Wyoming Mail 1950

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Universal Pictures

Stephen McNally (as Steve Davis) and Alexis Smith (as Mary Williams) star in this “tribute” to the beginnings of the Railway Post Office (or RPO). The Union Pacific Railroad is having trouble out in Wyoming with bandits robbing the mail from trains. Armed guards, the US Marshall’s office — no one can seem to stop the pillage. Enter Steve Davis — sent in as a troubleshooting, two-fisted, rip-snortin’, undercover government agent to catch and foil the train robbers.

Train scenes were mainly filmed on the Sierra Railroad using locomotives #3 and #18. As western pictures go, this one is rather bloodthirsty with practically everyone getting shot at some point. The big hullabaloo at the end features a baggage car the bad guys blow up with dynamite. As in many movies of this type, train scenes occur at the beginning and the end with just your standard oater western action inbetween.

Will the mail finally get through? Let’s find out!

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Everybody’s shooting somebody in the finale of Wyoming Mail. Even the engineer of Sierra #3 takes a pot shot at the bad guys.

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Spy Train 1943

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Monogram Pictures

Released during World War 2, Spy Train is a B picture (maybe a C picture) about those sinister German types out to blow up the local train station with a suitcase bomb. The trouble starts when the Krauts get their suitcases mixed up and it winds up on the train with their Nazi agents (and everyone else) aboard.

Simple enough? I was confused already. Anyway, most of the picture is done on sets using stock footage of various Pennsylvania Railroad and Southern Pacific Railroad scenes. Let’s not think too heavily about the plot, and just dive right in…

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Great faces, great fights — at least in this partially color movie card for Spy Train.

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Reach For The Sky Pardner 1966

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Warner Brothers

I can’t resist including a television episode of F-Troop on my movie blog. This color episode from season two is chock full of old movie clips of a wood-burning steam engine and train.

Opening scenes show a 4-4-0 steam locomotive #22, with tender lettered “V.& C.C. R.R.” (presumably Virginia and Carson City Railroad). I believe this is the ex-Virginia & Truckee engine #22 “The Inyo”, purchased by Paramount Pictures…and then sold back to the State of Nevada. The ancient steamer was built in 1875 and has recently been restored to operation!

Come along as Corporal Agarn and Sergeant O’Rourke pose as mail clerks on a working RPO (Railway Post Office) car!

 

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V&CC RR #22 smokes along (rods down shot!) with a baggage car and passenger coach in tow.

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Rock Island Trail 1950

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Republic Pictures

I discovered Rock Island Trail as I was searching for another Forrest Tucker picture.  So far I’ve not been able to find any sort of print of the 1955 film, Night Freight — but I’ll keep looking! ;p  Anyway, back to today’s feature.

Rock Island Trail is a “period piece” centered on the building of a railroad bridge over the Mississippi River.  As it explains in the opening credits, “…trains and equipment…courtesy of the Rock Island Lines and were loaned by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the R&LHS“.

Forrest Tucker (as Reed Loomis) is the head honcho of the outfit in charge of building the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi River between Rock Island, Illinois and Davenport, Iowa in 1856.  He must battle rival paddle wheel steamer and stagecoach lines to break their monopoly on transport.

 

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A Rock Island train makes its way over the new bridge at Davenport, Iowa.

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Night Passage 1957

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Universal Studios
Technicolor
“Filmed in Technirama” (c)

James Stewart stars in this sprawling, earth-toned Western.  In yet another “building the railroad” picture of the 1950’s, Stewart gets to show off his accordian-playing skills (he really could play), although it was later re-dubbed by someone else.  This was one of the many reasons Jimmy Stewart hated this picture.

Lots of great steam train action in this movie, some of which was filmed in the town of Silverton, Colorado (named Junction City) on the Denver & Rio Grande Western narrow gauge.  WW2 hero, Audie Murphy plays Stewart’s brother-gone-bad (despite being over a foot shorter than Jimmy).  Dan Duryea plays (what else?) the semi-psychotic villian with his usual eeee-vil panache.

Enough about this motley cast.  Let’s check out the cool train stuff!

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D&RGW’s #476, a K-28 class, narrow gauge 2-8-2, leads a mixed train along the Animas River.

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Sunset in the West 1950

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Republic Pictures

A case of insomnia at 2am led to me finding this train movie while channel-surfing around. The star Roy Rogers was almost synonymous with the B western movie so popular in the 1940’s and 50’s.  At just over an hour long, I was able to find a decent copy to view on YouTube.

Briefly, the story is gun runners are hijacking trains on the Shore Line Railroad to transport their illicit cargo across the border.  When a train fails to stop to load Roy’s herd of cattle, he starts to investigate and runs afoul of the smugglers.

The train scenes feature Southern Pacific steam locomotives 3476, 1503 and 2651 (may just be one locomotive renumbered).  Oddly, the smugglers use a Pacific Fruit Express refrigerator car # 75119 — with its unique folding-open (rather than sliding) side door.  There are some terrific pacing shots of the SP engines at full gallop.  All this in full color.  Come take a look!

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SP 2651 pulls PFE reefer 75119 as it races along with the bad guys aboard in a climactic scene.  “Southern Pacifc Lines” on the tender has been carefully painted over with “Shore Line R.R.”.

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Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day 1996

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Stark Productions / Antarctic Pictures

Train Hype!  Hey, someone actually made an “Indie” film about a short line railroad!

“Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day” even won some sort of award at the Sundance Film Festival.  The movies’ title is rather misleading, however.  It is not in Color, and there’s certainly nothing “Brisk” or “Leaping” about it.  If you weren’t interested in the train bits, the movie itself is quite DULL.

The narrator mumbles, the main character sort of sleepwalks through his role and the picture itself takes about 20 minutes to really get going.  The opening minimalist credits are agonizingly slow (have your fast-forward button ready) and don’t get me started on the awful, discordant piano score throughout.

Having said all that, the train scenes ARE worth waiting for.  This is the story of the Yosemite Valley Railroad  which operated from Merced, California to El Portal (just outside the National Park) from 1907 to 1945.

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Included with the DVD is a short film, “Yosemite Valley Railroad Revisited” which includes some color footage of the line in operation.  Here we see YV #29, a little 2-6-0 with a short freight.  Believe it or not, the 29 still exists and is on display in Mexico.

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