A young Jean Arthur stars as the love interest in this silent picture filmed along the Santa Fe Railway in Southern California.
Grace Ryan (Arthur) finds herself with two suitors – the cad Bert Steele and college boy Jack Milford.
Of more interest to us is the diverse mix of steam locomotives flashing across the screen. There’s lots of action with trains running wild, fights atop the locomotive and plenty of smoke-belching runbys. Let’s get rolling on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe!
AT&SF # 3530 (a 3500 class 4-6-2 Baldwin) has had the “Atchison” and “Fe” letters neatly blacked out — thus it is the T & S Railway for this picture.
It’s a pretty grainy print of this movie I reviewed, so apologies for the fuzzy pictures!
Just another working day down at the Santa Fe roundhouse.
Here’s Grace’s dear old dad Joe on the steps of T&S #3530, his beloved, “Old Betsy”.
Jack strikes up a conversation with Grace, the station agent at “Winona”.
Dad flashes by with T&S #3530 as daughter Grace gives him a big highball.
On another day, Joe is piloting a passenger train with the slimy Bert as his fireman. Bert does his best evil expression — he has realized Joe is colorblind and is missing yellow and red block signals. Instead of telling Joe to stop, he gives nebulous answers about the signals saying only to “slow down a little”.
Two trains are on a collision course!
Train Wreck! The sneak Bert confronts a badly-shaken Joe blaming him solely for the accident.
The railroad removes Joe from the cab and demotes him into a crossing flagman’s hut. Note the neat, old passenger station in the background.
Now with lots of time on his hands, Joe has invented what appears to be an Automatic Train Stop (ATS) device. He installs the ATS “shoe” on Old Betsy.
At Joe’s demotion, Bert has unfairly been promoted to the engineer’s seat. Bert is riding high, cigar erect, as he passes Joe’s humble shed.
But the rascal Bert is about to get his comeuppance. He’s been assigned to take the one car Director’s Special with Old Betsy as the motive power.
Bert is upset over having to run Betsy and handles the engine very roughly (slamming the throttle open/closed with his foot, etc.). His fireman is angry and the two fight in the cab and fight on the tender….as the Director’s Special runs wild!
Intercut with the fight scene are various train runbys…all with different locomotives. I think the X3200 is a Union Pacific engine.
Telegrapher Grace overhears of the runaway and realizes DANGER is afoot (according to this really cool, old “wig-wag” crossing signal).
Grace notifies Dad and soon they set off on a HANDCAR to intercept the onrushing train.
Boyfriend Jack flags Number 8 to a stop as Dad/Joe installs his ATS device in front of the speeding train. Hurray! His invention stopped Old Betsy and saved the day!
The crew of #8 rushes forward with Grace & Jack; The fireman on the Special has beaten a confession out of the now-simpering Bert. He’ll pay. That scoundrel…
My hero! Jack wins Grace’s hand in marriage as dear old Dad looks on with bemused satisfaction.
As usual, I left out all the mushy and boring parts and just concentrated as much as possible on the train factor. Pretty good action towards the end with seemingly one of the longest fight scenes ever staged on top of a steam locomotive.
Here’s what IMDb has to say about The Block Signal:
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