Tag Archives: Oregon Pacific & Eastern Railway

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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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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