The Road to Bali 1952

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Paramount Pictures

Bing Crosby and Bob Hope made a whole series of “Road” movies (seven, to be exact) and Road to Bali (#6) was the only one of the bunch in Technicolor. Although the train quotient is pretty low, the movie itself is fairly entertaining with cameos by some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

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The Santa Fe in Australia? Yep, this establishing shot shows the boys on a train journey out of Melbourne in the general direction of Bali.

Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway #144 is a two-unit set of EMD 1944-built FT locomotives….WITH dynamic brakes! (those rectangular boxes on the roof) hauling a string of heavyweight passenger cars.  Notice the famous ATSF logo has been carefully “touched up” and removed from the nose of the unit.

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Festival Express 2003

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Apollo Films

Way back in the summer of 1970, a bunch of filthy, dirty hippies…er, I mean MUSICIANS, traveled across Canada by train in what became known as the Festival Express. 33 years later, film of that journey surfaced and was transferred to DVD by the good folks at Shout Factory.

To get the various bands from Toronto to Winnipeg and Calgary, their promoter chartered a complete trainset from Canadian National Railways. This movie is the story of that train ride with copious amounts of concert footage thrown in for good measure.

Of course, I’m going to concentrate on the train bits as I never was a big fan of those particular artists (Grateful Dead, Sha Na Na, or that shrieking druggie, Janice Joplin, for example). Let’s Go C.N.! and find out what those kids did to that classic passenger equipment (shudder).

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The tour’s moniker is splashed across a CN baggage car in Day-Glo Orange for all to see as the train rumbles west.

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Rails and Ties 2007

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Warner Brothers

The Fillmore and Western Railway (FWRY) in Ventura County, California has starred in hundreds of motion pictures and television ads. Just one of the movies filmed here is 2007’s Rails and Ties starring Kevin Bacon.

The movie itself is a dreary, weepy mess of misfortune — which should have been entitled, “Rails and Dies” — as everyone is either depressed, suicidal or tragically about to kick the bucket. Frankly, this film SUCKS, even though Clint Eastwood’s kid filmed it. If you need a good cry, this is the picture for you.

HAVING SAID THAT, the train bits are excellent. FWRY has a fascinating history with much of its rolling stock coming from three major Hollywood studios. We are treated to a nicely-branded “Coastal Blue” streamliner pulled by a pair of ex-C&NW F7 cab units. Later on is Kevin Bacon’s basement layout — sort of a rolling advertisement for the Atlas Model Railroad Company. So let’s overlook the majority of this Tinseltown stinkeroo and relish the best parts — climb aboard and enjoy the ride!

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FWRY #101 (CNW 4083A, an EMD F7A built October 1949) rolls towards and over the camera in this opening shot of the movie.

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Mrs O’Malley and Mr Malone 1950

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Metro-Goldwyn Mayer

It was intended to be the first movie of a comedic series starring James Whitmore (John J. Malone) and Marjorie Main (Hattie O’Malley). MGM even whomped up a nice little musical ditty played in the opening credits. Alas, it was not to be.

Malone is a perpetually-broke, skirt-chasing lawyer who inadvertently teams up with radio contest-winning Montanan, Hattie, who has read far too many murder and detective magazines for her own good.

Despite taking place entirely on board a Chicago to New York train, railroad images are far and few between. It’s a comedy/double murder mystery for these two sleuths (one professional, one amateur). Let’s give it a whirl and see what happens!

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Actress Ann Dvorak (Connie Kepplar) walks past Union Pacific Railroad chair car # 1339. It’s a steel heavyweight car for sure (check those rivets), but I wasn’t able to find it in any online UP roster.  Maybe it’s just a set…. ;p

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Bedloe’s Successor 1965

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Filmways Television
Columbia Broadcasting System

My all-time favorite railroad-themed TV show was/is Petticoat Junction. While not a movie per se, P.J. is old enough to be ancient history to a lot of people.

Color finally arrived with the third season (1965-66). This sent filmmakers scrambling back to Jamestown, California to re-film all the live train scenes of Sierra Railroad 4-6-0 #3 and “shorty” baggage/coach #5.

I selected “Bedloe’s Successor” (Season Three, Episode 11) as a typical show, but borrowed train shots from other episodes on my DVD set. So let’s “come ride the little train that is rolling down the tracks to the junction”!

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The Hooterville Cannonball rumbles towards the camera from episode 14, (What’s A Trajectory?). I’m guessing the locomotive was numbered #8 so it would view the same if the film happened to be reversed.

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The Cimarron Kid 1952

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Universal Pictures                            

It’s a shoot out at the Sierra Railroad roundhouse! Audie Murphy (Bill Doolin / The Cimarron Kid) stars in this Technicolor Western alongside three different Sierra steam locomotives.

Having just been released from the hoosegow, Bill Doolin soon falls back in with his old outfit, the notorious Dalton Gang. Soon they’re robbing banks, holding up trains and just generally being obnoxious. Fortunately, there’s some feminine pulchritude involved, so it’s not a complete weinerfest.

Audie Murphy also appeared in another railroad oater, Night Passage, previously reviewed on this blog.

Let’s check out this iron horse opera from the Fifties. Yee-ha!

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Galloping towards the turntable pit come Audie and the boys. From this overhead shot, we get a glimpse of (from right to left):

Sierra RR #3, 1891 Rogers 4-6-0, currently in-service at 1897 Railtown.
Sierra RR #18, 1906 Baldwin 2-8-0, stored derelict at Merrill, Oregon.
Sierra RR #24, 1912 Baldwin 2-8-0, scrapped in 1955.

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Ring of Fire 1961

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Metro Goldwyn Mayer

How about an entire town surrounded by a raging forest fire with only a little Baldwin 2-6-2T tank engine and a couple SP heavyweight coaches to trundle the populace to safety? That’s what we have here in this spectacular disaster flick from the early 1960’s filmed in glorious Metrocolor!

Georgia Pacific Corporation #9 stars as the motive power piloted by David Janssen (Sergeant Steve Walsh) and Joyce Taylor (Bobbie “Skidoo” Adams) along with the “People of Vernonia, Oregon”.

The disaster is ignited when none other than a young Frank Gorshin (Riddle me this, Batman!) carelessly discards a lit cigarette in the tinder dry woods. Add to this some serious heat between Steve and Bobbie (whose bare midriff is featured prominently throughout) and you’ve got a winner. Let’s check it out, Daddy-O!

Many thanks to Richard from Carson City for bringing this movie to my attention.

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Pages 20 and 21 of Kenneth G. Johnsen’s excellent book, “Washington Steam Locomotives” tells you all you need to know about the scrappy little tank engine currently residing in the Wynooche River Gorge.

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