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Movie making and narrow gauge railroading

April 04, 2021 07:46PM
Over on the Interchange there is an interesting thread on this subject. But no discussion about narrow gauge railroads and motion picture productions. I have had several experiences in the area and I thought it might be helpful to some of you who have never experienced dealing with movie guys. My experiences have been both good and frightening.


First, the good experience. Back in the mid 1990s I had the pleasure to work with PBS on the Ken Burns production of "The West:. Working with his crew was an absolute pleasure. They wanted everything historically accurate, no abuse of the locomotive or equipment, no spinning of drivers and no repainting of the equipment etc. We filmed for a week and "The West" was truly a work of art
and history.

In the early 2000s I was called by another motion picture studio that wanted to use Eureka in a Civil War movie called "Cold Mountain." They insisted that I would transport the locomotive to the East Broadtop in Pennsylvania. I inquired what kind of shot they were trying to get.. They said we were to pull flat cars filled with soldiers to he side of a hill, and they would jump off and scramble up a hill. I said that was a long way to haul a locomotive from Nevada for such a "tight" shot. But that is what they wanted. I asked why the EBT, and they said it look like Georgia there. I then asked where they were filming the main locations in the film. Their response was....get this.....Bosnia. I then told them I was not interested.

Not long after the "Cold Mountain" experience, I was contacted by the Disney Studios who wanted to film a movie called "Men of Destiny." In fact, I got dozens of calls from them about the script and technical / historical information. They also wanted to use Eureka in the movie. I told them if they wanted to use my locomotive, I wanted to see the script first (I was learning.). They sent the script which was written by Mike Werb who wrote "The Mask" with Jim Carey.. It is a great story about two guys (white and Chinese) who developed a wonderful friendship while building the railroad across the country. Although the story was mainly about this friendship, I notice that everything about steam railroading in the 19th century was dead wrong......especially they wanted to paint Eureka black and make it a leaky, oiley wreck. In the meantime I got a call from Jack Sessums, who said he got word that they wanted to paint Eureka black, and they would promise it would wash off, but it never does.

I flew to Durango in my Bonanza to meet with the director and producers. Al Harper gave me his presidential train to take them over the D&S to scout out locations. Al even had the train catered with all the finest in food and drink and service. For two days we traveled the D&S looking for locations. I told the directors that locomotives in those days were beautully painted and the crews too enormous pride in their equipment. It made no difference to them. Besides they said. the paint would wash off. I told them that no one was going to paint Eureka or cover up anything. That only me and my crew would lay a finger on it. I also told them my fee and they would cover any damage or travel expenses. At that time they did not bat an eye. After all they were going to pay the star, Nicholas Cage, $20,000,000.00. Later on they tried talk me down on my fees and expenses, but I told them if anyone was going to take a cut it would be Nicholas Cage, NOT me.

Eventually, they gave up on me, and went to the Nevada State Railroad Museum, Carson City and tried to talk them into doing to the Inyo what they wanted to do to Eureka. Thay met a brick wall. After that they went to the California State Railroad Museum and tried to talk them into using the Genoa. Same brick wall met them. Not long afterward they called me again and left a message. I called the Disney Studio back, but instead of answering Men of Destiny the receptionist said "Pirates of the Carribean." The Men of Destiny project was shelved.

So, that has been my experience. The takeaways I learned is to let no one touch your equipment. Do not let them paint anything. Don't let them talk you down from a reasonable rate of compensation. They must carry insurance for any injuries or damage. Have a lawyer examine the contract before you sign.

Dan Markoff
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Movie making and narrow gauge railroading

Dan Markoff April 04, 2021 07:46PM

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Questions, questions, questions

hank April 08, 2021 09:17AM

OT: Dumb questions

guymonmd April 08, 2021 09:23AM

Re: Questions, questions, questions

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Re: . . . and more questions . . .

Johnson Barr April 08, 2021 12:13PM

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Henry480 April 08, 2021 01:18PM

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Ted miles April 11, 2021 08:14PM

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Dan Markoff April 08, 2021 11:37PM

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Re: Movie making and Mumblety-Peg . . . thumbs upthumbs up

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