Walt Disney Pictures
I had always heard about this movie in passing, but had never actually watched it until just recently for this blog review. Filmed in the wilds of British Columbia, we are treated to TWO Canadian-built steam locomotives, Canadian Pacific #3716 and MacMillan Bloedel #1077, rolling through incomparable western panoramas.
From Depression-era Chicago (in the 1930’s), this flick is the story of a young girl’s journey to join her father in Washington State where he has found a hard-won logging job. Natty Gann (played by a 15-year-old Meredith Salenger) faces many challenges and perils along the way and befriends both a fellow traveler, Harry, (played by a 19-year-old John Cusack) and, of all things, a semi-tame Wolf (played by Jed), as she treks west.
Much of Natty’s expedition is accomplished hobo-style, hopping freight trains and dodging the wrath of the railroad bulls. As a result, there is a fairly large proportion of train action in this movie. Come along for the ride!
CP #3716 rolls over a nice, little steel truss bridge in British Columbia. I swear I’ve seen this spot somewhere along the British Columbia Railway, ex-Pacific Great Eastern mainline, from North Vancouver to Squamish and on northward.
Our first railroad scene finds Natty down at the freight yard looking to hop a train (along with other hobos).
As a newbie, Natty has trouble boarding a moving box car until hoisted up by a harmonica-playing Harry.
The next morning, Natty and Harry prepare to jump off as the train pulls into a yard; Here we get our best view of M.B. # 1077 as CP # 3716 leads the train away from the camera.
Getting chased by the railroad police; Natty (or at least her stunt double) racing across the tracks in front of M.B. #1077. Harry and Natty are forced to split up and go their separate ways.
CP #3716 (renumbered as 716) switches as #1077 passes by; Nice side view of M.B. #1077.
Both engines in this movie also appeared in the 1982 film, “The Grey Fox”. Also, both locomotives are still in operational condition and owned by the government of British Columbia. #3716 operates on the last remaining segment of the Kettle Valley Railway (near Summerland, BC). #1077 can be found at Fort Steele, BC.
Some plot left off here….
Next thing you know, Natty is riding a load of concrete pipe; With both cylinder cocks wide open, CP #3716 steams along.
Uh-oh, a major hot box on one axle’s journal causes a derailment. You can’t have a great adventure movie without an explosion and resulting fireball, I always say (even though hotboxes don’t explode, they catch fire and melt — maybe they wuz hauling dynamite?). ;p Natty is in danger! Wolfie leaps to the rescue!
LOTS of plot left off here….
Nicely preserved depot — looks like a mineral-red, Canadian Pacific two-story job to me — where Natty hopes to catch another train ride.
Good interior view of the depot where Natty tries to buy a ticket and actually ride the cushions (a passenger train). BUT, the stationmaster gets on the blower and rats her out to the authorities as a runaway. Bastard.
Natty crosses a neat old railroad bridge and discovers a hobo camp beneath. By the SHEEREST coincidence, she bumps into Harry again.
Once again the merry trio is trackside looking to bum a ride; I hear a train coming!
Sure enough, here comes CP #3716 leading another freight (we won’t mention it is pulling the same consist of cars it was before).
Harry and Natty run alongside and board a box car…then yell for Wolf to hurry up and jump in.
Here’s a new way to hop a freight. Climb a water tower, jump onto and lower the spout, then fall into a nice, soft carload of wood chips!
For our final train scenes, here’s CP #3716 in profile along, what I’m guessing is Howe Sound and then Meredith, John and Jed enjoying their ride down (again, what I think is) Cheakamus Canyon – both views along BC Rail.
A very enjoyable movie! Suspend disbelief a bit and you’ll really enjoy this flick heavily-encrusted with railroad action through one of the most picturesque places on earth. Two smokestacks up!
Here’s what IMDb has to say about The Journey of Natty Gann:
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