Trains.com

Classic Era Trains in Classic Era Films!

5965 views
60 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    November 2019
  • 283 posts
Classic Era Trains in Classic Era Films!
Posted by The Milwaukee Road Warrior on Sunday, September 6, 2020 3:36 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.  One famous scene after another.  Keatons character has "two great loves": his locomotive, and a girl.  In that order lol.

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 TrainButch CassidyOnce Upon a Time in the WestRed RiverPickup 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.  That would be enough to make me jump in front of the train...  

Andy

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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

  • Member since
    December 2004
  • From: Bedford, MA, USA
  • 19,784 posts
Posted by MisterBeasley on Sunday, September 6, 2020 4:31 PM

Emporer of the North Pole was made in 1973, but is set back in the depression on the 1930s.  The train is a short local steamer with Ernest Borgnine as the conductor and Lee Marvin as the hobo trying to ride it.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

Moderator
  • Member since
    June 2003
  • From: Northeast OH
  • 15,815 posts
Posted by tstage on Sunday, September 6, 2020 4:40 PM

The Milwaukee Road Warrior
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.

Andy,

Actually, that would the NYC 20th Limited passenger cars with "window scenes" along the east side of the Hudson, between Harmon and Albany, NY.  The "Great Hall" would be the famous NYC Grand Cental Station in downtown Manhattan.

Obviously the NYC didn't go as far as South Dakota so another appropriate locomotive would have needed to be used for the west of St. Louis shots.

Tom

https://tstage9.wixsite.com/nyc-modeling

Time...It marches on...without ever turning around to see if anyone is even keeping in step.

  • Member since
    November 2019
  • 283 posts
Posted by The Milwaukee Road Warrior on Sunday, September 6, 2020 6:22 PM

D'oh, yes you are right.  It has been too long since I've watched NxNW or I would have remembered that!

I also forgot to mention two post-1970 films that have a special place in my heart:

The Taking of Pelham 123

and

The Warriors.

Andy

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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

  • Member since
    May 2002
  • From: Massachusetts
  • 2,790 posts
Posted by Paul3 on Sunday, September 6, 2020 6:55 PM

The Out of Towners (1970) - An Ohio sales executive accepts a higher position within the company and travels to New York City with his wife for his job interview but things go wrong from the start. Starring Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis.

It Happened to Jane (1959) - Jane Osgood runs a lobster business, which supports her two young children. Railroad staff inattention ruins her shipment, so with her lawyer George, Jane sues Harry Foster Malone, director of the line and the "meanest man in the world". Starring Doris Day, Jack Lemmon, and Ernie Kovacs.

  • Member since
    March 2002
  • From: Milwaukee WI (Fox Point)
  • 10,847 posts
Posted by dknelson on Sunday, September 6, 2020 7:07 PM

The silent films of Helen Holmes often featured dangerous stunts involving trains of that era - some priceless views.  The Hazards of Helen.  I believe she did her own stunts.   The Perils of Pauline and some of the Keystone Kops films also have great train sequences.  Trains feature in more than one Buster Keaton silent as well.

Dave Nelson

 

  • Member since
    November 2019
  • 283 posts
Posted by The Milwaukee Road Warrior on Sunday, September 6, 2020 7:08 PM

Will add those to the list.  Have not seen either, but always enjoy Jack Lemmon.

The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit (1956) with Gregory Peck has some Long Island RR commuter train action. 

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.

Andy

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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

  • Member since
    January 2017
  • From: Southern Florida Gulf Coast
  • 12,202 posts
Posted by SeeYou190 on Sunday, September 6, 2020 8:27 PM

Stand My Be (1986),but set in the 1950s.

The TRAIN! scene is one of the iconic moments in the movie.

There is some foul language in the clip, so I did not post the video.

The engineer is sounding the whistle, but he is running that locomotive on full bore and not touching the brakes.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

  • Member since
    February 2018
  • From: Flyover Country
  • 2,963 posts
Posted by York1 on Sunday, September 6, 2020 8:45 PM

tstage
Actually, that would the NYC 20th Limited passenger cars with "window scenes" along the east side of the Hudson, between Harmon and Albany, NY.  The "Great Hall" would be the famous NYC Grand Cental Station in downtown Manhattan. Obviously the NYC didn't go as far as South Dakota so another appropriate locomotive would have needed to be used for the west of St. Louis shots.

 

If I remember, didn't they fly on a Northwest plane from Chicago to Rapid City?

York1 John       

  • Member since
    November 2005
  • From: St. Paul
  • 765 posts
Posted by garya on Sunday, September 6, 2020 8:47 PM

Human Desire with Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame.

Gary

  • Member since
    February 2018
  • From: Flyover Country
  • 2,963 posts
Posted by York1 on Sunday, September 6, 2020 8:52 PM

How about this great train opening of "Bad Day at Black Rock"?  This is a Spanish version but the train is great.

 

York1 John       

  • Member since
    November 2019
  • 283 posts
Posted by The Milwaukee Road Warrior on Sunday, September 6, 2020 9:08 PM

York1

 

If I remember, didn't they fly on a Northwest plane from Chicago to Rapid City?

 

Yes you are correct!

Andy

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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

  • Member since
    November 2019
  • 283 posts
Posted by The Milwaukee Road Warrior on Sunday, September 6, 2020 9:09 PM

Bad Day at Black Rock.  Oh my gosh.  So embarrassed I forgot this great film!  Beautiful footage.

Andy

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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

  • Member since
    November 2019
  • 283 posts
Posted by The Milwaukee Road Warrior on Monday, September 7, 2020 7:07 AM

Here's a fun one: The Railrodder.  One of Keaton's last films from the mid-60s shows him cruising around Canada on CN trackage thru the country, city, yards etc on a MoW hand cart of sorts, avoiding F units and switchers in a sequence of typical sight gags.  Stumbled on this one this morning (along with "Portable House" from 1920 which has a famous scene of a steam train demolishing his home).

The guy really did seem to have a thing for trains.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYmcN12M97o

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ni2aAhjaMI

...and just for fun:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Moh2l7udjio

 

Andy

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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

  • Member since
    February 2015
  • 560 posts
Posted by NHTX on Monday, September 7, 2020 9:09 AM

      "In The Heat of The Night" starring Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger and GM&O E-7A 103.  Rail scenes also include some MOPAC action on the banks of the Mississippi River and a fight in a deserted shop area.  Closing credits feature aerial shots of a GM&O short passenger consist leaving "Sparta".

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: Northfield Center TWP, OH
  • 2,053 posts
Posted by dti406 on Monday, September 7, 2020 10:53 AM

White Christmas has the stars going from Miami to Vermont first on the Santa Fe to New York and from NewYork to Vermont on the SP showing them arriving at the Dunsmir CA station.

 

Rick Jesionowski 

Rule 1: This is my railroad.

Rule 2: I make the rules.

Rule 3: Illuminating discussion of prototype history, equipment and operating practices is always welcome, but in the event of visitor-perceived anacronisms, detail descrepancies or operating errors, consult RULE 1!

  • Member since
    September 2002
  • From: North Carolina
  • 1,804 posts
Posted by csxns on Monday, September 7, 2020 10:54 AM

This Property is Condemned has lots of L&N and The Flim Flam man L&N also.

Russell

  • Member since
    December 2004
  • From: Bedford, MA, USA
  • 19,784 posts
Posted by MisterBeasley on Monday, September 7, 2020 12:36 PM

For James Bond fans, From Russia with Love has a long sequence on the Orient Express from Istanbul.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

  • Member since
    August 2011
  • From: A Comfy Cave, New Zealand
  • 4,629 posts
Posted by "JaBear" on Monday, September 7, 2020 3:12 PM

Possibly not released in the US, "The Titfield Thunderbolt" a 1953 British comedy.

Cheers, the BearSmile

"One difference between pessimists and optimists is that while pessimists are more often right, optimists have far more fun."

  • Member since
    November 2019
  • 283 posts
Posted by The Milwaukee Road Warrior on Tuesday, September 8, 2020 6:26 AM

White Christmas is great for its train scenes.  Really gives a flavor for railroading in the post WW2 era.

If I remember right, Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) has Cagney's family either waiting in the depot for a train, or riding a train, or both.

I have added Human Desire to my list.  I'm a huge noir fan; can't believe I haven't seen that one yet..

In the "short film" category I recommend the classic Twilight Zone episode "Stopover in a Quiet Town" (1964), where a train ride and station play a key role.

Andy

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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

  • Member since
    January 2002
  • 4,247 posts
Posted by M636C on Tuesday, September 8, 2020 7:35 AM

York1

How about this great train opening of "Bad Day at Black Rock"?  This is a Spanish version but the train is great.

 

 

Having just watched the clip, there are two trains...

The earliest scenes show SP 6151 plus B unit, three articulated car sets and an observation. The train that arrives at "Black Rock" is SP6386 plus B unit, a diner, two articulated car sets and an observation.

To address the "North by Northwest" ending, the train heading into the tunnel  is also headed by SP F units. Presumably this is the couple returning to New York from Rapid City (or wherever the FBI let them go).

Peter

  • Member since
    January 2002
  • 4,247 posts
Posted by M636C on Tuesday, September 8, 2020 7:56 AM

Possibly not released in the US, "The Titfield Thunderbolt" a 1953 British comedy.

Cheers, the BearSmile

 

I should point out that "The Titfield Thunderbolt" was in colour (Technicolour, using three separate negatives photographed through different filters, for those interested). I saw it on TV only last week on aq weekday afternoon -who says there no advantages to isolation...

It is a classic movie. I think it was the first movie I ever saw in a cinema at age 5.

The opening sequence is, like many of these movies, absolutely amazing.

Peter

  • Member since
    February 2018
  • From: Flyover Country
  • 2,963 posts
Posted by York1 on Tuesday, September 8, 2020 9:40 AM

I have never seen "The Titfield Thunderbolt."  In fact, before today, I've never even heard of it.  I will have to check to see if it is scheduled on any American channel.

I read the background info on "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."

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047849/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0

York1 John       

  • Member since
    November 2019
  • 283 posts
Posted by The Milwaukee Road Warrior on Wednesday, September 9, 2020 11:34 AM

York1

"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."

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047849/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0

 
Wow that's pretty crazy!  Movie magic.

Andy

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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

DrW
  • Member since
    January 2008
  • From: Lubbock, TX
  • 191 posts
Posted by DrW on Wednesday, September 9, 2020 7:11 PM

"La bete humaine" ("The Human Beast"), a French classic by Jean Renoir, has a number of train scenes, as the main character (played by Jean Gabin) is a train engineer on a Pacific. It is interesting that in France (at least at that time) the engineer was on the left-hand side (when looking in the direction of travel), as the signals were placed on that side.

The link below shows the longest scene involving trains in the movie. It includes taking up water from a track pan from the view of the engineer and fireman.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XpkR6sV_tg

 

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • From: Potomac Yard
  • 2,320 posts
Posted by NittanyLion on Wednesday, September 9, 2020 8:40 PM

dti406

White Christmas has the stars going from Miami to Vermont first on the Santa Fe to New York and from NewYork to Vermont on the SP showing them arriving at the Dunsmir CA station.

 

Rick Jesionowski 

 

The one train is a mail train too.

Is that really the station?  I've tried to track it down and the older station (not the current Amtrak one) has different canopies and platforms.

  • Member since
    August 2003
  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
  • 12,201 posts
Posted by gmpullman on Thursday, September 10, 2020 4:14 AM

Two depicting Coal Country: (sorry, I didn't see the disclaimer "pre 1970")


 

Matewan: 1987

Great scenes around Thurmond and the New River area.

Mingo County, West Virginia, 1920. Coal miners, struggling to form a union, are up against company operators and the gun thugs of the notorious Baldwin-Felts detective agency. Black and Italian miners, brought in by the company to break the strike, are caught between the two forces.

 

October Sky: 1999

The true story of Homer Hickam, a coal miner's son who was inspired by the first Sputnik launch to take up rocketry against his father's wishes.

Chris Cooper again. Based on "The Rocket Boys". Features O. Winston Link in the engineer's seat of the Southern 4501.

Has anyone mentioned Von Ryan's Express 1965 ? I remember seeing that in the theater!

Regards, Ed

  • Member since
    November 2019
  • 283 posts
Posted by The Milwaukee Road Warrior on Thursday, September 10, 2020 6:08 PM

October Sky is a fantastic movie.  But just about anything with Chris Cooper is...

Still need to see Matewan.

Andy

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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

  • Member since
    November 2019
  • 283 posts
Posted by The Milwaukee Road Warrior on Thursday, September 10, 2020 6:42 PM

As long as we are letting some later films in, I recommend the powerful 2003 Czech film "Most."  Nominated for an Oscar, it centers on a man who operates a railway bridge.  It's only about 1/2 hour long.  The first part - with subtitles - is here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6kvV2qGWIg

 

Andy

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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

  • Member since
    August 2003
  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
  • 12,201 posts
Posted by gmpullman on Thursday, September 10, 2020 7:00 PM

A great film noir from NFB Canada is Paul Tomkowicz: Street Railway Switchman (1953).

In this film, Paul Tomkowicz, Polish-born Canadian, talks about his job and his life in Canada. He compares his new life in the city of Winnipeg to the life he knew in Poland, marvelling at the freedom Canadians enjoy. In winter the rail-switches on streetcar tracks in Winnipeg froze and jammed with freezing mud and snow. Keeping them clean, whatever the weather, was the job of the switchman.

 

https://www.nfb.ca/film/paul_tomkowicz_street_railway_switchman/

"Twenty-three year now in Winnipeg, sweeping the switches. Sweep 'em up — sweep 'em up".

There's a few blurry copies on YouTube but the best resolution print is at the NFB.

Regards, Ed

SUBSCRIBER & MEMBER LOGIN

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

FREE NEWSLETTER SIGNUP

Get the Classic Trains twice-monthly newsletter