Movies Set on Trains

Movies Set on Trains

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In Europe, train travel is commonplace. But except for commuter trains, in America it’s largely disappeared as a transportation option.

NP North Coast Limited Time TableIn the U.S., long-haul passenger trains tend to operate once a day in each directions. And since 1971, they’ve been run by Amtrak, not private railroads.

Fifty-odd years ago, the most significant trips I took as a kid were by train.

Riding back to Seattle after spending a day in Vancouver,  British Columbia, I was fascinated by the white-tablecloth service in the dining car and the flush toilets (“Ick! Does it get dumped on the tracks?”).

Traveling from Seattle to Miami Beach and back in day coaches seemed like an interminable trip to hell (the temperatures and humidity in Miami during my August stay were both over 90) and back.

So like most Americans, for me train travel evokes a bygone era. And that’s why I find movies set aboard trains fascinating. Here are three such films that I just discovered.

Thriller on Rails

Before moving to Hollywood, Alfred Hitchcock created the 1938 thriller on rails, The Lady Vanishes.

While heading back to England from a holiday on the Continent, a well-off young woman, Iris (played by Margaret Lockwood) meets an elderly lady, Miss Froy (May Whitty). Miss Froy mysteriously disappears, but the other English travelers aboard the train deny that she ever existed.

Here’s a trailer for the film. (You can watch the entire movie on YouTube, or purchase it from


Virginity Derailed

In Closely Watched Trains, a young man who works at a small railway station has a problem: He’s a virgin.

World War II is winding down, and the Nazis are worried about potential sabotage to their trains. In what proves to be a “fatal attraction”to a bomb-toting woman, the lad becomes a man, but ends up losing not just his virginity, but something that should have been much more long-lasting.

Here’s a peek at the movie, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film in 1968. It’s also available from


Training India

On a more light-hearted note, we conclude our trio of train flicks with the 2007 comedy, The Darjeeling Limited. The movie has a star-studded cast including Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, Angelica Huston, and Natalie Portman.

Three brothers who haven’t seen each other since their father’s funeral, reunited on a cross-India luxury train, the “Darjeeling Limited.” During the journey, one of the brother’s buys a cobra. The snake gets loose, and the brothers get confined to their cabins. The sibling rivalry breaks out into fisticuffs, getting the trio kicked off the train.

Like the previous two films we mentioned, The Darjeeling Limited is available from Here’s a taste of this off-beat movie.

(Purchases made from through links on this page helps Tales Told From The Road continue to provide you with a wide range of travel-related stories.)

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2 Replies to “Movies Set on Trains”

  1. I saw the Hitchcock movie years ago, but have not yet viewed the other two. Of course the best all time train movie is Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. And if you include scenes on trains–there’s a plethora of train-robbing westerns and who could forget Von Ryan’s Express? This is a great theme that could make an entire blog–and probably has.

    1. You’re right, Vera, one could easily create a blog that focused solely on train-related movies! I learned of the films I wrote about from the description of a “film appreciation” class being offered by my local community college “adult-ed” program.

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