Classic Era Trains in Classic Films!

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Classic Era Trains in Classic Films!
Posted by The Milwaukee Road Warrior on Sunday, September 6, 2020 3:27 PM

Two of my great loves combined!  Pre 1970s trains in pre 1970s film.  I'm sure I have left off something obvious but here are some of my favorite classic films which feature trains.  Curious what others will add to this list.

The General (1926) - classic film with Buster Keaton set during the Civil War.

The Narrow Margin (1952) - classic film noir with great exterior and interior shots of a Santa Fe run from Chicago to Los Angeles.

White Heat (1950) - great Jimmy Cagney film with a brief sequence where a steam train (almost certainly a SP or ATSF) is robbed.

North by Northwest (1955) - Hitchcock classic with extended sequences on an ATSF (I believe), and a great scene inside a classic era station's Great Hall.

The Lady Vanishes (1938) - another great Hitchcock film set almost exclusively on a train.  Margaret Lockwood is at her most gorgeous.  Plus, you get Caldicott and Charters for laughs!

Night Train to Munich (1940) - wonderful Carol Reed WW2 spy film set on a train - again with Caldicott and Charters - and Lockwood.  I say ole chap!  Isn't that Dickey Randle?!?

High Noon (1950) - Not a lot of train in this film, but it plays a suspenseful part as we look down the empty tracks and wait for the whistle...

3:10 to Yuma (1957) - great character study with Glenn Ford and Van Heflin.  Like High Noon, not a lot of train in this one, but its arrival is eagerly anticipated.

Call Northside 777 (1948) - The Chicago EL features a little bit in this one.  Marvelous atmosphere created by the production design team.

Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) - Great Otto Preminger film with one of my favorite scenes: Dana Andrew trying to sneak Kenneth Payne's body into the back of his car in a dark alley in the middle of the night as the EL train races by overhead.

Sorry, Wrong Number (1948) - great Burt Lancaster film where repeated camera shots thru an open window show EL trains crossing a large bridge at night: a key plot device.

This Gun for Hire (1941) - Very cool scenes shot at a rail yard where Alan Ladd is hiding with Veronica Lake (lucky bum!).

Of course there are others that came to mind:

Lancaster in The Train, Butch Cassidy, Once Upon a Time in the West, Red River, Pickup on South Street, the classic opening scene of The Asphalt Jungle where Sterling Hayden is sneaking around and thru an empty train yard, Joseph Cotton arriving in Vienna by train in The Third Man, and of course, Bogart getting a "dear John" letter from Ingrid Bergman at the train station in Casablanca.  

Andy

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Milwaukee native modeling the Milwaukee Road in 1950's Milwaukee.

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Sunday, September 6, 2020 7:43 PM

Not much I can add man, you've pretty much hit them all.

The only one I'd add is "Last Train From Gun Hill," not really a train movie, but the story starts with a trains arrival, and ends with a trains departure.  A real "Greek tragedy" Western between the two events.

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Posted by The Milwaukee Road Warrior on Sunday, September 6, 2020 7:52 PM

There are a few others: a couple post-1970 films that I love:

The Taking of Pelham 123, and The Warriors.

Then there's The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit (1956) with Gregory Peck, which has some Long Island RR commuter train action in it (not much). 

And Holiday Affair (1949?) with Robert Mitchum (one of my favorites) and Janet Leigh (looking impossibly good), has both model trains and a real train as part of the plot.

I'm sure there are more Westerns with train scenes in them, just not positive about Winchester '73 with Jimmy Stewart, or The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (I seem to remember a brief train scene at the beginning).

Andy

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Milwaukee native modeling the Milwaukee Road in 1950's Milwaukee.

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Posted by M636C on Sunday, September 6, 2020 11:47 PM

While the movie was made during the 1970s, you can't leave out that era's "Murder on the Orient Express" which, apart from a brilliant cast. had the SNCF's preserved Wagon Lits cars and 230G 353 standing in for a Pacific, apparently not available at the time.

Hitchcock's "The Lady Vanishes" made use of some sets and stock footage made for the the 1932 Movie "Rome Express" which has some plot similarities to "Murder on the Orient Express". "Rome Express' had mock ups of the exterior of the train including the locomotive and a 1:12 scale model of the locomotive built by Bassett-Lowke which appears in many action scenes. There was also a (maybe) O gauge model used in more distant scenes.

The whole movie can be viewed on Youtube:

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=movie+rome+express+youtube&docid=608001403149420702&mid=0E5103C1F1AB6E0028EB0E5103C1F1AB6E0028EB&view=detail&FORM=VIRE

You should be able to pick some train scenes (mostly model) that appear in both the 1932 "Rome Express" and 1938 "Lady Vanishes".

Another good movie is "Bad Day at Black Rock", mainly the opening sequence of a Southern Pacific Daylight set of cars with Black Widow F units...

And talking of opening sequences, how about "The Harvey Girls". Brilliant colour footage of the Viginia and Truckee at the start, leading to surely the most expensive production number to that date of the whole cast marching alongside the train as it departs. Those two items take up the first 20 minutes of the movie.

Peter

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Posted by The Milwaukee Road Warrior on Tuesday, September 8, 2020 6:35 AM

The mirror thread at the MRR forum seems have taken off with some good responses for those who are interested Smile

http://cs.trains.com/mrr/f/88/t/284127.aspx

 

Andy

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Milwaukee native modeling the Milwaukee Road in 1950's Milwaukee.

  • Member since
    January 2002
  • 4,072 posts
Posted by M636C on Friday, September 11, 2020 8:42 AM

I thought this video was more attuned to this forum....

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKRCJhLU7rs

This is a 1949 movie made to provide a  backdrop for Arthur Honegger's musical piece "Pacific 231". I've seen it a few times.

I find the view of the Walschearts valve gear driving the oscillating cams of the Dabeg valve gear most intriguing. I have an HO scale model (Rivarossi) 231E about 40 years old and that feature draws my attention every time I run it.

Peter

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Posted by NP Eddie on Friday, September 11, 2020 9:28 AM

My two are "Danger Lights" and the serial "Hurricane Express". A VERY young John Wayne appears in the latter.

 

Ed Burns

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