Mike Edwards
Photo by Rich Borstadt

Campo Goes Hollywood

Mike Edwards

SP #2353 makes a run-by
Photo by Lew Wolfgang

May 26th to the 31st of 1999 was a VERY exciting week for the San Diego Railroad Museum! For five days our proud lady, SP #2353 probably worked harder than ever before. During that time, she made a TV commercial, performed nearly FIFTY roll-bys, did SIX round trips to Miller Creek, had a major Hollywood director ride in her cab, and carried over ELEVEN HUNDRED people into railroad history.   

After weeks of negotiations, the Propaganda Films Company decided to use our museum to create a TV commercial for Levi Strauss. Once we received the news that our museum was chosen, we stumbled upon another problem; CREW! To pull this off, we would need not one, but two crews per day. Plus fire tenders, set up crews, shut down crews, and an on-site mechanic. I started to sweat just thinking about it! So on Thursday afternoon, exactly one week before the cameras were to roll, a team was put together to begin the construction of this railroad miracle! This team consisted of Denby Jones, Lew Wolfgang, Jack O'Lexey, Rich Borstadt, and myself. At the end of our meeting, we all had our assignments and went home to begin work. Bob Miles was instrumental in assembling our steam crew. Within just a few days, I had a complete crew list faxed to me.

Unlike the Hollywood model, our "star" began her "hair & make-up" 24 hours before showtime. Chris Ward, Paul Lannen, Jim Baker, Larry Williams, and Dwight Koller worked well into the late evening getting things ready. As the sun began to descend to the west, the Campo hillsides echoed with the clatter of wrenches and the "rap-tap-tap" of hammers. Slowly but steadily, the boiler pressure started to rise as the grand lady began to wake!

Meanwhile, back at the office, the phones were ringing of the hook! The fax machine operated non-stop! Thousands of papers and contracts were sifted, sorted, stapled, copied, lost and found as the administrative aspects were nailed down.

At 0400 my alarm was ringing and it was time to begin. We were scheduled to depart Campo at 0630. #2353 arrived and coupled into the consist and we held our safety meeting. We had a very big crew.

Conductor: Dave Slater
Engineers: Larry Williams and Jack O'Lexey
Firemen: Jim Baker, Ken Kahan and Dick Pennick
Fire Tender: Karla Von Huben
On-site mechanic: Chris Ward
Site Coordinators: Mike Edwards, Lew Wolfgang, and Rich Borstadt

We arrived at the trestle at 0700 only to be greeted by nothing! Then as I looked out over the horizon to Hwy. 94, I thought I saw a freight train! Unfortunately it wasn't a freight. Instead however, it turned out to be a convoy of Hollywood trucks, vans, support rigs, motor homes, mobile offices and catering trucks. Within about three hours, Sheridan Road became Hollywood! At about 1100, we started filming. Most of this consisted of run-bys for the cameras. The story was very simple: Gorgeous blonde girl is walking down the tracks on a hot summer day in her Levi jeans. Next, she sees an oncoming train. So she decides to remove her jeans and lay them on
the tracks. After the train passes by, she puts on her new Levi's cut-off shorts.  
Both days of filming were VERY exciting. Everyone had a wonderful time. The film people were very friendly to the train crew. We were fed delicious lunches both days. During the actual filming, the production company had a food table set up with plenty of yummy drinks and snacks. Lew Wolfgang kept the service attendant VERY BUSY! He made sure to sample EVERYTHING! In closing, I would like to thank the following people:

Lew Wolfgang and Rich Borstadt for defending me and giving me such a wonderful opportunity.

Randy Houk for his friendship, advice, and moral support.

Lynn Brunett for helping me into the house when I couldn't walk after a VERY LONG day!

In all, it was a great weekend and I enjoyed every minute of it! I can't wait until our next film adventure.

And so, as they say in Hollywood - "Love Ya Babe!"

Editor's note: Mike Edwards is now Manager of Train Operations at the Sierra Northern Railway in northern California.

Page by Randy Houk, Last update: 12-14-2003