“The Natural”

     The railyard and rolling stock of Midwest Railway Preservation Society are no strangers to the spotlights brought by movie and television film crews. From feature films to cable TV network shows, the roundhouse has been a popular place for past productions, with more scheduled for the future. Some recent films having scenes shot around the yard were “Acts of Violence” starring Bruce Willis and “All the Bright Places”, a Netflix production. Midwest sent crates full of vintage railroad passenger car interior accoutrements to Hollywood that were used in creating a lifelike backdrop for the opening scenes in “Equalizer 2”, starring Denzel Washington.

     Perhaps the most famous of all, though, was not filmed at the roundhouse but required a train crew to take 4070 and a string of passenger cars to New York for filming of “The Natural”, starring Robert Redford. In September of 1983, a 15-member crew led by B&O engineer Jack Parsons made the 19 1/2 hour journey from Cleveland to South Dayton, New York where scenes were shot over the course of a week. According to an article published in the Salamanca Press, 4070, the 1918 Alco 2-8-2 steam locomotive, was “getting as much attention from the railroad enthusiasts here as Redford is from his many female fans.”

     Although 4070 was used to pulling 12 passenger cars on its’ weekly excursions along the Cuyahoga River Valley, the locomotive pulled only six cars to New York; a mail car, three day coaches and two Pullmans. All vintage cars, the movie company painted the exteriors of all of the cars and refurbished the interiors of some.

     Arriving at the New York & Lake Erie depot in South Dayton at about 5:00 am on a Monday morning, the train was greeted by a number of residents who were allowed to climb up into the cab for a look around and were also presented with explanations by the crew of the locomotive’s operation. One railfan from the Buffalo area told reporters that he had followed the train by car all of the way from Youngstown, Ohio.

     The trip to New York was on B&O and Conrail track and was interrupted three times for water stops. It was estimated that 4070 consumed 18 tons of coal and close to 40,000 gallons of water.

     The train was filmed coming into the NY&LE depot with Redford on board. During the stop there, Redford who played New York Knights pitcher Roy Hobbs, wandered around a small county fair and was challenged into a contest by a New York Knights hitter, Whammer, played by Joe Don Baker. The scene preceded Hobb’s signing a contract to play baseball for the Knights. Other scenes were also filmed there with some being in the interior of Mt. Baxter, a Pullman sleeper that has an observation end lounge. The seat that Redford sat in during filming is still to this day a popular place for female visitors to Midwest to have their picture taken.

     As with all motion pictures, not every scene that is shot makes the final cut. The next time you have the chance, watch “The Natural” and see if you can spot 4070 and the rest of Midwest’s rolling stock in the movie.

References for this article:

The Salamanca Press, September 3, 1983

Archives, Midwest Railway Preservation Society

This photo was copied from the Salamanca Press story appearing on September 3, 1983.
Robert Redford sat on the bench seat in the righthand corner during filming of “The Natural”.