Train 406 – 1958

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The National Film Board of Canada

Train 406 is the story of a Toronto to Halifax freight train on Canadian National Railways in the late 1950’s. We get a good glimpse of CNR operations and the people responsible for making it happen.

What sets this movie apart is the eclectic collection of first generation diesel motive power including Canadian Locomotive Company (FM) C-liners, Montreal Locomotive Works (Alco) S-4 switchers and General Motors Diesel (GMD Canada) F units and GP9 road switchers. Add to that a healthy dose of CN steam power and CN’s massive yard at Turcot (outside Montreal) and you’ve got 29 minutes of pure railroad entertainment — the way it used to be. Let’s go along for the ride.

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Brrr…that looks cold! CN #4536, a GMD GP9 with extra flags flying and running long nose forward, prepares to cut off Train 406 at Turcot Yard.

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Scalplock 1966

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ABC Television / Screen Gems

Scalplock was the pilot movie for the television series, “Iron Horse” which begat 47 episodes over two seasons on ABC from 1966 to 1968. The film starred Dale Robertson (as Benjamin Calhoun) who wins the half-built Buffalo Pass, Scalplock and Defiance Railroad (BPS&D) in a poker game (four queens beats a full house).

Flush with cash and railroad stock from the high-stakes game of chance, Calhoun decides, on a lark, to finish building the railroad west. Needless to say, the guy who LOST the railroad and his confederates are NOT pleased with this turn of events. The movie (and the series) is a chronicle of their efforts to stop Calhoun, or get the railroad back for themselves. Add to that the usual labor troubles, fistfights and loose women to contend with and Calhoun soon discovers he’s got his hands full. Let’s roll along and join the fun.

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Director James Goldstone seemed to favor lots of quick, jerky, cuts in this movie making it difficult to get a good look at the locomotive. Nonetheless, here is Sierra Railroad #3 (smokestack cropped out-of-shot) with both cylinder cocks wide open and blasting steam as though it’s going to burst.

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Train Master 2008

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Moving Pictures / Phil Bransom Productions

Filmed entirely in the State of Oregon, Train Master gives us a look at three different railroad operations. First is the Portland & Western Railroad; Second is the Columbia Gorge Model Railroad Club; Third is the Pacific Northwest Live Steamers.

The graphics on the DVD and packaging makes me think the artist was a closet Great Northern Railway fan. It shows a high-nose EMD Geep in GN Ry’s orange/green/gold stripe scheme. Independently produced, this movie is a tribute to a young boy who loved trains.

Internet Movie Database gives this movie only 5.2 stars out of ten and it’s easy to see why. Despite being promoted as a children’s movie, the film’s dirge-like soundtrack is depressing and the plot is hard to follow with the live railroad operations bordering on unbelieveable.

Despite all that, there are splendid train bits to examine and that’s what we’re here for. Let’s head to the Beaver State and see what’s rolling…

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Beautiful 3/4 view of Willamette Western Railroad (WWR) #1200. This unit is a Portland & Western Railroad SW9 switcher, originally built for the Pittsburg & Shawmut in October 1953 as P&S # 232/1866 — where it received its red/white/blue paint scheme for the American Bicentennial.

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The 49th Parallel 1941

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Ortus Films / General Film Distributors Ltd.

This star-studded British propaganda movie filmed at the start of World War 2, features steam trains as well as Canada’s magnificent scenery. The picture was a gentle nudge to Americans (not yet in the war) that THIS is who they would eventually fight (Germans/Nazis on the loose in Canada. This could happen to you!).

I just LOVE the above French poster with the two-fisted Leslie Howard, Laurence Olivier and Raymond Massey all ready to duke it out with The Hun. Unfortunately, the image of Olivier toting the bare-shouldered, blonde bombshell is pure fiction as there’s no such scene in the movie. Pity.

Both Canadian Pacific and Canadian National Railways make screen cameos including the climactic scene at Niagara Falls. Let’s take a peek at some obscure train action in this entertaining flick!

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CNR subsidiary, Grand Trunk Western #5607 blasts under a footbridge with its one baggage car. Destiny awaits the adversaries on board as the short train crosses into the United States.

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Dynamite Denny 1932

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Mayfair Pictures Corporation

Jay Wilsey stars as locomotive engineer “Dynamite” Denny in this early talkie found in the dregs of the Amazon discount bin. Despite his moniker, not much dynamite in this picture (nothing got blown up), but we do have a few decent scenes filmed along the Santa Fe Railway in Southern California.

There’s trouble on the P.X. and V.P. Railway (Post Exchange & Vice President Railway? I have no idea…).  Anyway.  Union agitators are stirring up the operating crafts and talking strike. Denny wants to keep on working. Someone’s bound to get hurt! Let’s see what turns up in this low-budget train movie.

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After hooping up the orders, Denny’s gal pal Mary Dayton (played by Blanche Mehaffey), gives him a big highball.

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Duel in the Sun 1946

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The Selznick Studio

The star-studded movie, Duel in the Sun, was David O. Selznick’s attempt to re-capture his Gone With The Wind success. Of more interest to rail buffs, Duel featured three separate train scenes using two different steam engines and their accompanying rolling stock.

Train filming locations were near Tucson, Arizona and Cooperstown, California on the Sierra Railroad. Paramount’s Virginia & Truckee #22 (The Inyo) was trucked to Arizona for filming and redecorated as the Texas and South Western Railroad #3. Also getting the T&SW RR treatment was Sierra’s 2-8-0, #18.

Let’s just wade through 138 minutes of this Texas-sized oater and check out the train bits. Yee-ha!

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Gregory Peck (as Lewt McCanles) poses with Sierra Railroad #18 before the derailment scene. This picture courtesy of Larry Jensen’s excellent book, The Movie Railroads (1981) page 27.

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Girl Shy 1924

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A Pathe Picture

Whilst digging through my Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection (see my previous review of Now or Never 1921), I found another train-related silent in 1924’s Girl Shy. Not only is a steam train journey involved, but a key piece of Lloyd’s final chase scene involves a Pacific Electric streetcar madly wheeling through the streets of Hollywood, California.

Many thanks to John Bengtson and his superb Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations blog.

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Harold Lloyd climbs up PE streetcar #234 to put the trolley pole back on the wire. Hilarity ensues.

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