ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Film Review: The Great Locomotive Chase

Updated on March 31, 2016
Film Frenzy profile image

Written by: Jason Wheeler, Film Frenzy Senior Writer & Editor.


In 1956, Francis D. Lyon released The Great Locomotive Chase, based on the real Great Locomotive Chase that occurred during the American Civil War in 1862. Starring Fess Parker, Jeffrey Hunter, Jeff York, John Lupton, Eddie Firestone, Kenneth Tobey, Don Megowan, Claude Jarman, Harry Carey, Jr., Leonard P. Geer, George Robotham, Stan Jones, Marc Hamilton, John Wiley, Slim Pickens, Morgan Woodward, Chuck Roberson, Dick Sargent, and Dale Van Sickel, the film grossed $1.7 million at the box office.


James J. Andrews leads a group of Union soldiers in the various Ohio regiments who have volunteered to go behind enemy lines in civilian clothes to steal a Confederate train and drive it back to Union lines. Along the way, they must act like Southerners looking to join the Confederate army and when they get the train, they tear up the tracks, destroy bridges and cut telegraph lines.


Though only a moderately decent film, The Great Locomotive Chase is still quite interesting. The plot is pretty standard for that of a film depicting war and sabotage in the 1950s, showing the characters having to traverse through enemy lines undercover, betraying their consciences in order to make it to their destination and when they do make it, there’s some good tense scenes surrounding everything that happens after they capture the train. For one, Fuller, the conductor of the train they’ve stolen, is hot on their trail once he’s realized what they’ve done and the film does well in producing the tenseness of how close he gets to the saboteurs. There’s also the point when the train has to wait for another train to leave a station before the Union soldiers can keep moving. Though nothing really happens during it, the fact that they could be found out any moment and will have to start shooting along with the aforementioned conductor following them makes for some good tension.

However the reason the film is only moderately decent when it has a good plot is what happens at the ending. Eventually the conductor does catch up with them and the Union soldiers are sent to prison. They attempt to escape and some of them are recaptured, including the main character, only to await an execution. While this ending is most likely due to wanting to stay true to history, this really has an anticlimactic and depressing feel to it and it seems that the film should have ended earlier. Once the soldiers have been captured and the trains have been all but abandoned, the film loses its excitement and tension. Even the attempted breakout doesn’t have the same amount of tension than anything else in the film had, especially when the audience is flatly told in the first scene that some of these people didn’t make it.

Even knowing that some characters didn’t make it in the beginning did provide some good tension, considering there’s the expectation that something’s going to happen to thin out the number of soldiers. However, when it’s clear that the reason some of them didn’t make it are because they got recaptured and put back in prison for an execution, it brings about a feeling of cheapness, almost as if all the previous tension was for naught and that the ending wasn’t properly set up.

Still though, Andrews is a great character, especially as a lead. He does a good job of making it clear to the soldiers he’s bringing with him that it’s essentially a fool’s errand and that no one would be thought less of if they left before the mission started. What’s more is that when the mission is in full swing, it shows just how good he is at maintaining a cover, seen when the Confederate conductor is initially suspicious and Andrews is able to come up with a fake story on the spot. He’s also seen as realizing that just because he and the conductor are enemies simply because of the war, they normally wouldn’t be in any under circumstances, causing him to offer his hand to preemptively bury the hatchet before the end of the war since Andrews wouldn’t be able to due to the execution.

The other characters are great at sticking to their covers too or at least most of them are. Notably, there is one who can’t bring himself to act like a Southerner as it betrays his conscience, showing just how dearly he holds to his positions as a Union soldier.

3 stars for The Great Locomotive Chase

the postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent WNI's positions, strategies or opinion


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      8 months ago from Germany and Philippines

      Good review. It sounds a good movie to watch. Thanks for sharing.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)