When I left the set location this past Friday, this gorgeous train let out a few whistles, biding me farewell and a safe trip home perhaps? Ha! Sure sure…but it was a beautiful sound in the distance. Talking to some locals that came out to observe what they could of WFE filming, they mentioned how nice it was to hear the train whistle blowing frequently. Their kids love it and it makes you reflective of simpler times. I know that’s how I felt as well.
The Fillmore Gazette recently gave us further insight into the beauty behind the beast:
Story and Photos by Bob Crum
At first sight… wonderment. Hearing her all-to-familiar-sounding whistle ignites nostalgia. Awe… as the first blast of steam enters her massive 20X28 cylinders. With boiler pressure of 180 pounds… her eight 48-inch steel driving wheels apply a whopping 35,700 pounds of tractive force. With a belch of smoke from her majestic stack… she struts down the rails with attitude. And a big smile knowing that she’s about to once again enjoy showgirl status. Life is good.
MORE choo choo nostalgia and the ‘Water For Elephants’ connection after the jump
Known as #18, she was built in 1914 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia, PA, McCloud River Railroad purchased the 2-8-2 steam locomotive for $16,871.79. She enjoyed a brief career as a showgirl before getting down to business on the McCloud primarily hauling logs and lumber.
When the diesels arrived in 1948, the #18 was one of 14 steam locomotives on the property. The #18 was stored and offered for sale or scrap. Meanwhile, the neighboring Yreka Western Railroad was searching for heavier motive power. In 1956, the Yreka road bought two steam locomotives, the #19 (a near twin of the #18) and the #18. They were the primary power on the Yreka Western for only two years before the the Yreka purchased a used diesel.
The two steam locomotives operated frequently until 1964 when the #18 blew a cylinder head while double-heading a special passenger excursion with the #19. The YW lacked the money and expertise to repair the damage so the #18 sat under a tarp in the Yreka yards for many years… slowly rusting away. The owners of the YW finally put the railroad up for sale in early 1998 but the #18 was sold separately. An auction was held for the #18 and the successful bidder was… the McCloud Railway Company. The #18 returned home to McCloud in March of 1998.
In the McCloud shop, #18 underwent major restoration. Newspaper reports tell that the McCloud Railway paid $80,000 for the locomotive and spent an additional $350,000 restoring it. The #18 was finally placed back in service in February, 2001. However, in 2005 financial problems forced the sale of the #18 to the Virginia & Truckee Restoration Committee, which is rebuilding the former Virginia and Truckee railroad between Carson City and Virginia City, Nevada. The #18 ran it’s last trip on the McCloud on Sunday, August 7, 2005.
Now… #18 is about to play a role in a feature film titled ‘Water for Elephants’ based on a novel by Sara Gruen. (ISBN-10: 1565124995) The story: “As a young man, Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It was the early part of the great Depression, and for Jacob, now ninety, the circus world he remembers was both his salvation and a living hell. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie.
It was there that he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great gray hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and, ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.
The cast includes Robert Pattinson as Jacob Jankowski, the novel’s protagonist. He is a “90, or 93”-year-old nursing home resident reminiscing on the time he spent as a circus veterinarian during the Great Depression. Reese Witherspoon as Marlena is a star performer with the circus. Marlena joined the circus after she ran away from home to marry August. She enjoys a special rapport with the horses and cares for them deeply. Christoph Waltz as August, Malena’s husband, is the head animal trainer (Circus owner and Ring Master in the film). He is alternately charming and brutal, both to the humans and animals aboard the Benzini Brothers train.