April 9, 2012
The Professionals - Eagle Mountain Railroad
The Eagle Mountain Railroad runs from the Union Pacific tracks on the east side of the Salton Sea, traverses Salt Creek basin, crosses the Coachella Canal, travels roughly parallel to the Bradshaw Trail for a ways, continues uphill and passes under I-10 west of Desert Center, and then to what was the Kaiser Eagle Mountain Mine. As I mentioned about a week ago, it has been used as a filming location for at least two movies. One of them is The Professionals, a 1966 western starring Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan, Woody Strode, Jack Palance (as the evil, swarthy, and yet unstoppably sexy Mexican revolutionary Jesus Raza), Claudia Cardinale, and Ralph Bellamy.
The movie itself credits only "U.S. Department of Interior, National Park Service, Death Valley National Monument, Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Valley of Fire State Park." IMDB lists locations as Las Vegas, Valley of Fire State Park, Indio, Warner Studios in Burbank, Death Valley National Monument, Lake Mead, and Mecca, California. I suppose "Mecca, California" may be standing in place for Eagle Mountain Railroad. Maybe a future reporter for The Desert Sun was responsible for identifying locations.
I've grabbed some screenshots from the parts of the movie shot on the Eagle Mountain Railroad. The parts shot in Valley of Fire State Park (beautiful, colorful rocks and slot canyons) and Death Valley National Monument (hell warmed over) are easy to spot, but I didn't grab any scenes from those.
I believe this is the same trestle as above. This is from a hike I took in 2007. My photo is distorted because it's a panorama created from several smaller images. The railroad trestle does not actually arch like that.
This scene with a joshua tree concerns me. No where does the Eagle Mountain Railroad reach the elevation where joshua trees would normally grow. This could be a transplanted one, or it could mean that some of the railroad shots were made elsewhere, possibly in Nevada.
No ambiguity about this shot. That's the Salton Sea in the background. There is nothing in the story to explain the occasional glimpses of a gigantic lake in what is supposed to be the most severe desert in all of Mexico.
This is the terminus of a narrow gauge mining car track. Maybe it was constructed just for the movie. There shouldn't be any little mines with tracks running out to the Eagle Mountain Railroad. The Eagle Mountain RR was solely for the use of Kaiser to carry iron ore from Eagle Mountain to Fontana. No little wanna-be gold miners tagging along.
I'm not going to give you any better directions than this. It's not an area for casual exploration. It's difficult to get to, it's difficult to get out of. You can die there - easily. Four wheel drive is mandatory. Don't travel in just one vehicle. Take a cellphone. Cellphone coverage is spotty at best. Take a lot of water. Don't vandalize. Don't take souvenirs. Beware the Chocolate Mountains. They are just southeast of the railroad and are very clearly identified with frequent warning signs that they are a LIVE BOMBING RANGE. If you plan to hike in the area, be aware that you are close to sea level, so the temperatures are warmer than they are in the Palm Springs area. If you hike on the railroad it will be even hotter because of the black ties. There is no shade. There is no potable water - well, okay, the Coachella Canal water is probably drinkable, but you will fall in and drown while trying to get at it. It's very isolated. You can die there. Stay home. Rent the movie from Netflix.
Of course there are rattlesnakes! Who asked that?
So Hot's advice to "Never go explore the desert in the summer!" would leave us with a lot of time with nothing to do. The desert can be explored in the summer, if you know how to do it safely.
The lesson to be learned from the Germans who died in Joshua Tree last summer is don't burn yourself out on drugs or alcohol and then go driving a plain vanilla rental car down a dirt road by yourself in an isolated area that you're not familiar with. The second lesson is that if your car gets stuck, don't get out in the noonday sun and start walking.
In the area of the Eagle Mountain RR summer temperatures can exceed 120°F (50°C). But if you are a sober and responsible person, your own good sense will tell you to go home if you find yourself in that kind of heat.
So one additional guideline I should add is this: don't bring alcohol with you while exploring the Eagle Mountain Railroad. Not even beer. It would lead to nothing but dehydration and poor judgement. That goes for German visitors too.
Posted by: Ron's Log at Apr 16, 2012 7:07:43 AM
You might add exact temperatures for warnings of how extremely hot it can get out there for your readers in case anyone finds your blog and visits the area. Last year two visitors from I think Germany drove out in that area for exploration and got their car stuck in the sand and died. It was pleasant in the morning when they took the drive off the I-10 but in summer it gets up to 120 degrees out there, probably hotter in spots. Never go explore the desert in the summer!
Posted by: So Hot at Apr 16, 2012 4:30:55 AM
Here is the information of the mock up locomotive:
Posted by: Scott at Apr 9, 2012 9:29:26 PM
Nice screen shots from the movie.
There is a mock up of the locomotive used in the movie stored in the old warehouse at Desert Center, behind the Eagle Cafe. You can see in looking in the window of the building. I took some photos of it once. There are Kaiser RR cars at Desert Center.
Posted by: Scott at Apr 9, 2012 9:10:28 PM