Trains in Spaghetti Westerns

I was thinking the other day that Spaghetti Westerns tend to feature trains a lot less than their American counterparts. I know there are some obvious exceptions; Once Upon a Time in the West being the biggest. But, of the forty odd Spaghetti Westerns I’ve seen, over half of them haven’t had any trains or even railway stations. I can only think of one or two traditional westerns that could say the same.
This may seem like a silly point to bring up, especially since the lack of trains is most likely due to the fact that most of those westerns were made with low budgets. I think this is an example where a budgeting issue ends up helping the genre, though.
Trains are a signifier of civilization and their absence in a lot of Spaghetti Westerns really adds to the survivalist feel which distinguishes the genre. The world is more dangerous when you have no man made options for transportation and the wilderness is largely untouched. This primitive danger is one of the things that really drew me into Spaghetti Westerns in the first place.
Like I said, I’ve only seen around forty-five Spaghetti Westerns, so if anyone more familiar with them feels differently I’d be interested in hearing.

I have watched 100+ SWs and think your observation could be valid for the whole group of SWs.

For me trains and especially railway stations or rather one of them, i.e. ESPERANZA in Navajo Joe makes a difference, since it is still a mystery where that station was located ( - a mystery that has its own thread).

Otherwise I had not thought so much about your civilisation angle regarding trains and railways, but if there are cars or airplanes I dismiss such SWs.
For me railways/trains are not negative in SWs, but not crucial either for a positive opinion.

I think this factor alone is not so relevant for my much higher appreciation of SWs, except if there is correlation between trains/railways in SWs and budget and therefore my rating, but I don’t know that !

Bandidos and John the Bastard come to mind. Both have great train sequences. Then there is of course A Bullet For the General and Navajo Joe…

Yeah, I like trains in Spaghetti Westerns aswell :smiley:

Heh, must not be a fan of The Mercenary then.

Yeah, I wouldn’t go as far as to say their presence affects my enjoyment of the film that much either. In fact, most of my favorite Spaghetti Westerns have trains in them. I just thought their exclusion can add to the gritty atmosphere of the films.

I’ve seen A Bullet for the General but not Bandidos, John the Bastard, or Navajo Joe. I’ll have to check those out to expand my knowledge on the subject.

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Lets not forget the iconic Morton train in Maestro Sergio Leone’s Once Upon in the West. (Edit: Oops, hadn’t seen Rocky’s starting post, sorry 'bout that :grinning:)The only time I think a train was one of the key plot points in an SW as a matter of fact.

Train for Durango has a train too I believe, as does Companeros, and of course Bandidos.

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Once Upon a Time in the West

Oh yeah absolutely. I would actually argue that Once Upon a Time in the West is an homage to the myth of the old west, and the building of the train at the end signifies its end.


As for End of The Wild West

Just going to Leave this Right Here


“My Name is Nobody”



Great call. Wasn’t even thinking of that one but it seems like such an obvious example now.

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It is extremely impressing that Leone actually let build a real railway with train (on Western Leone).
If it wasn’t for the lower budget for Navajo Joe one might speculate that the ESPERANZA railway was also only temporarily built for that SW and then dismantled, but that seems to be a very very unlikely explanation for its mysterious still unknown location…


Had no idea he had them build a railway for that, pretty incredible. I did know about the first bridge in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly getting blown up when they weren’t filming. Surprised they trusted him with a train track after that.

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I believe we are forgetting something. Many of the SWs take place in the border country after the Civil War. Most of this territory was unsettled and railroads were not very prevalent in the South. The ones that were in existence were in the east and were ripped up during the war. Most of the westerns that have trains are further north where many of the transcontinental railways were built with short spur line branching off. The Southwest was off the beaten track and railways were not yet being constructed let alone thought about then. That’s why cattle were driven from Texas and the Southwest to Kansas where the railways were established. The railways just hadn’t come to the Southwest during the period after the Civil War when many of the SWs take place.


Interesting post, good observations. I agree with your thought concerning the increased sense of danger in a western setting without trains. Amazes to realize that this world existed a mere two lifetimes ago. My grandfather, whom I remember well, was born in 1877, one year after Custer’s annihilation. He grew up in a world of horses ( and trains), yet lived to see a man walking on the moon. I think the rate of technological progress has left us a bit disoriented, which is one reason I enjoy escaping into the world of the Spaghetti western … magnificent horses everywhere, no irritating cell phones, and settling disputes with a quick gunfight, as opposed to endless litigation in the courts.


Yeah, I think the more “open,” less restricted world of Westerns really adds to their fantastical feel. It’s something I enjoy about them as well.
Since you mention it, my own great grandfather was born in 1895 and it’s crazy for me to think of how far technology advanced during his lifetime.


Hi! New poster, here. Have you seen, “The Five Man Army?” That’s based around attacking a train.


Welcome aboard Rattler. I don’t think I’ve heard of that one before, but I’m glad you mentioned it. Kind of reminds me of A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die, which puts it right up my alley. Thanks for the heads up!