Terrific compilation of train and railroad films from the 1910s – 1960s with the best cinematographic transportation movies of the industrial era. Vintage footage of all the old locomotives, passenger trains, freight trains infused and enriched with early American railroad history. Topics include:Train & Locomotive Wrecks & Crashes, Early American Railroading History
Length: 7 Minutes
This film, produced by Chevrolet as an educational tool for drivers ed schools, compares passenger trains and steam locomotives with automobiles as a way to learn to drive safely and be courteous while learning to drive a car. Using beautiful shots of moving steam-powered passenger trains in the 1930s (early steam trains), an engineer brings his unique perspective to the rules of safe driving on the road and tracks. Tips for safe driving and safe driving habits are given to encourage responsible driving. Along with the precious train footage (steam locomotives history), there are also classic cars and driving footage from the 1930s.
The Big Train
Length: 26 Minutes
First Description: The Big Train, made for the New York Central Railroad, shows how integral the railroad companies were to the growth and economy of the country, and makes the case for deregulation of the industry. Alfred Perlman, president of the NYCR, introduces the film and then takes the audience on a freight train ride through the country, cities, and industrial areas. These scenes are somewhat exciting for their melodramatic soundtrack and bombastic narration. Afterwards, Perlman reappears, pipe in hand, in order to levy the charge that the federal and state governments are strangling the railroad companies with taxes. He makes the case that other forms of transportation are not taxed, echoing a common argument of the time, all while cleaning his pipe.Second Description: Big Train explores the history of the development of the railroad industry in America. Narrated by Al Pearlman, president of New York Central, the film mixes the story of a freight train as it travels from one place to another and Pearlmans commentaries on unfair government regulations and policies in the transportation industry. The film explains how the advancement of the railroad industry is instrumental in Americas economic progress. After the war, the mass transportation has become more and more important as people were going to the west to make homesteads and build towns. Masses of goods were transported as America expanded. The goods that were loaded to the freight car indicated a healthy economy as freight trains made the movement of factories, cattle, quarries, and wheat fields possible. The freight train, according to Pearlman, was the grand assembly line of the US economy.The development of the railroad is not possible without modern science and research. Pearlman shows how the railroad industry invested in laboratories and experiments to increase efficiency. The idea is to increase performance with less cost by speeding up analysis to anticipate engine troubles ahead, experiments to prevent wear and tear, and tests to transform inferior products to quality materials. Pearlman was honest enough to admit that there was a monopoly in the railroad industry. However, these monopolies have already disappeared. The industry has been falling with the rise of other modes of mass transportation like airplanes, cars, and trucks. Railroad industries build and maintain their own bridges, terminals, and research institutes. At the same time, they also pay taxes imposed by the government. In contrast, other industries are subsidized by the government. This, according to Pearlman, is clearly an unfair advantage. The film ends with Pearlman appealing to the government to give railroad corporations the same tax benefits and support other transportation industries enjoy.
Great Railroad At Work
Length: 25 Minutes
A railroad film classic, Great Railroad at Work provides a detailed picture of the operations of the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad during the early 1940s. Both steam (I-3 Pacifics, Mountains, and Hudson I-5s) and diesel (Alco DL-109s and Alco switchers) engines are shown, including how steam engines were repaired in the roundhouse. There is lots of behind-the-scenes footage showing all the maintenance, loading, workers, and preparations of both cargo and passenger trains. Included is footage of a woman buying a ticket in Grand Central Station, conductors yelling All aboard! for the Yankee Clipper, the car float operations in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, transfers at the Maybrook terminal in upstate New York, an ancient New Haven electric switcher in operation at the car floats, and an Erie steam engine at Maybrook. Narration is by the infamous Lowell Thomas.
This Is My Railroad
Length: 18 Minutes
This tribute to the Southern Pacific Railroad shows the inner workings of the trains, the different jobs, and the ways in which the tracks are maintained during inclement weather. The film lauds the role the railways play in the ability to travel freely and conveniently as Americans, possibly a subtle jab at communist foes. There is excellent color footage of different trains, the job of the switchman, the natural wonders of the countryside and Sierra Nevada mountains, and more. The best scenes show the techniques used to remove snow off the tracks in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Wheels Of Progress
Length: 19 Minutes
Wheels of Progress touts the modernization and freight-moving capabilities of the Rock Island Lines, a railway that served Iowa and the surrounding Midwest. The narrator introduces the film by explaining how American democracy and free enterprise would not be possible without the railroads, linking the trains to our way of life, which is represented by a typical American family sitting down to dinner. The film then moves on to focus on the trains, how they work, where they run, and how they link up with other forms of freight transportation, such as trucking and shipping. There are many great views of diesel and steam engines, as well as their high-speed Rocket freight trains. Included is information about the operation of classification yards, signal controls for routing trains, and the many pastoral and industrial areas that the trains served.
Redwood Empire Special and Lumber Mills
Length: 15 Minutes
Redwood Empire Special and Lumber Mills features a shortened version of the Golden Spike Celebration that marked the completion of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad on October 23, 1914. The festivities were held in Cain Rock, Humbolt County, California. Included are scenes of the Governor who gets to be an engineer for the day as he presides over the ceremony and sends the train on its way. There is also footage of the redwood lumber mills of the area. The original film is silent, but it has been set to classical music.
Besler Corporation Promo Film: Steam Driven Vehicles
Length: 16 Minutes
Steam driven land vehicles were clocked at over 100 miles per hour in the early 1900s and its a little known fact, that steam driven airplanes were developed. Although the steam airplane never gained traction in the transportation industry, the film gives a rare look at one of these beauties in action. Besler Corporation sponsored, Steam Driven Vehicles, a wonderful promotional film highlighting some of the first alternative energy transportation vehicles powered by steam. From trains and planes, to cars and boats, steam engines changed the history of transportation.
1913 California State Fair Highlights
Length: 6 Minutes
This 1913 silent film showcases highlights of the California State Fair. Governor Hiram Johnson presides as we watch parades, races around a muddy dirt track, and other events at the fair. At the end, a spectacular stunt involving two diamond stacker locomotives is staged: the two engines crash head on into each other at 90 mph.
Days Of Our Years
Length: 20 Minutes
This skillfully filmed picture reenacts three railway workplace tragedies in an effort to educate Union Pacific rail workers about the risks of carelessness on the job. The stories are all set in old working class Los Angeles, in places reminiscent of Bell, Commerce, and Vernon, a world that just doesnt exist anymore in this form, so this film is a rare piece of ephemera. The narrator of the film is the minister of the community that lives and works by the railroad. He tells the stories of Joe Tindler, a bachelor whos looking forward to marrying his sweetheart; Charlie ONeill, a welder who cant wait to see his first child born; and Price and Bellows, two old friends who are planning their retirement together. The minister follows these characters through their daily lives, showing us their hopes, dreams, and loved ones, until the moment of doom when a railway accident claims their life or, as in the case of Charlie, blinds them. The film builds tension very skillfully, and the details of the characters lives guarantees our investment in them, so that by the end, we feel almost as devastated as the friends and family members whose lives have been changed forever. As do many older corporate safety films, this one blames the working man entirely for any accidents that occur on the job, but as it does so it also works very hard to create characters of deep humanity and pathos.
Third Avenue El
Length: 10 Minutes
This lovingly made film contains rare footage of the Third Avenue Elevated Railway in Manhattan, which was torn down fifty years ago and replaced by the modern subway system. The harpsichord score is the perfect accompaniment to the whimsical story of this film, which revolves around a coin stuck to the floor of the car. There are so many great shots of 1950s New York here, including Bowery Street, the Bronx, old trains, and many shots of landmarks and buildings. We ride on the train as it winds its way through apartment buildings, past webs of clotheslines, and around factories. We get a taste of what it must have been like to ride the old el through the eyes of different passengers, including a bum, a little girl, and a young man. This charming ode to a bygone era is a must see for anyone interested in vintage film of New York City, or vintage train cars and stations.
The True Experience of Officer Harold Sewell
Length: 1 Minutes
This 1930s video takes a look back when flashlights were revolutionized. Not only did they have the power to give light, but they saved lives! In this short film, a flashlight with the new ‘Ever-ready’ battery stops a train from crashing into a truck sprawled on the tracks. Officer Harold Sewell saves the day when he shines his trusty flashlight in front of the train, causing it to stop and save the lives of many. Observe the heroism as Sewell saves the lives of many.