Tag Archives: 20th Century Fox

Sleepers West 1941

20th Century Fox

What could be more fun than a Fox “B” picture mostly taking place on a train? Private dick Michael Shayne (played by Lloyd Nolan) is transporting a surprise witness to a trial in San Francisco. Along the way, Shayne has to sort through plenty of onboard suspects who would like him (and his incognito witness) to not reach the courtroom.

If this plot sounds familiar, it was reused at least twice in 1952’s The Narrow Margin and 1990’s Narrow Margin.

Most of the onboard action takes place on sets, but there’s plenty of live train scenes including use of a Santa Fe Railway locomotive and depot location I could actually identify.

Even a “B” picture can have great, detailed scenes if you’ve got access to 20th Century Fox’s resources. Marble ticket counter, chandeliers, neon signs and arched track gates.

Can you spot the one little error in the train departure board? On most railroads, Denver to San Francisco would be considered westbound and thus the train should have an odd number. As an Amtrak conductor once said, “The odds go to San Francisco”.

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A Ticket to Tomahawk 1950

20th Century Fox

I actually reviewed Tomahawk back in the early days of Obscure Train Movies — It just wasn’t much of a review. Today, I hope to do a better job revisiting A Ticket To Tomahawk in all its Technicolor glory. This is the movie that put the Durango and Silverton D&RGW narrow gauge line on the map. Not only did people come to ride the little train in Southwestern Colorado, moviemakers returned to film other pictures too numerous to list here.

The star of the show is Rio Grande Southern #20, 4-6-0 3-foot narrow gauge steam locomotive. #20 was originally built for the Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad in 1899 by Schenectady Locomotive Works (Alco). For its movie appearance, RGS #20 was decorated in a colorful paint scheme and named “Emma Sweeny” as Tomahawk & Western Railroad #1.

Just look at all that detail! Red and gold paint accentuates the green Emma Sweeny signboard. Antlers on the headlight box and white “extra train” flags flapping in the breeze. In another view, Emma poses in good light near Silverton.

Apologies for the fuzzy screen caps. AFAIK, Fox never released Tomahawk on DVD, so I had to make do with an aftermarket product.

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Emperor of the North 1973

emp038 emp058

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!

emp135

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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