Tag Archives: Southern Pacific Railroad

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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Shadow of a Doubt 1943

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Universal Pictures

Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten star alongside the Northwestern Pacific Railroad (NWP) in this Hitchcock classic. I know. It’s not particularly obscure, but I already had a DVD lying around…

Anyways, the two train scenes in this picture feature steam engines and old heavyweight passenger equipment. The coming and going of Uncle Charlie (Cotten) happens at the Santa Rosa train depot which is still in existence as a visitor’s center.

During filming, NWP was a subsidiary of Southern Pacific Railroad and we are treated to 3 different locomotives: #140, an Alco-built 4-6-0 (seen above), #142 a Baldwin-built 4-6-0 (seen below) and #2708, a Baldwin-built 2-8-0. A sister NWP 4-6-0 #112 survives and is preserved at the California State Railroad Museum…the only NWP steamer remaining.

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A little boy is mesmerized by the smoke, steam and churning drivers as NWP #142 arrives in Santa Rosa with Uncle Charlie aboard.

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