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W&H MAIN YARDS: Train Wreck in "The Fugitive"

By Peter N. Rueschsp
Last Updated 3-27-94

The crash was filmed on the Great Smoky Mountains Railway in North Carolina. The lead unit is ex-CSX U18B 1901, the "slug" is a flatcar with some boxes piled on it, the third unit is ex-N&W GP30 536. Both of the locomotives were nothing but empty shells purchased by the movie company for scrap value. The wreck was the real thing, only a one-time deal, with the train pushed along by GSMR GP7 777. All units (including 777, which never appeared in the film itself) were painted in the rather attractive "Illinois Southern" red-gray-yellow paint scheme. Modifications to 1901 included a camera mounted in its cab, a studio floodlight mounted in its old nose Mars light casing (which was used as the "headlight" in the scene), and a liberal application of a napalm-type gel smothered over its nose and sides to produce the pyrotechnics. In order to "improve its nighttime appearance" the 536's headlight was moved to the center of the high nose, and a Mars light was installed over the number boards (Didn't help though, 'cause only one of sealed-beam lights was on during the crash, anyway.)

The scenes where Harrison Ford jumps off of the bus, and when he's chased along the ground by the derailing 536 (IMHO the best shot of the wreck; made me want to jump out of my seat and run, too) required a new, very convincing, type of cinematic superimposition (saw it on ET last week).

For the people involved in the Locomotive Direction thread, I noticed on the pre-wreck roster shots of the locomotives in Issue 98 of Extra 2200 South that 536 has the "F" painted on the short-hood end (though they were built set up long-hood forward) and 1901 has the "F" of the long-hood end! (they were all short-hood forward, of course) Better get new consultants...

All in all, though, it was a very impressive scene and is worth the rental price itself. Not only that, but the entire movie is worth seeing, even without the train wreck. Either way, check it out!!!

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