College student saves movie-prop 'Daylight' replica

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Anthony Williams poses with the plywood replica of Southern Pacific GS-4 No. 4449 that he won at auction.
Courtesy of Anthony Williams

DESERT CENTER, Calif. — A 22-year-old college student has saved a piece of movie history: The full-size plywood replica of Southern Pacific “Daylight” No. 4449 that was used in the 1986 film “Tough Guys.”

The plywood 4-8-4 has been sitting largely forgotten in a California warehouse for more than 30 years. Last month, an auction house listed the prop along with other items online, including a former Eagle Mountain Railroad caboose. [See “Plywood ‘Daylight’ replica from 1980s movie up for auction,” Trains News Wire, Oct. 25, 2019.] The auction was held on Nov. 2.

While a few people expressed interest in the prop, 22-year-old Anthony Williams emerged the winner with a $130 bid. Williams is a volunteer at the Northern California Museum of Transportation in Oroville and plans on displaying the prop at the museum. “I thought that since no other museum was interested, why not take the initiative if it was cheap enough and purchase it myself,” Williams tells Trains News Wire.

In “Tough Guys,” Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas play two old-school gangsters just released from 30 years in prison after robbing a fictional SP passenger train called the Gold Coast Flyer. Dismayed by modern life, the two men decide to rob the train on its final run.

While Lancaster and Douglas are prominently featured in the film, 4-8-4 No. 4449 is the real star of the movie. The locomotive was moved from its home in Portland, Ore., to California, where parts of the movie were filmed on the Eagle Mountain Railroad, a now-defunct iron ore road.

In the movie’s grand finale, Lancaster and Douglas’ characters, Harry Doyle and Archie Long, crash No. 4449 through a bumper post and across the U.S.-Mexico border. Because SP No. 4449’s crew was not willing to let the filmmakers crash the real 4-8-4 off the end-of-track, they were forced to build a full-scale replica (the actual crash scene was filmed with a smaller model).

Williams says the locomotive portion of the prop is badly deteriorated but the tender is in surprisingly good shape. Williams is currently focusing on removing the most valuable parts of the prop, like the tender panels lettered “Southern Pacific” and the number boards.  

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