Metro Goldwyn Meyer
Filmed in glorious Cinerama with a 3 camera setup, this epic film was a star-studded masterpiece of the Hollywood craft. Of more importance to us, are the two steam locomotives and their accompanying rolling stock which graced the movie in the “The Railroad” and “The Outlaws” segments.
Virginia & Truckee #11, “The Reno” (At the time, owned by MGM Studios) was brought out from California to near Rapid City, South Dakota for the “Railroad” construction scenes.
Magma Arizona Railroad #7, (At the time working at the Magma Copper Mine) was filmed on home rails during the movie’s climactic “Outlaws” chase scene and shootout.
Let’s check out two iron horses as they gallop through some eye-popping Western scenery. Highball!
Disguised as “Verde & Rio Grande Railroad #7”, this 1917 2-8-2 Baldwin product and train trundles through the cactus-laden Arizona desert.
Three segments of the movie left off HERE. No trains. Not interested.
“The Railroad” (1868) segment of How The West Was Won
Let’s lay some track, boys! The supervisor (I want HIS job) saunters along as the track crew pulls steel rails from a flat car and lays them on the rough-hewn wood ties.
Richard Widmark (as Mike King) plays to typecast as the grating, “you’re fired”, pissing-off-the-local-Indians, track boss; Henry Fonda (as Jethro Stuart) is the more reasonable frontier scout in charge of meat procurement (Mmmmm…Buffalo burgers!).
Here we get our first view of V&T #11 with all identifying marks blackened out alongside coach/office car #124 at end-of-track.; George Peppard (as Zeb Rawlings) doesn’t like the way King is running this outfit, stirring up the Indians and all. There’s bound to be trouble!
Finally, the first train arrives from the East bearing new settlers for the Wild West. The Reno lets off a little steam as the short train halts to let passengers off in the still-abuilding town.
“I told you so!” Peppard points at Widmark in car 124 — with all the new population swarming over Indian land, the “Native Americans” are sure to retaliate.; Peppard stomps away with V&T #11 as a suitable backdrop.
And retaliate they do. The local tribe stampedes a huge herd of buffalo through the settlement as Widmark and Peppard take cover behind a box car; In the final scene of “The Railroad”, Widmark is seen riding the cow catcher of V&T #11 as it slowly rolls westward.
Construction scenes (and the bison herd) were filmed south of Rapid City in Custer State Park.
Bits of plot left off HERE.
“The Outlaws” (1889) segment of How The West Was Won
Now a US Marshall in Arizona, Peppard and family watch as V&T #11 (now decorated as Verde and Rio Grande RR #11) rolls into town.
Uh-oh. Grinning bandito type. Never a good sign. Peppard hasn’t seen ’em yet as he chats with Carolyn Jones (as Julie Rawlings — his wife).
Why, it’s an aged-to-perfection, (she was 29 at time of filming), Debbie Reynolds as old Auntie Lilith Prescott. She’s come a-visiting to inspect her nearby ranch. Peppard, Jones and kinder are there to show her around.
The depot scene (and very Santa Fe Railway–looking “Gold City Jct.” sign) was filmed along the Magma Arizona Railroad at Perkinsville. Apparently the depot is still there, but in a dilapidated condition. It can be seen when you ride the current day Verde Canyon Railroad.
Trouble right here in Gold City. Peppard’s old adversary, Charlie Gant (played with sinister menace as only Eli Wallach can) is in town. Peppard suspects he’s after the gold shipment coming later in the week.
MORE bits of plot left off HERE
Verde and Rio Grande #7 is rolling thru the desert and over wood trestles in the early morning light; Marshall Peppard is on board chatting up the conductor and keeping an eye on the gold in the baggage car.
Engine #7 began life as Tremont & Gulf (LA) #30, a 2-8-2 built in 1917 by Baldwin Locomotive Works. In 1954, the #30 went to work for the Magma Copper Mine in AZ as #7. Currently, the locomotive is on the Texas State Railroad as their #400.
There’s a barricade on the track! Peppard orders full speed ahead….POW!
You guessed it. Eli Wallach and his gang are in hot pursuit of the gold train.
Gradually the stunt double outlaws catch up and board the caboose.
The final shootout and train wreck are one of the most spectacular action scenes ever put on celluloid.
There’s shootin’ in the cars, shootin’ on the logs whilst Bandido Eli rides the rods and Marshall Peppard hangs on for dear life.
As #7 charges along, one of Eli’s henchman takes a spectacular dive into a cactus…knocking off his hat.
The Marshall keeps hitting Eli, but in a fine display of carpet chewing, the head bandito meets his demise as the train derails around him.
Wreckage! Twisted metal! Peppard comes over to make sure Eli has kicked the bucket.
Clean living has prevailed and with justice served, Marshall Peppard and family head west through the mesas to California.
The final frames of the movie are various modern day (well, early 1960’s) views around the west including this shot flying up to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I include the little red caboose just cos it’s a neat scene that didn’t fit anywhere else. Note how the track appears sharply curved from the 3 camera, wide angle set up.
Summary: I had never heard of this movie until recently, but the train scenes were very well done and the extensive location scenery as a backdrop was outstanding. Coming in at 2 hours and 44 minutes, it’s probably more enjoyable to view the whole thing over the course of two evenings. It’s a chance to see Hollywood’s finest actors and actresses (including the steam engines!) from a long gone, golden era.
Here’s what IMDb has to say about How The West Was Won:
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