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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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.

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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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Posted by M636C on Saturday, November 7, 2020 5:47 AM

While perhaps a bit late for a Classic Train, last night I watched (part of, it was run late) a movie called "The Driver" aqbout a robbery getaway driver. The movie was set in Los Angeles and the police follow the stolen money on to a train at Los Angeles Union Terminal.  The criminal boarded a train as it departed followed with increasing difficulty by the pursuing detectives.

The train was an Amtrak train, hauled by what appeared to be two very freshly painted SDP40F locomotives in Phase II paint. The coaches were in Phase I colours with arrow logos on the window band at each end. The last few coaches were ex Southern Pacific cars with flat stainless sheeting  (presumably the last "spares" to be used in traffic). The interiors appeared to be filmed in real coaches, with many of the features of the first Amtrak cars, including large stylised national network maps.

Peter 

 

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Posted by rcdrye on Saturday, November 7, 2020 8:46 AM

Amtrak purchased a handful of SP prewar flat-sided cars, including two articulated sets, in 1974. Amtrak numbered them in the 7500 series, with the aticulateds numbered 7521/7522 and 7523/7524. A few of the cars were large window (36" x 54") 48 seat coaches built for the Shasta Daylight in 1949, the nearest thing to a dome on the Coast Starlight in the 1970s. One car (7515) built for the T&NO Sunbeam, still had its fluted siding. They were purchased at near scrap value.  Most of them saw some service in SP paint, with their Amtrak numbers in a blue rectangle where the SP logo and number formerly were.  The red letterboards lasted a little longer but were eventually buffed out.  Never converted to HEP, they were retired only a few years after Amtrak bought them.  The "Trains" article on the San Joaquins in the December 2020 issue shows a train with an articulated pair trailing, still in SP paint. The railfan slang name for the cars in northern California at least was "tomato cans".

http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/rsList.aspx?id=AMTK&rid=7500

 

I'm alway amazed at the classic movies where interior shots appear to have been taken in cars about 14 feet wide.  North by Norhtwest at least has plausible shots of  20th Century Limited accomodations.  

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Posted by The Milwaukee Road Warrior on Thursday, November 26, 2020 8:59 AM

I have added Human Desire (1954) to my must-see list.  Should also add Picnic (1955), which opens with freight train action, and Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), which has a few short scenes of the Cohan family riding in turn-of-the-century trains and waiting in a classic-era station.

An interesting tidbit one of the other posters at MR forum included regarding the opening of "Bad Day at Black Rock":

This is from IMDB:

"The plan was to shoot the train hurtling toward the audience, almost like a 3-D movie, but it would have been deadly to attempt a helicopter maneuver into the path of a speeding locomotive. Stunt flier Paul Mantz offered the perfect solution: have the train running backwards, fly the copter over the retreating engine, then project the footage in reverse."

"Southern Pacific Railroad agreed to run the train to Lone Pine, CA, for $5,500 and the cost of 265 round-trip passenger tickets. According to John Sturges, the train had to be run backwards--light cars first, engine in the rear--and slowly, due to concerns about some old bridges, taking about 18 hours to get there from the city."

 

Andy

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

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Posted by rcdrye on Thursday, November 26, 2020 10:23 AM

Apparently at least two trains were used.  The aerial photos are of F3A 6151 (X6151 in the numberboards), a passenger-service F7B, a pair of articulated coaches and parlor-observation 2951. The engines used in the station sequences were a freight F7 (6384) and an F7B (8127) with a boiler - an engine that survived into Amtrak service but was not one of 5 purchased by Amtrak in 1972. That train has a lunch counter diner and a lounge car sandwiching an articulated coach pair.

https://cinetrains.wordpress.com/2012/01/13/the-black-widow-of-black-rock-southern-pacific-in-bad-day-at-black-rock/

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