Marx Brothers Run Away with Sierra No.3 in “Go West”

Sierra Railway No.3 featured in Marx Bros. comedy “Go West”

“There’s a quarter of a million dollars at the end of the line!” and with that the Marx Brothers apply their schtick to the Old West. They run rings around each other and chase bad guys, culminating in a hilarious train chase sequence with the Hollywood legend 4-6-0 Sierra Railway No 3. In this 1940 Marx Brothers classic,  Go West  includes a special track that makes it appear the locomotive jumped off tracks and ran through farm buildings.

Marx Brothers Go West

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Admittedly, “Go West” is a guilty pleasure of mine. Being a big fan of The Marx Brothers, and of course trains, and I am somewhat ashamed whilst talking to fellow film buffs when I say that one of my favorite Marx Brothers films is the 1940’s Go West. And while it’s not Monkey Business, Horse Feathers, or even A Night at the Opera, it is still a highly enjoyable film, also partly due to my love for western films. There are some good gags in this one, including the hilarious pick-pocketing scene in the beginning and the wild chase on the top of a train at the climax. Overall, if you are a fan of classic comedies or the Marx Brothers, you won’t want to miss this. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot of fun.

The Marx Brothers entered their last decade as a team with “Go West“, which pales along some of their earlier films but still has some great moments. In the hilarious opening scene, Chico and Harpo bilk Groucho out of his fare money at a train station, and then Groucho walks off naturally thinking that he has the upper hand. Film sags somewhat in the middle, redeemed by some funny bits in a saloon. The last third of the movie has a wonderful climax aboard a train, where the boys’ incompetence causes havoc but of course they get the bad guys in the end. A fun little movie, one of their better 1940’s efforts.

The other star of Go West  is of course the recently restored Sierra Ten-Wheeler No.3, that began its  career on the California Sierra Railroad in 1891. Other notable Hollywood appearances include Gary Cooper’s 1929 “Virginian” and “High Noon “, as well as Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven ” and from the Michael J. Fox trilogy, “Back to the Future III”.

Sierra Railway No. 3 can be seen today at California’s Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, where she pulls excursions on at least one weekend a month during the operating season.

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