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.
Apologies for the rather fuzzy screen captures — this YouTube print ain’t the greatest!
“The Rocket” (#21), a spiffy, little 2-4-0 locomotive and train pauses at a crossing to be admired by the local stagecoach passengers.
Engine #21 was played by Virginia & Truckee #21, the “J.W. Bowker”.
Adele Mara (as Constance Strong – center bottom) plays the sassy love interest of Tuck; Nice detail shot of #21 with its Baldwin Locomotive Works number plate, front and center.
Shortly thereafter, The Rocket and the stagecoach have a race — to determine who will win the all-important mail contract. The stagecoach gets off to an early lead as #21 blasts away on its whistle.
On board, Loomis chats up Connie as the train and stagecoach race along side by side.
I can’t resist a picture of the firebox with flames shooting out as the fireman stokes it for all it’s worth; Hurrah! The steam train reaches the nifty little depot first, thus securing the lucrative gubmint contract.
A nice shot of a larger engine (looks like a 4-6-0) and train; on board there is much detail from the costumes to the woodwork.
The ten-wheeler was played by B&O museum piece, the “Thatcher Perkins“.
Finally the bridge is completed. Loomis spoons with Connie in the moonlight as a train passes behind them.
But all is not well. The steamboat company is royally brassed off that the Rock Island flung a bridge across their waterway. In retaliation, they “accidentally” ram an explosive-laden boat against the structure which produces a very satisfactory fireball. The result? One center span drops into the drink.
Who you gonna call? The railroad hires none other than Abraham Lincoln (played by Jeff Corey — Star Trek connection — “Troglytes, HALT!“) who successfully argues in court that the steamboat company owes them a bridge repair job.
The other transport companies then resort to stirring up the local Indians (of course) so there’s an excuse for some great attack-the-train battle scenes.
The picture closes with several quick and fast runbys of various Rock Island Railroad streamliners.
Not a bad little effort from Republic Pictures. Forrest Tucker (pre-Sergeant O’Rourke) is wonderful as the he-man, rootinest, shootingest railroad man from the old west. I would have enjoyed a little better print of this movie, but heck, it was free. “Rock Island Line, it’s the Road to Ride!”
Here’s Rock Island Trail on YouTube:
Here’s what IMDb has to say about Rock Island Trail:
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