The Great Locomotive Chase

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The Great Locomotive Chase
The poster of the movie The Great Locomotive Chase.jpg
Directed by Francis D. Lyon
Produced by Lawrence Edward Watkin, Walt Disney
Written by Lawrence Edward Watkin
Starring Fess Parker
Jeffrey Hunter
John Lupton
Stan Jones
Slim Pickens
Music by Paul J. Smith
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution
Release date
  • June 8, 1956 (1956-06-08)
Running time
85 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1.7 million (US)[1]

The Great Locomotive Chase is a 1956 Walt Disney Productions CinemaScope adventure film based on the real Great Locomotive Chase that occurred in 1862 during the American Civil War. The film stars Fess Parker as James J. Andrews, the leader of a group of Union soldiers from various Ohio regiments who volunteered to go behind Confederate lines in civilian clothes, steal a Confederate train north of Atlanta, and drive it back to Union lines in Tennessee, tearing up railroad tracks and destroying bridges and telegraph lines along the way.

Written and produced by Lawrence Edward Watkin and directed by Francis D. Lyon, the 85-minute full-color film also features Jeffrey Hunter, John Lupton, Kenneth Tobey, Don Megowan, and Slim Pickens. Paul J. Smith composed the score. Filmed in Georgia and North Carolina, along the now abandoned Tallulah Falls Railway, it was released in U.S. theaters by Buena Vista Distribution Company on June 8, 1956, and capitalized on Parker's growing fame as an actor from his portrayal of Davy Crockett. The film reteamed him with Jeff York (Mike Fink).



The steam engine upon whose exploits the film is based, the General, is preserved at the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw, Georgia. Representing the General in the film is the William Mason locomotive, built in 1856 and preserved in operating condition at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.[2]

The first of three locomotives used by Conductor William A. Fuller in pursuit of the General, the Yonah, was portrayed in the movie by the Lafayette, a 1927-built 4-2-0 replica of an identical locomotive of the same name built in 1837.[3] The original Yonah, however, did not have a 4-2-0 design, but actually had a 4-4-0 design that pre-dated the newer 4-4-0 designs of the other locomotives involved in the Great Locomotive Chase. The Lafayette is still operational and can also be found at the B&O Railroad Museum.

The final locomotive used by Conductor Fuller and the pursuers, the Texas, is currently being cosmetically restored as of 2016 at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, North Carolina in preparation for becoming a static display at the Atlanta History Center in the Buckhead district of Atlanta, Georgia. In the film, Texas is represented by the Inyo locomotive, built in 1875 and preserved in working order at the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City, Nevada.[2] The Inyo was also used in the film to represent the William R. Smith, which was a locomotive briefly commandeered by Fuller after his usage of the Yonah and before his usage of the Texas to chase down the General.

The William Mason and the Inyo are extremely rare examples of full-size 4-4-0 American-type steam locomotives built in the United States during the 19th century that still run in the present day.[4]


(in film sequence)

  1. "Dixie"—sung by Fess Parker, et al.
  2. "A Rebel I Will Be Until I Die"—sung by Fess Parker, et al.
  3. "Sons of Old Aunt Dinah" - lyrics by Lawrence Edward Watkin and music by Stan Jones.
  4. "I Stole A Locomotive Just to Take a Ride 'Cause My Daddy Was A Railroading Man"—sung by Fess Parker, et al.
  5. "Roll Jordan Roll, I Want To Go To Heaven When I Die"—sung by Fess Parker, et al.
  6. "Tenting On the Old Camp Ground"—classic Civil War hymn sung by Fess Parker, Jeff York, John Lupton, et al.


The film received mixed reviews upon its release. Though given acceptable reviews by most critics, the film was not as successful as Walt Disney had hoped it would be. This may have been due to the anticlimactic ending, where the Union spies are captured, jailed, and attempt to escape. According to a review by the New York Times, "The excitement is over when they abandon the trains."[5] Moreover, some felt the film to be rather depressing or downbeat since the main characters are unsuccessful in their mission and some, including the lead character, wind up being executed.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1956', Variety Weekly, January 2, 1957
  2. ^ a b Railroad Movies on DVD
  3. ^ - B&O Railroad Museum
  4. ^ - Operational 4-4-0s in the United States
  5. ^ New York Times - Screen: Saga of Rails; 'The Great Locomotive Chase' at Mayfair
  6. ^ Bogle, James G & Cohen, Stan. (1999). The General & The Texas: A Pictorial History of the Andrews Raid, April 12, 1862. 

External links[edit]