Runaway Train is a 1985, Oscar-nominated film which tells the story of two escaped convicts and a female train worker who are stuck on a runaway train as it barrels through snowy desolate Alaska. It stars Jon Voight as Oscar "Manny" Manheim, Eric Roberts as Buck, John P. Ryan as Associate Warden Ranken and Rebecca De Mornay as Sara.
Jon Voight plays Oscar Manheim, aka Manny, a convicted bank robber in an Alaska prison who was so good at escaping that the doors to his cell were welded shut. After a court order compels Manny's nemesis, the vindictive Associate Warden Ranken (played by John P. Ryan), to release him back into the general prison population, he plans his next escape. Buck (played by Eric Roberts) is another convict who works in the prison's laundry room and conspires to smuggle Manny out. Buck decides to escape with Manny (who reluctantly allows Buck to join him) and the two hop on board a train of four locomotives at a remote Alaska railyard just as the engineer suffers a heart attack and collapses. Neither the two convicts nor the railroad dispatchers are aware that the train is now a runaway. The only railroad worker left on the train is Sara, a locomotive hostler, played by Rebecca De Mornay.
The train barrels through the remote, snowy Alaska wilderness at high speed. Once the dispatchers discover it is a runaway and that they cannot stop it (the automated brakes were burned out since the throttle was jammed at full), they attempt to keep the tracks clear for the runaway and plan to derail it, assuming nobody alive is left on the train. But they soon learn that the train is not unmanned when a railroad worker who they have just instructed to switch the train to a dead-end reports that someone on the train (Sara) is blowing the whistle. Warden Ranken concludes that his two escaped convicts are aboard the train after the state police discover prison clothes at the railyard Manny and Buck departed from. Meanwhile, the two fugitives have found Sara on board and the three attempt to stop the train. At Sara's suggestion, they are able to slow the train by cutting the cables to the two rear locomotives, but they cannot halt the train completely (by pressing the emergency fuel cutoff) without reaching the lead engine - which they cannot do because the second locomotive is a streamlined F-unit type, with no forward catwalk to provide access between the first and second engines.
Eventually the dispatchers determine that the train is approaching a curve in the track which will derail the train because it is travelling too rapidly. The curve is adjacent to a chemical plant and the dispatchers decide that they must switch the runaway onto a dead-end siding and crash it there, sending the three people on the train to almost certain death, rather than risk a catastrophic chemical explosion and spill.
Manny shows a violent streak throughout the film and repeatedly asserts his dominance over Buck, while Buck is portrayed more as a victim of circumstances and not very intelligent. Manny is resolved not to return to prison, even if it means his own death. This leads to the film's conclusion when Manny makes a perilous leap to the lead engine, and in a struggle with Warden Ranken (who has successfully boarded the first engine by helicopter), handcuffs him in the cab. Manny then uncouples the first engine from the rest of the train, thereby shutting down the second engine and leaving Buck and Sara safely behind, but he doesn't stop the lead engine despite Buck's pleas. With Ranken unable to escape, Manny climbs onto the roof of the lone engine in the freezing cold and blowing snow, his arms stretched out like a crucifix, ready to meet his end. The film fades out with the train presumably taking Manny and Ranken to their deaths.
The runaway's locomotive lineup in the movie was Alaska Railroad #3010 (an EMD GP40), #1500 (an EMD F7) and two EMD GP7s, 1801 and 1810. During their Alaska Railroad service the GP7s had had their short hoods chopped but for the film were fitted with mock-up high-noses.
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