Uphill All the Way 1986

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A Melroy Production

Mel Tillis and Roy Clark star in this self-produced stinkeroo which is redeemed only by a double dose of steam locomotive pulchritude. We ARE treated to two separate train scenes: The opening features Sierra Railroad #28 (a 2-8-0 Baldwin, built in 1922) and the finale is graced by Texas State Railroad #500 (an ex-Santa Fe Railway #1316 4-6-2 built by Baldwin in 1911).

The movie itself, well, it’s forgettable. Unless you enjoy picking out the various famous actors/personalities of the time such as Glen Campbell, Burt Reynolds and even frikken Burl Ives (Mister Holly Jolly Christmas himself), don’t bother streaming or renting this DVD. It is about as obscure as a train movie can be.

BUT…we must emphasize the positives. In fact, after my review of the train scenes, I’ll include a couple short YouTube videos of #28 and #500 in action. It’s the least I can do.

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As a train of heavyweight coaches recedes into the distance, Booger Skaggs (Tillis) and Ben Hooker (Clark) discuss their next move. Yes, Booger. Okay, enough about the characters. Let’s delve into the excellent train bits, shall we?

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The Palm Beach Story 1942

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Paramount Studios

Take a Ride on the Pennsy! Yes, it’s a Preston Sturges-directed screwball comedy from the early 1940’s and while not exactly obscure, the picture has a good hunk of onboard-the-train hijinks to keep things rolling merrily along.

From New York’s Pennsylvania Station, Claudette Colbert (as Gerry Jeffers) is headed to West Palm Beach, Florida to seek a divorce. She’s riding an advance section of the Florida Special, a seasonal heavyweight train run by four railroads: Pennsylvania, RF&P, Atlantic Coast Line & FEC.

The train interiors are mostly sets, but it is well-done with views of lounge cars, a diner, open section sleepers and even a peek inside enclosed bedrooms and bathrooms. Come on, let’s check it out!

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Beautiful shot of a Pennsy streamlined K4 4-6-2 #3768 racing along the four-track mainline (Pennsylvania Railroad’s “Broadway”). No doubt taken from a PRR publicity film, #3768 was even made into an HO scale model!

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Last Flag Flying 2017

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Amazon Studios

A surprisingly well-done movie about three Vietnam vets taking a journey by train. This poignant drama-comedy is laced with Amtrak Northeast Corridor scenes and equipment but was actually mostly filmed in and around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Taking place in December 2003, Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston) and Reverend Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) join Larry ‘Doc’ Shepherd (Steve Carell) as he travels homeward to bury his son — a young Marine casualty of the Iraq War.

I was attracted to this film after viewing a preview which flashed many clips of modern-day NRPC trains. Let’s take a closer look at what the filmmaker’s captured.

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New York’s Pennsylvania Station is the midway point on the trio’s journey north. During daylight hours, the veterans ride a standard Amfleet coach (with rear-screen projection).

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Colorado Territory 1949

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Warner Brothers

Filmed along the Denver & Rio Grande Western narrow gauge in Southwestern Colorado, this film stars Joel McCrea, Virginia Mayo and a 23 year old Dorothy Malone. Of more interest to us is the heart and soul of our review, little Denver & Rio Grande #315, an 1895 Baldwin C-18 class 2-8-0 locomotive, originally built for the Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad.

Sporting a fake balloon smokestack, oversize headlight box and renumbered “15” for this performance, the little 3-feet-between-the-rails Consolidation has two extensive scenes in this movie including a spectacular train robbery. Filmed just before A Ticket To Tomahawk would make the Colorado narrow gauge famous, Colorado Territory has plenty of train action alongside the Southwest’s wide open spaces.

In an interesting bit of trivia, Director Raoul Walsh based this film on 1941’s High Sierra, another more famous movie he directed.

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D&RG #15 and train prepares to depart “Aztec” Colorado.  On board are train robbers, a sheriff’s posse and the payroll.  What could possibly go wrong?

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Cinerama Holiday 1955

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Cinerama Productions Corp.

The California Zephyr (CZ) comes to the big screen! The second Cinerama movie ever filmed, featured two married couples, the Marsh’s from the U.S. and the Troller’s from Switzerland, who “traded continents” to take a Cinerama Holiday.

For the purposes of this review, I will concentrate on the “San Francisco Bay” segment of the movie which follows the Troller’s, (Fred and Beatrice), from The City By The Bay eastward aboard the California Zephyr.

For some reason, the movie titles are in B&W – once the feature starts, it’s all glorious Technicolor.

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Surprise! Also featured in the San Francisco segment is a tour of the city’s fabled cable car railway. Here we see a car being turned at the intersection of Powell and Market.

For comparison, here is a June 2017 Google Maps view of the same location:

https://www.google.com/maps/place/100+Powell+St,+San+Francisco,+CA+94102/@37.7845256,-122.4077232,3a,75y,354.67h,87.31t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sr9N1XqHERrmpGljc9YicUw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!4m5!3m4!1s0x8085808f5038d91f:0xffa148f90b71b6ca!8m2!3d37.7856432!4d-122.4077619?hl=en

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Locomotive Loco 1960

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Hanna-Barbera Productions

Not to be confused with Loco Locomotive 1961 previously reviewed, this time it’s Quick Draw McGraw and his sidekick Baba Looey (both voiced by Daws Butler) who star in this train-laced bit of minimalist HB animation.

Locomotive Loco begins at the famous 1869 Golden Spike ceremony linking East and West by rail (presumably the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads). However this is where all similarity to historical accuracy ends. The Golden Spike has been stolen by “Moose Caboose”! [groan…] (voiced by Don Messick). Quick Draw and Baba Looey are tasked with hunting him down by the railroad’s President, “Ronald Roundhouse” [encore groan…] (voiced by Daws Butler).

Hold On Thar! Can an anthropomorphic horse and burro really get back the golden spike? There’s only one way to find out — read on and just enjoy the show!

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What was it the engines said, pilots touching,–head to head,
facing on the single track, half a world behind each back?

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In the Heat of the Night 1967

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United Artists

While not particularly obscure (it won 5 Oscars), “Heat” treats us to at least two different railroads, Gulf Mobile & Ohio (GM&O) -and- Missouri Pacific Railroad (MP or MoPac). We see passenger operations, freight trains, shop facilities, depots AND some really cool, old automobiles to boot.

Throw in a crackerjack murder/mystery, a little cheesecake (the wonderfully-trashy Delores Purdy — played by Quentin Dean) and you’ve got a winner.

Let’s re-examine this 1967 classic filmed in and around Sparta, Illinois (standing in for Mississippi) from a railroading perspective and really enjoy the show!

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A pair of MoPac EMD GP35’s in the “Screamin’ Eagles” paint scheme lead a freight along the Mississippi River in a scene from the movie. Note the MP “buzzsaw” logo on the cab side and the lack of dynamic brakes (MP was a mostly flat railroad).

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