Nevada City 1941

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Republic Pictures

It’s the railroad vs. the stagecoach lines in this B Western starting Roy Rogers, his sidekick George “Gabby” Hayes and the 1873-built jewel, Virginia & Truckee 4-4-0 #18 “Dayton”.

At the time, Dayton was owned by Paramount Pictures who loaned it out to various studios. Lots of good train action from start to finish with V&T #18 (renumbered as #7 for filming) smoking it up in most runbys. No massive explosions, although they tempt us with a couple scenes featuring barrels and barrels of blasting powder.

C’mon, let’s watch Roy Rogers and Dayton take on the bad guys in this action-packed thriller from the glory days of Hollywood!

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Dayton is really laying on the smoke as it races along with the crooks at the throttle. Virginia & Truckee #18 is still with us…as a static display seen here in June 2018 at the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City, Nevada. I just LOVE that blue boiler!

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The Christmas Train 2017

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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.

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Face of a Fugitive 1959

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Columbia Pictures

Fred MacMurray (as the crook Jim Larsen/alias Ray Kincaid) and Sierra Railroad #3 star in this fugitive-from-justice oater. Handcuffed to a lawman and on his way to prison via train, Larsen is sprung from captivity by his brother’s intervention.

Complications ensue when Larsen must re-board the same train, assume a new identity (Kincaid), and evade the authorities armed with a not-very-clear wanted poster. Will he give them the slip?

MacMurray also gave a memorable performance in a classic film noir from 1944, “Double Indemnity”.  Hmmm…. D.I. had an SP train scene in it…might have to review THAT one for my blog next year!


As the sheriff waits trackside, Sierra #3 and train pulls into the station at “Enterprize Mines, Wyoming” with the 4-6-0 putting out a tremendous plume of black smoke.

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The Road to Bali 1952

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Paramount Pictures

Bing Crosby and Bob Hope made a whole series of “Road” movies (seven, to be exact) and Road to Bali (#6) was the only one of the bunch in Technicolor. Although the train quotient is pretty low, the movie itself is fairly entertaining with cameos by some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.


The Santa Fe in Australia? Yep, this establishing shot shows the boys on a train journey out of Melbourne in the general direction of Bali.

Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway #144 is a two-unit set of EMD 1944-built FT locomotives….WITH dynamic brakes! (those rectangular boxes on the roof) hauling a string of heavyweight passenger cars.  Notice the famous ATSF logo has been carefully “touched up” and removed from the nose of the unit.

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Festival Express 2003

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Apollo Films

Way back in the summer of 1970, a bunch of filthy, dirty hippies…er, I mean MUSICIANS, traveled across Canada by train in what became known as the Festival Express. 33 years later, film of that journey surfaced and was transferred to DVD by the good folks at Shout Factory.

To get the various bands from Toronto to Winnipeg and Calgary, their promoter chartered a complete trainset from Canadian National Railways. This movie is the story of that train ride with copious amounts of concert footage thrown in for good measure.

Of course, I’m going to concentrate on the train bits as I never was a big fan of those particular artists (Grateful Dead, Sha Na Na, or that shrieking druggie, Janice Joplin, for example). Let’s Go C.N.! and find out what those kids did to that classic passenger equipment (shudder).


The tour’s moniker is splashed across a CN baggage car in Day-Glo Orange for all to see as the train rumbles west.

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Rails and Ties 2007

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Warner Brothers

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.

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Mrs O’Malley and Mr Malone 1950

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Metro-Goldwyn Mayer

It was intended to be the first movie of a comedic series starring James Whitmore (John J. Malone) and Marjorie Main (Hattie O’Malley). MGM even whomped up a nice little musical ditty played in the opening credits. Alas, it was not to be.

Malone is a perpetually-broke, skirt-chasing lawyer who inadvertently teams up with radio contest-winning Montanan, Hattie, who has read far too many murder and detective magazines for her own good.

Despite taking place entirely on board a Chicago to New York train, railroad images are far and few between. It’s a comedy/double murder mystery for these two sleuths (one professional, one amateur). Let’s give it a whirl and see what happens!


Actress Ann Dvorak (Connie Kepplar) walks past Union Pacific Railroad chair car # 1339. It’s a steel heavyweight car for sure (check those rivets), but I wasn’t able to find it in any online UP roster.  Maybe it’s just a set…. ;p

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