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Union Pacific 1939

Paramount Pictures

Cecil B. DeMille’s “epic” (translation: well over two hours long) film about the building of the first transcontinental railroad did everything in a big way. Big stars, train wrecks, Indian attacks and a messy love triangle for starters. Union Pacific utilized FIVE different steam locomotives — so many trains, in fact, Paramount had to obtain a railroad operating license from the Interstate Commerce Commission.

Doesn’t sound very obscure, does it? But…1939 was a long time ago and black and white turns many people off, so let’s just imagine obscurity and review it anyway. It really was a fascinating railroad movie to study.

Many many thanks to Larry Jensen and his book, “Hollywood’s Railroads, Volume One” for helping me identify the locomotives and passenger/freight cars used — most of which originally came from the Virginia & Truckee Railroad in Nevada.

As is my wont, I will concentrate on scenes where trains are involved. Camera…ACTION!

The movie premiered in Omaha, Nebraska over several days in April 1939. The recreation of the May 10, 1869 golden spike ceremony at Promontory, Utah was actually filmed near Canoga Park, California partially as a media event to promote the film.

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