Rails into Laramie 1954

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Universal Pictures
in Technicolor!

It’s 1869 and there’s trouble on the K. T. & C. Railroad. Building west from Laramie, construction has come to a grinding halt as the crews have taken to strong drink and the pagan delights of the saloons and other houses of ill-repute.

Jefferson Harder (played by John Payne) is brought in to clean up the town, kick some ass, and get the construction going again. Standing in his way is his old friend, Jim Shanessy (played by Dan Duryea) — the bad guy who profits from all the debauchery and naturally favors the status quo.

The picture stars TWO ex-Virginia & Truckee 4-4-0 locomotives: #22, The Inyo, and #18, The Dayton. Train scenes are sporadic at first, but the film finishes with a spectacular fist fight onboard a speeding work train as it rushes headlong towards an oncoming express train.


Surprise! Rails into Laramie features a THIRD steam locomotive. Filmed on the Universal back lot and disguised as V&T #22, is former Nevada County Narrow Gauge #5, a little 2-6-0 Mogul. This locomotive survives as a static display at the NCNG Museum in Nevada City, CA.

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The Billion Dollar Hobo 1977


Metro Goldwyn Mayer

OK, this one’s pretty bad. Tim Conway and Will Geer star in this painfully unfunny comedy with railroad overtones. Indeed, the railroad bits are the only interesting thing about the picture which gives us a look at yard operations on the Western Pacific Railroad, as well as a fabulous collection of vintage Lionel model trains. Both WP and Lionel received a screen credit for their contributions.

The gist of the movie is bumbling Vernon Praiseworthy (Conway) is the last living relative of zillionaire Choo-Choo Trayne (oh, brother…) played by Geer. Vernon must prove himself worthy by hoboing to Seattle and back via freight train before inheriting Trayne’s transportation empire.

Let’s um…just concentrate on the train bits and leave it at that!


Tim Conway and Bo (supposedly the smartest dog in the world) ride WP box car # 21121 (a classic 40′ steel box car with old style friction bearings.

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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!


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…


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


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!



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


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.



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

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Night Passage 1957


Universal Studios
“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!


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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