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Author Topic: The Christmas Train
yukon11
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This Sunday, Dec 10th, the Hallmark Channel will be showing the movie, "The Christmas Train".

It's about a passenger train running from Washington DC to Los Angeles. The train gets stuck in the Colorado Rockies.

I don't know anything about the movie. I understand there are some inaccuracies regarding train equipment and towns intervened.

The video clip is preceded by a 30 second commercial.

https://is.gd/OWEkFD

Richard

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ghCBNS
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Some of the filming was done at the West Coast Rail Museum in Squamish, BC...about 40 miles north of Vancouver.

In a couple of scenes.....you can see the Blue and White Stripes of BC Rail on a Budd RDC and also an RDC in the Orange Scheme of the Pacific Great Eastern Railway.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Thank you Mr. GH, for identifying the railcars that are seen in some of the preview clips.

It is even acknowledged in one of the clips the obvious - the interiors are a stage set.

So I doubt the "authenticity level" is very high.

It appears that the plot of this movie is about the same as the book - and.that bordered on the absurd. I do think the author, David Baldacci, or maybe a Research Assistant, actually rode the Capitol Limited. But the remainder ostensibly on the Chief is "fantasyland".

So if anyone cares to watch, enjoy. Me, I'll find other ways to occupy myself.

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yukon11
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quote:
Originally posted by ghCBNS:
Some of the filming was done at the West Coast Rail Museum in Squamish, BC...about 40 miles north of Vancouver.

In a couple of scenes.....you can see the Blue and White Stripes of BC Rail on a Budd RDC and also an RDC in the Orange Scheme of the Pacific Great Eastern Railway.

***********************************
I've been to Squamish 3 times, but always passing through on a train. First, on the BC Rail "Royal Hudson" No. 2860 steam locomotive. I wonder if that excursion will make a comeback? Then, on the Whistler Mountaineer (no longer is running) and as part of a large loop excursion on the Rocky Mountaineer. I've always wanted to explore Squamish on foot. Especially the rail museum, mine museum, and for eagle viewing.

I will attempt to watch the movie but I have a hunch, at some point, a flip over to football.

Richard

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mpaulshore
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The Christmas Train, having most recently been seen on the Hallmark Channel at 12:30 p.m. on December 25th, will have one last showing this holiday season at 10:00 a.m. on December 30th. Although the name "Amtrak" is never spoken in the dialog, the production makes abundant use of the Amtrak logo and Amtrak uniforms; and although the exterior shots of trains in motion follow the typical movie and television pattern of showing a hodgepodge of different types and lengths of trains, there are two brief shots of genuine Amtrak trains and also an exterior shot of Washington Union Station. Most viewers, therefore, would assume that the movie's depiction of Amtrak travel is almost entirely accurate, and fully endorsed by the corporation.

Here, in approximate order of their appearance in the film, are some of the things we learn from The Christmas Train about Amtrak travel and related matters in 2017:


-- Based on what might be called the film's official poster image (http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/the-christmas-train), as seen on the Hallmark Channel website and elsewhere, Amtrak trains are at least sometimes pulled by mid-twentieth-century European steam locomotives. [Note to forum members: If anyone can identify the specific model of steam locomotive in the image and would be willing to private-message me with the information, I'd be happy to edit that information into this posting, with acknowledgement of the identifier. It looks possibly German, with ditch lights (or whatever they were called back then) and Witte-type smoke deflectors; note in particular the distinctive rectangular plate beneath the smokebox.]

-- Amtrak has a train that runs all the way from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles. (Yes, I know that was sort of true for a while two decades ago, but this movie is set in the present day.) If you leave Washington in the morning or early afternoon of December 21st, you'll arrive in Toledo (where the train makes a stop of a little over an hour) around midnight or in the wee hours of the 22nd. Based on the actions of the character Eleanor who, at dinnertime, makes a decision (later reversed) to "get off at the next stop" and fly to Los Angeles (in order to avoid the company of a disliked ex-boyfriend who's turned up on the train), but who doesn't start to carry out that decision until Toledo, it appears that there are no stops between Pittsburgh and Toledo, and possibly not even one at Pittsburgh. From Toledo, it's another 40 to 45 hours or so before the arrival in Chicago, at around 5:30 p.m. on the 23rd. Chicago lies on the other side of a high snowy mountain range from Toledo. The train leaves Chicago at the rather peculiar time of 7:56 p.m. on the 23rd. The next day there's a stop in La Junta, Colorado (which, based on mutually contradictory lines of dialog, may or may not be the last station before Los Angeles) that lasts perhaps an hour or two, long enough to conduct a hastily arranged wedding ceremony inside the station, with music and several dozen guests from the train. Finally, the train's scheduled arrival in Los Angeles will be on the morning of the 25th. (Note that all this is separate from the plot development in which the train gets stuck in the Rockies and ultimately doesn't reach L.A. till the 26th.) The movie's belief in this incredible four-day timetable is reinforced multiple times by various lines of dialog and title cards.

-- Almost everyone who boards this train in Washington is headed for Los Angeles, such that, based on its December 25th scheduled arrival in L.A., it can be universally and unquestioningly referred to as the "Christmas Train" (ignoring the fact that for anyone getting off at, say, Toledo or Chicago or La Junta, it would not be "the Christmas Train"); and also such that one passenger addressing a miscellaneous assortment of his fellow passengers towards the end of the trip unhesitatingly refers to them as having been "strangers [to one another] until a few days ago" (implying that, at least as far as he's aware, almost all of them got on in Washington).

-- Around the time of the Christmas Train's late-morning or early-afternoon departure from Washington Union Station, there are basically no other trains leaving the station, and all the passengers in the station's general waiting area are just waiting for that one train, so that the boarding call (which consists of a single yell of "All aboard!") doesn't need to specify which train is being announced.

-- During the holiday season, the interiors of Amtrak stations, the common areas of Amtrak trains, and even individual sleeping car bedrooms are crammed with extravagant holiday decorations.

-- There's apparently nothing eccentric about the preference of the character Higgins, a retired railroad employee, for using a pocket watch, the implication being that that simply continues his use of such a watch on the job.

-- Amtrak sleeping car bedrooms are roughly 100 to 150 square feet in size. Another type of sleeping car accommodation offered is open sections, which are apparently adequate for the needs of, and appropriate for the budget of, a wealthy young man eloping with his fiancee on a cross-country wedding-and-honeymoon trip (with the wedding intended to be performed en route).

-- The lounge car is open to passengers before the train departs.

-- Amtrak conductors stay on the train all the way from Washington to Los Angeles.

-- Amtrak lounge cars are staffed by skilled bartenders who have dozens of bottles of different liquors at their disposal.

-- P42 locomotives (which we see a scale model of a few times) are an antique model of locomotive that was noted for its exceptionally high speed.

-- The passenger cars currently used by Amtrak date from the mid twentieth century or earlier, many of them being converted RDC cars. They include dining and lounge cars that have magic clerestory windows that are invisible from the outside; and they feature Venetian blinds as part of the interior appointments.

-- If you're in Jerusalem--Israel, that is--and you suddenly feel an urgent, irrepressible need to get back to the United States, the best first step is to get on a train. (Granted, the train in question that we're told the character Eleanor took might've just been one to the airport, but the script seems to be hinting that she managed to go by train from Israel all the way to Western Europe, before crossing the Atlantic by plane or ship.)

-- Amtrak trains "chug".

-- 2,000 tons is a typical total weight for Amtrak's trains used in Washington-to-Los Angeles service.

-- Amtrak has a train, #17, that runs eastbound through Toledo to a final destination of Newark--not New York, but Newark. (The Toledo station announcer pronounces it "New-ark", though, as if she were referring to Amtrak's station at Newark, Delaware.) Train #17 is said to leave from "Train 2"--not from Track 2, but from "Train 2".

-- Extra locomotives are useful for getting Amtrak trains over the Rockies in a snowstorm, and Amtrak conductors are open to suggestions from weather-forecast-monitoring retired railroad employees that they ought to call ahead from Toledo to request that an extra engine be put on at La Junta, a suggestion that in the movie's plot is in fact followed. (At La Junta, the protagonist Tom Langdon mentions that he's noticed the addition of an extra engine, although in some subsequent supposed exterior shots of the train it's not there.)

-- Amtrak trains have an onboard maintenance staff.

-- According to the soundtrack song "The Christmas Train", which we hear a brief excerpt of after the departure from Toledo, "I'll say it loud and clear, I'll say it plain/You won't want to miss this year on the Christmas Train". This song was written by lead actor (and also classically trained professional or semiprofessional musician) Dermot Mulroney. According to an interview conducted by Parade magazine in November, though, Mulroney, who probably believes what the script says about it taking "four days" to cross the United States on Amtrak, will be flying to the East Coast this holiday season to visit his parents, though he does claim to prefer trains to planes and cars for holiday travel "if time [isn't] an issue". (It appears that his parents are located in the Philadelphia area, where his father is apparently a still-practicing attorney and also an emeritus law professor at Villanova.)

-- If you're in the waiting area of Chicago Union Station at 7:54 p.m. and your train for Los Angeles is leaving at 7:56 p.m., there's no need to hurry: there's still enough time for at least a brief conversation. The same applies if you're a boarding passenger who shows up in the waiting room at about 7:55 p.m.

-- In the expert opinion of retired railroad employee Higgins, by the year 2027 "trains may be a thing of the past" in the United States. (It's not clear whether this line of dialog is referring to passenger trains only--presumably including commuter trains, as well as subways and other rail transit--or whether it's referring to freight trains as well.)

-- At Chicago or perhaps a little bit west of there, the Christmas Train puts up a previously invisible pantograph and runs in electrified territory.

-- Amtrak offers sleeping car passengers--at least those in bedrooms--the option of ordering a bottle of champagne to be delivered to their room in an ice bucket.

-- Puffs of water vapor can occasionally be seen wafting outside the windows of Amtrak passenger cars in motion, presumably because diesel-electric locomotives contain some sort of residual, atavistic steam-locomotive-like functioning, or because of the cars' supposed steam heating systems, or perhaps because that's just the way trains are.

-- La Junta is in the mountains, with Pikes Peak visible in the distance.

-- Amtrak locomotives are operated with the engineer on the left, as in a highway vehicle.

-- Amtrak crews communicate with dispatching through cell phone networks, and where there's no cell phone signal the crews have no communication, with the result that dispatching doesn't know where the train is. At that point, in the estimation of at least one passenger, as far as dispatching knows the train might be anywhere along the thousand or so remaining miles of route from the Rockies to Los Angeles (a view that seems to derive from an assumption that there's continuous cell phone blackout, and no stops, along those thousand or so miles). Because of these challenges, in the event of a train being blocked by an avalanche in a no-cell-signal area, the best solution to the crisis is to let a couple of passengers get off the train to trek miles through the snow looking for a ranch where they can make a phone call.

-- Although the P42 locomotive, which debuted in 1996, has previously in the course of the movie been implicitly dismissed as antiquated and no longer in use, exterior shots during the avalanche crisis show the stuck train as being pulled by what looks like a mid-twentieth-century E- or F-unit locomotive, with the kind of early styling that dates back to 1937. (Note by the way that according to the dialog there actually should be two locomotives pulling the train in these shots.)

-- In an emergency situation--in this case, being stuck in the mountains with the track blocked by an avalanche--the Christmas Train's female head conductor is happy to confine herself to looking after the children on the train, and let the real work of organizing the passengers' emergency measures be done by retired male railroad employee Higgins.

-- In an emergency situation, it's okay for a female Amtrak conductor to aggressively and lengthily caress the shoulder of a roughly ten-year-old girl she's putatively trying to comfort.

-- There are so few passengers on the Christmas Train that, in order to conserve heat in a cold-weather emergency, they and their luggage can all be moved into the dining and lounge cars without excessive crowding.

-- Retired American railroad employees such as Higgins sometimes use the Brit word "railway" instead of "railroad" (maybe because in their retirement they've spent too much time watching British TV shows on PBS and BBC America).

-- "To get off track" is a railroad expression.

-- Any passenger can go into the baggage car at any time to get stuff.

-- Just as planes have Air Marshals, trains have Train Marshals. At least on long-distance trains, Train Marshals typically ride in private sleeping car accommodations.

-- Hallmark Cards, Inc. wishes to let the American public know--through the fictional voice of The Christmas Train's protagonist Tom Langdon--that "[y]ou don't take" Amtrak's Washington-to-Los Angeles service--a trip that they've repeatedly assured us takes four days, including a day and a half to get through the mountains from Toledo to Chicago--"to get somewhere fast" (not even from Naperville to Mendota?). They also wish to let it be known that "[p]eople [on trains] don't rush, because that's not what trains are for" (really? not even on the TGV, the Shinkansen, or the Acela?). So you see, Hallmark has not only told us what to think about Amtrak's long-distance trains and trains in general, they've backed it up with evidence!


Again, keep in mind that this nightmare of misinformation has been transmitted to the Hallmark Channel's audience with a distinct appearance of having been thoroughly approved by Amtrak. What incompetent person at Amtrak approved the use of the logo and uniforms without insisting that, in exchange, there be absolute accuracy in the way the corporation's transportation services were represented? Amtrak is under no obligation to extend any cooperation to these film and television production companies, and in fact it should always be keeping in mind the necessity of a quid pro quo of accuracy, as well as the possibility of suing a production company if the corporation ends up being portrayed in an inaccurately derogatory and/or otherwise unjustly damaging way. It should look at every fictional portrayal of Amtrak in the entertainment media as an important opportunity to disseminate correct information about the company and to quash misinformation.

I hope no one reading this will be tempted to take refuge in the old saying "It's just a movie"; because particularly in a delicate case like that of American passenger train service, it's never just a movie. People get their notions of what American passenger train service in the modern world is like from inaccurate hearsay and bad journalism and nonsense like The Christmas Train far more than they get it from well-observed personal experience or from accurate information put out by Amtrak and other rail transportation operations. I'm convinced that the invidious portrayals of Amtrak and other American passenger train services over the last few decades have had a significant deleterious effect both on those operations' commercial fortunes and on their political fortunes. Just to take one obvious example: If you were a typical consumer who didn't know anything in particular about American rail travel, and you'd been led by The Christmas Train and other misinformation sources to believe that it takes four days to cross the country by train rather than somewhere in the neighborhood of three, how would that not affect your willingness to consider taking a cross-country train trip? And if you were a politician who believed in the "four days" myth and you were thinking about whether or not to vote for funding for Amtrak's long-distance trains, how would you not be tempted to think "Why am I committing taxpayer dollars to this foolishness?".

I think it'd be great if, as part of his corporate housecleaning, new CEO Richard Anderson were to appoint somebody truly conscientious and competent to be Amtrak's liaison with the entertainment world.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Thank you, Mr. Paulshore for compiling and reporting the numerous "fake facts" from "Christmas Train" TV production that were aware to me some 50 pages into the book.

As I've noted, I think a Research Assistant, or maybe even the author himself, actually rode #29, Capitol Limited, WAS-CHI. Beyond that, fantasy took over.

I read the book simply on the strength that the author, David Baldacci, has written many a good "riveting thrillers". Why he succumbed to this absurdity I'm at a loss to understand.

Finally, why Amtrak allowed any of their registered Trade and Service marks near that production escapes me when they wisely didn't allow them anywhere near that other absurdity, "Silver Streak II", with its numerous depictions of Rules violations.

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yukon11
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I tried to watch the "Christmas Train" but I fell asleep about halfway through the movie.

I don't know if the movie represents standard Hallmark Channel fare, but, if so, I have to think the Hallmark Channel could be a complete waste of time.

If someone were to make a movie about a snow stranded passenger train, a movie about the 1952 "City of San Francisco", stranded in the Sierra mountains, could make for an interesting presentation.

https://is.gd/NaSB3y

Richard

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