Author Archives: filmrailfan

Support Your Local Gunfighter 1971



United Artists

James Garner is riding the narrow gauge rails of the Denver & Rio Grande Western (D&RGW) Railroad in this Western spoof follow-up to 1969’s Support Your Local Sheriff!

Train scenes in this film were brief, but feature 4 different steam locomotives, one of which I’ve not been able to positively identify. A big shout out to Larry Jensen whose “Hollywood’s Railroads, Volume 3” book helped me identify one engine used on the CBS Studio City (CA) lot.

As usual, I’ll concentrate on the railroad scenes in my review, even though the movie itself is great fun to watch — back when Tinseltown knew how to make an enjoyable, entertaining picture.

Let’s take a trip on the 3-feet-between-the-rails Rio Grande railroad. Highball!!

 

D&RGW #478, a narrow gauge K-28 class 2-8-2 Alco class of 1924, leads a short train of “Grande Gold” and silver coaches along the Animas River on the Silverton Line.

Helicopter shots of this train were used at the beginning and ending of today’s reviewed movie.
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The Train 1964

United Artists

While not particularly OBSCURE, (Trains Magazine rated it the #1 greatest railroad film, evah), this black & white MOVIE is chock full of TRAINS from start to finish. So, two out of three ain’t bad.

Mind you, it’s a foreign film, which I usually don’t review, but The Train features so many explosions, spectacular derailments and is steam locomotive-propelled throughout, I just couldn’t pass it up.

Burt Lancaster, American accent intact, stars as the engine driver Labiche (pronounced Labeesh) — more about his funny last name later.

So come on, all you World War 2 buffs, let’s check out how the railway workers of the French Resistance take on the Germans in this gritty, over-exposed iron horse opera.

Colonel Franz Von Waldheim (played by Paul Scofield) is the art connoisseur who has looted a trainload of paintings from the Musee du Jeu de Paume and intends to take it back to Germany for ransom (“enough to equip 10 panzer divisions”).

How come English stage actors seem to make the most sinister and convincing stiff-arm saluting German officers?

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Choo Choo Bob 2008

Birdhouse Holdings / Qubo

It’s The Choo Choo Bob Show!! Roaring out of the Twin Cities of Minnesota comes this fun little (each episode is but 12 minutes long) children’s show — all about trains. There is a great article about the show HERE, which describes how it came to be. The show even has its own clubhouse and store in Saint Paul where episodes where/are filmed.

Each episode features a live action video of real railroading and for the purposes of this review, I have chosen the Milwaukee Road #261 steam engine trip.

Choo Choo Bob (played by Sam Heyn) and Engineer Paul (played by Paul Howe) take a ride down the Mississippi on former CMStP&P (now Canadian Pacific) tracks aboard the beautiful Cedar Rapids Skytop observation car.

Oh, yes. See the show’s logo at the top of this page? That image of a diesel locomotive looks familiar to me. We’ll be revisiting that image later on in this review. All Aboard!

Milwaukee Road S3 class 4-8-4 #261 (built by Alco – Schenectady in July 1944) gallops along at track speed whilst back in the Skytop, Bob and Paul enjoy the view. Friends of 261 operates and maintains this Minneapolis-based locomotive and train.

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The Wild Wild West 1965

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Columbia Broadcasting System

“Heading for the Nineties, Livin’ in the Wild Wild West!”

Okay, the above has got nothing to do with today’s review, but I always liked that song. 

Jim West (played by Robert Conrad) and Artemus Gordon (played by Ross Martin) star in this post-Civil War spy caper in the American West. Their preferred method of transportation is their own private car “Wanderer 1” towed by (natch!) a steam locomotive.

Although I’m reviewing a black and white episode from the first season, I will supplement with color views of “The Night of the Vicious Valentine” from season 2.

Motive power for the train was provided by venerable Virginia & Truckee 4-4-0 #22, “The Inyo”. This is from the days when she was owned by Paramount Studios. All exterior train shots were filmed around Menifee, California.

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Compare B&W and color poses of Inyo, a baggage car and Wanderer as they pause for Jim and Artemus to leap into action!

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Narrow Margin 1990

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TriStar Pictures

Gene Hackman and Anne Archer star in this 90’s remake of the classic B film noir, The Narrow Margin from 1952.

Well, it’s not an EXACT remake. Let’s just say it takes its SHAPE from the original. Filmmakers spared no expense in obtaining a string of streamlined passenger cars from the now-defunct Roaring Fork Railroad in Colorado, then painting up a BC Rail SD40-2 in a pleasing VIA Rail paint scheme.

Add to that the stunning scenery of British Columbia along BC Rail’s North Vancouver to Prince George line and you’ve got a winner of a movie. The plot? Oh, just a whole slew of bad guys after our heroes, Gene and Anne as Via’s “Canadian” rolls towards Vancouver. Let’s check it out.

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This is probably the best photograph of the entire consist with the lake reflection as a bonus.

Location: Alta Lake, BC near Whistler Resort perhaps? I’m sure SOMEONE out there recognizes this spot.

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Across the Bridge 1957

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The Rank Organization

Carl Schaffner (played by Rod Steiger) is a British financier in New York City who is into his company for about $9 million. As details emerge of his embezzlement, Rod/Carl decides to take it on the lam. Thus, he heads down to Pennsylvania Station taking a sleeper on the first train to Texas and eventually Mexico.

Interestingly enough, the Pennsylvania Railroad had a train, the Penn Texas, which ran from New York to St. Louis, MO with connecting sleepers on the Missouri Pacific to Dallas, TX and from there on the Texas and Pacific (a Mopac subsidiary) to El Paso, TX.

This being a British film, most of the interiors were shot in Shepperton Studios with exteriors of American railroad scenes (mostly in the dark) thrown in for good measure.

Train scenes are only present for 20 minutes, but it was enjoyable to hunt down pictures and identify the locomotives shown. Let’s get onboard with shyster Schaffner as he makes a run for it.

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The Pullman Porter has his suspicions about the cranky old guy in Bedroom C.

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The Greatest Show on Earth 1952

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Paramount Pictures

The circus traveled by rail as demonstrated in Cecil B. DeMille’s Technicolor masterpiece of 1952. Winning the Oscar for Best Picture, this is the film that made Charlton Heston a star.

For this review, I concentrated on circus scenes that had trains in the background. Some highlights include an Atlantic Coast Line (ACL) steam locomotive and caboose, a Pennsy GG-1 electric and a elaborately-detailed scale model of the two circus trains.

Our review begins 19 minutes into the movie as the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus (RBandB&B) prepares to leave its Winter Quarters in Sarasota, Florida.

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It took hundreds, if not thousands of people to operate the circus. As wagons of equipment are loaded piggyback-style on the left, performers and support staff prepare to board the passenger train on the right.

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The General 1926

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United Artists

Buster Keaton’s masterpiece from 1926 is both a silent picture and black and white, which makes it about as obscure a train movie to modern audiences, as can be. Based on the true-to-life Andrews Raid during the Civil War, location shooting took place on the Oregon, Pacific & Eastern railroad near Cottage Grove.

Filmmakers were able to discover three 4-4-0 locomotives in Oregon to use for the movie. They were:

OP&E #4, built by Cooke Locomotive Works in 1886. This became W&A #3, “General”.
OP&E #5, built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1881. This became W&A #5, “Texas”.
OP&E #1, built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1881. This became USMRR #8, unnamed.

Chock full of railroad scenes featuring some incredible stunts by Keaton, I had a difficult time chopping down over 200 screen caps to a manageable 64 for this review.

Our story begins in 1861, Marietta, Georgia….

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…where a despondent Johnnie Gray (Buster Keaton) has been denied enlistment, account being too valuable as an Engineer on the Western & Atlantic (W&A) Railroad. As he rests on the main driving rod of the 4-4-0, a hostler moves General into the shed.

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Bad Day at Black Rock 1954

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Metro-Goldwyn Mayer

Wow, what an opening! Southern Pacific Railroad hosted one of the most spectacular railroad-themed opening credits ever done for a movie. The star is an SP passenger train in splashy “Daylight” dress led by a pair of equally classic “Black Widow” EMD F units.

Helicopter shots, distant shots, pacing shots were all added by associate producer Herman Hoffman after principal photography had ended. Test audiences had been unimpressed with the rather bland movie opening, so MGM rented a couple trainsets from Espee for filming on SP’s “Jawbone” line near Lone Pine, CA.

Once again, I am grateful to IMDb Trivia and particularly James Tiroch at Cinetrains for details about the railroad operations. The comments from Cinetrains/The Black Widow of Black Rock were extremely helpful in identifying the equipment used.

Let’s take a look at the zenith of Southern Pacific passenger cars led by silver-nosed freight engines as they barrel through the desert.

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In a pacing shot, EMD F3A #6151 and EMD F7B #8149 are towing an articulated chair car (note the single truck between the two cars).

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Other Men’s Women 1931

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Warner Brothers

Southern Pacific Lines and their subsidiary San Diego & Arizona (SD&A) gave movie-makers carte blanche in filming this railroad-themed motion picture. The star of the show is a chunky little 2-8-0 SD&A #103, a C-8 class steam locomotive (Baldwin 1904). There’s a host of other Espee steam power seen in passing to keep things interesting.

Lots of action (this being a Warner’s picture) including crewmen on the car tops, bailing off and on moving trains, a couple fist fights in the cab and an actual side-swipe wreck of two trains. Future big stars, James Cagney and Joan Blondell make brief appearances in minor roles.

So let’s climb aboard and see Southern Pacific Railroad in all its glory as it rolls through Southern California in the early 1930’s. Highball!

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SD&A #103 trundles through the night with a long string of Pacific Fruit Express refrigerator cars bearing both Southern Pacific and Union Pacific markings.

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