Tag Archives: Southern Pacific Railroad

Murder is my Beat 1955

Allied Artists Productions

I first heard about this B noir picture from reader Tony Wilson. As I researched, I discovered a good copy on both archive.org and YouTube. The film features at least 3 different Southern Pacific Railroad steam locomotives pulling various heavyweight and streamlined passenger equipment.

It’s a relatively short flick at just 77 minutes, but there are two train sequences at the 31 minute and 70 minute marks packed full of onboard and train exterior goodness. I had a great time discovering the equipment used — made harder by B&W night-time footage. And there might just be a little cheesecake in there for our more mature readers.

Let’s go ride “The Friendly” Southern Pacific!

Churning, spoked drivers roll along an impeccably-groomed roadbed…which segues into this shot of a steamer pulling a 5 car passenger train down a weed-choked right-of-way.

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Switchback 1997

Paramount Studios

I first heard about this movie from a blog! Many thanks to James Tiroch and his Cinetrains site for providing a wealth of information about the two locomotives used in filming AND their disposition afterwards.

Despite the snazzy “Grande Gold” graphic (see below image) splashed across their flanks, these are NOT Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW) locomotives! At the time of filming, Union Pacific owned D&RGW and would not allow use of their equipment. Movie makers simply leased a couple locomotives and painted them up the way they liked.

And WHAT a couple of engines they are! Two former Southern Pacific EMD-built (1970) SD39’s #5319 & #5325 dressed up in Rio Grande “speed lettering”. Let’s check out this film on the “Main Line Thru The Rockies”.

A pair of Rio Grande diesels is about to enter a tunnel deep in a Colorado canyon. These Espee SD39’s in disguise were frequently renumbered to represent different trains. Notice the cabside number location has been painted out. Here the lead unit is “2010” and the trailing unit is “234”.

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Incident on the Road Back 1961

CBS Television

Rawhide! “Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’…” Who can forget Frankie Laine howling those opening and closing lyrics…especially after the Blues Brothers reintroduced the show to a newer generation (me) in 1980?

According to my research (Hat tip to Larry Jensen – Hollywood’s Railroads, Volume 2), the production company of Rawhide spent a month in Tuolumne County filming bits of various shows for Season 3. Today’s review features Sierra Railroad #3, “shorty” passenger cars #5 & #6 as well as several stock cars borrowed from Southern Pacific Railroad.

In addition to the iconic 1891 Rogers 4-6-0, feast your eyes on one of the screens most recognized actors, Clint Eastwood, in his breakthrough role of Rowdy Yates. Two classics in one. Let’s get started…

Clint Eastwood (Rowdy) poses with co-stars Paul Brinegar (as Wishbone) and Eric Fleming (as Gil Favor) alongside Sierra #3.

Do ya feel lucky? Well do ya, punk? Rowdy waits for the train, sporting his now-famous annoyed grimace. Note the stock car on the siding and water tower in the background.

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Oklahoma! 1955

RKO Radio Pictures
20th Century Fox

This is a train movie filmed twice! First, was in glorious CinemaScope, the Second in 70mm Todd A-O. Once they finished filming a scene in CinemaScope, they’d roll in the Todd A-O cameras and the actors would repeat their performance. What’s interesting about this process, is you get a slightly-different view of each scene. Double your pleasure, double your fun!

The star of our show is little Southern Pacific #1673, a 2-6-0 M-4 class Mogul, built by Schenectady Locomotive Works in 1900. For the movie, she was renumbered with a flamboyant #52 emblazoned on her tender with no RR reporting marks on the cab side.

As seen from this link –> Southern Pacific #1673 is still with us and on display at the Tucson, Arizona, Amtrak station.

Filming twice was fortunate as we see no front end close ups of #1673/#52 in CinemaScope, but get some great views in the Todd A-O version. More later.

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Love Me Tender 1956

20th Century Fox

B&W Cinemascope

Elvis! Guess what the baby said! Okay, I’m already getting off track here (pun intended), but I always think of the above Apes of Wrath 1959 cartoon when Elvis’ name comes up.

Yeah, Elvis. Here he appears in his first movie as brother Clint, of the notorious, train-robbing Reno Gang. Although he isn’t shown next to a train at any point, he aids and abets his brothers in their crime spree. Actually, Elvis was brought in as an excuse to include some of his musical numbers and be the third figure in a messy love triangle. More about that later.

Today’s movie features TWO studio-owned stream locomotives: 1. Virginia & Truckee 4-4-0 #22, “The Inyo” and; 2. Dardanelle & Russellville 4-4-0 #8. Both of these locomotives are still with us and located in Carson City, Nevada.

It’s the Confederates vs. the Damn Yankees towards the end of the Civil War. Here comes the train. Time to rob the payroll!

Presented here are two contemporary views of our feature’s two steam locomotives at the Nevada State Railroad Museum. While the Inyo is operational, the D&R #8 is stored awaiting restoration.

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Sudden Fear 1952

RKO Radio Pictures

A cross country train trip on a through sleeping car is the highlight of today’s feature. Believe it or not, back in the 1950’s, you could ride from New York City to Chicago, then on to San Francisco (Oakland) in the same sleeping car. Other railroads also offered similar coast to coast service.

What we see on screen (and out the window) is a wonderful mish-mosh of various railroads — some that would definitely NOT be on our movie’s NYCBurlingtonD&RGWWP routing.

Myra Hudson (played by Joan Crawford) is a successful playwright whose smash hit is running on Broadway. Whilst riding the train out of New York, she spots Lester Blaine (played by Jack Palance) boarding at an intermediate stop. Myra had rather abruptly dismissed Lester from her play. Well. This might be a touch uncomfortable.

Palance turned in a wonderfully-creepy performance in this picture and Crawford… oh, those scary eyebrows. No wonder she wound up portrayed in the campy horror classic, Mommie Dearest. “Tina!! Bring me the axe!”

Anyway. It’s film noir on a train and that’s always a winner. Remember The Narrow Margin, anyone?

Can’t have a noir flick without smoke. Through the haze we see the studio’s recreation of Grand Central Terminal.

Note in the background, Track 25: Commodore Vanderbilt (Train 67) and Track 24: State of Maine Express. Myra would have taken Train 67 which carried the through 10-6 sleeper.

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Bound For Glory 1976

United Artists

Four! Count ’em, FOUR steam locomotives star in today’s movie review. Just to whet your appetite, the four steamers are:

  1. Sierra Railroad #3, an 1891 Rogers-built 4-6-0.
  2. Sierra Railroad #28, a 1922 Baldwin-built 2-8-0.
  3. Sierra Railroad #34, a 1925 Baldwin-built 2-8-2.
  4. McCloud River Railroad #25, a 1925 Alco-built 2-6-2.

Today’s feature is a 1930’s biography of folk singer Woody Guthrie (played by David Carradine). Filmmakers really went all-out, pulling 34 obsolete freight cars out of a scrap line and painting over most railroad identification marks.

Train scenes were filmed along the Western Pacific, Tidewater Southern and Sierra Railroads. Let’s jump right in and enjoy THIS TRAIN-laden bio pic.

Electric traction also made a brief appearance in this flick. Woody/David is about to step off Pacific Electric #1058 in Los Angeles on his way to the studio. With a trolley pole reaching for wires that aren’t there, this Red Car had to rely on an internal-combustion engine of some sort.

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Pal Joey 1957

Columbia Pictures

Sinatra does San Francisco! Frank Sinatra plays Joey Evans, a crooning, womanizing cad, unceremoniously tossed onto a Southern Pacific train headed for the Oakland Mole. We are treated to Frank’s encounter with SP #4443, a GS-4 class 4-8-4 locomotive in Espee black/silver. In addition, is footage inside the Mole and a ferry boat ride across the Bay.

I originally reviewed just the Pal Joey movie opening credits (see bottom of this posting for link). Once I started researching the movie, however, I discovered there were additional railroad-related scenes (Berkeley train station, Embarcadero building, Alco switcher & cable cars), so I wound up purchasing the DVD for those scenes as well.

The movie itself is a lot of fun with Rita Hayworth (rahr-RAHR!) and Kim Novak (hubba-HUBBA!) as rivals for Frank’s affections. Let’s take a closer look at San Francisco rails from the last golden days of the 1950’s. Highball! (very dry, please…).

Two soldiers jog past SP #4443 as it comes to a stop with its short train (baggage car and 3 coaches).

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The Great Train Robbery 1968

20th Century Fox

Batman! When I was a wee lad, this was the hottest show on T.V. Mind you, we didn’t have a color TV set yet, and most of the campy humor and famous guest stars went right over my head. It wasn’t until I was an adult, that I could watch the DVD’s and really appreciate all this series had to offer.

There’s not much in the train department of this episode, but with a title like that, I just couldn’t pass up a quick review. Besides, this 3rd season episode included Batgirl (played by Yvonne Craigrahr-RAHR!). Fair reader, consider it your Christmas bonus.

In this second episode of a two-parter, Batman (played by Adam West) and Robin (played by Burt Ward) are battling Shame (a parody of Shane) and his gang, whose plans include robbing a train of a large sum of legal tender.

As stated previously, because the railroad optics are so thin, I’m going to include some colorful Batman classic scenes. It’ll be fun!

The only actual railroad scene (from archival footage) is this brief clip of a Southern Pacific mail, express, and passenger train seen here. More details about this clip later on, including a guess as to which train it might actually be.

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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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