Springfield, Illinois. Brandon, a surveyor, dreams of building a railway to the west, but Marsh, a contractor, is sceptical. Abraham Lincoln looks on as their children, Davy Brandon and Miriam Marsh, play together. Brandon sets off with Davy to survey a route. They discover a new pass which will shave 200 miles off the expected distance, but they are set upon by a party of Cheyenne. One of them, a white renegade with only two fingers on his right hand, kills Brandon and scalps him. Davy buries his father... Years pass. It is 1862 and Lincoln signs the bill authorizing construction of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railways. Marsh is principal contractor and Miriam is engaged to Jesson, the chief engineer... Crews of Chinese, Italians, and Irish work to build the railway while resisting Indian attack. When the pay train is delayed by Indian ambush, the Italians go on strike. Miriam persuades them to return to work... Marsh needs to find a shortcut through the Black Hills. To ... Written by
The production had its own bootlegger. While doing a run one night, the bootlegger in question allegedly hit and killed someone with his car. See more »
A claim was made that the original Jupiter was used in the movie. After the Central Pacific Railroad was reorganized as the Southern Pacific, the steam engine was numbered SP1195, was converted to a coal burner and then sold to the Gila Valley, Globe & Northern Railroad in Arizona. Unfortunately, it was scrapped in 1906 for $1000, so it could not have been in this movie. See more »
When they drive the golden spike, we'll belong to both sides - and to each other.
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Very early John Ford western, don't bother looking for John Wayne here! "The Iron Horse" tells the story of the building of the railroad across America from the East to West coasts. Of course this is a movie so we also get a romance plot, a vengeance plot, hostile Indians, corrupt officials, jovial Irishmen, nasty Indians and so forth.
Although the tone of the film is mostly pretty patriotic and upbeat, there are several darker moments that hint at the corruption and greed in business as landowners attempt to influence the route of the railroad with bribes of women and money. Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in the West" amongst many other later Westerns takes this theme further. Much of the work is done by Chinese immigrants, but they all seem pretty cheerful here!
In many areas the film is inevitably dated, particularly it's comic scenes and the aforementioned treatment of racial stereotypes. There are a few landscape shots and action scenes, but none as stunning or exciting as in Ford's slightly later "Stagecoach". The 2 hour plus running time is also a little too much. However, the film does succeed in creating an overwhelming sense of achievement in the creation of the railroad, although the sense that 'Civilisation' may actually be a threat, developed in later Westerns, is already apparent with the saloon that doubles as a court of law, and a drunken judge.
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