Lippert Pictures, Inc.
What better way to showcase Western Pacific Railroad’s spanking new streamliner (the California Zephyr) than shoehorning train footage into a Noir B picture?
The opening credits and first three minutes of this movie feature the CZ both inside and out with location shooting on Altamont Pass, Feather River Canyon and the WP Sacramento station.
This 72 minute potboiler tells the story of WP Special Agent Rod Kendall (played by Kent Taylor) who is tracking down the mad killer Frank Wicken (played by Mickey Knox).
Is that Jack Benny talking to the statuesque blonde in the Vista Dome? ………WELL! Nah, no idea who he is, but his gal pal is actress Vera Marshe; Led by WP #801, an EMD A-B-B set of 1947 F3 locomotives worth 4500 hp, the California Zephyr glides into Sacramento. Quite a crowd on hand ready to board.
As the opening credits finish, we find the CZ rolling through the Feather River Canyon. Zephyrette Gloria Grey uses the P.A. system to explain how the canyon got its name.
Once more we get a view of the CZ arriving and departing Sacramento.
Too bad this film is in black and white. Those silver and orange F units with the red feather on the nose were plenty splashy! Here we see a roll by of the CZ through Altamont Pass.
Meanwhile, Special Agent Kendall is enjoying a ride home on the California Zephyr after finishing an exhausting case; His reverie is interrupted by Zephyrette Grey who pages him. In the diner, he is accosted by the smiling conductor. Uh-oh. I bet he wants something.
Sure enough. The conductor hands him a telegram requesting his services to solve a recent double-murder and robbery.
Look out the window in the second photo. It appears to be a long line of stored steam locomotives probably heading to scrap. Western Pacific Railroad dieselized early (1953).
I include this picture just for the details. Note the silver setting in the foreground, the conductor doing his paperwork and the entire dining car crew having their meal break.
Interlude. Hubba Hubba! Is it cold in there? Now working on the case, Kendall takes a fancy to Miss Martha Stuart (played by Sheila Ryan). No, not THAT Martha Stewart….
Boo! Hiss! Returning to the scene of the crime is bad boy, Frank Wicken, menacingly rolling a toothpick around in his mouth.
Okay, back to the train scenes.
Hopping a freight outta town, Frank fondles his ill-gotten gains (the local railroad payroll); Another hobo is on to him; Big fight! “Oh no, you don’t. You want my treasure. Well, it’s mine, you understand? MINE!”
Frank ejects the bum and makes sure all the cash is present. Later, Frank hears on the radio that all his cash is marked and everyone’s on the lookout for him. Sucker!
Meanwhile down at the train yard, Agent Rod and his sidekick Elmer (played by Sid Melton) are looking through box cars. All they find is a smelly old hobo — not the gunsel they wanted.
The final showdown. Frank the Fink is surrounded. “Come out with your hands up! Come and get me, copper!” (By this time, Frankie had already fired 9 shots from a six shot revolver.)
Well, justice prevails and here we are back in the dome of the CZ. “Jack Benny” is still chatting up the blonde who wonders if the story had a happy ending. Well, of course it did. The final train scene shows our hero Rod across the aisle with his fiancé Martha as the credits roll.
Courtesy of the Feather River Rail Society are a couple publicity stills taken in the dome and in the observation during filming.
Hey, how about a color travelogue of the 1950’s CZ put out by the Burlington, D&RGW & WP railroads?:
Or, if you’d like to watch Western Pacific Agent yourself on YouTube:
Here’s what IMDb has to say about Western Pacific Agent:
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!
I find it amusing that the movie poster uses the Train of Tomorrow with its E7 rather than the CZ with F-units. Somebody get that artist a copy of the Diesel Spotters’ Guide!