Railroads on Television

Discussion related to railroads/trains that show up in TV shows, commercials, movies, literature (books, poems and more), songs, the Internet, and more... Also includes discussion of well-known figures in the railroad industry or the rail enthusiast hobby.

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Railroads on Television

Postby Aa3rt » Tue Apr 13, 2004 3:25 pm

This thread is for the discussion of television shows and commercials where trains were the subject or played a part.

As a lad who misspent his youth in front of the television (hey, my dad was a TV repairman) I remember a number of shows where railroads played a part.

It was always a special treat for me when Captain Kangaroo had "Train Day" at the Treasure House. I remember that he had a great O-gauge layout of Lionel equipment that was set up.

In recent years, I enjoyed watching "Shining Time Station" on PBS for the Thomas the Tank Engine videos. That had to be a fantastic layout! Does anyone have details on it?

A couple of shows that were mentioned in the "Railroads in the Movies" thread were:

Casey Jones (starring Alan Hale, Jr.)

The Iron Horse (with Dale Robertson)

and Petticoat Junction. I still have a Tyco Petticoat Junction set on display that I inherited from my late Uncle Herb. Does anyone remember what C&FW stood for? (I do remember that the corporate bean counter, Homer Bedloe, was always trying to shut the line down.)

PBS has had a couple of series in the last 20 years, Great Railway Journeys of the World, Great Steam Trains and another series that focused on British steam.

(I also remember the ill-advised "Super Train" that didn't last one season, although I never watched it.)

Let's hear your inputs, reminiscenses and critiques of trains on the small screen!
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Postby Hostler » Tue Apr 13, 2004 7:48 pm

I see that the Lackawana station in Hoboken has been used for commercials. Usually you see the MU's rather than push pulls. The M&E RR has also been used for commericals and was used for an episode of Shatner's show years ago . I still remember the live telecast of the wreck in DC in 1953 before Ike's inaugaration, the one where the GG1 ended in the basement. I was only six at the time, but in my later years I finally found out what I was watching.
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Postby Urban D Kaye » Tue Apr 13, 2004 8:02 pm

Railroads often work their way into TV shows, like a recent episode of the detective "dramedy" Monk, in which someone's car was set on RR tracks in the path of an oncoming passenger train. Of course, the train was not Amtrak (it was led by what appeared to be an F7), and rescuing the poor schlub involved throwing the switch and forcing the train onto a siding, an action that in the real world would have cost far more lives than it saved. Luckily the train was only going 15 mph at the time.

Outside of the glaring inaccuracies (which in my livingroom got more laughs than the program), the scene was mildly entertaining, in the "Perils of Pauline" sense. I'm not sure what tourist RR they used--the scene was filmed at night, and the director did take some care to crop his shots so as not to reveal the markings on the coaches. It's a safe bet that it was somewhere in California, however.

The good news is that as long as Amtrak refuses access to TV crews (I'm assuming), we'll be seeing alot of tourist trains subbing as revenue passenger runs on TV.
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May 3, 2004 Fear Factor Train

Postby TheBaran » Tue May 04, 2004 3:24 pm

The May 3, 2004 episode of Fear Factor had a stunt involving the launching of a car from a ramp over a moving freight train. The car ended up in a pile of boxes on the other side of the grade crossing - the farthest launch distance won the prize for the driver. The engine was shown numerous times, but the identity of the rail line was obscured (there were "Fear Factor" signs pasted in various spots on the engine).

Does anyone who happened to see the show know the name of the railroad and location of the spot where the shot was filmed? Fear Factor films in California and the profile of the rail suggested a branch or short-line. I believe the engine was a maroon color with a middle stripe of purple running the length. I could not identify the engine make or type other than it was a 4-axle diesel.

Thank you.
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Postby walt » Tue May 04, 2004 3:50 pm

PBS has had, over the years a number of good railroad programs. The 1978 Great Railway Journeys program on traveling coast to coast by rail is, IMHO, a classic. The National Geographic program did, a few years ago, an excellent program on trains, which included a West to East coast to coast trip on the "Salad Bowl Express"-- detailing the journey of a car load of lettuce from California to NYC. There was also a very humorous trip through Syria into Jordan ( narrated by a British Jewish comedian whose name escapes me) which included a scene in which a steam engine derailed on trackage made up of rail which dated back to the Lawrence of Arabia days ( the track simply collapsed under the weight of the locomotive).
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T V movie

Postby shortlinerailroader » Tue May 04, 2004 7:17 pm

Sunday night, May 2, there was a movie that aired on NBC--10.5--about an incredible series of earthquakes. I taped it (I watch the Sopranos each Sun. night after church) and watched it yesterday afternoon. The train scene was an Amtrak B32-8WH and four superliner cars in what appeared to be HO scale. Upon closer inspection in slo-motion I found that it actually was an "Ontrak" C40-8W and four cars, as per Amtrak's request that its name not be used.
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Postby walt » Wed May 05, 2004 8:16 am

I also saw and taped that movie---It seems kind of ridiculous for Amtrak to object to a portrayal of an Amtrak train being "eaten" by an expanding fault line.-- After all, if this were to actually happen in the location portrayed, the likely "victim" would have to be Amtrak's Coast Starlight. Losing a train to a ficticious natural disaster is certainly no reflection on Amtrak.
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Postby ACLfan » Wed Jun 16, 2004 7:52 am

I was watching TV last night, and a really neat commercial caught me by surprise! The commercial, sponsored by a long-distance trucking company, showed a long train of TOFC, with all of the rail cars carrying the company's trucks, flying along the railroad at a fast clip. Then, the scene shifts to a hot and tired driver of a competitor, stuck in traffic and going nowhere because of the long train.

The message point of the commercial was that the trucking company used the railroads to long-distnance transport its trucks in order to save time and money! Wow! What a great boost for the concept of using railroads to efficiently and quickly move your trucks over long distances!

The fact that a trucking company would invest the $ to do the commercial was very surprising to me!

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Postby Urban D Kaye » Wed Jun 16, 2004 9:06 am

ACLfan -
Further evidence of the importance of intermodal--which in '03 surpassed coal as the leading rail commodity in the U.S.

At last, a trucking co with some vision ;)
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monster garage

Postby shortlinerailroader » Tue Jun 29, 2004 6:48 pm

Last night on "Monster Garage" they took one of those new Dodge Magnum R/T (Hemi) station wagons and turned it into a "train". They fabricated a pretty intriguing Hi-rail system that Jesse James could operate from the driver's seat. The car was painted black with with those old style steam loco golden pinstripes and a steam-style cowcatcher was attached to the front.

They then raced the car against a steam loco at a RR museum in California, but, alas, the front rail wheels derailed (probably due to a lack of weight) and the steamer won. I would still like to have that car, though...it looked awsome.
--Why did it say "84 axles" when we have 20 cars?
--It counts the engine, too
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Postby MBTA F40PH-2C 1050 » Tue Jun 29, 2004 9:06 pm

yea my brother was telling me about that Monster Garage show, i was mad that he didn't wake me up :(
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Postby Ken W2KB » Mon Jul 05, 2004 9:12 am

It would have been easier to buy standard hi-rail gear. The show made it sound like what was done was unique, rather than the thousands of examples of hi-rails in use by RR MOW crews nationwide. But it was entertaining none the less.
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Postby 2nd trick op » Thu Jul 08, 2004 4:19 am

For both realistic treatment and image quality, it would be hard to top Quinn Martin's original "The Fugitive" (1962-67), with David Janssen and Barry Morse.

Granted, railroading was never a major theme of the series, but when a scene was needed, it was never canned, to be used again in another episode.

It was ahead of its time, setting epsodes in distinct, if not specific regions, at a time when almost all TV series were set in either a handful of major cities or a homogenized suburbia.

It challenged conventional thinking at a time when the cops were always the good guys; it changed with the times. The color series that came to an end in the "summer of love", was a far cry from the black-and-white that debuted five years before.

I can particularly remember a scene during that final season when Dr. Kimble (Janssen) was shown boarding a freight in what I'm pretty sure was AT&SF's Hobart Yard.

Even the background music had a haunting quality deserving of the feature film into which the series was reborn a quarter century later.

They don't make 'em like that any more, and they very seldom did.
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Postby Aa3rt » Fri Jul 09, 2004 11:32 am

Walt-I have the companion volumes to both "Great Railway Journeys of the World" and "Great Little Railways". One of my favorite episodes in Great Railway Journeys was "Three Miles High" where Miles Kington travels from Lima to Puno, Peru, crosses Lake Titicaca on a British-built steamboat (the steam cranes working the pier are also interesting) and ends up in Bolivia in the midst of a political coup.

Great Little Railways, which was the lesser known sequel series to Great Railway Journeys also had some interesting segments including Portugal and the Philippines, where steam locos, burning bagasse, bales of waste from sugar cane, are burned in the locomotives. (Other episodes included Poland, White Pass & Yukon, Greece India and Equador's Guayaquil and Quito.) I've never seen these videos offered.

The British series I couldn't recall in my previous post was titled "Great Steam Trains". My father recorded a couple of episodes from New Hampshire Public Television when he was there on an extended business trip.

The National Geographic show was titled "Love Those Trains" and while it was enjoyable for the most part, I could have done without the hokey "hobo convention" portion.
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UP in Mayberry

Postby dreamer » Sat Jul 24, 2004 11:44 am

Some of my favorite TV bloopers were on the "The Andy Griffith Show".
In at least two episodes a passenger train is coming into the station somewhere in North Carolina (Mt. Pilot?) , but the equipment is clearly marked Union Pacific, which back then didn't come within a thousand miles of NC. Oddly no attempt was made to hide the fact. Of course the series was filmed entirely in the Los Angeles area.
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