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‘There Will Be Blood’ brings vintage locomotive to South Orient tracksBy JAMES TIERNEYPRESIDIO COUNTY – It’s hard to believe, but after 34 years and 298 productions, professional train coordinator Stan Garner has finally made his first official trip to west Texas. The occasion is the Paul Thomas Anderson film There Will Be Blood, which is set in turn-of-the-century Bakersfield, California, some portion of which has been built to scale out on the Maguire and Mitchell ranches south of Marfa. The crown jewel of the set is said to be the Southern Pacific railroad #23 combination-style depot built along the Southern Orient rail line that runs from Presidio into Paisano Pass. It’s here that Garner will perform his movie magic with the help of Old No. 7, a 2-6-2 Prairie Locomotive built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1907 and operating continuously ever since. The coffee-pot style wood-burning steam engine and its combination of freight and passenger cars were trucked down to Presidio on flatbed trucks from Reader, Arkansas this week. Reader is a ghost town of 82 people, notable chiefly for the regular operations of this train, the last of its kind still sticking to a schedule.But not this summer. The train was shipped to Presidio, said Garner, “because it was the only location where we had level ground to unload it and put it on the tracks.” The engine and its cars were winched off the flatbed down a ramp and onto the rails. In order to work the engine as little as possible, a commercial diesel engine will pull the train up to the movie set.“We’re a couple hours away from bringing it north,” Garner said late Tuesday afternoon. “It will be there late tonight. We’re taking a long time.”Young Engine No. 7 started its life as a workhorse hauling lumber, and then oil, along the Reader Railroad. Mid-century, as steam engines were phased out into novelty items, the train was converted to a passenger operation, ferrying tourists and enthusiasts along a lazy seven-mile roundtrip down the Possum Trot Line, chugging through the historic, and abandoned, settlements of the southern Arkansas piney woods.Today Old No. 7 is baking and cooling quietly on the west Texas plains, no doubt contemplating the wisdom of its imminent career move to film star. “The train will be operating under its own power. It brings people into and out of town,” said Garner. “It’s a character in its own right because scenes happen and you see the train come in and the people get off and they have discussions on the platform, and people get on, and in some scenes the train leaves the station.” The engine’s powerful steam whistle will also no doubt contribute to the period-piece’s layers of atmosphere.The station itself is a replica of the Southern Pacific standard single-story depot. According to Garner, all of the SP stations of this time were prefabricated in Sacramento and shipped to towns along the line in cookie-cutter pieces requiring some on-site assembly. Depending on the size of the town, each got a #22 or a #23, a two-story or one-story model. Garner says the train will be in a variety of scenes throughout the movie and will carry all of the principle players at one time or another. The challenge for the train coordinator is that in each scene the train must appear to be a different train, and without the use of paint. “I’ll use different configurations of cars. We have seven different railroad cars. I’ll put different loads on the flat cars. The important thing is that it looks like a different train.”No sweat for Garner, who has been involved with trains and movies since 1972. He is credited as train conductor in a variety of films and television shows over the years, and is coming up on his 300th production as coordinator. He managed the train scenes in such recent films as the Coen brothers’ hit Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, Under Siege 2, and The Italian Job, and in earlier years Garner worked on popular films like World’s Greatest Lover with Gene Wilder, The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again, and The Gambler parts 1 and 2.Garner says the production team doesn’t expect any trains to be traveling the main line north from Mexico during filming.
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