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I was on a 3 day cross-country train journey recently-quite an experience ! - and all I could think about was all the train movies, new and old, that capture the imagination. The lounge car looked like the exact same one as in The Narrow Margin. I kept wanting to order hard liquor drinks ("bourbon and soda, please") because isn't that what people do on trains?, unless they're trying to throw a body off the last car or kissing a stranger to escape detection from the police, but the latter two weren't really options for me.

Anyway, I was considering all the many different types of train movies there are. At least 3:

the sophisticated ones, where glamourous rich people are forever consuming hard liquor (see above), the thriller types, in which the protagonist is either pursuing the villain or evading the police, and the adventure ones; down and out wanderers hopping on to freight cars (this is how I really wanted to go, but again, didn't seem to be an option.)


Anyone care to add a category, or maybe just list their favourite train movie? (You'll have to supply your own whiskey and soda, though.)


Edited by: misswonderly on Jul 12, 2010 3:45 PM

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I use the Amtrak vs driving to a major city that is 3 hours away. Whenever I feel like closing my laptop or book and being nosey, I immediately look around and label people as different characters from *Murder on the Orient Express* - so every middle aged clean cut white man in business attire is Ratchett....although the hardest to spot is always a Beddoes. Or if it is the winter time and someone coughs, I fearfully wrap my face with my scarf as if I am on the train in *The Cassandra Crossing* ....oh and then I pray that there are no rickety bridges high over water in the middle of nowhere we'll be passing over. The last time I was on the Amtrak, there were two guys sitting next to one another....strange since there was enough room where no one in the car would have to share a seat. They were both looking straight ahead although I couldn't see their hands that were adjacent to one another's....I had to double check with an Amtrak employee that I wasn't on the *3:10 to Yuma* . I have to play these nonsensical games with myself to keep me distracted from the horrible conditions of my region's train tracks as well as the over priced fares. :)

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Hey, that?s a great idea for a thread.


I used to ride trains, going way back to the steam era when I was a little kid in the mid-1940s.


Then in the ?70s I rode several trains around the country, then again in the ?80s and ?90s.


It might be a great vacation idea for TCM board members to take a train ride, especially if they?ve never taken one before.


For overnight trips, it might be best to get a small or large sleeper room. In less crowded routes, sometimes on the regular coach there is room for one person for every two seats. But in crowded areas of the Northeast, all coach seats are taken, and you?ll have to share your double seat with a total stranger, and some train strangers can be a little weird.


Here is a list of Amtrak routes:



National Amtrak Route Map, 2.67 Mb, PDF file:


This map shows the Amtrak train stations. The green lines are connecting bus routes.


Another map:


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Good info, Fred. For me, the Canadian cross-country train, run by the passenger line Via, was the only choice.


markfp2, I hadn't thought of war train movies. Great suggestion. An ancient train movie set during the Civil War (aka "the War Between the States") is the famous Buster Keaton silent, *The General* .

I think TCM showed it a week or two ago.


Hitchcock made a lot of train films, some set almost entirely on a train, others with only one or two key scenes.I think *Strangers on a Train* counts, because although most of the action does not take place in a train setting, the scenes that do are essential to the entire film. There's *Shadow of a Doubt*; the only train scene is at the end of the movie, but boy, those few minutes on the train really count. *North by Northwest*, *The 39 Steps*, *The Lady Vanishes* . Probably others.

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Great thread...!


I did think of NORTH BY NORTHWEST right away...but I also thought about THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN.


And I think there's a sequence involving railway transit in the comedy PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES.


The movie SPEED goes from action on board a bus, to an underground subway climax.

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LoveFilmNoir, that's fun to think of you surreptitiously glancing at the other passengers on your train and assigning movie characters to them. I think we movie people do that sort of thing a lot - and why not, good for the imagination. Sorry about the horrible track conditions - you don't think it's going to go off the rails, literally, I hope?


*3:10 to Yuma* is a really good one - as I said, the train setting doesn't have to take up the entire 90 minutes or so of the film; sometimes it just takes one short scene of train time but all the action turns around it. Lots of Westerns with train scenes.


ClassicViewer, you mentioned some good ones. *Speed* could get honourable mention as a quasi-train film -same kind of feeling, plot and action. ( And you get a male and female POV -just kidding ! )

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Some other train movies:


LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN - Cornel Wilde meets Gene Tierney in a glamorous blue-decorated train carriage.


THE HUCKSTERS - Ava Gardner and Clark Gable take the transcontinental train.




RETURN FROM THE ASHES - opens with a stunning, unforgettable scene on a train.




Then there are the Western movies with important scenes on trains, like MAN OF THE WEST, THE PROFESSIONALS, BITE THE BULLET.

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The Lady from Shanghai




?The General Died at Dawn? (1936)


Gary Cooper, Madeleine Carroll, Akim Tamiroff, Dudley Digges,, Porter Hall, William Frawley


In revolution-torn China, American mercenary O'Hara is entrusted with a perilous mission, to get arms for the helpless authorities in a province ravaged by warlord General Yang. On the train to Shanghai, he meets Judy Perrie, whose father is in league with Yang. Will Judy regret agreeing to lure O'Hara to his doom, and if so, can she make it up to him? The balance of power seesaws to a perilous conclusion.



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Don't worry Ma'am, Watson has everything under control.


Rathbone and Bruce rode the rails in Terror by Night. For some reason, films

set on trains often seem better. In this one, they travel on a train with those spacious

cars with the sliding doors and curtains. They come across quite a few very English

types during their investigation, with the obligatory sideways moves in the narrow

corridors. And by the end, the mystery is solved.

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King Rat. How about Buster Keaton's THE GENERAL or David Lean's THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. Not exactly train films for plot purposes but they have lots of action and keep the plots rolling along(if you'll pardon me for that). UNION PACIFIC was a great actioner as was THE IRON HORSE.Powell and Pressburger's THE 49TH PARALLEL featured a great train scene in the Canadian Rockies which contributed greatly to that film's success. I suppose it's whether you like movies about trains or movies which have trains in them as plot devices. Much the same can be said about airplanes for the same reasons.Best, BruceG.

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Just hazarding a guess, but maybe having most of the action on a train, where the walls are close and the people are shoved together, creates a sense of intimacy. During MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS I get the feeling that these people are very much bonded with each other. It creates a type of claustrophobia, too.

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> {quote:title=ClassicViewer wrote:}{quote}

> Just hazarding a guess, but maybe having most of the action on a train, where the walls are close and the people are shoved together, creates a sense of intimacy. During MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS I get the feeling that these people are very much bonded with each other. It creates a type of claustrophobia, too.


That?s what it?s like on a real train.


Tight spaces moving at 60 to 70 miles an hour, so you can?t leave the building if something bad happens, and everyone else on the train is a total stranger to you.


After several hours on a train, and after a visit to the dining car and the club car for a few drinks, you begin to notice that some of the people look like they are suspicious. Some look like they are ?on the run?. Others look like they might have a weapon on them. Some are well dressed and you wonder why they are on a train instead of a plane. Others are some kind of ?foreigners?, but you can?t tell what kind.


After a day or two on a train, you notice that the conductor?s uniform doesn?t quite fit him, like maybe this guy murdered the real conductor and put on his uniform.


Then, if you are a man, you start noticing some good looking dames you?d like to meet, but you are afraid to talk to them. Maybe they are international spies. Or female serial killers. And you begin to wonder how many saps like you they've left dead and lifeless along the track behind the train.


Then, late at night, when you can?t sleep, you awaken to the constant clack, clack, clack, of the wheels upon the track joints and you notice that your car is rocking side to side, maybe a little too much, like maybe it?s going to jump the track any moment and plunge you down the great Pecos River Gorge. You begin to wish you had taken a plane. But then you have visions of your plane going down in flames, and you?re glad you are on this train, even with all its suspicious people, including that dame in front of you who looks like she?s got a gun in her purse.

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I don't think anybody's mentioned *Tokyo Story* yet.


*Pickup on South Street* has a key sequence on a New York el train; and, of course, another great Thelma Ritter movie, *The Incident* is also set on an el train in New York.

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I've always wanted to see *The Incident*, not only because I've heard it's worth watching but also because there was no handsomer sexier man than Martin Sheen when he was young ( and maybe even now.) Well, if we're going the subway route ( get it? Ah, I''m such a wit ) what about the original *The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3* ? Now there's claustrophobia and suspense !



FredCDobbs, I think you've seen too many movies.

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I tend to like stuff *about* trains. My prized video is "Norfolk and Western Articulades, Part 1 and 2" Also like model railroad videos like "MTH Great Layouts" and "A Century of Lionel" hosted by Tom Snyder.


I guess my reasons is because my father once worked on the railroad and I grew up with it and Lionel :). Always wanted a "true scale" O guage 611 and the 1218 but can't shell out the bucks for them. (don't mention the cheap Made in China cr_p!)


I've never flowned Amtrak. (that's not a mistype).

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There are train-based comedies, too. *Silver Streak* with Gene Wilder, *The Major and the Minor*, with Ginger Rogers, and the very funny *Obliging Young Lady*, shown recently on TCM, with a train figuring in a screwball comedy, staring a young Edmund O'Brien.

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Train Stations:


Kings Row (1942)?Ronald Reagan has his accident at the rail yard.

Mrs. Miniver (1942)?Station master Henry Travers names his new rose for Mrs. Miniver.

Since You Went Away (1944)?Jennifer Jones says good-bye to Robert Walker.

Brief Encounter (1945)?Celia Johnson gets soot in her eye and meets Trevor Howard.

The Clock (1945)?Judy Garland meets Robert Walker at Penn Station in New York City.

Union Station (1950)?William Holden searches for a kidnapper at a train station.

Last Train From Gun Hill (1959)?Sheriff Kirk Douglas is waiting for the train to take prisoner Earl Holliman back to his town.

Nick of Time (1995)?Johnny Depp?s daughter is kidnapped at Union Station in Los Angeles.


Mystery Trains:


Ghost Train (1941)?Stranded passengers wait for its arrival.

The Tall Target (1951)?Dick Powell plays detective John Kennedy, who is protecting Abraham Lincoln on the train taking him to Washington in 1861.


Tragic Trains:


Anna Karenina (1948)?Vivien Leigh.

The Red Shoes (1948)?Moira Shearer.


Love Trains:


Rhythm on the Range (1936)?Frances Farmer meets Bing Crosby in a boxcar.

The Major and the Minor (1942)?Ginger Rogers meets Ray Milland.

I?ll Be Seeing You (1944)?Ginger Rogers meets Joseph Cotten.

Without Reservations (1946)?Claudette Colbert meets John Wayne.

Picnic (1955)?William Holden arrives and leaves a small town in Kansas by boxcar. Kim Novak prefers the bus.


Comedy Trains:


The Thin Man Goes Home (1944)?William Powell and Myrna Loy ride with Asta in the luggage car.

Family Honeymoon (1948)?Fred MacMurray, Claudette Colbert and her children go on vacation together.

It Happened to Jane (1959)?Doris Day goes up against Ernie Kovac?s railroad company.


Show Business Trains:


Sullivan?s Travels (1941)?Movie director Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake travel by boxcar to do research for his new film.

The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)?Charlton Heston and circus travel by train.

The Seven Little Foys (1955)?Vaudevillians Bob Hope and his children spend a lot of time on trains, including Christmas.

Some Like It Hot (1959)?Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon and the all girl band including Marilyn Monroe travel from Chicago to Florida.


Action Trains:


Young Tom Edison (1940)?Mickey Rooney almost blows up a train and later prevents it from crashing.

Bhowani Junction (1956)?Stewart Granger discovers plot to kill Gandhi on a train.

From Russia With Love (1963)?Sean Connery and Robert Shaw duke it out.

The Great Train Robbery (1979)?Sean Connery and accomplices rob a train.

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The enclosed quarters on a train do make for a certain personal relationship

between characters who otherwise are strangers, and it's especially effective in

a mystery, with everyone eying everyone else and wondering what they're up to.


In The Incident it's the usual NYC suspects doing their thing. You've seen 'em

all before. The two punks are slightly Clockwork Orangey, but they're not quite

there yet.

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Lots of train horror films -- Night Train to Terror; Terror Train; etc. But the best horror train scene is, I think, the end of Night of the Demon (aka Curse of the Demon), when Dana Andrews secretly passes the runic symbols to Niall MacGuinness.


In more mainstream films, Reds has a lot of good train time, but the most horrifying train scene in a non-horror film comes in The Jewel and the Crown (actually a mini-series), right after the partition of India. Train cars carrying Moslems are marked with a crescent, so that when the train is stopped, Hindu radicals know whom to slaughter. After which they say cheerfully to the Brits in the car, "sorry to have disturbed your journey."


On a lighter note, don't forget Some Like It Hot.

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