Many thanks to reader Mark Herrmann who tipped me off about this film noir goodie. After purchasing the DVD, I researched it and discovered train scenes filmed in Indiana AND Southern California. In addition to Alan Ladd (who plays the tough-as-nails Postal Inspector, Al Goddard), there are small parts played by Jack Webb (“My name’s Friday”) and Harry Morgan as two gang henchmen. That’s Al stepping off the caboose above.
As always, I’m gonna concentrate on the railroad pulchritude and leave the plot and gangster genre for others who may follow. C’mon, let’s check out trains from NYC, Pere Marquette, C&NW, Pennsylvania and Union Pacific railroads!
Gary (Indiana) Union Station was a beautiful structure when constructed in 1910 – as well as a pivotal plot point in this movie. Located between the New York Central and Baltimore & Ohio mainlines, both roads were served by this two-story edifice.
In these two views, we get a look inside and out of the passenger terminal. The depot still exists, but is literally a shell of its former self. That’s a 1949 Checker Cab (Thanks, big brother Mark!).
One of the first scenes in the film made me sit up and take notice. That’s Seattle with King Street Station in the background. Here we see trucks being loaded at the “Railway Terminal Post Office”. I checked an old blueprint I have, and railroad tracks ran right behind this building on the left, bringing mail over from the K.S.S. depot tracks (R.P.O., USPS Storage Mail, etc.).
Just like that, we’re on the other side of the country. In electrified territory, a Pennsy GG-1 locomotive comes flying along with its RPO snagging a bag from a trackside mail crane. Pow!
Uh-oh. There’s been a murder. And look at the two gunsels who helped perpetrate. “Just the facts, ma’am…” Boo! Hiss!
Well. The Post Office does NOT take kindly to one of their own being offed. SO, they put their best man on the job, Inspector Al, who is seen here questioning a yard switchman.
Standing in for LaPorte, Indiana is…(reading the sign) East Bank Junction…on the Union Pacific. I’m assuming this means the East Bank of the Los Angeles River.
They even bothered to stencil “Pennsylvania” on the sides of this UP caboose (there’s no mistaking that UP “font” of 3351 on the side). Al deftly boards the caboose as this freight is headed to Fort Wayne.
This is a Class MK-7, oil-burning locomotive with cab side class shown as MK-63. As with the caboose, the tender has been re-lettered Pennsylvania.
Inspector Al neatly bails off the UP/PRR caboose and walks past the hastily tacked up “Fort Wayne Junction” sign.
So here he is in Fort Wayne on the Pennsy. Except I don’t think this is Fort Wayne as the Pennsy depot looked nothing like this.
This MIGHT have been filmed at a Chicago suburban depot on the Chicago & North Western because:
- The station sign would say Fort Wayne, not Ft. Wayne;
- C&NW had very unique “banjo” semaphore signals as seen in the background and;
- Check out steam engine on the lower level! That’s C&NW #1510, an “E” class 4-6-2.
Thus, the location shown would be in Illinois, as the C&NW did not operate in Indiana.
Good chunk of movie left off HERE
Inspector Al is back at Gary Union Station (for real). Walking the tunnel to the platforms, he comes across various characters who mean to do him serious harm!
Whack! Al removes the henchman’s hat with a right cross. He escapes up the stairwell to trackside.
The remaining henches reach the platform as Al races alongside an eastbound NYC freight.
Elephant ears! The train is led by NYC #3117, a 4-8-2 “Mohawk” class L-4b war baby (Lima-built early 1943) with smoke lifters on the front.
Courtesy Gary Everhart and RRPictureArchives.NET is photo of sister Mohawk #3114 (No location or photographer listed.)
Ladd (or his stunt double) grabs onto a NYC “Pacemaker Freight Service” boxcar. Holding his tongue just right, Al dismounts as the gang races after him. (He’s trying to join/infiltrate them.) Joe Friday rolls him over as a steel mill glows moodily in the background.
Two things of note: The train has no caboose (unusual for 1950). Pacemaker boxcars were originally intended for less than carload (l.c.l.) freight such as packages, express, etc. The paint scheme was a beautiful vermillion red and gray.
Every gang needs a Moll. This one (“Dodie” – played by Jan Sterling) has several scenes where she toys with Alan Ladd — seen here checking out her backside. Gosh. Is it cold in there?
You can’t film in Gary, Indiana without at least ONE scene inside a steel mill (Gary’s raison d’être). Isn’t that the coolest in-plant switch engine? I’ve never seen one like that.
Another hunk of movie left off HERE
As the gangsters pull up in their 1949 Chrysler (Thanks again, big brother!), an Alco RS-something pulls a string of gondolas over the bridge. The gang watches the 1949 edition of the Pere Marquette passenger train (pulled by EMD E7A locomotives) pass via rear-screen projection.
Friday is still on the job. He’s tailing a murder witness to Gary Union Station. Flashing a fake badge, he cons the witness into “coming with me”.
Later, we see him stopped by a freight train…with a Pennsy double door “Automobile” boxcar. In the days before Auto Racks, you couldn’t fit many vehicles inside a 50′ boxcar!
In our final railroad scene, Inspector Al comes tooling up in his 1949 Dodge (kudos, Mark). Next he goes behind a New York Central version of a double-door automobile boxcar. The gang has run the payroll truck off the road and Ladd bops the perturbed driver on the noggin. As they drive along in Al’s Dodge, they nearly run into a school bus.
In the background, I can just make out a pantograph on one of the passenger cars. Possibly, this is an interurban on the South Shore Line, which ran from Chicago to South Bend, Indiana (and thru Gary).
There are no more trains, but I can’t resist a couple frames of the big shoot out as the cops roll up to make the sting. Check out the officer, eyes closed, blasting away on his Tommy Gun as shells fly everywhere. Sic Semper Gangsters!
Here’s what IMDb has to say about Appointment With Danger:
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