Santa Claus is coming to town!
With its unspoiled scenery, the Sierra Railroad is singled out by movie producers from around the world as a preferred location for filming. Known as "The Movie Railroad," Sierra has been featured in over 300 motion pictures, television programs and commercials. Such Hollywood movie stars as Clint Eastwood, Michael J. Fox, John Wayne, Michael Landon, Errol Flynn, Gary Cooper, William S. Hart, and Drew Barrymore have all played a part in the Sierra Railroad's storied past.
The first movie filmed on the Sierra was The Red Glove in May 1919. Then came diverse and varied films such as the first "talkie" filmed on the railroad, The Virginian (1927); Dodge City (1939); Oscar-winning High Noon (1951) with Grace Kelly and Gary Cooper; The Great Race (1966); Finian's Rainbow (1969); The World's Greatest Lover (1970); the IMAX movie To Fly (1975); 48 Hours (1982); Pale Rider (1985), Back to the Future III (1989); and Unforgiven (1992). A more complete list is shown below.
The Sierra Railroad was also used for a variety of television shows, including Petticoat Junction, The Lone Ranger, The Wild Wild West, The Big Valley, Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie, The A Team, and Monster Garage.
A wide variety of commercials and photo shoots took place on the Sierra Railroad. Most recently, AFLAC’s famous duck came to the railroad to film a “silent movie” style commercial.
Partial list of feature film productions
American Grace (2003) 1970s-era movie inspired by 1960s-based American Graffiti that takes place in nearby Modesto. Noteworthy scenes included a train colliding with hearse and helicopter landing in downtown Oakdale.
The Sound of the Lark (2001)
Bad Girls (1994) starring Drew Barrymore.
Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day (1994) with REM singer Michael Stipe who co-produced movie with Sierra’s current Roadmaster Larry Ingold.
Unforgiven (1992) starring Clint Eastwood
The Iron Road (1990) film by Peace River Films
Back to the Future III (1990) starring Michael J. Fox.
Pale Rider (1985) starring Clint Eastwood.
Blood Red (~ 1983) about Napa Valley wine wars
Chattanooga Choo Choo (1983) with Joe Namath OJ Simpson Barbara Eden & George Kennedy
Howard the Duck (~1982)
48 Hours (1982) starring Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy
Something Wicked This Way Comes (1982)
The Long Riders (1980) with James and Stacy Keach; David, Keith and Robert Carradine; and Dennis and Randy Quaid
The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979) with Don Knotts & Tim Conway
Fast Charlie — The Moon-beam Rider (1979) stars David Carradine in a motorcycle race. Featuring a dangerous scene with Sierra #28 chasing riders over the Draper trestle.
World's Greatest Lover (1977) with Gene Wilder & Carol Kane
Bound for Glory (1976) with David Carradine and Randy Quaid
Nickelodeon (1976) with Ryan O’Neal & Burt Reynolds.
To Fly (1975) Smithsonian Institute documentary
Slither (1973) with James Caan
Oklahoma Crude (1973) with George C. Scott and Faye Dunaway
The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1972) with Cliff Robertson & Robert Duvall
Joe Hill (1972) with Tommy Berggren
The Great Bank Robbery (1969) includes a scene with a gang on Engine #3 chasing Clint Walker, Zero Mostel and Kim Novak in a hot air balloon.
Finian’s Rainbow (1968) starring Fred Astaire
The Rare Breed (1966) starring James Stewart and Maureen O’Hara
The Great Race (1966) starring Jack Lemmon & Tony Curtis
The Outrage (1964) with Edward G. Robinson & Paul Newman
Face of a Fugitive (1959) with Fred MacMurray & Lin McCarthy
Man of the West (1958) with Julie London and, for the fourth time, Gary Cooper.
Terror in a Texas Town (1958) with Sterling Hayden & Sebastian Cabot
The Big Land (1957) with Alan Ladd & Edmond O’Brien
Seven Bad Men (1955) with Randolph Scott
Rage at Dawn (1955) with Randolph Scott
Apache (1954) with Burt Lancaster & Jean Peters
The Moonlighter (1953) with Barbara Stanwyck & Fred MacMurray
High Noon (1952) with Gary Cooper & Grace Kelly and winner of four academy awards
The Cimarron Kid (1952) with Audie Murphy was the last Sierra #18 movie.
Texas Rangers (1951) with George Montgomery
Wyoming Mail (1950) after 18-year “retirement”, Sierra #3 (or “three-spot”) was restored & used.
Sierra Passage (1950) with Wayne Morris
Duel in the Sun (1946) starring Gregory Peck
Pierre of the Plains (1942) with John Carroll & Bruce Cabot
Return of Frank James (1940) with Henry Fonda
Young Tom Edison (1940) with Mickey Rooney
My Little Chickadee (1940) is a comedy with “hustlers” W.C. Fields and Mae West
Go West (1940) Marx Brothers comedy that used a special track to make it appear that the locomotive jumped off tracks and ran through farm buildings.
Santa Fe Trail (1940) with Errol Flynn & Ronald Reagan
Union Pacific (1939) with Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea & Robert Preston
The Toast of New York (1937) with Edward Arnold & Frances Farmer
Old Chicago (1937) is a musical with Tyrone Power & Alice Faye.
North of the Rio Grande (1937) Hopalong Cassidy film is only known movie with Sierra #30
Conflict (1936) with king of westerns, John Wayne
County Chairman (1935) with Will Rogers & Mickey Rooney
The Lone Cowboy (1934) with Jackie Cooper & Ralph Bellamy was filmed at Warnerville.
The Conquerors (1932) with Richard Dix & Ann Harding
The Texan (1930) with Gary Cooper & Fay Wray (of King Kong fame!).
The Virginian (1929) with Gary Cooper was the first outdoor “talkie” movie ever filmed in the world. The scene was filmed at Cooperstown.
The Red Glove (1919) is the first movie filmed on Sierra.
Partial list of Television Productions
Monster Garage (2004) Famous biker & motorcycle mechanic Jessie James raced a locomotive at Railtown 1897.
A Work of Giants (2003) BBC show filmed near Warnerville about building of America's transcontinental railroad.
West Tech (2003) History Channel show on first train robbery.
Brisco County Junior (mid 1990s)
Bonanza: The Return (1993) was a made-for television NBC movie starring Ben Johnson, Richard Roundtree, Michael Landon Jr., Dean Stockwell & Linda Grey Ishi
Last of his Tribe (1992) was HBO Production with David Ogden Stiers & Graham Greene
Kid Club House (1990) produced by PBS KTEH Channel 54
Tangiers, a band, filmed an MTV Video with the Sierra in 1989
The Cat Story (1989) was a short film by HBO Productions
Paradise (1988) TV pilot.
PBS filmed various sites for stock footage in 1988
Kenny Rogers' The Gambler II (1983)
The A Team (1983)
Shadow Riders (1982)
Kenny Rogers as The Gambler (1980)
East of Eden (1980)
Sawyer & Finn (1980)
Last Ride of the Dalton Gang (1979)
Ishi, the last of his tribe (1978) with Eloy Phil Casados & Dennis Weaver about the last surviving Yahi Indian who feels sorry for trains he watches because they always follow the same lonely trail.
A Woman Called Moses (1978) made-for television movie starring Cicely Tyson as Harriet Ross Tubman who led slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad.
Little House on the Prairie (1975-83) with Michael Landon, Lou Gossett, Victor French and Richard Jaekel.
Bonanza (1972) with Lorne Greene & Michael Landon
The Red Pony (1972) television movie starring Henry Fonda & Maureen O’Hara
Let Me Tell You a Song (1972) with Merle Haggard
Nichols (1971) with James Garner
Gunsmoke (1971) 3-part episode about an Army gold shipment robbery.
The Men from Shiloh (1970) with Lee Majors
A Man Called Gannon (1968) made-for television movie starring Tony Franciosa
The Man from UNCLE (1967) with Robert Vaughn & David McCallum
Scalplock (1966) was the pilot movie for the show “Iron Horse”
The Legend of Jesse James (1965-66)
The FBI (1965) with Efrem Zimbalist & Phillip Abbott
The Big Valley (1964) with Barbara Stanwyck & Richard Long, including the series pilot movie.
The Wild Wild West (1964) with Robert Conrad, including series pilot movie.
Death Valley Days (1962-65) with host Ronald Reagan
Rawhide (1960) with Clint Eastwood
Tales of Wells Fargo (1957-59) with Dale Robertson
The Lone Ranger (1956) with Clayton Moore & Jay Silverheels.
Partial list of Commercials and Photo Shoots
AFLAC (2005) The AFLAC duck filmed a “silent movie” style commercial.
Marie Claire (2004) Italian fashion magazine had supermodel photo shoot.
Gallo Wines (1995)
Atlantic Bell Yellow Pages (1991)
Henry Weinhart Beer (~1990)
Tupla Chocolate (1990)
Napa Auto Parts (1990)
United Airlines (1988)
New Jersey Financial (1984)
Wells Fargo Bank (1983 & 1991)
Hub Dist (1983)
Great Western Savings (1980)
San Diego Bank (1979)
Heldenbrau Beer (1979)
Kawasaki Motorcycles (1978)
Wrangler Jeans (1978)
Japanese ads (1977-79)
Hold Cough Drops (1977)
General Tires (1977)
American Electric (1977)
Marathon Candy Bars (1977)
Big Tate Mashed Potatoes (1976)
Miller High Life Beef (1975)
The Roseville Gang Auto Dealers (1975)
Datsun Automobiles (1974)
Gravy Train Dog Food (1973)
Kool Cigarettes (1970)
Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer (1967) featured Sierra #3 in billboard ads
Kellogg’s Cereal (1967)
Gaines Burgers Dog Food (1967)
Duncan Hines Cake Mix (1964)
*All times are approximate and subject to change without notice