FILLMORE : 1906 Steam Engine Gears for Film Role

Movie-makers re-creating the life of Charlie Chaplin will bring a bit of Fillmore history to life Tuesday with a 1906 steam engine, which arrived in the city last week for railroad scenes in the film.

Such engines were commonplace in the Santa Clara Valley until diesel-powered models replaced them nearly 40 years ago. "It will be the first time since 1955 that the romantic sound of a steam whistle has been heard in this valley," said Jim Clark, co-owner of Short Line Enterprises.

Clark and partner Stan Garner have worked for more than a year with Fillmore city officials and the Southern Pacific railroad to bring a dinner train to a town that historians say owes its start to railroads. The train would also be used for filming Hollywood movies.

The engine, tender and four passenger cars are on loan to Short Line, which recently brought a more modern train to Fillmore for filming. Between filming stints, the 85-year-old engine--which has been converted to run on oil instead of the traditional coal--has been housed at a museum in Yakima, Wash. Owner John Birmingham said the engine's movie credits include sequences in "Cat Ballou."

Running steam engines "is a two-man job," Clark said. Clark will share engineer responsibilities with Birmingham and Fillmore resident Barney Forst, who Clark said has 41 years of experience with Southern Pacific.

Clark said the engine will be used starting Tuesday for about three days of filming this week in Fillmore and Santa Paula. Although a steam engine in good running condition would normally make very little smoke, Clark expected to use extra oil to create the puffs of smoke that moviegoers associate with early train travel. "They like that on film," he said.

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