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For years people asked me about the train shown in the b&w introduction to the Adventures of Superman. Was it filmed specifically for Superman? Was it stock footage of some sort? I never had an answer. Then quite by accident, on August 15, 2004, Richard Lassner wrote to me and mentioned in passing...

BTW Jim, I think the opening train used in all but one on the 51-53 eps. is from the movie Beginning or the End, 1947. John Hamilton had a part in the movie too. The train comes in about the middle of the movie where Brian Donlevy is explaining the building of the city in TN.

The following day, thanks to Mary Spooner, I had the vid cap from Beginning or the End to compare with mine from Superman. I think it's quite evident where Robert Maxwell got his locomotive.

Locomotive from The Beginning or the End, 1947.
Compliments of Mary Spooner.


Train shown in b&w introduction to the Adventures of Superman.

After all said and discussed regarding this topic, read the following:

The train shown in that intro was taken from the movie "The Beginning Or The End" (MGM, 1947). But where was it filmed? Michael Tortorella of Burlington, Vermont, has the answer. Compare the intro with Michael's Google Earth view of 4703 E. Los Angeles Ave., Simi Valley, CA.

Note the mountain tops are exactly the same.

Trivia: This train sequence was first used in an even earlier movie: City For Conquest (1940) starring James Cagney.

Jim Nolt (January 14, 2011).

Update, September 5, 2004:

Craig Croddock recently wrote:

Jim, the photo is not a Southern Pacific Daylight GS-4 as reported by Vince Marzo. The GS-4 had 2 headlights, one being a mars light. The locomotive in Superman a GS-2 or GS-3... but from the photo I can't be sure which. The GS-2 was first introduced in 1937. The GS-4 wasn't introduced until 1941.

I have steam powered working models of both. The first locomotive in the picture below is a GS-2 and the second one is a model of a GS-4. My friend, Joe Yetter, built both locomotives. The GS-2 belongs to Joe, the GS-4 is mine.

Notice the 2 headlights on the GS-4.

At first Vince wasn't convinced, but at about the same time, Lou Koza reminded me of something I had forgotten. The locomotive used in the Adventure of Superman had its screen debut not in 1947's Beginning or the End, but in the 1940 feature, City of Conquest.

Vince replied:
Ok. Jim, that settles it. Craig is right. The locomotive CAN'T be a GS-4, since they were not produced until 1941!! It can only be a GS-2 or a GS-3. Boy, Craig did a great job in keeping me honest. All three GS locomotives pulled the Coast Daylight train. In the latter years, they were stripped of their fancy orange/red/black livery and reduced to hauling freight -- a far cry from their glory days of premier passenger service. Only one GS-4 remains in operation today, the City of Portland. It was the locomotive used to haul the Bicentennial Train in 1976 and co-starred with Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas in the 1986 movie, Tough Guys. As a matter of fact, I paced that very same locomotive through the streets of Los Angeles in my LAFD sedan. Thank goodness it had red lights and a siren. The train was enroute from Los Angeles to New Orleans for the 1984 World's Fair.

April, 2005 -- After again watching an episode of Superman, I hit upon an idea and contacted a good friend of mine, a deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, who works in the crime lab as a firearms technician. I asked if anyone there could do video enhancing and got an invitation to visit. I was connected with one of their video experts who was able to enhance the steam locomotive from the opening of a 1951 episode. Although we weren't 100% sure, we are 99.9% positive that the locomotive in question is #4418, a Southern Pacific GS-3 locomotive per Craig Croddock.

According to the book, 'Southern Pacific Daylight Locomotives' by Robert J. Church, the 4418 was built by the Lima Locomotive Works, Lima, Ohio in October, 1937. The SP placed the Locomotive into service in Los Angeles on November 9, 1937. It remained assigned to Los Angeles until the Summer of 1941, when it and other GS-3 locomotives were bumped from premiere passenger service by the dual headlighted GS-4's. The 4418 was placed on the roster in Salt Lake City until January 1, 1955 when it was transferred back to California and saw service in the San Joaquin Valley. The 4418 was vacated from the locomotive roster on December 18, 1957 and was scrapped by the Purdy Company in Los Angeles on December 20, 1958.

Seemed as if this locomotive headed off into the sunset just about the same time that TAOS did. A sad ending, for sure.

Vince Marzo

And in a somewhat round about related matter, here is a letter I received from William McCarthy of Long Island, New York.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Dear Jim:

Whilst watching "Beware The Wrecker" I noticed a ship pass in front of my TV screen with the name, Albert S. Burleson.

Just at the beginning of this episode you will notice the scene depicting the Metropolis Harbor. If you continue on further you will see a ship pass bearing the name, Albert S. Burleson. Just for fun I did some quick research on this ship and have listed the particulars below.

The Albert S. Burleson was a Liberty Ship, hull number 1960. Liberty Ships were built during the Second World War and carried most of the cargo used by our armed forces during World War II. Construction time could be as little as 46 days. The Liberty Ship was 442 feet long and could carry 10,000 tons of cargo at 12 MPH. Almost 3000 Liberty Ships were built during the war.

The Albert S. Burleson was built at the Todd-Houston Ship Building Corporation, Houston, Texas. The keel was in place on September 14, 1943 and the ship was launched on November 11, 1943. The ship was finally scrapped in 1971.

The ship was named after Albert S. Burleson (1863-1937) who was a congressman from Texas and Postmaster General from 1913-1921.

Best regards,
Bill McCarthy

January 31, 2016


I read your interesting article on Superman and the train in the opening scene. I had always wondered where the action shot was made, and it's interesting to see the changes now at that location. Anyway, I thought you would like to see a couple of pics of the Bicentennial Train when it was in St. Petersburg Florida in 1976. One of the pics has me standing next to the wheels.

I grew up watching the Adventures of Superman as a kid in Anderson, Indiana back in the 1950's. We lived across from the railroad tracks that carried the NYC and Penn Central steam trains in and out of Anderson. As a kid, having a electric train was the toy to have.

We moved to Florida in 1960, and after high school I got a job as a firefighter. I've been retired for fourteen years. Back in 1976, the Bicentennial steam train rolled into town on its way to Miami and here are some pictures I took back then.

Steve Harris
St. Petersburg, Florida

Original post: April 5, 2005
Latest revision: January 31, 2016

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