United Artists/Zoetrope Studios/Mercury Pictures
I first saw this movie in the theatre and enjoyed it thoroughly. It never seemed to be released on DVD until recently (just google The Grey Fox 1982 and you’ll see what I mean). It can be considered a “sleeper” film — one that was released to the public, then never heard of again. Also, because my wife fell asleep watching it with me, the other evening.
Filmed in Washington State and British Columbia, the film won many awards in Canada upon its release. The train scenes occur mainly at the beginning and end of the picture (which is all we’re concerned with).
CP 3716 makes its way up Cheakamus canyon in British Columbia.
See what IMDb has to say about The Grey Fox:
This is the story of Billy Miner (played by Richard Farnsworth), a notorious stage-coach robber who is released from prison in 1901. Since there are no more stage-coaches to rob, trains are his next target.
NP 1070 comes rolling down the tracks with Billy Miner onboard.
Miner visits his sister in Washington State. Her husband is not too crazy about having him stay there. One evening Miner sees the 1903 movie “The Great Train Robbery”.
Hmmm…maybe I should do that….
The locomotive used in this scene is the Northern Pacific L-9 class 0-6-0 #1070 currently in storage on the Lake Whatcom Railway. You can read more about their operation here:
Miner prepares to board the train; Stick ’em up!
Holding the crew at bay alongside the Northern Pacific tender.
His first attempt at robbing a train fails. After dynamiting the baggage car, an armed guard inside fires back killing one of Miner’s gang. He “takes it on the lam”.
After stealing a horse, he makes his way up into Canada to escape the law.
Walking along the tracks discussing the next caper.
The locomotive used in the remaining train scenes is the Canadian Pacific N2b class 2-8-0 #3716, seasonally in operation on the Kettle Valley Railway. You can read more about their operation here:
Miner’s next heist is more successful. His gang manages to talk the baggage car door open without using the dynamite. He fills a big sack and takes off into the hills. His take is over $10,000. Miner heads to Kamloops to lay low for a while.
CP 897 (the CP 3716 in disguise); Don’t make me use this!
Miner makes off with the loot; Baggage man watches the robbers leave with a good view of car’s interior.
Much movie plot left out here. Back to the train stuff.
Miner rides alongside CP 371 (CP 3716 sans the “six”); Miner’s rustled horses scatter as the train rounds a curve.
CP 716 (yes, CP 3716 sans the “three”) is held up by Minor.
Miner and his henchmen go rob another train (the CP 716). Opening the baggage car, they discover there is nothing of value. They take off.
A group of Mounties tracks them down and hauls them in to jail. Court finds them guilty of armed robbery. Miner gets 25 years along with his accomplices.
A big crowd is on hand (complete with brass band) to see the three outlaws off on the train to prison.
There’s more, but I don’t want to spoil the ending. If you want to find out what really happened (the movie takes certain liberties with actual events), check out Miner’s story on Wiki.
If you have ANY information about this movie, please contact me at:
My name is Della Mae Johnston and I wondered if, perchance, you’d noticed that engine N2b #3716 was also used in a movie that I worked on called ‘The Journey of Natty Gann’. I didn’t end up working on ‘Grey Fox’ (although I was offered the job of Set Decorator on the picture) as I was signed for another picture at the time.
‘Natty Gann’ (if you’re not familiar with the film) was a Disney movie that got lost in the transition from one set of powers to another at the studio. Because it was the darling of the previous reign, it was allowed to languish without much advertisement or attempt to promote it- the new regime certainly didn’t want to contribute to the success of its predecessor. A shame, since it was one of the first movies for John Cusack and the last for Scatman Crothers.
It was nominated for an academy award and also featured a few Oscar recipients in its crew: Designer Paul Sylbert, Cinematographer Dick Bush, Costumer Albert Wolsky, Decorator Jim Erickson. I was credited as ‘Art Department Buyer’ a category that actually does not exist! That was the company’s backward attempt to elevate my status in some way. I was, in reality, Assistant Set Decorator (I ran the department), the Set Decor Buyer (I found and arranged payment and transportation for most of what you see in the film- not the trains, though- those were under the auspices of the teamsters) and in addition, bought quite a lot for the Props Department.
My favourite set was the market that we built down in Yaletown (before it got all sheeshe). I had the idea of using many of the local antique dealers- that we in Set Decor so heavily relied on- to play the vendors. We built the sets and stalls, had signage made- they supplied their own characters and much of the dressing from their own stores which we then supplemented with other set dressing materials. The Wardrobe Department dressed them appropriately, the Make-up and Hair Departments worked their magic and our vendors spent the day on set being paid as actors. We all had a great time and they were able to experience first-hand what happened on set- and how we used the materials that we frequently rented and purchased from them.
There is a bit of a misconception that while ‘Grey Fox’ was a Canadian film, ‘Natty Gann’ was not. That is unfortunate, since it was shot entirely in Canada and there were as many Canadians involved in its production as there were in the filming of “Grey Fox’.
Della Mae Johnston
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