Machines of Iron
Length: 40 minutes
Time Period: 1940’s – 1950’s
Locations: Colorado, New Mexico, Missouri, Kansas
Source: Otto Perry/ Rocky Mountain Railroad Club
ATVR is working on featuring some of the original masters of train films. Otto Perry is one of the top cinematographers of the early era of color film. He shot in the 1940’s on black and white film. This is true vintage footage of a world, that no longer exists. The Rocky Mountain Railroad Club has an archive that contains these films.
Otto Perry lived in Denver, CO. He was always out, filming trains. Sometimes whatever else was happening at the scene. Relying on a 1935 Ford and later on, a 1951 Ford, he would travel thousands of miles in pursuit of trains. What makes his films so interesting, are his willingness to roll the camera at any train. The steam to diesel transition years provided the perfect source of unending variety to record.
In this feature about Santa Fe, we sure get to see that variety of railroad equipment. Steam, early diesels, streamliners, switchers, freight trains, old automobiles, it’s all here.
The film has a chapter menu, which is always nice. There are some fine maps too. The way the story moves around, we will need these maps.
Rich Melvin is our narrator. He does a fine job with; a good, information driven presentation. On screen graphics provide more locations.
A good chapter revolves around the ATSF joint line from Denver and southbound trackage that arrives at Palmer Lake. Castle Rock is approximately halfway there and it is seen as some background scenery. Colorado and Southern was a subsidiary of Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, aka, CB&Q or Burlington Route. By filming the shared line, we get the bonus of viewing C&S and CB&Q trains. This predates BNSF by decades. A small world indeed!
High quality imagery with the use of 16mm film. This footage was edited, from many locations and different years. As a film source now, the archived footage is consistently excellent.
Steam and early diesels share the screen time. Big northern types, smaller Prairies, 2-10-2, smoke it up. Diesels seen: EMD FT, F3’s along with Alco PA units. Classic Santa Fe warbonnets pull the passenger trains. Freight schemed Blue and Yellow F’s are on point of freight action.
The Las Vegas subdivision is another area that is visited. Black and white film for these 1942 scenes that show an E6 on the El Captain and steam. Color film now with an Alco PA. The Chief and Super Chief pass by, in black and white. 1947 color shot of California Limited with diesels. A 4-8-4 follows with a 2nd section of train number 3 and heavyweight cars.
In 1946, Otto has journeyed to Fort Madison, Iowa. Steam has had it’s sunset on ATSF in 1958. We are in Kansas, as Otto continues to film trains. Warbonnet F7 sets lead lengthy US Mail trains across the plains. Show closes with a smattering of Santa Fe diesel trains.
Machines of Iron has given the viewers a great showcase of Otto Perry. Fans of Santa Fe, steam to diesel era railfans and general train enthusiasts, all will find a plentiful array of vintage scenes. As was true for the era, you never know what is coming next on this show.
Rating: 5 Stars