Twentieth Century 1934

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Columbia Pictures

The film’s namesake refers to New York Central Railroad’s crack express train, The 20th Century Limited. Unfortunately, most of the train “action” occurs onboard (thus on a set) in a Pullman sleeper and adjacent lounge car.

On the positive side, John Barrymore (as Oscar Jaffe) and Carole Lombard (as Lily Garland, aka Mildred Plotka) not only chew the scenery, they steal every scene they’re in. It’s a madcap, screwball comedy masterpiece. Let’s take a ride on the NYC…

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NYC #5319, shown in this montage, was a 4-6-4 Class J1e Hudson that would have, indeed, pulled the Century. Sadly, NYC did not see fit to preserve any examples of their famous Hudson class steam locomotives (or their Mohawks, or their Niagaras…), scrapping the lot of them.  Bastards.

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Holiday Affair 1949

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R.K.O. Radio Pictures

I first heard about this movie…from a magazine! As a long-time subscriber to Classic Toy Trains magazine, I was delighted when my December 2016 issue featured a film which used a Lionel train set as a pivotal plot device. As its title implies, Holiday Affair is a Christmas-themed love story with the twist of a little boy discovering the joy of an O-gauge model train set.

Starring Robert Mitchum, a 22 year old Janet Leigh and Gordon Gebert as little Timmy, the picture is an obscure train movie from the post-World War 2, golden age of Hollywood. I had to get my own copy on DVD.

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The December 2016 cover of Classic Toy Trains magazine (Edited by my good friend, Carl Swanson) features a well-written article by CTT Senior Editor, Roger Carp about Holiday Affair.

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Snow 1963

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British Transport Films

Whilst nosing through yet another online list of train movies, I came across this short film from Great Britain. Snow (1963) documents British Railways’ struggle coping with the Big Freeze of 1963. Even though I don’t normally review foreign films, some themes are universal. Like dealing with copious amounts of the white stuff. As a bonus, steam engines were still plentiful on BR at the time, with most of the footage in color. Break out the shovels and wedge plows and let’s get to work.

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The milk must go through! Looming through a steam cloud of its own making, Tank Engine 80072 saunters up to the platform to take on a load of moo juice. This 2-6-4 “Standard 4” tank engine (built at Brighton Works) was rescued from the scrap heap and beautifully restored to operation by a dedicated group of enthusiasts.

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Man of the West 1958

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Metro Goldwyn Mayer

Cooper Dooper! Gary Cooper stars as Link Jones in this CinemaScope oater as a reformed outlaw heading to the big city to hire a school marm for his small town. His checkered past nearly catches up with him at Crosscut, Texas where he boards the train to Fort Worth.

Man of the West features just 21 minutes of railroad action at the beginning of the movie, but what a view! Sierra Railroad #3 and its consist are beautifully gussied up inside and out. Let’s climb aboard the train with Coop and see what happens.

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Sierra #3 all decked out as the “Fort Worth & Chihuahua Railroad #3” for this picture, makes a water and wood stop. Bad guys are waiting nearby...

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Night Freight 1955

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Allied Artists Picture

Night Freight is a B&W B movie, train-laced from start to finish. Starring a couple of General Electric 70 ton switchers (#600 & #602), this picture’s exteriors were filmed on the Modesto & Empire Traction Company Railroad in Modesto, California.

Forrest Tucker plays Mike Peters, the M&ER Railroad general manager/troubleshooter. His rival is the local trucking company owner, Haight (Hate, get it?) played with wonderfully slimy menace by Thomas Gomez.  Movie fans may remember Gomez playing the gangster Curly in Key Largo.

To further queer the mix, Mike’s alcoholic brother Don (just back from the war), is dating a little cocktail waitress Wanda (Barbara Britton) — who soon takes up with Tuck in a messy love triangle. Let’s roll and check it out!

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M&ER #602 is stopped by a red fusee on the tracks…placed there by one of the bad guy’s henchmen (can’t do nothing without henchmen).

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Carson City 1952

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Warner Brothers

Carson City is one of the best “building the railroad” westerns I’ve reviewed so far on this blog. And we don’t actually see any trains until 65 minutes into the picture!

What sets this film apart is a good story throughout along with dashing Randolph Scott (playing construction troubleshooter Silent Jeff Kincaid) opposite the movie’s love interest Lucille Norman (Susan Mitchell). Add Raymond Massey (Big Jack Davis) at his villainous, champagne-soaked best to the mix, and you’ve got a winner.

Let’s watch them build and then operate the railroad from the mines at Virginia City to the state capitol at Carson City, Nevada.

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Construction is complete and V&CC railroad #22 whistles off for the first trip along the line.

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Boxcar Bertha 1972

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American International Pictures

I first heard about Boxcar Bertha many years ago as I was paging through my book, “The Movie Railroads” (1981) by Larry Jensen. As I’ve never been much of a Barbara Hershey or David Carradine fan, I hadn’t got around to viewing this film. Unfortunately, I can’t have those eighty eight minutes back. Yuck…what an awful movie.

Aside from a few enjoyable Reader Railroad steam engine scenes, the movie itself is quite violent and none of the characters are particularly likable or even pleasing to look at (North by Northwest, this ain’t).

But obscure train movies MUST be reviewed and I’ll do my best to present “The Possum Trot Line goes Hollywood”!

 

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Reader Railroad 1702 (an ex-US Army 2-8-0) wades through the Arkansas grass in yet another out-of-focus, artsy fartsy scene in Boxcar Bertha.

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