Tag Archives: Pennsylvania Railroad

Union Depot 1932

First National Pictures

I think I heard the word, “swell” about a dozen times in this movie…which made me giggle. It’s kind of corny, but relevant slang for the times. Now, before I get too carried away here, I want to thank Danny at the Pre-Code.com blog for tipping me off about this movie. His review of this flick was a great inspiration and help in understanding what the heck was going on.

For a picture mostly filmed in the studio, Union Depot had a respectable train allotment including two Southern Pacific steam locomotives I could identify, a named Pullman 12-1 sleeper and the pre-LAUPT Southern Pacific Central Station to name a few. And let’s not overlook the enormous Union Depot set itself built in the studio — which would be re-used in many more upcoming movies.

Joan Blondell (Yowza!) plays chorus girl Ruth Collins alongside the rakish Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. as hobo/bum Chick Miller who cleans up nicely (literally) before he meets his gal pal.

Let’s go down to the station and see what’s happening. All Abooooooarrrrd!!!

Joan turns on a dazzling smile as she and Doug discuss travel plans. In the background is the Union Depot soundstage which included offices, a cafe, bathrooms, waiting room with wooden pews, numbered gates to trains and columns. Lots of columns.

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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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Hello Dolly 1969

20th Century Fox

Well HELLO, Dolly! Pennsylvania Railroad #1223, a D16sb class 4-4-0 stars in this splashy, lavishly-costumed musical. Built in 1905 at Pennsy’s Juniata Shops in Altoona, PA for passenger service, this Belpaire-fireboxed beauty was painted up as New York Central & Hudson River Railroad (NYC&HR) #15 for the movie.

Along with a string of passenger cars, the high-stepping PRR #1223 was borrowed from excursion service at Strasburg Railroad and towed to Penn Central’s ex-NYC Hudson River line (east bank) for filming.

In addition to the opening credits, NYC&HR #15 and train featured prominently in a musical number 34 minutes into the picture. More about that later. All Aboard for Yonkers!

NYC&HR #15 struts her stuff along the Hudson River as small boys wave at the fireman in this nicely-framed shot.

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Across the Bridge 1957

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The Rank Organization

Carl Schaffner (played by Rod Steiger) is a British financier in New York City who is into his company for about $9 million. As details emerge of his embezzlement, Rod/Carl decides to take it on the lam. Thus, he heads down to Pennsylvania Station taking a sleeper on the first train to Texas and eventually Mexico.

Interestingly enough, the Pennsylvania Railroad had a train, the Penn Texas, which ran from New York to St. Louis, MO with connecting sleepers on the Missouri Pacific to Dallas, TX and from there on the Texas and Pacific (a Mopac subsidiary) to El Paso, TX.

This being a British film, most of the interiors were shot in Shepperton Studios with exteriors of American railroad scenes (mostly in the dark) thrown in for good measure.

Train scenes are only present for 20 minutes, but it was enjoyable to hunt down pictures and identify the locomotives shown. Let’s get onboard with shyster Schaffner as he makes a run for it.

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The Pullman Porter has his suspicions about the cranky old guy in Bedroom C.

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The Greatest Show on Earth 1952

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Paramount Pictures

The circus traveled by rail as demonstrated in Cecil B. DeMille’s Technicolor masterpiece of 1952. Winning the Oscar for Best Picture, this is the film that made Charlton Heston a star.

For this review, I concentrated on circus scenes that had trains in the background. Some highlights include an Atlantic Coast Line (ACL) steam locomotive and caboose, a Pennsy GG-1 electric and a elaborately-detailed scale model of the two circus trains.

Our review begins 19 minutes into the movie as the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus (RBandB&B) prepares to leave its Winter Quarters in Sarasota, Florida.

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It took hundreds, if not thousands of people to operate the circus. As wagons of equipment are loaded piggyback-style on the left, performers and support staff prepare to board the passenger train on the right.

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