A surprisingly well-done movie about three Vietnam vets taking a journey by train. This poignant drama-comedy is laced with Amtrak Northeast Corridor scenes and equipment but was actually mostly filmed in and around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Taking place in December 2003, Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston) and Reverend Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) join Larry ‘Doc’ Shepherd (Steve Carell) as he travels homeward to bury his son — a young Marine casualty of the Iraq War.
I was attracted to this film after viewing a preview which flashed many clips of modern-day NRPC trains. Let’s take a closer look at what the filmmaker’s captured.
New York’s Pennsylvania Station is the midway point on the trio’s journey north. During daylight hours, the veterans ride a standard Amfleet coach (with rear-screen projection).
The first railroad scenes occur a little over an hour into the movie. A quartet of US Marines in dress blues salute the remains of their comrade as it is placed into the baggage car for the trip north.
Our three protagonists ride the cushions as the train speeds along. From left to right: Rev. Mueller (Fishburne), Sal (Cranston) & Doc (Carell).
Traveling too fast it identify the unit number, an Amtrak GE P42 locomotive leads an Amfleet consist down a double-tracked right of way.
Sal goes up to the baggage car to talk with Lance Corporal Washington (J. Quinton Johnson) who is escorting the coffin, then brings him back to the coach with the others.
Another P42 leads a train of Amcans through what appears to be along the Hudson River in upstate New York? Nice moody picture in the growing twilight. Notice the train does not have a baggage car!
It’s Miller Time! Sal buys the boys a round as the train rolls through the night.
Moving to the baggage car, the guys start talking about the old days. Amtrak #664, an ACS-64 (Amtrak Cities Sprinter) electric locomotive heads into New York’s Penn Station, past some NJ Transit equipment on the next track.
So the train’s consist traded it’s diesel for an electric but STILL doesn’t have a baggage car. On top of that, the Sprinter locomotive didn’t exist in December 2003. I know, I know. Only a real train goober like me would notice. It’s my hobby.
With some time to kill before the next train, the trio leave Penn Station and head towards the Empire State Building lit up for the Christmas Holidays (I’m guessing this is the W.34th Street entrance looking east).
Back in Penn Station, Doc and Rev. Mueller look over the Departure board for their train. I include the second image purely for the infamous Amtrak Acela “breast” emblem visible over Doc’s right shoulder — the closest you’ll come to cheesecake in this movie.
Awaiting their next train, the guys sprawl out in the waiting room. Finally they’re onboard and their P42 locomotive is about to drop the green signal to red as it passes.
This picture cracks me up. As Rev. Mueller and Doc ride northward towards Boston, a very European-looking train passes by outside the window.
At Boston, the trio walk along next to what looks like the Penn Station — in Pittsburgh! There’s no mistaking those arches.
A US Marine honor guard escorts the coffin onto a baggage car for the ride from Boston to Dover, NH. As the train later pulls into Dover station (again, probably Pittsburgh’s train shed), it has once more lost its baggage car.
In the “Making Of” featurette, we get this view of a camera crew filming a Norfolk Southern freight train in Pittsburgh. Just for my edification, I looked up the motive power — that’s NS #7329, an EMD SD90MAC (former CEFX unit #104) and NS #6950 an EMD SD60E.
I recommend this movie and not just for the train scenes. The filmmakers presented a difficult subject without descending heavily into politics, emphasizing instead the humanity of all characters involved. A well-done production. Check it out!
Here’s what IMDb has to say about Last Flag Flying:
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