The Iron Horse (film)

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The Iron Horse
Iron Horse Poster.jpg
Film poster
Directed by John Ford (uncredited)
Produced by John Ford
Written by Charles Kenyon
John Russell
Charles Darnton
Starring George O'Brien
Madge Bellamy
Cinematography George Schneiderman
Edited by Hettie Gray Baker
Distributed by Fox Film Corporation
Release dates
  • August 28, 1924 (1924-08-28)
Running time
150 minutes (US version)
133 minutes (International version)
Country United States
Language Silent
Budget $280,000

The Iron Horse is a 1924 American Western silent film directed by John Ford and produced by Fox Film.[1] In 2011, this film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.


The film presents an idealized image of the construction of the American first transcontinental railroad. It culminates with the scene of driving of the golden spike at Promontory Summit on May 10, 1869. There is a note in the title before this scene that the two original locomotives from the 1869 event are used in the film, although this is false - both engines (Union Pacific No. 119 and Jupiter) were scrapped before 1910. Of course, a romantic story with love, treachery and revenge is also here. Main stars were George O'Brien and Madge Bellamy.



In December 2011, The Iron Horse was selected for inclusion in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.[2] In choosing the film, the Registry said that The Iron Horse "introduced to American and world audiences a reverential, elegiac mythology that has influenced many subsequent Westerns."[2]

Among the extras used in the Central Pacific sequences were serval Chinese playing coolies who worked on the railroad. They were in fact retired Central Pacific Railroad employees who had helped build the first transcontinental railroad through the Sierras, who came out to participate in the filming as a lark. [3]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on DVD in America in its full-length US version (accompanied by the truncated UK version). A 2011 release of The Iron Horse on DVD in the UK included both the US and International/UK versions of the picture, and a half-hour video-essay about the film by author and critic Tag Gallagher. The 'international' version includes some variant shots and uses different names for some supporting characters; it also carries a dedication to the British railway engineer George Stephenson.[4]

Near the end of the film, it is stated that the actual "Jupiter" and "UP 116" were used in the scene. Besides incorrectly identifying the "UP 119" as the "UP 116", both engines had been scrapped 21 and 15 years earlier. Of interest, however, what appears to be the Central Pacific's "C.P. Huntington", now on display in Sacramento, California, is being manhandled up a steep grade on a sledge made of logs.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Progressive Silent Film List: The Iron Horse". Silent Era. Retrieved 2008-03-01. 
  2. ^ a b "2011 National Film Registry More Than a Box of Chocolates". Library of Congress. December 28, 2011. Retrieved December 29, 2011. 
  3. ^ Brownlow, Kevin. Episode "Out West," Hollywood: A Celebration of American Silent Cinema (Thames Television), 1980
  4. ^ The Iron Horse: 2011 DVD edition, The Masters of Cinema Series.

External links[edit]