Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

Southern Pacific Locomotive #1213

Southern Pacific steam locomotive #1213 is famous for its appearance in the 1955 Kirk Douglas western film, "Man Without a Star."

The steamer was made to look like an 1800s locomotive to fit the time period of the old west. One fact that most rail fans will pick up on is the build dates on the cattle cars that #1213 is pulling. They are more modern, from the 1920-1930s. Train #1213 is a 0-6-0, which refers to the wheel arrangement, meaning the locomotive has no lead wheels or trailing trucks, just six driver wheels. Southern Pacific mainly used #1213 for yard and switching work.

"Man Without a Star" is well done with very sharp images to see lots of detail. This classic 1955 western is directed by King Vidor and based on a novel by Dee Linford. The run time is about 1.5 hours and is well worth your time. It is rated PG.

The scenes of #1213 were filmed in Cantil, California. Today this is near the 7.6 mile Honda test track site oval. The Owenyo branch line is still there and can be seen from the 14 freeway today. This line goes to Trona, California and is used to transport the industrial products they mine there. If you have ever been stopped by a train crossing while going through the town of Mojave, this is that same branch line.

Credit Universal Pictures

#1213 in action in Cantil, CA.

Locomotive #1213 was regularly assigned to Bakersfield in the 1950s as a yard switcher. Before that #1213 worked in the Los Angeles area.

In 1955, steam locomotive action was getting very hard to see on the rails due to the first generation diesels locomotives being used by Southern Pacific. They were more commonly used for freight and passenger service. The only time you could see these steam powered locomotives was on rail fan trips in the late 1950s or in helper service, like over our Tehachapi Loop grade. By 1959, most Steam locomotive were slated to be scrapped. I wish more steamers were saved, but seeing this 1955 film lets this historical Iron Horse live forever on film and in still pictures.

Many thanks to Universal Pictures for the use of two movie stills in this article. Universal pictures produced and distributed "Man Without a Star," which was a box office hit, making about $2.2 million in 1955.