It’s 1869 and there’s trouble on the K. T. & C. Railroad. Building west from Laramie, construction has come to a grinding halt as the crews have taken to strong drink and the pagan delights of the saloons and other houses of ill-repute.
Jefferson Harder (played by John Payne) is brought in to clean up the town, kick some ass, and get the construction going again. Standing in his way is his old friend, Jim Shanessy (played by Dan Duryea) — the bad guy who profits from all the debauchery and naturally favors the status quo.
The picture stars TWO ex-Virginia & Truckee 4-4-0 locomotives: #22, The Inyo, and #18, The Dayton. Train scenes are sporadic at first, but the film finishes with a spectacular fist fight onboard a speeding work train as it rushes headlong towards an oncoming express train.
Surprise! Rails into Laramie features a THIRD steam locomotive. Filmed on the Universal back lot and disguised as V&T #22, is former Nevada County Narrow Gauge #5, a little 2-6-0 Mogul. This locomotive survives as a static display at the NCNG Museum in Nevada City, CA.
Apologies for the small, grainy screen captures (YouTube).
The train scenes open with NCNG #5 rolling into Laramie to the accompaniment of a brass band; Off one of the coaches steps Jeff Harder to many huzzahs.
The townsfolk’s excitement doesn’t last too long. They had sent for troops — instead they got ONE guy.
Nonetheless, Harder heads out to end of track to start some troubleshootin’….
Looking like a modern day government road project, the construction gang is leaning on their shovels with not much happening (note the worker in front taking a good belt of whiskey); Harder rolls up to investigate.
“Why you, I oughta……” Harder soon takes care of the track boss and fires the lot of them.
Back in Laramie, Harder is posting these signs all over town. This does NOT go over well, as the workers now have no money to spend. His popularity drops to zero.
Lots and LOTS of plot left off HERE
Nice coming and going shots of the #22-led work train including its cupola-less caboose.
They even borrowed a scene from 1948’s “Whispering Smith” movie to show a train wreck; Fed up, Harder tries to telegraph Cheyenne for some assistance. What he gets is lip service from the crooked telegrapher. The message is never sent.
The unsuspecting passenger train is chugging along; Just up the track, one of Shanessy’s henchman waits with a Wile E. Coyote ACME plunger and….
Ka-BOOM! Instant landslide over the track.
Another henchman cuts the telegraph wire; A smirking Shanessy sasses Harder that he’ll NEVER be convicted in this town!
Not so fast! Lou Carter (played by Mari Blanchard), with her black, treacherous heart, tips off Harder about a little known law — let’s have a trial with an all-women jury!
Lou is the reformed dance hall girl who’s got the hots for Harder!
That did the trick and Shanessy is sent to the slammer. With the help of still more henches, Shanessy breaks jail and steals the work train!
Waving his revolver around like a madman, Shanessy runs the #5 out of the Universal back lot; The crooked telegrapher is still at it, holding the pursuing lawmen at bay as #5 trundles out of the station.
This sets up the final, climactic train scene.
Shanessy has the #22 and work train pedaling along for all it’s worth.
Here comes the Marines! Harder gallops alongside the train in pursuit as Shanessy and his henchman return fire from the cab.
The hench takes pot shots at Harder from the boxcar roof; Harder shoots back in a most dashing pose.
Harder LEAPS into action!; great shot of Harder and the train rolling along through the desert (I love that old style brake wheel to his right).
Harder’s hat doesn’t stay on for long. Great scenes of a rumble on top of a moving train!
Henchman dispatched over the side of the car (with a great AAAARRRRRRGH!), Harder heads to the engine cab to finally have it out with his ex-pal, Shanessy.
BONUS POINTS for a Captain Kirk-style, flying leg kick!
Holy cinders! The passenger train from Cheyenne is heading for a “cornfield meet” with the work train!
Big Fight! Harder and Shanessy really go at it. I particularly like the “dangling from the engine cab” bits.
The fireman on the varnish frantically blows the whistle; Will the trains stop in time?
With hardly a hair out of place after his fierce kerfuffle, Harder manages to subdue Shanessy, reverse the locomotive, avoid a head-on collision and get the girl.
As yet another “building-the-railroad” western, Rails Into Laramie sets itself apart with its three different steam locomotives and, of course, the stupendous battle at the end. What’s really cool is all 3 of these engines can still be seen in California and Nevada. But what the heck does K. T. & C. stand for anyway? Happy Trails, y’all.
Here’s Rails Into Laramie on YouTube:
Here’s what IMDb has to say about Rails Into Laramie:
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