The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Unguessable factoid #94: the steam/electric quick-change at Harmon

Old Alfred Hitchcock was making the most of the end of the era of rail when he featured the Twentieth Century Limited in his 1959 flick North by Northwest [1].

Curious, I do a little online mooching, only to find one of those essentially unguessable facts that make the activity such a delight: a train heading north from Grand Central Station on the New York Central would be hauled the first part of the way by an electric locomotive; at Harmon, NY, around 40 miles away, that locomotive would be uncoupled and a steam or diesel locomotive substituted [2].

No doubt there were good economic reasons for this procedure. I'm not aware of other examples, though.

  1. Trains gave valiant support in The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes - stateside, there was Strangers on a Train, of course. Of the icy blondes, Eve-Marie Saint's perf is pretty insipid and unsatisfying compared with Madeleine Carroll's. Hitchcock is, I seem to remember, supposed to have dealt with Carroll's tendency to be a princess by keeping her wet on set while they shot the scenes of the escape on the moor.

  2. A page from a rail buff who lived in Harmon in the 1950s describes the procedure in detail. Electric traction first operated on the stretch of the NYC from Harmon into New York in 1906, apparently. In the UK, there wasn't much doing on electrification until the 1920s - on lines of the Southern Railway.

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