Operation Tiger 1970

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Cinema General Studios

Hogan’s Heroes! One of my favorite TV shows as a kid growing up. I’m so old, I can remember watching some of them when they were first broadcast. I own the entire series (six seasons) on DVD — which I use for a night light. Pop a 30 minute episode in the DVD player and bonk, I’m fast asleep. But I digress.

This particular show from the sixth season was the story of Colonel Hogan (played by Bob Crane) and his gang’s attempt to rescue the beautiful resistance leader, code named Tiger, from the clutches of the eeeee-vil Gestapo, who are taking her to Berlin by train.

Most of the episode is a wonderful mish-mosh of wildly different railroad equipment, old railroad films and even a classic blow-up-the-train ending using models.

Some of the images are pretty dark (the action conveniently took place at night allowing filmmakers to use marginal railroad footage), so apologizes in advance. Enjoy!

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A beautiful Southern Pacific Railroad GS-class 4-8-4 leads a heavyweight passenger train. I can’t quite read the train number, but the engine is similar to the famous SP 4449ROWF! Arlene Martel stars as “Tiger” looking absolutely fabulous with the torn and soiled sweater. Now you know why Hogan was so keen on this rescue.

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Double Indemnity 1944

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Paramount Pictures

Southern Pacific Railroad and the Burbank Train Station play a key part in Billy Wilder’s classic film noir, Double Indemnity. 51 minutes into the movie, Walter (Fred MacMurray) and Phyllis (Barbara Stanwyck) hatch their plot to stage her husband’s “accidental” death and collect double the insurance money.

Aside from the train bits, what I dig about this picture is Fred MacMurray’s Walter constantly referring to Phyllis as “Baby” — pronounced “Bay-buh” — sort of like how Elvis would say it. He calls her Bay-buh in practically every line of dialogue once the movie gets rolling. Tickles me.

Anyway. Let’s watch Fred/Walter ride the Espee and take a short tour onboard an open platform observation car.

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A mundane scene from the 1940’s of porters and trainmen assisting passengers boarding a heavyweight train at night. But all is not as it seems. Just entering the shot, stage left, is Barbara Stanwyck, femme fatale, with a sordid scheme of murder afoot.

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The Sheepman 1958

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Metro Goldwin Mayer

Glenn Ford (as Jason Sweet) and Shirley MacLaine (as Dell Payton) star in this off-beat Western alongside Virginia & Truckee #11, The Reno.

Mostly filmed on the MGM back lot, “Sheep” (Baaaa!) is the tale of newcomer Jason Sweet (Ford) who shows up in the little town of Powder Valley announcing his intentions of grazing his huge herd of sheep in their pastures. The local townsfolk are not amused.

Of course, we’re here just to see the train scenes graced by V&T #11. Towards that end, The Reno makes a grand entrance as the opening credits roll, with a fine plume of black smoke and all identifying numbers etc. painted over in BLACK.

Let’s see what happens when Sheep-monger Ford comes up against local cattle baron, Colonel Stephen Bedford (Leslie Nielsen). This was YEARS before Nielsen made it big as Frank Drebin, Police Squad (in color). In fact, it’s hard to watch his acting in this picture, as you half expect him to break into deadpan comedy at any moment. He didn’t. He was the heavy in this film.

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Look at them hair extensions on Shirley MacLaine! I really enjoyed her work in Oceans Eleven 1960 and particularly Guarding Tess 1994.

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Dead Reckoning 1947

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Columbia Pictures

Finally, I found a movie with one of my favorite actors (Mister Humphrey Bogart) on a train. Bogie (as Captain Rip Murdock) is escorting Sergeant Johnny Drake (played by William Prince) from New York to Washington DC where Drake is to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.

It turns out that Sergeant Drake has a dark and nefarious past and thus has no interest in getting a medal along with all the publicity.

The train scenes occur in the first ten minutes of the picture, mostly on train “sets” with a few outstanding glimpses of Pennsylvania Railroad electric operations as backgrounds.

Take a ride on the Pennsy as it segues into a steamy and mysterious piece of film noir.

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As the fireman of a GG-1 electric leans out of the cab for his portrait, Bogie displays his 82nd Airborne patch. This scene was filmed (matte shot) along Pennsy’s four track mainline in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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The Titfield Thunderbolt 1953

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Ealing Studios

From jolly, old England comes this tale of a small village trying to prevent the closure of their much-loved railway branch line. Stanley Holloway (the local bon vivant) and Godfrey Tearle (the Bishop) lead the townsfolk as they tidy up and operate the railway in their effort to win the mail contract (and bring in some much-needed revenue).

Opposing them are the eeeevil operators of the local bus company (who want the mail contract for themselves) and will stop at nothing to harass, delay or stop the plucky Titfield train.

Despite the good guys’ best efforts, their original set of equipment becomes unavailable (more bus company skulduggery), so they resort to “borrowing” some motive power from the local railway museum.

Filled with train scenes from start to finish, I had a difficult time pruning this down into something resembling a basic review. Pip pip, cherrio — Ship shape and Bristol fashion! And of course, “They’ll always be an England”.

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Purloined in the dark of night from a nearby museum, the Titfield Thunderbolt once more takes to the rails in triumph.

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The Thin Man Goes Home 1944

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Metro Goldwyn-Mayer

William Powell (Nick Charles) and Myrna Loy (Nora Charles) starred in a series of six immensely-popular “Thin Man” movies in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Number 5 in the series, “The Thin Man Goes Home”, features a train ride to “Sycamore Springs” during World War 2. Although mostly filmed on sets, the train-factor is good taking up the first 15 minutes of the picture.

To complicate matters, the couple attempt to smuggle their dog Asta aboard rather than crate him to destination in the baggage car. Or so they try…

No locomotives seen in this film, although we hear whistles and bells in the background. Let’s see what train travel was like (okay, maybe a tad exaggerated) during the hustle and bustle of the Second World War.

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Once onboard, the movie pokes fun at the overcrowded conditions on train travel. Nick and Nora are actually sitting on the armrests of a day coach. This referenced a popular Is-Your-Trip-Necessary? poster at the time.

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ALL A BIR-R-R-D 1950

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Warner Brothers

Tweety Bird and Sylvester Cat (voiced by Mel Blanc) star in this animated short which takes place aboard a steam-powered heavyweight train. Sylvester’s attempt to capture and eat Tweety are thwarted at every turn by the train’s conductor, a bulldog also riding in the baggage car as well as a number of this-could-only-happen-in-a-cartoon hijinks.

As in many of the classic Looney Tunes created by Warners, the artists insert their names on background signs that flash by so quickly you need to freeze-frame the DVD to catch it. My copy of All A Bir-r-r-d comes from Volume 2, Disk 3 from the Looney Tunes Golden Collection.

The opening credits (see above) show a 5 car train with the baggage car inexplicably located in the center of the consist. The train is lead by a 4-4-4 steam locomotive (a somewhat unusual wheel arrangement, at least for the United States at the time).

Let’s check out this wide open cartoon adventure as it rolls down the track!

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As the train stands at the station, the locomotive appears to have two numbers: 651 on the cab and 99 on the tender. The first coach behind the tender has S.P.Q.R in the letterboard.

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