The Journey of Natty Gann 1985

nat001 nat013

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.

nat004 nat007

Our first railroad scene finds Natty down at the freight yard looking to hop a train (along with other hobos).

nat009 nat010

As a newbie, Natty has trouble boarding a moving box car until hoisted up by a harmonica-playing Harry.

nat015 nat014

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.

nat018 nat020

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.

nat023 nat025

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….

nat026 nat028

Next thing you know, Natty is riding a load of concrete pipe; With both cylinder cocks wide open, CP #3716 steams along.

nat029 nat032nat033 nat035

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….

nat040 nat041

Nicely preserved depot — looks like a mineral-red, Canadian Pacific two-story job to me — where Natty hopes to catch another train ride.

nat042 nat044

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.

nat047 nat048nat049

Natty crosses a neat old railroad bridge and discovers a hobo camp beneath. By the SHEEREST coincidence, she bumps into Harry again.

nat052 nat050

Once again the merry trio is trackside looking to bum a ride; I hear a train coming!

nat053 nat055

Sure enough, here comes CP #3716 leading another freight (we won’t mention it is pulling the same consist of cars it was before).

nat060 nat062

Harry and Natty run alongside and board a box car…then yell for Wolf to hurry up and jump in.

nat067 nat070nat071 nat075

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!

nat077 nat080

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:

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.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s