The Hallmark Channel
Season’s Greetings! What could be more appropriate for December 2018 than a review of the recent movie, The Christmas Train? Most of the train scenes (exteriors, anyway) were filmed in British Columbia (WCRA museum Squamish and the old CN Station in Vancouver). The plot features an Amtrak journey coast to coast from Washington D.C., to Los Angeles, CA, via Toledo, OH, Chicago, IL and La Junta, CO.
Although not specifically named, Amtrak does run this route using two trains westbound, #29 The Capitol Limited and #3 The Southwest Chief. While most of the onboard scenes appear to be a set (boy, if only you COULD ride such a poshly-furnished train on Amtrak…), the filmmakers utilized ex-BCOL RDCs, Via Rail “Canadian” ex-Canadian Pacific cars, “stock train footage” and plain old train models for exteriors.
This HO scale Athearn model of Amtrak #120 (a GE P42DC) located behind the bartender, is a key plot device in the film.
Our story begins with a snowy view of Union Station in Washington, D.C.
“Four Days to Christmas – Washington, D.C.” I don’t think there’s any scenery that looks like this near our Nation’s Capitol, but those two Amtrak P42s look good tugging their consist through the evergreens.
Tom walking through an interior sleeper corridor and then through what appears to be a “section”. Before all-room trains, sections used to be an economical way to travel – coach in daytime and upper and lower berths made up at night. I believe you can still purchase sections on certain Via Rail long distance trains.
At the bar, Tom chats it up with famous Hollywood producer Max Powers (played by Danny Glover). A snowy view outside the train from the dutch door. Brrr…baby it’s cold outside!
Two obviously computer-generated train exteriors. Both trains are hauling a string of what appear to be Budd Rail Diesel Cars (RDC’s) (note the rooftop bulges). The viaduct looks like something you’d see in Europe or Great Britain.
Meanwhile, back on board, Tom has hooked up with an old girlfriend, Ellie (played by Kimberly Williams-Paisley — yes, Brad Paisley’s wife). It turns out Ellie is bigshot Max’s assistant. Good view of the diner and lounge car sets.
This scene gave me a chuckle. The conductor comes into Ellie’s room and opens the window, “for some fresh air”. Try that on any sleeper in North America.
Well, here we are in Chicago (two days until Christmas) in the lobby of Union Station. Pacific Central Station in Vancouver, BC is a worthy double for Chicago with its beautifully-restored and maintained interior.
Santa Claus makes his way down the aisle of the lounge car; The Christmas Train glides over the river at twilight.
It’s Christmas Eve and we’re in La Junta, Colorado! The WCRA Museum in Squamish, BC has built a replica of the original Pacific Great Eastern Railway depot and that’s where this scene was filmed. The museum owns two RDC’s from the British Columbia Railway and along with the depot were all visible during my 2015 visit to WCRA in Squamish.
Outside La Junta (and presumably climbing Raton Pass), the train is stopped by a snow slide! The engineer controls are on the OTHER side of the cab, but that’s not important right now. Judging from the classic curved window, this scene was filmed in an EMD F unit (WCRA has a former Canadian Pacific FP7A #4069).
Ellie and the kinder look wistfully out on the still-falling snow. This is definitely a model scene and a little Hollywood magic.
It’s Christmas Day! The train is still snowbound, but Ellie and Tom have heroically headed out in search of help. That close up on the right might actually be a Squamish RDC, else it is a very well-detailed model).
Help arrives in the form of a one horse open sleigh with Tom and Ellie waving at the snowbound train travelers. Hmmm… D’ya think those two horsies will be able to pull the train loose? (and plow through all those tons of snow)?
By God, they did! (I didn’t see the enormous snow blower in the wagon.) Now chasing the setting sun into California on their last lap to Los Angeles. Nice sunset view of Amtrak’s Coast Starlight along the Pacific Ocean. This a train on its way north to Seattle, but we’ll overlook that for the sake of continuity…
What’s this? What’s this? Much to Ellie’s astonishment, their entire journey was apparently a script dreamed up by Max! Is this too much of a coincidence or what? Oh, heck, let’s party. Champagne, anyone?
So that’s more or less how the movie rolls. Ahhh…suspend disbelief all you fellow train goobers, sit back with a toddy & s’mores, and just ENJOY this Holiday Movie! Oh, and we’ll leave you with just one glam shot of the lovely Mrs. Williams-Paisley (rahr-RAHR!).
Here’s what IMDb has to say about The Christmas Train:
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