The Fugitive Train WreckThings To Do In The Smoky Mountains
Photo credit by Abandoned Explorers
Iconic Movie Wreck Location in Dillsboro, NC
The Fugitive Train Wreck near Sylva, North Carolina, is a remarkable relic from the blockbuster movie “The Fugitive,” which starred Harrison Ford, Julianne Moore, and Tommy Lee Jones. Released on August 6, 1993, the movie featured a state-of-the-art special effect in its opening sequence: a prison bus and train wreck. This particular scene, still impressive by today’s standards, was executed using a real train and bus at a cost of $1.5 million. It required a dedicated crew of 70 people and two months to construct what became one of the most iconic movie wrecks in film history.
Located precisely where the film crew left it, in Dillsboro, NC, the site of the Fugitive train wreck is on private property owned by the Historical Smoky Mountain Railway. Despite this, the wreck is accessible for public viewing. The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad’s Tuckasegee River Excursion passes by the wreck site, allowing visitors to get a close-up look. However, it’s important to note that disembarking at the site is not permitted, so visitors should be prepared to view and photograph the wreck from the train.
The selection of this particular train line and tracks for filming in North Carolina was a strategic decision by the film company. Initially, five other rail lines, including one in Illinois, declined to be associated with the depiction of a massive wreck, whether real or simulated. The engines used in the scene were essentially hollow shells, stripped of all usable components and bought for scrap value. These included an ex-CSX U18B 1901, a flatcar (referred to as the “slug”) with boxes on it, and an ex-N&W GP30 536 locomotive. For the filming, these trains, painted in a fictitious Illinois Southern red, yellow, and gray color scheme, were pushed along the tracks by another locomotive at the rear. The crew used 16 cameras, including two mounted on the train and one inside the bus, to capture various angles of the dramatic scene. This setup included remote-operated cameras for safety reasons, and one notable 65 mm Vista Vision camera was buried under 26 feet of dirt following the crash. Explosives wrapped in PVC pipes under the rails were detonated to create the fiery, explosive look of the wreck.