By CineTrains Blogger: Christopher Bodkin
University of Texas, May 1971. Five frat brothers, part of a group known as the “Groovers” have just graduated and are facing uncertain futures. Two of the members, Gardner Barnes (Kevin Costner) and Kenneth Waggener (Sam Robards) have just received their draft cards to Vietnam, and are ordered to basic training within a week. Knowing the group is on borrowed time, the gang decides to go on a rip-roaring trek of West Texas on what few days they have left of freedom. Gardner commandeers the 1959 Cadillac of another member, Phil Hicks (Judd Nelson) and they go on their way. A day or so later the gang stops at a roadside monument, their car having run out of gas. And it just so happens they are stopped by some railroad tracks. After what seems like an eternity, the guys hear a distant train horn. Gardner’s first idea is to leave the car where it is, hop the train to go into town and get some gas, and return later. Phil is vehemently opposed to the idea. Gardner then gets another idea. The parking area of the monument is surrounded by a short fence consisting of a cable. This idea is to tie one end of the cable to the front bumper of the Cadillac, the other end to the rear of the train, basically getting a free ride into town courtesy of the railroad. He then orders another member, Dorman (Chuck Bush) to rip the cable out and lasso it onto the last coupler of the last car. He is successful, and the gang waits for the final result. Unfortunately the laws of physics come into play and instead of taking the car with it, the train violently rips the front clip of the Cadillac pulling it up the tracks a short distance before finally leaving it in the middle of the tracks. The gang, including a very angry Phil, ponder their next mission, eventually pushing the car into the next town down the highway… Now onto the train.
The locomotive featured is Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe GP50 #3834, which emerged from the EMD plant in La Grange, Illinois in April 1981, as part of order #796317, a sixteen unit order of GP50’s (#s 3824-3839) built between March and April 1981. This was Santa Fe’s third order of the units. A fourth and final order would follow in April 1985. They were typically put in place on the ATSF’s hot intermodal freights when delivered in the early 1980’s.
3834 would eventually make it into the BNSF era, and was ultimately renumbered to 3187. It is still in its as-delivered blue and yellow, aka “Bluebonnet” paint scheme as it was seen in Fandango.
Now for a couple of minor goofs…even though the film was set in 1971, the locomotive seen wasn’t even built until ten years later, most rail fans would have believed a GP35 would have sufficed. But this being Hollywood perfection is not a top priority. And the other goof, the “bluebonnet” scheme didn’t debut until the following year in 1972. All ATSF locomotives in 1971 were in the solid blue with yellow trim “cigar band” paint scheme. Finally as to why all Santa Fe reporting marks were blanked out, especially on the freight cars, I can only assume that the ATSF didn’t want to be held liable for anything that should have went wrong during the filming of the scene. Just a guess…Anyone who actually knows please comment!
Some pictures of the 3834/3187:
3834 in Tehachapi, Ca in December 1987, two years after being in Fandango:
After being renumbered to 3187, in Turrell, Ark in 1998:
Most recent picture of the 3187. In Conroe. Tx on a work train, 1/27/12: