An In-Depth Investigation of the "Oklahoma!" Movie Site in Elgin
                              
                                      INFORMATION ABOUT THE ENGINE
The engine, #1673, used in the filming of Oklahoma is historic.  It was built in 1900 for the
Southern Pacific Railroad.  Before it was retired from service in 1955 and donated to the city
of Tucson, it worked regularly hauling freight and passengers throughout Arizona, including
on the line through Elgin.  In the year 2000, it was placed in the Southern Arizona
Transportation Museum in Tucson where it can be seen today.
         


























































     
           
                                         QUESTIONS


There are still some questions to which we would like to find answers.  We welcome
information from anyone.

1. Questions about the removal of the Elgin station:
1a. Larry states that his dad demolished the station after the filming.  Does he mean that his
dad removed only the "low dock area" or the entire station?
1b. If only the low dock area was removed, what happened to the "original tall station?"  
Where is it?

2. Questions about the Elgin Station before the filming:
What did the Elgin Station look like before the "low dock area" was added for the movie?  
The high platform shown in the film would have been used to unload freight, but not
passengers.  However, there must have been a low platform for passengers to use. Where was
the low platform located?

3. Questions about Second Track at station:

3a. Was the second track (seen on the far side of the station in the film) used as a siding to
store railcars, or was it used as a passing track in the event two trains needed to pass each
other on the otherwise single-track line?

3b. How far did this second track run? I have been unable to determine its length or where it
switched to the main line.
3c. Am I correct that passengers did not use this track for boarding.

4. Questions about low building:
In the film, there is a low building located near the station - between the station and the
pump house. Its roof is extended over the entrance. This building can be clearly seen in the
film while the train is pulling into the station.  What was the purpose of the building?  What
happened to it after the film?

5. Question about the trains through Elgin:

5a. Does anyone remember the Southern Pacific trains that ran through Elgin?  Was the
scheduled train the only train, or were there other freight trains?

5b. Did the schedule passenger train stop regularly at the Elgin station (even though Elgin is
not shown specifically in the 1938 and 1955 timetables)?

6. I am interested in comments about my report.  Does anyone have corrections to make or
additional information to add?  Email me at eckerman@mac.com
(from the film)   Arrow A: Aunt Eller's buggy and Will Parker's horse head down Upper
Elgin Rd. (unpaved).  Note from the film photo (Image 2) that the road takes a slight bend
to the south at about the point where it intersects with Mustang Ranch Rd. This is the bend
that is described in point 5.) Arrow B: As the train steams to the station, the Railroad
Section House, Well and Pump House are in view. (Todd-AO version.)  See Image 3.  
Arrow C:  Before the dancing starts, a yellow/orange wagon, traveling northwest can be seen
on Mustang Ranch Rd. as it enters the intersection of Upper Elgin Rd.
A nice composite view of the same area taken by Fred Allard, who works in the area.
For the filming, engine #1673 was
fitted with a early-1900s
diamond-type smokestack, the
headlight was moved to above
the boiler, and the engine was
painted special colors for the
time period - all to make it fit
into a turn-of-the-century
scheme.  This is a shot from the
film (Todd-AO) showing these
modifications.
I thought I was pretty good at digging up information but Mr. Dale Eckerman goes me one
better with this email report of his investigation:

As both a railroad fan and an enthusiast of Broadway musicals, I have attempted to
reconstruct some aspects of the railroad train scenes that appear in the 1955-released film
Oklahoma.  I love the music, the stars and dancers (especially Lizanne), the sets and scenery,
and the train.

I have used descriptions and photos from Lizanne's website, Fred Allard's emails and photos,
and descriptions from Larry Cornwall (who danced in the train scene as a boy).  I also used
Google maps, Terra Server Topographic maps and a Railroad Atlas.

I would appreciate receiving feedback from anyone, including Al, Fred and Larry.  I am
interested in knowing whether my information is accurate or whether corrections should be
made.  I have also listed some questions at the end to which I would appreciate answers and
details from anyone.  
THE DANCE SCENE AT THE ELGIN RAILROAD STATION
(Image 1)
This is a recent satellite image of the area in Elgin, Arizona, where the filming of the railroad
station scene took place. In this satellite image, please note the following:
1.) The Railroad Section House, Well and Pump House exist today. These were described by
Larry; the Section House is where he lived.
2.) The large Cottonwood trees remain today, as shown on the Satellite image in green color.
In the film, these trees can be seen behind the station. See Image 2.
3.) The railroad was abandoned in Elgin in 1962 and the tracks were removed.  Nevertheless,
both satellite and topographic maps clearly reveal the original location of the tracks. The
dashed pink line shows the Main Track.  The dashed blue line shows the Siding Track behind
the station.

Note that a Cottonwood tree currently grows in the place where the tracks ran (marked with
yellow "X").  The yellow line shows the path of a Stream Bed. In the satellite, the bed appears
dry. But, it may fill with water at certain times of the year.  Cottonwoods thrive in wet areas,
so the stream bed would be an attractive location for one to grow and new trees would be
expected to grow over a 45-year period.

It is not clear exactly where the Siding Track switched with the Main Track.

4.) The Elgin railroad station is completely gone today.  In the current satellite view and from
Fred's recently-taken composite photo, there is no evidence as to the location of the railroad
station.  However, referring to the film,  Fred's current photos and Larry's description, I have
placed the station where I believe it was located: The green rectangle is the location of original
Tall Station and the yellow rectangle is the location of the lower Dance Platform that was built
for the film.  Larry stated that "the tall part of the depot with its loading dock and ramps
were at the edge of the dirt road."

5.) As described by Larry, "the road had to be routed around the new depot area."  The New
Road for Filming is shown by the dashed black lines.

Larry further states "the road was returned to where it is today and subsequently paved" after
the filming.  And, he recounts that the dance platform was dismantled by his father.

The road, "Upper Elgin Rd," is now straight, as can be seen in the satellite image and in
Fred's photo.

6.) Watching the film, all of the elements match to the above layout, as follows:
THE RUNAWAY BUGGY SCENE (just before the Skidmore Dance)
(Image 5)
Headed to the Skidmore Dance, the buggy with Laurey and Jud take a detour.  At the point at
which Laurey pushes Jud out of the wagon, the buggy, pulled by 2 runaway horses, nearly
collides with the train moving at full speed.  The near-collision takes place at a grade crossing,
presumably in Elgin.  I wanted to pinpoint the location where this filming took place.

By using the Satellite and Topographic maps of the area, there is only one location where this
filming was likely to have taken place.  See above map of the Elgin area to view all of the
roads that cross the railroad tracks.
(Image 6)
Image 6 shows more detail about the location where Lower Elgin Road crosses the railroad
tracks.  The moving train ARROW B and the buggy ARROW D would have been traveling in
a Southeast direction toward the Elgin Station, as indicated.  This is the same direction the
train faced at the Elgin Station.  It is very unlikely that the train would have traveled in the
opposite direction for this scene because turning the direction of a train is not a simple
procedure.

I have one reservation about the location of this scene. Viewing the Satellite map, the ground
appears barren and treeless. In the film, however, there are a few trees and growth. Assuming
that the location I have described is accurate, then either i) the Satellite image does not show
the detail of these trees and/or ii) drought conditions have developed during the past 45 years
such that the vegetation no longer grows.  Can anyone help explain this difference?
INFORMATION ABOUT THE RAILROAD
For those who are interested in knowing more about the railroad that ran through Elgin, here
are some details.  The railroad was built by the New Mexico and Arizona Railroad.  It was first
owned by the Santa Fe RR; later it was purchased by the Southern Pacific RR.  It was started
in 1882 to serve the mining interests in the area: Zinc, lead, silver, gold and copper.  It was
also used to transport cattle.  The line originally connected in both the East (at Fairbank) and
West (at Nogales).  The segment of the line from Patagonia to Calabasas was abandoned in
1929.  The remainder of the line from Fairbank-Campstone-Elgin-Sonoita-Patagonia was
discontinued in 1962 - approximately seven years after Oklahoma was filmed.
At the time Oklahoma was filmed, there was one scheduled train a day that ran through Elgin.  
Image 8 shows the applicable timetable from both the years 1938 and 1955.  Although Elgin
was not specifically listed in the schedules, the train definitely passed through Elgin, and it is
assumed that it stopped at the Elgin station to discharge and receive passengers, as well as
freight.

The daily train consisted of both freight and passenger cars, and it was known by locals as
"The Mule."  If you know mules, you will understand that this train was both undependable
and unpredictable.  I have no idea the extent to which the train used in the filming conflicted
with the scheduled train, but presumably satisfactory arrangements were made to
accommodate both uses for the track in Elgin during the filming period in 1954.
(Image 8)
The current appearance of engine #1673 at the museum.
(Image 7)
Image 2
Image 4
The blue post office box in the center of this current photo is now located in what was the
center of the dance floor section of the railroad station.  As you can see in this photo, the
railroad station is completely gone.  However, the railroad Section House, Well and Pump
House remain, as marked in the current photo.  Today, the road (Upper Elgin Road) is
paved and straight.  For the filming, the road (according to Larry) was relocated as marked
in Image 1.
Image 9
Image 10
Image 3