From Movie Star to Derelict

Marty Surdyk, Ed Ribinskas and I were driving home last July from an outing on the Arcade & Attica in New York State.

We stopped in Gowanda, New York, to photograph a former Erie Railroad station and ended up discovering something else.

It was Contrack coach 3573 sits neglected nearby. Many of its windows are broken or covered with plywood.

Now owned by the New York & Lake Erie, the short-line railroad has a connection to the Akron Railroad Club. In 1987 the club and the Forest City Division of the Railroad Enthusiasts sponsored an excursion on that railroad.

Being a late Sunday afternoon, no one was around the depot, which is adjacent to a small yard.

I happened to look across the street and noticed something that I wanted to investigate.

It turned out to be one of the “Contrack” coaches used in the filming of the 1987 movie Trains, Planes and Automobiles, which featured Steve Martin  and John Candy.

The unlikely pair are traveling by plane from New York to Chicago en route home for Thanksgiving when the plane was diverted to Wichita, Kansas, due to a blizzard in Chicago.

The two opposites wound up taking a Contrack train out of Stubbville, Kansas, but the locomotive broke down in Missouri and the passengers were left stranded in a field.

A utility pole has fallen on one side of the car and vegetation is threatening to swallow it.

An online search yielded little information other than the car has apparently been sitting at this location for more than 10 years.

Parts of the movie were filmed in Gowanda and the scene where the locomotive breaks down occurred between Dayton and South Dayton.

As you might imagine, the car is rusting and its paint fading, but the Contrack logo and name are still visible.

The car appears to have been built or modernized during the streamliner era, but I otherwise know nothing about its heritage. It probably was used for a time in the NY&LE tourist train operation.

I’m not an expert in assessing the physical condition of passenger cars, but it appears it would require a lot of money to cosmetically restore Contrack 3573, let alone get it into operating condition.

With the car having been in one place for so many years and continuing to deteriorate, it seems likely it will be scrapped in place some day.

Trains, Planes and Automobiles was released 30 years ago on the day before Thanksgiving to take advantage of its Thanksgiving travel theme.

The film had an upbeat conclusion that was pure Hollywood, yet it will take more than Hollywood magic for Contrack 3573 to have a happy ending.

 

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One Response to “From Movie Star to Derelict”

  1. john bouquin Says:

    i grew up a block away from this train car. its been there since i can remember. I used to ask why it was sitting alone when i was a kid. I just saw it the other day and thought what a shame its just rotting away. I didn’t realize it was in the movie. seems like more of a shame now. I was born in Gowanda in 1983. some of the locals were cast as extras, but the scenes weren’t used I’m told.

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