The Plymouth Express 1991

Picture Partnership Productions

It’s “Urk-Yul” Poirot! Yes, everyone’s favorite Belgie detective, Hercule Poirot (played by David Suchet) is once more investigating a murder — this time on a steam train from London’s Paddington Station to Bristol (and eventually Plymouth).

Our first steam engine encounter is in the credits of every TV episode of the series (see above). It looks to be an “artist’s conception” of a London and North Eastern Railway Class A4 streamlined 4-6-2 designed by Sir Nigel Gresley.

Today’s episode features two different Southern Railway (U.K.) steam engines as well as location shooting at Hull Paragon Railway Station (standing in for London’s Paddington, Bristol & Plymouth) and along the Bluebell Railway.

In a moving crane shot, we find SR #777 “Sir Lamiel” pulling its’ four-car train into Plymouth…er Hull Station. A grisly discovery is about to be made onboard!

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The Tall Target 1951

Metro Goldwyn Mayer

It’s February 22, 1861. The American Civil War is about 7 weeks from exploding on the scene, and the 16th President of the United States has yet to be inaugurated. Gosh. I wonder who the tall target is?

Filmed mostly on MGM’s Lot #2 and at RKO’s Encino Ranch (on just 1,800 feet of railroad track), today’s movie features a wonderful 4-car passenger train pulled by the venerable Virginia & Truckee 4-4-0, #11 the “Reno”.

Many thanks to Bruce Bruemmer for recommending this flick and a hat tip to Larry Jensen’s “Hollywood’s Railroads, Volume One”, for the skinny on equipment used. It’s 78 minutes of film noir murder, suspense and intrigue, onboard a speeding express bound for our Nation’s Capitol!

It was a dark and stormy night. Wreathed in steam is the wood-burning, 1872 product of the Baldwin Locomotive Works; Coming down the aisle is our hero, Sergeant John Kennedy (played by Dick Powell). Hey, that gal with the knitting on the left…that’s none other than June Cleaver (played by Barbara Billingsley)! I wonder if she spoke jive back then…

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Once Upon A Texas Train 1988

Columbia Broadcasting System

Let’s take a ride on the Nevada Northern Railway! The star of today’s movie is NN #40, a 4-6-0, July 1910 product of Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia. Bringing up the markers, is wooden coach-combination car #06, acquired by NN second hand in 1909.

In this made-for-TV movie, #40 and combine garner about 4 1/2 minutes of screen time during the opening credits & de rigueur train robbery and shoot out. We once more see the little train as the picture wraps up…heading away from the camera this time.

Filming also features a brief cameo by Virginia & Truckee #11, “The Reno” during its residence at Old Tucson Studios. Thus, I’ll be skipping over the bulk of this 93 minute movie for some tasty steam locomotive goodness. All Aboard!

Here comes the Queen of the Rails towing her little combine with a good head of steam. As the coal-burning 4-6-0 passes, we get a view of NN combine #06.

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Appointment With Danger 1950

Paramount Pictures

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!).

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Fried Green Tomatoes 1991

Universal Pictures

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.

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Sudden Fear 1952

RKO Radio Pictures

A cross country train trip on a through sleeping car is the highlight of today’s feature. Believe it or not, back in the 1950’s, you could ride from New York City to Chicago, then on to San Francisco (Oakland) in the same sleeping car. Other railroads also offered similar coast to coast service.

What we see on screen (and out the window) is a wonderful mish-mosh of various railroads — some that would definitely NOT be on our movie’s NYCBurlingtonD&RGWWP routing.

Myra Hudson (played by Joan Crawford) is a successful playwright whose smash hit is running on Broadway. Whilst riding the train out of New York, she spots Lester Blaine (played by Jack Palance) boarding at an intermediate stop. Myra had rather abruptly dismissed Lester from her play. Well. This might be a touch uncomfortable.

Palance turned in a wonderfully-creepy performance in this picture and Crawford… oh, those scary eyebrows. No wonder she wound up portrayed in the campy horror classic, Mommie Dearest. “Tina!! Bring me the axe!”

Anyway. It’s film noir on a train and that’s always a winner. Remember The Narrow Margin, anyone?

Can’t have a noir flick without smoke. Through the haze we see the studio’s recreation of Grand Central Terminal.

Note in the background, Track 25: Commodore Vanderbilt (Train 67) and Track 24: State of Maine Express. Myra would have taken Train 67 which carried the through 10-6 sleeper.

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Bound For Glory 1976

United Artists

Four! Count ’em, FOUR steam locomotives star in today’s movie review. Just to whet your appetite, the four steamers are:

  1. Sierra Railroad #3, an 1891 Rogers-built 4-6-0.
  2. Sierra Railroad #28, a 1922 Baldwin-built 2-8-0.
  3. Sierra Railroad #34, a 1925 Baldwin-built 2-8-2.
  4. McCloud River Railroad #25, a 1925 Alco-built 2-6-2.

Today’s feature is a 1930’s biography of folk singer Woody Guthrie (played by David Carradine). Filmmakers really went all-out, pulling 34 obsolete freight cars out of a scrap line and painting over most railroad identification marks.

Train scenes were filmed along the Western Pacific, Tidewater Southern and Sierra Railroads. Let’s jump right in and enjoy THIS TRAIN-laden bio pic.

Electric traction also made a brief appearance in this flick. Woody/David is about to step off Pacific Electric #1058 in Los Angeles on his way to the studio. With a trolley pole reaching for wires that aren’t there, this Red Car had to rely on an internal-combustion engine of some sort.

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The Sixteenth Cousin 1963

ABC 4 Star Television

“Somebody get me The Sarge!Chuck Conners (as Lucas McCain) starred for five seasons of The Rifleman, blasting away on his customized Winchester 92 carbine to begin every episode. BTW, the above link (in blue) is a fascinating read — with details about the Winchester used in the series.

Anyway. Episode 159 of 168 seemed to have the most train scenes. Lucas and his boy Mark (played by Johnny Crawford) are riding the first train into Northfork (New Mexico Territory). It wasn’t until I started taking screen caps that I realized all the live train footage was lifted from other movies and stock footage.

Still, it was fun to try and identify the railroad bits — especially as locomotives and railroads would change from shot to shot (maybe they won’t notice…). C’mon, let’s check it out!

The episode opens with a short passenger train rolling through the desert (I can’t make out the locomotive except that the steam engine is producing a fine plume of smoke). Quickly, they cut to the churning drivers of a 4-4-0.

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Holiday Affair 1996

USA Network
RKO Pictures

Merry Christmas! Thanks to a 2016 challenge by good friend Carl Swanson, I am reviewing the 1996 USA Network remake of Holiday Affair 1949. The story line is just about the same, freshened up with 1990’s accoutrements.

Once again, Lionel model trains are the real star and major plot point for this movie. It appears filmmakers whomped up a custom-made trainset painted a very shiny shade of silver, with a red/white/blue stripe high along the sides of the cars and locomotive. The consist used is an EMD F3A unit, coach, baggage/coach, full baggage car and dome observation car, in that order (a somewhat unusual arrangement). A brief search turned up little about the particular cars used. Perhaps modelers out there can enlighten me in the comments?

Filmed in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, we are also treated to quick glimpses of the city’s subway system and a real, live peek at VIA Rail’s Canadian in Union Station. Pour yourself a cocoa or glass of wine and enjoy this holiday story of a boy and his trains.

A Lionel train set by the fireplace, Christmas morn. What red-blooded American (or Canadian) kid wouldn’t wish for something like that?

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Pal Joey 1957

Columbia Pictures

Sinatra does San Francisco! Frank Sinatra plays Joey Evans, a crooning, womanizing cad, unceremoniously tossed onto a Southern Pacific train headed for the Oakland Mole. We are treated to Frank’s encounter with SP #4443, a GS-4 class 4-8-4 locomotive in Espee black/silver. In addition, is footage inside the Mole and a ferry boat ride across the Bay.

I originally reviewed just the Pal Joey movie opening credits (see bottom of this posting for link). Once I started researching the movie, however, I discovered there were additional railroad-related scenes (Berkeley train station, Embarcadero building, Alco switcher & cable cars), so I wound up purchasing the DVD for those scenes as well.

The movie itself is a lot of fun with Rita Hayworth (rahr-RAHR!) and Kim Novak (hubba-HUBBA!) as rivals for Frank’s affections. Let’s take a closer look at San Francisco rails from the last golden days of the 1950’s. Highball! (very dry, please…).

Two soldiers jog past SP #4443 as it comes to a stop with its short train (baggage car and 3 coaches).

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