Train and the Pride aboard for Spielberg movie Artifacts: One of the museum's old locomotives gets a role, and the city's ship stands in as a slaver.


March 29, 1997|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Hollywood went rummaging through Baltimore's transportation attic recently and liked what it found -- a steam train with matching passenger cars and a 19th-century replica of a clipper ship. Both have been booked for an appearance in a new movie.

This week, the B&O Museum's 29,000-pound Lafayette locomotive, 12,000-pound tender, and two vintage passenger cars tipping the scales at 4,000 pounds each were meticulously loaded aboard trucks at its Mount Clare site.

Yesterday morning, they were driven to the Valley Railroad in Essex, Conn., where they will have a cameo role in director Steven Spielberg's "Amistad," an historical drama about the 1839 revolt aboard a Spanish slave ship off the coast of Connecticut.

The movie, Spielberg's first for his DreamWorks Pictures, will be released later this year. It features an international cast led by Anthony Hopkins, Morgan Freeman, Nigel Hawthorne, Djimon Hounsou, Matthew McConaughey and Pete Postlethwaite.

"It was all pretty routine and went according to plan. There were no problems," said Richard Kilduff, 47, president and founder of Ark Machinery Movers, who oversaw the loading of the delicate and historic railroad equipment. "We laid tracks on the trucks and simply rolled the equipment on board," he said. He expected the carefully tarped and trussed train cars to make it to Connecticut by last night.

Meanwhile, the Pride of Baltimore II has been dressed down for her Hollywood debut as stand-in for the Spanish slave ship Amistad.

A spokesperson for Pride of Baltimore Inc., said the normally spick and span appearance of the ship was toned down to make her look a little more seaworn. She'll also appear minus her

distinctive yellow stripe, which has been temporarily painted black.

The ship and crew sailed northward earlier this month to Connecticut's Mystic Seaport, where location filming is soon to commence. It's expected to return to its berth at the Inner Harbor by sometime next week.

The Pride closely resembles the slaver whose human cargo of 53 African slaves bound from the Caribbean to the United States revolted and killed the ship's crew.

Later tried for murder, the slaves were aided in their quest for freedom by American abolitionists and former President John Quincy Adams, who took their case all the way to the Supreme Court.

The last time a major piece from the B&O's collection wandered onto other railroad tracks was in 1955, when the William Mason, a classic steam engine built in 1855, was borrowed by Walt Disney for the Civil War epic "The Great Locomotive Chase."

Three B&O Museum staff members and two volunteers will accompany and operate the locomotive during the filming, which will take place over 22 miles of the 125-year-old Valley Railroad track, much of which parallels the scenic Connecticut River.

Chugging over the rails and blowing its high-pitched steam whistle will be the Lafayette, a replica of William Norris' 1837 locomotive that was built in 1927 for the B&O's 100th anniversary Fair of the Iron Horse.

Known as a "one Armed Billy" because of its horizontal boiler, the Lafayette will be pulling two Imlay coaches, the Maryland and and Ohio, period replicas also built for the Fair of the Iron Horse.

Named for Richard Imlay, a Baltimore carriage builder, they were nothing more than standard stagecoach-style bodies, cradled by heavy leather straps and set on unsprung iron wheels.

Dennis Fulton, director of special services and railroad operations for the museum, will be overseeing operation of the train, meant to replicate President Martin Van Buren's inaugural train.

He said its operation will approximate that of an 1830s train -- from its link-and-pin couplers to its lack of air brakes -- they weren't invented until 1869.

"Everyone will be in period costumes and the fireman will be hand shoveling bituminous coal into her firebox," said Fulton, who admitted he hadn't heard any Oscar talk yet, but "you never know."

One of three engineers who might be at the Lafayette's throttle is George Harwood, 33, of Baltimore, who is the museum's restoration shop supervisor and knows the engine intimately.

"She's an oddball handmade piece of railroad equipment but handles like most steam engines," said Harwood, who estimated that the train's speed will probably get to about 15 mph.

For Tom Arnold, 83, the oldest member of the crew and also a qualified engineer, riding a steam train is nothing new. He worked for the B&O for 38 1/2 years as a freight conductor.

"For me, hot grease and coal smoke will be old familiar smells," says the resident of the Charlestown Retirement Community.

"I'm expecting nothing out of the ordinary," he adds. "She runs like a clock and we won't be going that fast so she'll hardly bounce."

The Lafayette should be back in Baltimore for a starring role in a B&O production, "All Aboard Days: Live Steam Weekend," which takes place the weekend of April 26 at the museum, at 901 W. Pratt St., Baltimore.

For more information, call 410-752-2490.

Pub Date: 3/29/97

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