Release Date: 1956
Review, short version: All thumbs up.
Review, long version:
If you had told me that I’d get really caught up in a Disney movie…
…made in 1956…
But I did.
It was The Great Locomotive Chase, based on an actual event in 1862, during our Civil War.
The plan then, and the movie’s plot, was for a group of 22 volunteer Union soldiers – led by James J. Andrews, a civilian scout and part-time spy – to cross into Confederate-held territory dressed as civilians.
They’d steal a Confederate train near Atlanta, GA and head north, sabotaging the railroad tracks between Atlanta and Chattanooga, TN, and rendezvousing with Union forces at Chattanooga:
And any bridges they encountered – burn those behind them, too.
This plan was fraught with challenges; if the soldiers were caught behind Confederate lines in civilian clothes, they could be charged with spying and hung. There were too few men and they were too poorly equipped with the proper railway track tools and demolition equipment.
And the chase for them began immediately, led by train conductor William Fuller who started off after them on foot, until he, too, commandeered a train to continue his pursuit:
But despite the many challenges, as portrayed in the movie – and I have no doubt, during the actual event – while it lasted, it was a wild chase.
And I got plenty tense.
From a Walt Disney movie made in 1956!
And since it was 1956, one aspect I noted in particular was that the trains looked like the real deal – no computer wizardry here.
Research revealed the cast of trains included one built in 1856; a 1937 replica of an identical locomotive built in 1836; and other built in 1875. I’m no train aficionado, but even I could appreciate these beautiful machines:
Reviewers at the time noted that The Great Locomotive Chase offered excitement, a swift pace and several tense sequences, but didn’t have a Disney feel-good ending.
It didn’t, and neither did the actual event.
But the movie was one heck of a story, and so was the actual event.