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Train Escape
Judicious use of a train (usually) to interrupt a Chase Scene. The Train Escape comes in three distinct flavors:

1- During a chase, the quarry can usually get away by darting across a set of tracks just ahead of the train. The pursuer will inevitably get caught by the train, and the quarry makes good his escape.

A common subversion might be that the quarry actually stops on the other side of the tracks to gloat... only to discover that it's a short train that passes by in just a few seconds, allowing the chase to continue.

This can also be applied to street chases, with traffic (usually a semi or other big truck) pulling out from a side street — or, really, any sudden (if temporary) obstacle which obstructs or impedes the pursuer, allowing the quarry a significant head start or outright escape. Typically involves a car chase, but a foot chase will work just as well.

See also Vehicle Vanish. And please, Don't Try This at Home

2- During a foot chase, the quarry will hop onto a train to escape the pursuer. This can involve boarding a ready-to-depart train at the station, with the doors shutting in the pursuer's face; but it usually works best if the quarry has to actually charge down the tracks in order to catch a moving train, and the pursuer is just that one step too far behind and cannot catch up as the train accelerates, taking the quarry with it.

Doesn't work as much today, with most modern trains having a) automatic doors or b) doors that are locked before departure. So nowadays the quarry jumps on top of the train, and sit down gasping while their pursuer is left in the dust. In modern "Wuxia" films, the pursuer will follow, resulting in The Climax — a Traintop Battle. As with Type 1, street traffic (generally a semi truck) can be used instead of an actual train.

3- Both pursuers and pursued are on a moving train, and the person(s) being chased unhook a part of the train to separate them and escape.

All three variations of this trope often work as a way to artificially extend the plot, as the bad guys get away and the heroes have to go look for them all over again.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Type 1 

Anime and Manga
  • Not exactly a chase, but Naota escapes an annoying conversation with Haruko in FLCL by going under the crossing guards and crossing the track before a commuter train passes.

Comic Books

Film
  • King Of The Rocketmen (1930s serial film)
  • Weird Science: one of the protagonists evades a police chase this way.
  • Time Chasers (Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode): a tractor pulls across the road, cutting off the pursuers long enough to give the Designated Hero a healthy lead.
  • In Next, thanks to the main character's future-viewing powers, we get to see him both crash into the train and escape thanks to it.
  • The first National Treasure film used the traffic variant. It works, temporarily.
  • In The Cannonball Run, two of the racers escape a police car by jumping over a train.
  • The Train Man escapes from Seraph, Morpheus and Trinity this way in The Matrix Revolutions.
  • The opening of Primal Fear, when Aaron Stamper was running from the police.
  • Dick Tracy (1990), while Kid was trying to escape from Dick Tracy.
  • Watership Down (1978), a group of protagonist rabbits were trying to get away from an Efrafan patrol are saved in this way. The escapees interpret the train as a messenger sent from the rabbit sun-god, Frith, but the more savvy Efrafans have a slightly better understanding.
  • The Transporter pulled this off during the opening chase sequence.
  • In the 2007 Transformers movie, Sam is chasing his "stolen" car when it runs over train tracks just before a train passes, cutting Sam off. Also, later in the movie, a concerned Mikaela follows Sam on her scooter and is cut off by a police car.
  • Played with in the final scene Entrapment, where it is combined with Off Screen Teleportation, and executed by a Gentleman Thief played by Sean Connery, and a Phantom Thief played by Catherine Zeta Jones. Done to death in all its hilarious application.
  • Enemy of the State: Will Smith and Gene Hackman still have time to duke it out mano-a-mano while the pursuers are stuck behind the train.
  • The New Zealand movie Snakeskin features a scene where the heroes are fleeing some skinheads over a drug deal gone wrong. The heroes manage to evade the skinheads by performing a Dukes of Hazzard stunt involving racing a freight train through a level crossing. Naturally, the skinheads do not make it and are forced to wait. They are left even further behind after the train slams on the brakes and ends up stopping while still blocking the crossing.
  • Man On A Ledge. As the main character is escaping from the cops at the beginning.
  • Performed in To Live and Die in L.A. during a car chase.

Live-Action TV
  • Done during the penultimate chapter of The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed. Interestingly, the guys being chased don't know it, and only use the Train Escape as a habitual precaution.
  • Prison Break, a few times.
  • In the pilot episode of Knight Rider, the Evil Minions use semi-tractors as obstacles for Michael and KITT to allow the Big Bads to escape. Of course, thank's to KITT's super-abilities, the obstacles are bypassed with ease.
    • Another Knight Rider episode featured an odd reversal/variant: a villain uses his nitro-powered car to push his victim's car into an oncoming train.
    • In yet another episode it looked as though a passing train would enable their pursuers to catch up, only KITT ended up leaping through a train thanks to a boxcar whose side doors had conveniently been left open. Of course, the side of a boxcar isn't that sturdy compared to some of the things KITT has crashed through in the course of the series, so this was probably a concession to the budget.
  • In the sixth season finale of The Amazing Race, the second place team was less than a minute behind the first team, when running to the finish line. The second team then got held up at a railway crossing, giving the first team the victory.

Newspaper Comics
  • In Dick Tracy, Shakey does it to lose the pursuing Tracy in his climatic attempt to escape.

Video Games
  • Mario Kart 64, in the Kalimari Desert track.
    • And also done in Cruisin' USA in the Death Valley level.
  • In Team Fortress 2's "Meet the Scout", the RED Scout offs two pursuers by luring them in front of a train, and double-jumping away Just in Time.

Western Animation
  • The Simpsons subverts it: Ned pursues Homer in a car; Homer attempts a Train Escape, but Ned manages to jump through an empty car to continue after him.
    • In another The Simpsons episode (the one in Florida), Homer loses a chasing police car by crossing in front of an oncoming train, and then promptly gets hit by a train going in the opposite direction on the second set of tracks.
    • Another Simpsons example - When Homer becomes Death and is made to kill Marge, he kills Patty instead and tapes Marge's hair to her head. God figures it out and chases him with a beam of light. Homer speeds away, comes to some train tracks and just makes it across. God's light has to wait on the other side until the train gets out of the way.
  • Shaak Ti and two other Jedi use trains both for evasion and for dividing-and-conquering during their flight/fight against Grievous' Magnaguards in the Star Wars: Clone Wars miniseries. Shaak Ti escapes Grievous himself by using the Force to tie his cape to a passing train.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Applejack tries to make an escape from her friends this way. Her friends simply fly over the train.
  • In Scooby-Doo! and the Reluctant Werewolf, Shaggy attempts to lose the other racers by driving in front of an oncoming train. However, everyone else successfully makes it, except for Iron Buttmonkey Dracula.

    Type 2 

Anime and Manga
  • In the eleventh Pokémon movie, our heroes got on a train that was about to depart to evade Zero's Magnemite/ton/zone. Conveniently, they were never asked for tickets, much less to pay for the windows they busted when fighting against Zero's Pokemon when they were eventually found...

Film
  • Will Smith's character successfully does this in The Pursuit of Happyness.
  • In U.S. Marshals, Wesley Snipes escapes from Tommy Lee Jones using this. He reaches the roof of a train station just as the train is pulling out, runs to match speed with it and jumps onto the top of the train.
  • In Rat Race, Enrico is being chased by a crazed ambulance driver, and avoids him by jumping onto a train going at full speed.
  • A variant occurs in The Great Escape with two of the escapees running up to a train just as it is pulling out so the guards on the platform will not have time to check their papers.
  • Blade grabs the end of a train with one arm while holding the love interest in the other. The train pulls them to safety while dislocating his arm.
  • Used hilariously in the opening scene of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, when the main character jumps on the train and starts talking to some hobos he finds there, only to get yanked off in mid-speech as he's still chained to his fellow escapees who haven't been able to climb up also.
  • A subway variant occurs in The French Connection, ending with the target waving goodbye to his pursuer.
  • The Bourne Supremacy: Bourne evades police at a train station, and eventually gets away on one.
    • Double Subverted. The train doesn't leave right away, his pursuers close in, and Bourne has to get off the train, then double back. The second time he boards, the train leaves.
  • Bright Lights, Big City: Jamie hops on a departing subway train to escape from his estranged brother.
  • A Hard Day's Night. Incidentally, The Beatles were going to catch the train anyway for the next leg of their tour, but getting away from their squealing mob of fangirls was a bonus.

Literature
  • Played with in Child of the Hive. When Alex, Ben and Will run into the Underground to escape pursuit, Alex concludes that the trains weren't given a script to follow because they have to wait for one to arrive.
  • A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway. After the protagonist deserts he jumps on a train to get across a guarded bridge.

Live-Action TV
  • Subverted in an episode of Angel; instead of giving up the chase, the monster grabs the end of the train as it moves off and climbs inside.
  • Scott Dunn, the Serial Killer Big Bad of Castle's episode "Boom!", manages to escape Beckett in a foot chase by getting on a subway.

Video Games
  • Towards the beginning of Final Fantasy VII, Cloud escapes pursuit by jumping on top of a train as it passes under a tunnel.
  • In Red Dead Redemption Marston can jump from his horse onto a moving train. This can make a Rule of Cool escape, since he can usually outrun his pursuers, but the train is way cooler, especially if bound for the Mexican border.
  • No idea whether this is a reference, parody, subversion, or inversion, but the Ghost Train segment in Final Fantasy VI (where, at one point, the protagonists are pursued by the train) deserves some sort of mention.
  • The end of the "Fear That Gives Men Wings" stage of Max Payne has Vinnie Gognitti jumping onto a train to get away from Max. Max has to do the same with the next train in order to end the level and continue the chase.
  • Mirror's Edge likes this: There's a few levels which involve jumping on or between moving subways.
  • In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the player can do delivery missions using trains. Initiating the delivery mission while wanted will cause the player to lose their wanted level.
  • Often utilized in Agent USA to escape cities whose citizens have been turned into walking TV static before they overwhelm the player.

Western Animation
  • Used in a "Runt and Rita" short in Animaniacs: Chased by Nazi dogs, Rita makes it to the train, but Runt misses it; so Rita disembarks from the train to stay with Runt.
  • Yet another example from The Simpsons: In a scene which homages the opening sequence to Raiders of the Lost Ark, Bart evades Homer by making an escape like this on the school bus. It should be noted that the scene referenced from Raiders featured an airplane escape.
  • On Batman: The Animated Series, the Clock King in the episode of the same name uses this trick to make a dramatic exit after his first face-to-face encounter with Batman: "I don't know what to tell you, Batman... except that the 9:15 is always six minutes early."
  • An American Tail: Fievel Goes West: Tiger manages to catch the train to escape a pack of dogs. Who should he meet inside but the engineer's dog?
  • Hermes and Bender hop a train to escape Mom's killbots in the Futurama episode "Lethal Inspection".

Web Original
  • Gavin boards a train on the Underground to escape from Patient #12 in KateModern: The Last Work.

    Type 3 

Anime and Manga
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Kimblee and Scar are fighting aboard a train; when Kimblee is seriously injured, he detaches the back end of the train (containing Scar) to escape.

Film

Live-Action TV

Video Games
  • In Grandia, Justin and Co escape from Nina, Saki and Mio by detaching the engine from the rest of the train with their enemies in the engine. Since Justin had broken the brake lever before that happened, the Garlyle soldiers were stuck in the moving train for hours until it slowed down, while the heroes walked away.

Western Animation
  • Done quite by accident in Curious George: Follow That Monkey.
  • In The Wrong Trousers (Wallace and Gromit), Feathers McGraw does this on a model railway.
  • In The Simpsons Reverend Lovejoy does this on a train ride at a zoo to escape from killer baboons.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold: Babyface and his gang try to do this to Batman and Plastic Man in "Bold Beginnings!".

Toyota TripwireChase SceneTry And Follow
Time Travel EscapeEscape TropesTry And Follow
Thriller on the ExpressRailroad IndexTrain Job
To the Batpole!Action Adventure TropesTraintop Battle

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