The Fillmore and Western Railway (FWRY) in Ventura County, California has starred in hundreds of motion pictures and television ads. Just one of the movies filmed here is 2007’s Rails and Ties starring Kevin Bacon.
The movie itself is a dreary, weepy mess of misfortune — which should have been entitled, “Rails and Dies” — as everyone is either depressed, suicidal or tragically about to kick the bucket. Frankly, this film SUCKS, even though Clint Eastwood’s kid filmed it. If you need a good cry, this is the picture for you.
HAVING SAID THAT, the train bits are excellent. FWRY has a fascinating history with much of its rolling stock coming from three major Hollywood studios. We are treated to a nicely-branded “Coastal Blue” streamliner pulled by a pair of ex-C&NW F7 cab units. Later on is Kevin Bacon’s basement layout — sort of a rolling advertisement for the Atlas Model Railroad Company. So let’s overlook the majority of this Tinseltown stinkeroo and relish the best parts — climb aboard and enjoy the ride!
FWRY #101 (CNW 4083A, an EMD F7A built October 1949) rolls towards and over the camera in this opening shot of the movie.
Locomotive engineer Tom Stark (Bacon) and his fireman trudge through the tunnels (Track 8) of Los Angeles Union Station. The display board behind them lists local Metrolink trains arriving and departing. Back-lit something fierce, the men walk between the “Coastal Blue” streamliner and another consist on the opposite track.
Classic lines of an F unit’s curved windows from inside the cab. FWRY #101 pulls out of Los Angeles. On the next track is FWRY #3502 (ex-Pennsylvania Railroad #2389, an EMD GP35 built February 1965).
The conductor explains the onboard amenities to the passengers. Note the branded advertisements for the Coastal Blue train behind him.
Engineer Stark is feeling pretty chipper right now as he puts his cab unit through its paces. Up ahead there’s trouble. Looks like a car on the tracks!
They’re doing 70 as Stark’s fireman calls it in; With a puff of diesel exhaust, FWRY #101 hurtles onward; A view no locomotive engineer wants to see, ever.
Poor little Davey (Miles Heizer) is unable to extricate his psycho-mom from the car and gets off the track just in time. WHAT’S THIS? Just before impact, it’s now FWRY #100 (ex-C&NW #4068A, an EMD F7A built March 1949) leading the consist! (maybe they won’t notice….)
Okay, here’s the sequence you’ve been waiting for. FWRY #101 is once more leading and slams into the side of the Buick with just a hint of pyrotechnic sparks added for good measure.
Pushing the automobile along through the ballast and raising the dust, we get our first, well-lit view of the two F units and the first passenger car. I really like that paint scheme!
The aftermath. Hey, how did the roof and trunk of the Buick get bashed in like that? The train hit it from the SIDE….; Stark/Bacon hands over his pee sample to the Feds.
As Engineer Stark plods off into the sunset, we get our final look at the Coastal Blue streamliner.
Stark poses with some Atlas products as his fireman comes to visit and see his layout.
Meanwhile, Davey heads down to Union Station and boards the Coastal Blue’s diner (nice interior view of the car).
Posing as a relative, the kid accosts the train’s conductor and finds out where Bacon/Stark lives. Frikken little stalker. That’s another FWRY Geep 35 behind Davey.
Meanwhile, Bacon/Stark goes berserk, smashing up part of his layout and sticking out his enormous tongue. What a Shatneresque piece of over-acting!
I left out a lot of plot, but here’s Stark getting grilled by the Feds. Stark followed “company policy” and put the train in full service instead of emergency to lessen the risk of derailment on the curve. At this point, I was so uninterested in the movie, I don’t remember if he got his engineer license back or not.
Leaving out a great deal of tantrums and tear-jerking hospital visits, Davey finally bonds with Stark over his Atlas-equipped basement layout. End of the railroad action…and thus my review.
This movie reminded me of Train Master from 2008, another wretched film featuring overly-precocious child actors, train operations and a model railroad.
If not for the Fillmore and Western, Rails and Ties would have been a complete waste of time. Let’s hear it for the Home of the Movie Trains!
Here’s what IMDb has to say about Rails and Ties:
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Kevin BACON is in it, what did you expect? But I do want me some bacon now, mmmmmm…
Mmmm…bacon. One of nature’s most perfect foods 🥓🥓🥓