Tag Archives: Southern Pacific Railroad

Onion Pacific 1940

Paramount Pictures
A Max Fleisher Cartoon

It’s Popeye the Sailor (voiced by Jack Mercer) vs. Bluto (voiced by Pinto Colvig) in this 1940 cartoon send up of Paramount’s own epic movie Union Pacific 1939. In this black and white animation, it’s a race side by side on double track to win the state franchise (presumably to operate the railroad). Two steam engines (Bluto runs a 6-4-0, Popeye a 4-2-0) have to contend with choke points like a single track bridge and single track tunnel.

Being a cartoon allows many over-the-top gags and mishaps you simply could not do with real actors. Compared to a Warner Brothers Looney Tunes, the animation is not that great, but it’s fast with lots of action. I was able to review this picture from my Popeye The Sailor 1938-1940 DVD.

Now sit back and enjoy this train-laden feature from the early days of animation!

This sequence gets reused quite a bit as for much of the race, the two combatants are side by side, constantly trading the lead with each other. Notice animators left off one set of pilot wheels on Bluto’s locomotive making it a 4-4-0.

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North by Northwest 1959

Metro Goldwyn Mayer

A spotless New York Central “lightning-stripe” EMD E8A #4044 has just pulled the 20th Century Limited into Chicago’s LaSalle Street Station.

25 fabulous minutes of North by Northwest features railroad-related goodness including Grand Central Terminal in New York City, a ride up the Hudson River onboard the Century, dinner in the diner, and a train-to-waiting room tour of LaSalle Street Station.

Add to the mix Cary Grant (as Roger Thornhill) and Eva Marie Saint (as Eve Kendall) and you’ve got romance, suspense and intrigue galore. So, Watch Your Step and Welcome Aboard!

“Tell me, what do you do besides lure men to their doom on the 20th Century?”

As Roger Thornhill fondles his Gibson, Eve Kendall (Rahr-RAHR!) coolly appraises the handsome gent in the horn-rimmed Ray-Bans. Sparks are sure to fly in car 3901, Drawing Room E!

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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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Case of the 12th Wildcat 1965

CBS Television Network

Oh, this one should make both my brother and my wife go, “Gah!!…NOOOOoooo!!” (neither can STAND Perry Mason for various reasons, best not discussed here).

But…it’s my blog and there’s trains in it, so a-posting I will go. Three different railroads are seen in stock footage, but more about that later.

Originally broadcast on Halloween night 1965, “12th Wildcat” featured a Southern Pacific passenger train from San Francisco to Los Angeles on SP’s Coast Line. The action takes place in the dark of early morning onboard a lounge car and a couple sleepers in the first 12 minutes of the feature.

Come along and watch with amusement as I search for clues to the identity of some poorly-lit railroad equipment. Objection! Counsel is assuming a fact not in evidence and is leading the witness!

I include this interior shot of the lounge car purely for this guy’s wonderful, leering smirk.

It’s probably just a set, but includes a well-stocked bar — which fuels a drunken souse leading to murder!

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Superman 1978

Warner Brothers

“More powerful than a locomotive!” I remember watching Superman in the theatre when it first came out. Great, fun film and quite a few train scenes to boot. It was a pleasure to get a copy on DVD then go back and research all the locomotive and train sets seen.

The movie would feature a GMD FP7, an EMD FL9 and 3 EMD SPD40F locomotives as well as a studio mockup of villain Lex Luthor’s (played by Gene Hackman) underground lair — done up as a flooded section of Grand Central Terminal in New York! It’s the late 1970’s, so there is plenty of pre-Superliner, “heritage” equipment to be seen.

Let’s take a trip on the Canadian Pacific, the New Haven and Santa Fe railroads, shall we? All Aboard!

The Kansas Star hurtles past the camera under a magnificent sky. This FP7-led passenger train would soon encounter a young Clark Kent racing alongside.

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Bad Day at Black Rock 1954

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Metro-Goldwyn Mayer

Wow, what an opening! Southern Pacific Railroad hosted one of the most spectacular railroad-themed opening credits ever done for a movie. The star is an SP passenger train in splashy “Daylight” dress led by a pair of equally classic “Black Widow” EMD F units.

Helicopter shots, distant shots, pacing shots were all added by associate producer Herman Hoffman after principal photography had ended. Test audiences had been unimpressed with the rather bland movie opening, so MGM rented a couple trainsets from Espee for filming on SP’s “Jawbone” line near Lone Pine, CA.

Once again, I am grateful to IMDb Trivia and particularly James Tiroch at Cinetrains for details about the railroad operations. The comments from Cinetrains/The Black Widow of Black Rock were extremely helpful in identifying the equipment used.

Let’s take a look at the zenith of Southern Pacific passenger cars led by silver-nosed freight engines as they barrel through the desert.

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In a pacing shot, EMD F3A #6151 and EMD F7B #8149 are towing an articulated chair car (note the single truck between the two cars).

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Other Men’s Women 1931

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Warner Brothers

Southern Pacific Lines and their subsidiary San Diego & Arizona (SD&A) gave movie-makers carte blanche in filming this railroad-themed motion picture. The star of the show is a chunky little 2-8-0 SD&A #103, a C-8 class steam locomotive (Baldwin 1904). There’s a host of other Espee steam power seen in passing to keep things interesting.

Lots of action (this being a Warner’s picture) including crewmen on the car tops, bailing off and on moving trains, a couple fist fights in the cab and an actual side-swipe wreck of two trains. Future big stars, James Cagney and Joan Blondell make brief appearances in minor roles.

So let’s climb aboard and see Southern Pacific Railroad in all its glory as it rolls through Southern California in the early 1930’s. Highball!

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SD&A #103 trundles through the night with a long string of Pacific Fruit Express refrigerator cars bearing both Southern Pacific and Union Pacific markings.

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Annie and the Brass Collar 1954

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Annie Oakley Productions, Inc.

Train Robbers are afoot causing all sorts of havoc along the SP&W Railroad. Famous western sharpshooter Annie Oakley (played by Gail Davis) is called in to help bring the outlaws to justice.

Filmed along Southern Pacific Railroad’s bucolic narrow gauge line (SPNG) in the Owens Valley of California, the picture stars SPNG #9, a 4-6-0 Baldwin built in 1909. Annie and the Brass Collar was the first episode of the Annie Oakley TV show which ran for three seasons (81 episodes) until 1957.

Lots of train action in this short (30 minute) show, so let’s get started.

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Old #9 is pedaling along furiously on its 44″ drivers as the bad guys make their move.

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Grand Central Murder 1942

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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Mostly filmed on the MGM lot in Culver City, Grand Central Murder is the tale of a Broadway stage actress who uses and discards people like Kleenex — until someone snaps and bumps her off. But who dunnit? And how? There’s not a mark on her. There IS a list of suspects a mile long.

And oh, what a set. MGM spared no expense using actual railroad passenger cars and a passable recreation of Grand Central Terminal’s underground high-level platforms and third-rail infrastructure. Southern Pacific Railroad’s subsidiary Pacific Electric served Culver City and you can briefly see SP EMD NW2 switcher #1315 shuffling cars around during a couple scenes.

As always, I’ll concentrate on the train bits, but the movie itself is well worth an evening’s viewing. All Aboard!

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Van Heflin (as “Rocky” Custer) checks out the heavyweight Pullman named, “Thanatopsis” for this picture. If you clink the link in the previous sentence, you’ll see it’s a not-so-subtle reference to what takes place on board.

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3 Godfathers 1948

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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Southern Pacific Railroad #9, a 1909 narrow-gauge 4-6-0 from Baldwin, stars alongside John Wayne in this gritty, parched western directed by John Ford. Indeed, before the opening credits start to roll, we see SP #9 trundling along through the vastness of the western desert.

This movie will make you thirsty. Have plenty of water on hand before watching. The film features a great deal of stumbling through sand dunes and sagebrush as the 3 Godfathers continually search for water.

But that’s not why we’re here. The movie makers treat us to a wonderful little train led by SP #9 painted up for the fictitious “Rio Bravo Mogollon Railroad”. Sister locomotive SP #8 was previously seen/reviewed in my review of Sinister Journey 1948.

Come along and see how MGM used a boonie narrow gauge line in the Owens Valley of California to tell their story.

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SP #9 smokes it up coming into the God-forsaken water stop of Apache Wells. A white train? Hmmm….more about that later on in the review.

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