Emperor of the North 1973

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20th Century Fox

Filmed along the Oregon, Pacific & Eastern short line, this movie treats us to TWO operational steam locomotives pulling an eclectic mix of rolling stock past the cameras. The train scenes are sublime although the actors employed frequently go way over the top in the overacting department. Shatner-level carpet chewing. Anyway…

The real stars are OP&E #19 (2-8-2 Baldwin-built 1915) and OP&E #5 (2-8-0 Alco-built 1922) and happily, both engines are still with us. #19 is being rebuilt at the Age of Steam Roundhouse and #5 can be found at the Galveston Railroad Museum (renumbered to 555).

Many thanks to James Tiroch’s Cine Trains Project for helping me identify the heritage of these locomotives. The link includes an exhaustive history of both locomotives.

Oh, the actors? Well, filmmakers brought on board three ENORMOUS hams, Borgnine, Marvin and Carradine, but I’ll be ignoring them for the most part. There’s far too much steam locomotive pulchritude to savor instead. Highball!

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OP&E #5 on a passenger train overtakes OP&E #19 in the siding with a freight. In the background, we see a lumber mill featuring one of those cool, old-time wood waste burners. OP&E #5 (appearing here as #27), also was seen as #4 in the movie.

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Annie and the Brass Collar 1954

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Annie Oakley Productions, Inc.

Train Robbers are afoot causing all sorts of havoc along the SP&W Railroad. Famous western sharpshooter Annie Oakley (played by Gail Davis) is called in to help bring the outlaws to justice.

Filmed along Southern Pacific Railroad’s bucolic narrow gauge line (SPNG) in the Owens Valley of California, the picture stars SPNG #9, a 4-6-0 Baldwin built in 1909. Annie and the Brass Collar was the first episode of the Annie Oakley TV show which ran for three seasons (81 episodes) until 1957.

Lots of train action in this short (30 minute) show, so let’s get started.

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Old #9 is pedaling along furiously on its 44″ drivers as the bad guys make their move.

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The Long Summer of George Adams 1982

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Warner Brothers

This made-for-TV movie stars TWO steam locomotives. The first is Texas State Railroad [TSR] #400, a Baldwin 2-8-2 built in 1917. The second is an Alco RS2 diesel locomotive #7 built circa 1947. (Alco diesels were always referred to as “honorary steam engines” by railfans, due to the copious amounts of black smoke belched skyward upon starting.)

#7 started life working for the Point Comfort & Northern Railroad in Texas, coming to TSR in 1975. Since this movie was filmed, the #7 has been repainted into a beautiful Southern Pacific “Black Widow” scheme.

James Garner (Yes, Mister Rockford Files) is the lead character in our motion picture and the film is the story of a mid-20th century railroad worker about to lose his job due to diesels replacing steam.

Many thanks to good friend Scott Tanner who slipped me a DVD of this flick for inclusion on this blog. And now, let’s see Rockford and the boys playing with their trains!

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It appears to be early spring as TSR #400 and train roll through East Texas.

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The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 1962

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Paramount Pictures

This film, a classic though it is, was a bit of a disappointment in the train department as we only get brief scenes at the beginning and end of the picture. Our star is the former Virginia & Truckee 4-4-0 #22 “Inyo”, an 1875 product of Baldwin Locomotive Works — at the time owned by Paramount Studios themselves.

The story is told mainly in flashback with the railroad representing progress and civilization brought to a small, lawless Western town. In addition to studio scenes of the Inyo, there is what appear to be stock footage of a train on the Sierra Railroad.

Let’s take a closer look at the three, distinct scenes in “Liberty Valance” of a steam engine-powered passenger train.

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As the movie comes to an end, we see a mixed train (steam locomotive, flat car, two dark-colored coaches, one light-colored coach and caboose) rounding a curve away from the camera.

This is most likely a scene along the Sierra Railroad with possibly the #3 locomotive on the point.

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Back in the High Life Again 1986

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Island Records

How about a music video? Hey, if it’s in IMDb.com, it’s a movie! All four minutes of it.

Seriously, Steve Winwood packs a fair amount of train and railroad-related action in those 240 seconds. It’s a quickie snapshot of operations on the old Southern Railway mainline through Manassas, Virginia.

Aside from the railroad bits, it’s an interesting story about how the song was written and the music composed.

At the time of filming, the Southern had merged (1982) with Norfolk & Western to form Norfolk & Southern Railway, still a big Class 1 railroad to this day.

Let’s see how the MTV crowd (back when they actually played music television) interpret trains into this video.

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A Southern Railway local freight does some switching in Manassas, Virginia. Just barely in shot is a red, bay window caboose and an EMD Geep of some sort switching a gondola onto a siding.

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Some Like it Hot 1959

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United Artists

Tony Curtis is “Josephine” and Jack Lemmon is “Daphne” in this screwball comedy featuring 24 minutes of the boys dressing up as women to travel with an all-girl band on board a train headed for Florida. What’s not to like?

Add to this frothy situation the presence of Marilyn Monroe as Sugar Kane Kowalczyk and travel on an old section Pullman sleeper never looked better.

According to IMDb Trivia, filmmakers used Pullman heavyweight, “Clover Colony” for many of the interior shots. This car is still with us and can be visited at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.

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Although the movie was filmed in black and white, many of the studio stills were in color including this group photo of the girl band onboard Clover Colony.

I swear that looks like Angela Lansbury on the far right, but she’s nowhere listed in the film’s credits. It was most likely actress Joan Shawlee who played bandleader Sweet Sue.

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Rage at Dawn 1955

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R.K.O. Radio Pictures

Randolph Scott stars as James Barlow, a special agent sent west to infiltrate and break up the Reno brothers gang. To that end, Scott/Barlow stages a fake train robbery to get the Reno’s attention. Once taken in the gang, Barlow stages another train robbery…but it’s all a set up, to capture the Reno’s with a spectacular trackside shoot-’em-up.

Sierra Railroad 4-6-0 #3 (built in 1891 by Rogers Locomotive Works) is the real star of this picture along with its 3 car consist. Engine and coaches are decorated for the fictitious “Ohio & Mississippi Railroad”. As a plus, both train “robberies” are filmed in wonderful low-light on the sunny side of the consist.

Come enjoy Sierra’s 10-wheeler going through its paces as Randolph Scott once again brings law and order to tame the Wild West.

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“Come ride the little train that is rolling down the tracks to the Junction…” Oops, sorry. Rage at Dawn was filmed 8 years before Petticoat Junction appeared on the scene.

Having said that, Sierra #3 and shorty coach/combine #5 in this image did indeed serve as the Hooterville Cannonball for 1960s television’s most famous train.

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Grand Central Murder 1942

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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Mostly filmed on the MGM lot in Culver City, Grand Central Murder is the tale of a Broadway stage actress who uses and discards people like Kleenex — until someone snaps and bumps her off. But who dunnit? And how? There’s not a mark on her. There IS a list of suspects a mile long.

And oh, what a set. MGM spared no expense using actual railroad passenger cars and a passable recreation of Grand Central Terminal’s underground high-level platforms and third-rail infrastructure. Southern Pacific Railroad’s subsidiary Pacific Electric served Culver City and you can briefly see SP EMD NW2 switcher #1315 shuffling cars around during a couple scenes.

As always, I’ll concentrate on the train bits, but the movie itself is well worth an evening’s viewing. All Aboard!

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Van Heflin (as “Rocky” Custer) checks out the heavyweight Pullman named, “Thanatopsis” for this picture. If you clink the link in the previous sentence, you’ll see it’s a not-so-subtle reference to what takes place on board.

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3 Godfathers 1948

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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Southern Pacific Railroad #9, a 1909 narrow-gauge 4-6-0 from Baldwin, stars alongside John Wayne in this gritty, parched western directed by John Ford. Indeed, before the opening credits start to roll, we see SP #9 trundling along through the vastness of the western desert.

This movie will make you thirsty. Have plenty of water on hand before watching. The film features a great deal of stumbling through sand dunes and sagebrush as the 3 Godfathers continually search for water.

But that’s not why we’re here. The movie makers treat us to a wonderful little train led by SP #9 painted up for the fictitious “Rio Bravo Mogollon Railroad”. Sister locomotive SP #8 was previously seen/reviewed in my review of Sinister Journey 1948.

Come along and see how MGM used a boonie narrow gauge line in the Owens Valley of California to tell their story.

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SP #9 smokes it up coming into the God-forsaken water stop of Apache Wells. A white train? Hmmm….more about that later on in the review.

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Shadow of a Doubt 1943

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Universal Pictures

Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten star alongside the Northwestern Pacific Railroad (NWP) in this Hitchcock classic. I know. It’s not particularly obscure, but I already had a DVD lying around…

Anyways, the two train scenes in this picture feature steam engines and old heavyweight passenger equipment. The coming and going of Uncle Charlie (Cotten) happens at the Santa Rosa train depot which is still in existence as a visitor’s center.

During filming, NWP was a subsidiary of Southern Pacific Railroad and we are treated to 3 different locomotives: #140, an Alco-built 4-6-0 (seen above), #142 a Baldwin-built 4-6-0 (seen below) and #2708, a Baldwin-built 2-8-0. A sister NWP 4-6-0 #112 survives and is preserved at the California State Railroad Museum…the only NWP steamer remaining.

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A little boy is mesmerized by the smoke, steam and churning drivers as NWP #142 arrives in Santa Rosa with Uncle Charlie aboard.

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