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Sick day = Disaster on the Coastliner

Today I’m home sick (since Friday – yech), but I’m actually awake for the most part today.  So while flipping through the channels, I came across a movie that sounded like it had something to do with railroading – Disaster on the Coastliner (IMDB info here).  Curious, I left it on there and watched for a bit – hey, it had some pretty good names in it like Lloyd Bridges, William Shatner & Raymond Burr.  How bad could it be with names like that?  Well, as I was watching it wasn’t great (kinda like this little review…remember I’m still sick)…but I kept on watching.  Then some of the outside train scenes looked really familiar despite supposed to be taking place in California…and I had only been to California once around the Los Angeles area before I was really taking photos…

The one scene that really tipped me off was when the helicopter was first trying to stop the train by hovering over the tracks, then pulling up getting out of their way.  That scene then showed the train pulling through a curve as the helicopter leveled off and paced the train with what looked to be a drawbridge in the background, but what was really familiar was the bay with the buildings on the left hand side.  It sure looked a lot like Niantic Bay with the Millstone nuclear power station in the distance with the train heading east into Waterford.  A quick check of IMDB confirmed my suspicions – it was filmed mostly in East Lyme/Niantic and Groton!  Actually, continuing to watch the movie, the collision was to happen in East Lyme, CA – which looked a lot like East Lyme, CT.  That made things easy for the scenes with police – they were already labeled East Lyme Police.  Well, except for the Connecticut plates on the cars, and the Connecticut state coat of arms on the officer’s patches…details, details…

So continuing to watch, I was treated to many familiar sights – one scene looked to be around Midway in Groton, along with a couple views of both the Niantic River (NAN) and Connecticut River (CONN) drawbridges, the old MiJoy (a charter fishing boat that still runs into Long Island Sound) sign that had been north of NAN for many years, the Morton House in Niantic, along with many of the storefronts along Main Street that are still there, and some nice pacing footage along Niantic Bay as William Shatner & Paul Smith (playing the guy who set it all up) are trying to get off of the runaway F40.  What made me chuckle, though, was the scene sequence on how that rescue played out.  First they showed them going westbound over NAN, then heading along The Bar which runs between Route 156 and Niantic Bay, which is fine.  Then they’re rolling along some marshland, which is about 5 miles west of there on the approach to the Connecticut River draw (CONN) – again somewhat accurate, at least in direction, not timing.  But after clearing CONN, they were concerned with another drawbridge just ahead.  But there is no drawbridge until well past New Haven.  But in the next scene they show Niantic River Draw closing, and then we see the F40 once again heading west over the drawbridge, where Shatner & Smith both jump off of the roof of the F40 into the Niantic River.  They’re then pulled out of the water across from the MiJoy, where the Blackhawk II (another charter fishing boat) now docks.  Still neat seeing things as I remember them when I was a kid down there.

Even with these goofs, and some other technical inaccuracies (like that crossover would ever hold at that speed, or the train not going into emergency when Shatner separated the train from the power), it was a pretty good movie.  And it looks like it was filmed in the spring or summer time of 1978 – I quite possibly was just down the road in Old Lyme while the filming was going on – would have been neat watching it.  Either way, watching it today made staying inside on this beautiful spring day go by a bit faster.  I’d say if you get a chance to see this, check it out.  It’s nearly worth the two hours it’ll be on TV.  The only thing I missed was the derailment of the runaway F40 in what looked like Groton – I was stuck in the, um, facilities…told you I was still sick…

-Tom

6 comments to Sick day = Disaster on the Coastliner

  • David Jodoin

    Ah yes, I remember that move well. I believe that I still have a TV Guide article about that move somwhere in my collection.

  • First off, I sure hope you’re feeling better and sorry to hear that your Easter weekend was less than stellar. There have been some nasty bugs going around lately and it sounds like you caught one of them.

    I wonder if NetFlix has this movie? I’d like to watch it for not only the local scenery but also for what I’m sure is the classic over-acting on the part of William Shatner!

  • Don haskel

    I agree, this is an interesting story for a sick day. As you were commenting on this movie I was thinking of a shot I took of a for-lone looking F-40ph 316 running light with a an unidentified P&W GE unit. This took place in Palmer around 1998. Until you mentioned the date of the movie I was thinking that this F-40ph ruining with a P&W unit had something to do with this move. So I still have no explanation for the light engines.

  • Wow, Dave, I still have a two page spread from TV Guide with a sidebar about scale models made for the wreck sequence — somewhere — in my railroadiana.

    Tom, I also recall a short article in Passenger Train Journal about the making of the movie.

  • robert weston

    Kinda odd the black conductor didn’t know how to dump the air,

  • Toni

    Does anyone have a copy of “Disaster on the Coastliner”? I have been looking for years and am willing to pay top dollar! jrzgrlnwv66@aim.com

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