What a trip! (pun intended). Sunday a.m. we left the Benson KOA and headed for Elgin, 40
miles away. We headed down State Route 90 towards Fort Huachuca, hung a right on to
SR82, coming in from the east (back door) and Boy! the movie's profile of the Mustang
mountains jumped right out at me -- what a feeling of elation! After 10 miles, we turned left
and headed south on the Elgin Road.
|ELGIN, AZ in 1954 and 2006
Other business took me to Tucson, AZ over the September 16-17, 2006 weekend. Seizing the
opportunity, I talked the wife into a long-anticipated side trip to Elgin, AZ, where the
"Kansas City" routine.was filmed.
I had forgotten to bring along the snap of the Kansas City overview (sigh, another senior
moment), and was grumbling about it when the wife growled that I had "watched the
damned movie so many times, I should know the scene by heart". By Golly, she was right
(see pics below). The topo map indicated that the town was eight miles distant. I was
expecting a dirt road and nothing but desert and trailers and was pleasantly surprised to find
that the road was paved and at how green the area was - lovely cattle country. Lo and
behold, the area was dotted with vineyards, of all things, interspersed with pasture and
cattle. Four miles later we roared over a creek, passed one of the numerous wineries and
after another four miles hit a small community that I thought was Elgin. Nothing but
houses, including a massive two story 5,000 square footer under construction. We doubled
back and stopped at a community church and asked a lady there if there were any RR tracks
around. She replied that there were no tracks, but that "a movie had been filmed 'over
there' " and pointed towards the mountains. She had property nearby and said their back
yard was full of railroad ties, so I knew I was close. The topo map indicated the line was
abandoned and it didn't have a depot symbol, so I was hoping to nail the exact site via the
We went back to the winery and I asked if anyone knew where the old station was. One guy
said, "The old depot is over there" and pointed to a small two-story house. Eureka! The
station was there, but had been converted to a home. Not a trace of the tracks though. The
guy said the rails had been pulled up and used as cattle guards while the ties had been used
for house foundations. There were a few rails remaining but they were spotted here and
there further up the creek, evidently where people couldn't easily get at them. One lady who
looked to be in her 60s said she lived on a nearby ranch when the scene was being filmed and
as a kid, wanted to see if she could get an autograph from Gordon MacRae, whom she heard
was in the picture. She missed out on all counts as MacRae wasn't in that scene. I asked
her if she remembered any blonde actresses and she said there were lots of them. How about
two "teens"? She said she remembered two young girls in sailor suits (!!!) but nothing else.
Her folks wouldn't let her get near "those Hollywood people" as the whole community was
scandalized by the antics of the crew, who, it was reported, headed for Nogales every
Saturday, got liquored up, got into fights and had to be bailed out of jail by the movie
Anyhow, when we looked back down the road we spotted the curve and the road where
Aunt Eller had arrived at the station. It was the same one we had come in on! I took quite
a few pictures, trying to line up the site with the mountains as best I could remember, but
the place was so overgrown with trees it was a tad difficult. Without the tracks it was hard,
as the station-cum-house seemed too far from the road. Evidently the opening shot was
taken from a small bluff overlooking the station but that area was now somebody's back
yard. There was a road atop of it so I had to settle for that. Leaving my wife at the winery,
I went down to the curve of the road and buried my plaque, played the music from the
"Kansas City" routine and saluted those long-ago dancers, Lizanne in particular. Here's
hoping a warm and fuzzy feeling came over her. After about an hour of picture-taking and
daydreaming, we headed back home. There were roads named "Frontier Lane" and
"Pioneer Lane" along the way. If I lived in the area I sure as Hell would petition the State
to rename one of them "Lizanne Lane". If they wouldn't do it, I'd be tempted to bulldoze a
path just so I could display my own token of admiration.
|The Todd-AO and Cinemascope versions differed in many respects,
the most glaring being these opening shots from the "Kansas City" routine.
The current-day winery would be roughly opposite the outbuilding between the oncoming
train and the station. Elgin Road now runs parallel to this station on the left hand side of
the tracks. When it was in service, the tracks started in Tombstone (about 30 miles east)
and ended at Patagonia (about 30 miles west), with no connecting rail lines anywhere, so
you have to wonder how they got that old time locomotive and cars on these tracks. Might
be worth an episode in the History Channel's Modern Marvels.
|The converted-to-a-house train station as it looks
today. The platform where the dancing took place
would have been just to the right of the house.
Not even a vestige of the roadbed remains.
What memories the place must have!
I wonder if the current residents hear faint strains
of "Everything's up to date in Kansas City"
and see ghostly images dancing about ?
|With a little imagination, you could almost see
Charlotte Greenwood (Aunt Eller) coming down
the road, but true to her screen character,
she'd probably be driving
a red Mustang convertible.
It appears the station was moved further
from the curve,
as it now stands about 150 yards to the left.
Note that the same cottonwood trees still survive.
|The community of Elgin.
The winery where I talked
with some residents
is in the center.
is about 200 yards to the
right of the general store
(first building on the left).
Elgin Road goes on for four
more miles before hitting
AZ83 (the old Lower Elgin
Road) with no sign of
tracks anywhere along the
Somewhere near here I
buried my plaque of
UPDATE 01-08-09: Mr. Dale H. Eckerman Jr contacted me about the locomotive and
offered this interesting background on the route and the engine: "By the way, the rail line
(New Mexico & Arizona Railroad, owned by the Santa Fe RR and later by the Southen
Pacific RR) through Elgin connected with mainline track in the East at Fairbank, Az, and
in the West at Calabasas, Az). Therefore, it was certainly possible to get the engine and
cars to the point of filming. Incidentally, there is more detail on the engine that was
filmed - the way it was specially painted for the movie and how it was preserved after the
filming. This engine (Southern Pacific #1673) is now on display at the Southern Arizona
Transportation Museum in Tucson."
For a detailed examination of Elgin and its place in the "Kansas City" routine as well as the
proposed site where Laurey's and Jud's runaway buggy nearly collided with the train, click HERE.