Hopalong Cassidy (played by William Boyd) stars alongside the Southern Pacific Railway’s isolated 3-foot narrow gauge operation in the Owens Valley of California. This 59 minute Western featured the talents of SP 4-6-0 #8, built by Baldwin in 1907 for the Nevada-California-Oregon Railway. #8 came to the Espee narrow gauge in 1928.
There’s trouble on the “S.R.” line. VP Tom Smith, played by Stanley Andrews, has sent for Hoppy to troubleshoot and investigate all the accidents and mischief on his railroad. Much to the big shot’s dismay, his lovely daughter has taken up with a local brakeman who (gasp!) previously spent a little time in the slammer.
All signs point to the guilt of the ex-con, but who’s really responsible? Come hop along (groan…) and take a little tour of SP steam freight with three feet between the rails!
As the brakeman frantically waves a “stop sign”, you can clearly see the locomotive’s actual smoke stack sticking up above the fake cabbage stack installed for this picture. Nice view of the mountains, water tower and various lineside shacks.
Our picture opens with a little mixed train rolling along through the sagebrush. As the locomotive passes our hero and companions, the noise startles their horses.
The next railroad scenes are in “Wheeler” (actually Keeler, California). Here we see a mixed train backing towards the camera and get a good view of the Keeler depot. Note the circular SP logos on the box cars have been blackened out.
Hopalong and his two buddies “California” played by Andy Clyde (comic relief) and “Lucky” played by Rand Brooks (the sensible one) look over engine #89; California is fascinated and goes to take a closer look.
Movie fans may remember Rand Brooks from his role as Scarlett O’Hara’s first husband, Charles Hamilton, in Gone With The Wind.
Just like that, Cal climbs up in the cab and starts blowing the whistle, waving his arms and doing all sorts of weird stuff. Nice to hear that throaty steam whistle on the #8, though!
All that ruckus attracts the attention of the engineer who puts Cal to work cleaning the cab windows.
Meanwhile, Hoppy climbs aboard the VP’s private car and talks to the brass about the late unpleasantness. That’s a hell of a place to hang up a fire axe! ;p
Back in the yard, a good detail shot of sheds, water tower, track car and men going about their work; SP #89 pulls to a stop and Cal comes down from the cab to talk to the engineer.
The engineer played by Wayne C. Treadway, gives Cal a good chewing out, hands him a bucket and sends him off on some fool’s errand. BTW, #8 was an oil burner, so all that wood in the tender was just for show.
More comic relief. Whilst watering #8, Cal manages to get a good dousing.
The creep behind Jessie is the VP’s oily private secretary Harmon Roberts, played with wonderful sliminess by Don Haggerty.
Okay, back to the trains. In the first capture, you can clearly see the “8” front number plate; Telegram mentions a posse. Hmm… Where have I heard that word before?
Incidentally, SP #8 is still around. It has been preserved and can be viewed at Lillard Park, in Sparks, Nevada.
#8 lays a nice plume of smoke as Cal prepares to throw the switch; The train wheels onto the siding as the boys lie in wait.
The good guys meet the train as the VP and crew dismount.
HE did it! The entire ensemble face the accused murderer, liar, cad and thief; Ah, we’re all friends now; Buh-Bye! Thank you!
With the battered combine and freight car as a respectable backdrop, all is made right and the mixed local backs onto the main line again.
As the sun sets slowly in the West, our 3 heroes are once more trackside to watch a train roll by as the credits roll.
All-in-all, not a bad little picture with a fairly high quotient of train scenes…considering this was the sixty-third of 66 Hopalong Cassidy movies churned out.
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