main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Racing The Train
"... the tie goes to the train."
— Old railfan saying)

He saw the train
And tried to duck it
Kicked first the gas
And then the bucket

So, you've got a speedster... let's call him Steve. There are many ways you can show off a character's powers— guys with Super Strength can lift buses, gals with Flight can jump off tall buildings and not plummet to their deaths, guys with Heart can... uh... that's not important. But what can good ol' Steve Speedster do? Race a bullet train, that's what!

Basically, someone shows off how fast they (or their Pimped-Out Car) are by running parallel to, or if he's particularly cocky, in front of a train. It goes without saying that this is a horrible, terrible, no-good, very bad idea in Real Life.


  • Burma Shave had a rhyme that is the page quote.
  • A silent PSA showed several men in a car racing a train, while a man gambled with the Grim Reaper. It doesn't end well.
  • Operation: Lifesaver: The public safety awareness campaign's "These are the next 60 seconds of your life..." series of commercials often depicted the consequencs of racing a train, always with deadly results. One common example showed a Volkswagen Cabriolet, filled with five teen-agers joyriding, speeding and trying to race an oncoming train to the crossing; needless to say, they didn't make it and the community where they lived was thrown into sudden and deep mourning.

Anime & Manga
  • In one of the Choujin Olympics in Kinnikuman, Terryman had to race ahead of a train he himself had pushed as part of a qualifier round because a puppy had wandered onto the track. Saving the puppy meant stopping the train which, despite his heroism, got Terryman disqualified.
  • Shute's first appearence in SD Gundam Force, mostly to show off his rocket skates to the audience. Justified in that he's a kid who's playing around.
  • In Hayate the Combat Butler, our titular butler winds up taking Nishizawa to the Shimoda hot springs using her bike while the rest of the crew takes the train. At first Nishizawa remarks on the nice weather and the breeze before realizing that they are going waaay too fast. Hayate casually tells her that they caught up to the train and to wave to the others. Nishizawa hangs on for dear life and points out that they are ahead of the train. This was a bullet train mind you, and he's riding an ordinary bicycle. Apparently this is because he used to be a bike courier.
  • In Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, in the episode Death Race 2010, the Ghost Panty and Stocking were hunting eventually haunted a train. It was more like Fighting the Train.

  • In one issue of The Flash, Wally realizes that while he was fighting a supercriminal, his girlfriend was taking a train and leaving town. He then proceeds to run down the train, climb on board, and asks her to stay.

  • Occurs in the original The Fast and the Furious. Brian and Dom do this while also drag-racing against each other. They both make it.
  • Stand by Me has the boys racing a train on foot.
  • A young Clark Kent does this in the movie Superman.
  • Happens in Torque when the chase scene between Trey and Ford is taken from top of a train to the front of it.
  • A version of this happens in Legend Of Zorro when Alejandro's son does this with the horse, Tornado, is racing to catch up to the train.
  • The famous Chase Scene in The French Connection. After the gunman hops on an El train, Doyle hijacks a car and chases it.
  • Octopussy does this with a twist: Bond's tires have just been shot out, so he drives his car onto the rails.
  • Speed Zone has a scene where John Candy tries to cross some railroad tracks, but is forced to stop before the train arrives. Then the police chasing him show up and he races the train in reverse in an attempt to beat it. When he gets to the second crossing, he just makes it.

Live-Action TV
  • The Dukes of Hazzard: In at least one episode, the villians barely made it across a railroad crossing with a train coming, to escape pursuit by the Duke boys and the General Lee. Bo simply used a convenient ramp to jump over the train in eventually catching the baddies.
  • Top Gear has used the format several times with Jeremy Clarkson in a car vs. James May and Richard Hammond riding the train. In Europe the train was the Eurostar and TGV, and in Japan it was the Shinkansen.
  • Longmire: Longmire and his deputies must outrace a train to free someone who is Chained to a Railway.
  • An episode of the 80's TV Cop Show Hunter had the title character jump onto a train traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco in order to tail a suspect, with his partner DeeDee McCall having to chase after him by car to provide backup.

  • Clockwork Century. The Union armoured train Dreadnought finds itself being chased on a parallel track by the lightly-armed but much faster Confederate train Shenandoah which (in The Western tradition) tries to head them off at the pass (where the rail lines converge to cross the Rockies). Whoever succeeds can blow up the rail ahead of their opponent, who would be going to fast that the derailing would kill everyone on board.

  • Cowboy Troy's "I Play Chicken With The Train"

Video Games
  • In Mega Man X4, Slash Beast shows up to the Traintop Battle by running parallel up to, then jumping onto the train car used as his boss room when X or Zero get to it.
  • Piston Hondo does this in Punch-Out!! Wii in his backstory.
  • One of the robotic bosses of Contra Hard Corps and Contra: Shattered Soldier makes his entrance by outrunning the train you're on, pushes it to a stop, lifts the end of it, then climbs on top. This turns out to be a bad idea in the end- upon defeat, he falls backwards off the front of the train, and gets hit by it!
    • And in Contra: Shattered Soldier, an Expy of said boss does the exact same thing, except that you're on a small train carriage which the boss lifts off the ground with ease.
  • Jude of Wild ARMs 4 does this while riding a bicycle. The bike eventually breaks from the strain.
  • The mission "Wrong Side of the Tracks" in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas involves you and Big Smoke trying to chase a train while on a dirt bike so that he can shoot the rival gang members atop the train. It's That One Level, due to the fact that the game never tells you that you need to be at least another train's width away from the train so that Big Smoke can hit them.
  • Everything or Nothing, another Bond example. Here, you have to race a train that carries the kidnapped Dr. Nadanova. You can choose between the Porsche Cayenne Turbo or the Chimera.
  • Stuntman: And driving on it to boot.
  • Kalimari Desert in Mario Kart can have you do this, especially given how being forced to wait for the train to pass totally wastes a lot of time. So it means a lot of karts racing towards the level crossing as the train races by, and the odd too slow racer smashing right into it. You can also either literally try and outrun the train round the track (in the Nintendo 64 version) by racing ahead through the tunnel, fly straight over it with a gliding ramp or just take a star/invincibility item and just go straight into the train, sending it flying into the air in the process.
  • In of Metro Last Light's Crowning Moments of Awesome, Artyom and Khan race after a freak show train taken by soldiers of the Red Line with a motorized railcar. The objective is to get Artyom on the train to rescue the last surviving Dark One, who's on a cage on board.

Western Animation
  • In the Road Runner cartoon "Zipping Along," the establishing scene features the bird zipping along a train, although he leaves the road and never attempts to beat the train to the crossing.
    • The Road Runner's observation of safety is reprised in a later Operation:Lifesaver commercial aimed at children. In it, the Road Runner, despite his ability to put some extra speed in his already fast run, is aware of safety rules concerning railroad crossings and stops to allow a train to pass. Of course, Wile E. Coyote arrogantly doesn't, and he (once again) is crushed beneath another oncoming train.
  • The MGM cartoon One Cab's Family, starting around 5:15.
  • Cars: Lightning McQueen does it while trying to catch up to what he thinks is Mac.
  • In Warners' Streamlined Gretna Green, Junior the roadster tries to outrace a train, gets hit (naturally) and has to go the hospital/body shop; once he recovers he then goes and does it again, this time it's the train that gets the worst of it.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Over a Barrel", a herd of buffalo race against the train heading for Appleloosa. One of them, Little Strongheart, manages to jump on board and disconnect the caboose. It's both subverted and downplayed in that the train itself is being pulled by ponies at running speed.
    • 'The Last Roundup' has Applejack racing a train while driving a horse-drawn carriage. She makes it, although the four horses later call her crazy and leave in a huff. Her pursuers? Their horses were Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy ...

Real Life
  • The Blue Train Races were a series of famous match races between racing drivers and trains in the 1920s and 1930s.
  • There is a race in southwest Colorado called the Iron Horse Classic where cyclists race an old steam train 50 miles through mountainous territory. The train almost never wins.
  • There are plenty of stories about people in cars (or on bikes, or on foot) who try to beat trains to crossings. Most of them end up dead. Remember, when you race a train, if it's a tie, you lose.
  • Some UK heritage railways have organised 'race the train' events, with a designated route near the line. In this case the trains are slow enough that it's achievable.
    • Conversely, some stretches of commercial railway that have had motorways built alongside them have had to have screen fencing erected to stop people racing the trains.
  • The Great Train Race in Melbourne is between people on foot and a narrow gauge train called Puffing Billy up a hill.
Pursued ProtagonistChase SceneRam by Braking
Orient ExpressRailroad IndexRail Enthusiast
Quote MineExample as a ThesisRebellious Rebel
Put Down Your Gun and Step AwayTelevision Is Trying to Kill UsRamp Jump

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy