Hurricane Express 1932

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Mascot Pictures

A 25-year-old John Wayne (as Larry Baker) stars in this 12-part serial that was whittled down to a more palatable 80 minutes for the DVD.

In a nutshell, “The Wrecker” is out to cause accidents on the L & R Railroad and Larry is determined to catch him — especially since his father/engineer gets killed in one of the accidents!

There’s quite a lot of railroad stuff to see and it’s a good snapshot of operations around Los Angeles on the Southern Pacific Railroad in the early 1930’s.

As you might expect with an old B&W from the beginning of the “talkie” era, the print and pictures are pretty blurred. Thus, apologies for my fuzzy screen captures!

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Conductor waves a highball from the rear observation car of an SP train (note wooden sides, big rear picture window and truss rods visible).

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Picnic 1955

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Columbia Pictures

Chock full of train scenes from start to finish, the movie Picnic was filmed trackside on numerous locations in Kansas. Starring William Holden (as drifter Hal Carter) and Kim Novak (as the town beauty, Madge Owens), this movie shows a slice of 1950’s railroading long-since vanished.

Towering grain elevators load wheat the old fashioned way….into 40 foot boxcars! Yep, no covered grain hoppers in sight and we get a glimpse of the first generation diesels that hauled it all to market.

Let’s take a gander at how railroads so nicely fit in the background of this not-so-obscure train movie (which won two Oscars – Art Direction, Film Editing).

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Trains and Grain! That pretty much sums up this view of Missouri Pacific #35053 with the “buzzsaw” herald and “Route of the Eagles” slogan as a bank of grain silos rise in the background.

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So You Want A Model Railroad 1955

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Warner Brothers Pictures

Coming in at 8 minutes and 32 seconds, “So You Want A Model Railroad” is a comedy short all about the “dangers” of model train addiction. This film points out that during the postwar boom, many model railroads ostensibly purchased as a Christmas present for little Junior, were soon taken over by their fathers.

George O’Hanlon stars as the Lionel-crazed addict Joe McDoakes, whose obsession gradually takes over house and home in his insatiable quest to expand his railroad empire. In desperation, his long-suffering wife Alice (played by Jane Frazee) goes on a radio show seeking advice from the host, “Mister Agony” (played by Arthur Q. Bryan).

It is a model train-laced extravaganza of Lionel in its prime (see how many accessories and models you can identify). All aboard the O scale express!

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With a self-satisfied smirk, Joe looks around at the counter of a well-stocked hobby store. Notice the Lionel poster in the background has been cropped to read, “ONEL TRAINS” (with Magne-Traction). Later on in his career, O’Hanlon became the familiar voice of George Jetson!

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Iron Will 1994

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Walt Disney Pictures

No less than three of my readers recommended this movie to me. Indeed, it is a train-laced adventure throughout and much deserving of the title, “Obscure Train Movie” as I had never heard of it before! Set in the winter of 1917, Iron Will is loosely-based on a Winter Carnival dog sled race from Winnipeg to St. Paul once sponsored by James J. Hill and the Great Northern Railway.

Two of the film’s stars are the hero Mackenzie Austin [seen above with his dogsled racing the train] as Will Stoneman (“Iron” Will…get it?) and Duluth & Northern Minnesota 2-8-2 #14.

Mostly filmed during a snowy and frozen-solid Minnesota winter (January through March 1993, Brrr….) around Duluth, this flick really makes you feel the COLD as you watch it. Prop up your feet with a mug of cocoa and enjoy!

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D&NM #14 marches along on a clear and cold day somewhere in the “Arrowhead” region of Minnesota. The little 1913 Baldwin 2-8-2 posed as several different locomotives by changing the front number plate (#807 is one number I was able to make out).

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Streamline Express 1935

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Mascot Pictures

Streamlined trains were all the rage in the mid-1930’s as railroads tried to shake their stodgy image of heavyweight Pullman train travel. Streamline Express has a plot very similar to my previously-reviewed movie, “Twentieth Century” (high-strung diva quits the New York stage / stage manager pursues to bring her back).

Starring Victor Jory as Jimmy Hart and Evelyn Venable as Patricia Wallace, the movie relies mainly on oversize sets depicting spacious accommodations on-board. I really dig the chrome and glass Art Deco set dressing on-board the train. Mascot put quite a little effort into this film — no creaking floorboards, for example.

Movie buffs will remember Victor Jory as the cashiered overseer of Tara plantation in Gone With The Wind.

Let’s check out the Streamline Express as it wobbles down the track!

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The highlight of the picture is the funky model the studio rigged up on some kind of monorail track. It looks like a cross between the original Pioneer Zephyr and a tuna.

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Posse 1975

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Paramount Pictures

Kirk Douglas (Howard Nightingale) and Bruce Dern (Jack Strawhorn) star in this off-beat Western from the cynical seventies. Outshining both of them is Virginia & Truckee 4-4-0 #11 (The Reno), built by Baldwin in 1872, and leading its little train of one boxcar and coach.

The movie itself contains a lot of political twaddle (Douglas is a sheriff running for governor), but the railroad scenes are outstanding with horse chases, gunplay, explosions, fireballs and leaping on and off a train moving in REVERSE!

Filmed in the Old Tucson western town (pre-1995 fire) and on Southern Pacific’s Hayden branch in Arizona, Posse will satisfy all your train action needs. Saddle up!

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A posse is in pursuit of the Reno as it churns along in the hands of that evil villain, Strawhorn. Are those flames shooting out of the boxcar? Explosions coming up, oh boy!!

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Sinister Journey 1948

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United Artists

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!

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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.

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