Since almost all of the major action takes place in, above, below, running on top of, hanging onto or falling from the Grand Continental, the train itself could almost be considered a lead character in the film. As such, the "casting" of the train proved an enormous undertaking, and no existing locomotive fit the characteristics required of such a demanding role. Therefore, the filmmakers had to created the Grand Continental.
"One of the main problems is that you can't borrow a real train for a six-week shoot," says director Murphy. "You have to build your own complete train." The task was completed in Colorado at the General Iron Works, just outside of Denver.
"We leased a six-car train from the Rader Rail Car Company in Denver," remembers producer Steve Perry, "and our set directors and painters got to work transforming it into the elegant Grand Continental."
Once the train was built, it became the film's "biggest star". "People don't realize just how big a train is," states Geoff Murphy. "In fact, our train is the same length, almost 1000 feet, as the battleship in 'Under Siege,' and it weighs about 3000 tons. Added to that are the complications of its design - it is a two-story train and is quite labyrinth-like in its exterior structure because of the double-decker construction."
The complexities of shooting on a moving train were magnified by the problems of matching footage from one take to the next and the ever-present dilemma of filming on active railroad lines. On solution was to utilize several of the train car interiors that were not photographed to accommodate crew and equipment. "We created our own fully functioning mobile studio on wheels," recalls Perry.
In addition, the train had to be moved into a siding sometimes two or three times a day to make way for freight and passenger trains wending their way through the Rockies. "We had to constantly bid for track time," Murphy explains. "We couldn't just pick a track and say that's our location and go out and shoot for six weeks."
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