Chattanooga Choo Choo 1984


Here’s another obscure train movie I missed when it first came out.  The story revolves around the restoration and operation of an old steam locomotive and passenger train.  Sierra Railroad #28, a Baldwin built 2-8-0 pulling a string of that road’s heavyweight passenger cars, is the star of the movie.

Most of the filming takes place along the Sierra Railroad itself, as well as the California State Rail Museum in Sacramento.  The plot literally follows the lyrics of the Glenn Miller standard, “Chattanooga Choo Choo”.  Football team owner (and dastardly businessman) George Kennedy must restore his father’s old train and run it on time from Pennsylvania Station, New York, to Chattanooga, Tennessee in 24 hours — in order to receive his inheritance.


Looking like a Mad Magazine fold-in, is the colorful poster for the movie.

As the movie was a real stink-a-roo at the box office, it was only released on VHS briefly.  I have been unable to find a DVD of the movie and it was only viewable to me on  I apologize for the small, grainy screen captures.


The opening, features helicoper views of the train as it rolls along to Thelma Houston’s excellent rendition of “Chattanooga Choo Choo”.  They seemed to film most of this movie on the shaded side of the train.


Parley Baer as Alonzo Dillard “oils around” his half-size steam train during his birthday party; Another view of the miniature train — I believe this was filmed on the estate of Ward Kimball (famous Disney Studios animator).


Releasing steam from the cylinder cocks as it passes George Kennedy; Parley Baer in the cab looking like he’s having the time of his life.


Unfortunately, Alonzo “kicked the bucket” shortly after his birthday party.  He went out in style though, having himself buried in a full sized boxcar!


George Kennedy with his mistress, Barbara Eden (RAWR-RAWR!)

Alonzo Dillard knew his son-in-law George Kennedy was a ne’er do well, so in order to receive his inheritance, he had to restore the old train, leave “Pennsylvania Station at a quarter to four” and arrive precisely on-time, 24 hours later in Chattanooga.  George Kennedy had never been on time for anything in his life.

George Kennedy decides to turn the train trip into a media extravaganza, having his football team, band and cheerleaders all make the trip.


Heavily “weathered” Sierra #28 rides the turntable and gets a good scrubbing down.


Heavyweight observation car comes out from under wraps; Sierra #28 has “CHATTANOOGA” spelled out on its tender.


Sure enough on the appointed day, they stood ready to depart Pennsylvania Station on Track 29.


George Kennedy introduces his head coach (Joe Namath) to the press;  Sierra #28 roars past a green Sierra Baldwin diesel doing a little switching.


Sierra #28 rolls through the night; Comedy relief is provided by the nearly-blind engineer “PeeWee” and his profane fireman.


The next morning — more comedy relief — as George Kennedy’s suitcase is unsuccessfully delivered to him by a funky Model T speeder — to a spirited rendition of “The William Tell Overture”.


FINALLY — they pace the train on the sunny side and gain a reasonably well-lit view of the equipment.  At breakfast the next morning, what appear to be the Doublemint Twins smile for the camera.


After a rumble with the bikers (don’t ask), everyone scrambles to get back on board;  In Sacramento (standing in for Chattanooga), George Kennedy’s train shows up two minutes late (note the SP bridge over the Sacramento River).


Joe Namath and Barbara Eden wind up getting hitched in a double wedding;  Parked alongside the Sacramento river is the wedding train — all decked out in white!

All in all, a cheesy, fun-to-watch-drunk-Friday-night type movie.  It’s a shame it’s not available on a cleaned-up, DVD — just to view all the scenes with Sierra Railroad equipment is worth it.

See what IMDb has to say about Chattanooga Choo Choo 1984:


If you have ANY information about this movie, please contact me at:

About Lindsay Korst

Webmaster, Blogmaster, Ferroequinologist - Lindsay Korst works for a nationwide home improvement center after a 20+ year career supporting computer users. A resident of the Seattle area since 1976, he has had a life-long interest in railroads, particularly those in the Pacific Northwest. He is an enthusiastic participant in the Great Northern Railway Historical Society. He and his wife reside in Redmond, Washington.
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