Tag Archives: Steam Locomotive

Black Train 2017

Universal Music Group

Domo arigato, Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi! I was researching future Obscure Train Movies and totally by accident, stumbled across this fantastic music video.

Mostly drone-filmed on the Nevada Northern Railway, Black Train features NN Ry.’s locomotive #40, a 1910 product of Baldwin Locomotive Works, towing a string of boxcars and caboose through the desert.

Of course, the entire thing is in Japanese, but every now and then, Tsuyoshi says, “Black Train” in clear English. Check him out above riding the front of the steam engine, and having the time of his life. C’mon, let’s review this video, the 4-6-0 and its consist!

This is my favorite screen cap of the engineer’s side of the train. #40 is towing four NN wood boxcars and a yellow caboose. More about them later. The nearby copper mines (Kennecott) were the railway’s raison d’être.

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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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Railroadin’ 1929

Hal Roach Studios

Whilst grazing around on YouTube, I came upon this absolute gem of an early black and white talkie. Railroadin’ features the Little Rascals / Our Gang kids on location at Santa Fe Railway’s Redondo Junction roundhouse in Los Angeles.

The star of the show is AT&SF #1373, a 4-6-2 built by Baldwin in 1913 and scrapped in 1949. In addition, we catch glimpses of a whole bevy of steam locomotives at the roundhouse which I’ll try to sort out later in this review.

Many thanks to “chrisbungostudios” on YouTube for putting together a most useful “Filming Locations” video, which will be linked to further down in my write up.

It’s iron horses galore in the last golden days of the Roaring Twenties! Let’s check it out.

Santa Fe Railway #1373 belches copious amounts of black smoke skyward (sanding the flues) as it runs along a side track. Notice the string of boonie old “outside braced” wooden box cars in the background.

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Loaded For War 1944

Santa Fe Telefilm Recording

Wow, early first generation diesels star alongside Santa Fe Railway’s magnificent fleet of steam locomotives in this color film showing the AT&SF was doing its bit to help win World War 2.

As a vital link to the Pacific Theater, Santa Fe received the lion’s share of EMD FT diesel locomotives built before and during the war.

Let’s take a look at how one railroad hauled military, freight and passengers along with all the facilities needed to keep the system going. Santa Fe, All the Way!

An EMC E6 locomotive gets its slant nose scrubbed down as a Baldwin 4-6-4 backs up alongside; a 4 unit set of EMD FT’s pulls past a very smoky iron horse.

GM’s Electro-Motive Division designed the famous red and silver “Warbonnet” paint scheme as well as the more somber, but still classy blue and yellow for the freight FT’s.

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My Little Chickadee 1940

Universal Pictures

Sierra Railroad 2-8-0 #18 along with combine #5 and coaches #1 & #2, stars in today’s feature. The little Baldwin Consolidation, built for Sierra Railroad in 1906, received just 13 minutes of screen time, but what a cameo. A spectacular Indian attack highlights its trip from Little Bend to Greasewood through the untamed West.

Onboard, Flower Belle Lee (played by Mae West) and Cuthbert J. Twillie (played by W.C. Fields) ham it up in this spoof of western movies giving us a good look at the spartan but classic interior of the coaches (studio set).

It’s a wild ride under western skies for Sierra #18. Let’s check it out.

A. P. & S. Railway #8 (Sierra #18 in disguise) is pedaling furiously as it tries to outrun the Cleveland Indians. As it pulls out of Little Bend, we get a closeup of the tender and cab in this rods-down pose.

Does that short combine #5 look familiar? It is, if you’re a fan of Petticoat Junction. Combine #5 along with Sierra #3 was the entire consist of the “Hooterville Cannonball”.

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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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The Sting 1973

Universal Pictures

New York Central Railroad’s famed 20th Century Limited is the setting for a key portion of today’s movie review. Leaving New York City at 4:15pm and arriving Chicago at 9:00am, Westbound train #25 was a Pullman-only heavyweight train when the movie takes place (September 1936).

Train scenes were filmed in Chicago at Union Station, LaSalle Street Station, and the 43rd Street “L” station. There were also a few, brief railroad shots filmed in the Los Angeles area.

The onboard sequence appears to have utilized a heavyweight “section” sleeper made up for daytime configuration. They could have been using studio-owned passenger cars or even a set for this.

Let’s take a ride on the Century!

A view inside Henry Gondorff’s (played by Paul Newman) bedroom. Painted apple green, I really dig the fixtures and Pullman washcloths, but that huge liquid soap dispenser looks out of place somehow.  Exterior of LaSalle Street Station in Chicago.  It seems mighty dark for the train to be arriving at 9:00am!

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Empire on Parade 1957

Empire Photosound, Inc.

We sing the song of a railroad! Narrator Roger Krupp waxes poetic during this 40 minute film extolling the history and present day operations (circa 1957) of the Great Northern Railway.

Empire on Parade features the westward journey of freight train #401 from Minneapolis to Seattle and the industries and agriculture it serves along the way. We also get many views of the GN’s flagship Empire Builder passenger train.

It’s a festival of first-generation diesel locomotives including representatives from EMD, Alco and Baldwin.  In color.  So let’s take a journey during the hey-day of the post-war Big G.

The Empire Builder is about to drop a semaphore signal somewhere in the Montana Rockies. Note the 3 short Great Dome coaches and 1 large Great Dome lounge car which helps date the film after late 1955.

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The Polar Express 2004

Warner Brothers

Ah, Polar Express.  A 21st Century classic Yuletide movie and the fund-raising savior of tourist railroads everywhere.  The soft-focus animated film featuring a magic train and steam locomotive on its way to the North Pole, Christmas Eve.

And WHAT a locomotive! Can you get any more Christmassy than Pere Marquette #1225, a “Superpower” 2-8-4 Berkshire built in October 1941 by the Lima Locomotive Works? Filmmakers used actual blueprints of this steam engine to assist animators along with recorded sounds made by PM #1225.

Hey, Christmas (12-25-2020) is coming up soon, so climb aboard with a bunch of other lucky kids and ride with conductor Tom Hanks to (maybe) see Santa away up North. All Abooooooard!!

How would you like to see this pull up your street? I love the rounded-end heavyweight observation car with Mars light and P.E. drumhead. Better hold onto that golden round-trip ticket real tight, son…

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Support Your Local Gunfighter 1971



United Artists

James Garner is riding the narrow gauge rails of the Denver & Rio Grande Western (D&RGW) Railroad in this Western spoof follow-up to 1969’s Support Your Local Sheriff!

Train scenes in this film were brief, but feature 4 different steam locomotives, one of which I’ve not been able to positively identify. A big shout out to Larry Jensen whose “Hollywood’s Railroads, Volume 3” book helped me identify one engine used on the CBS Studio City (CA) lot.

As usual, I’ll concentrate on the railroad scenes in my review, even though the movie itself is great fun to watch — back when Tinseltown knew how to make an enjoyable, entertaining picture.

Let’s take a trip on the 3-feet-between-the-rails Rio Grande railroad. Highball!!

 

D&RGW #478, a narrow gauge K-28 class 2-8-2 Alco class of 1924, leads a short train of “Grande Gold” and silver coaches along the Animas River on the Silverton Line.

Helicopter shots of this train were used at the beginning and ending of today’s reviewed movie.
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