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Just Train Wrong

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Tigger: Say, where's the propeller on this thing?
Rabbit: Tigger, trains don’t have propellers, although it does seem to be missing its rudder.
The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, "The Good, The Bad, And The Tigger"

These are the examples that make Casey Jones turn over in his grave.

Just like works that are Just Plane Wrong, many writers just don't do the research when it comes to railways, locomotives and rolling stock.

Easily, the number one mistake is showing a steam locomotive without a tender or bunker and tanks — which usually means that it doesn't have any fuel or water and therefore can't move. And even if there is a tender, it often looks like one big fuel bunker on wheels with nowhere to put the water. Other common departures from reality might involve a Runaway Train's safety systems failing without any justifiable reason, or the wrong kind of train or rolling stock for the script. Whenever a train appears, it'll almost always be blasting its horn or whistle (if even that, as sometimes they'll use whistles on diesels and horns on steam engines and vice-versa), when in real life trains are only meant to sound their horns and/or whistles at set points along the route such as at level crossings, or if there's something or someone on the track. But, hey, most viewers don't know or care what the proper train would look like, or the ins-and-outs of railway operations.


Cases of anachronistic locomotives and rolling stock are more forgivable, for most of the same reasons given in sister tropes involving ships, aircraft or armoured vehicles. Sometimes there are simply no serviceable examples still in existence, or the surviving examples are stabled at preserved railway lines far from their original area of operation and are too expensive to transport, leaving the production team with a choice between this trope or California Doubling. Even when you manage to make locomotive and rolling stock match the period and the location, they're often in a livery from an earlier or later period of their service lifespan, and the owners may well be reluctant to have them repainted for filming, especially considering the expense involved.

Compare Steam Never Dies, which often involves steam locomotives still running as commonplace in the modern era when they've explicitly stopped being used. Contrast Cool Train. Not to Be Confused with something you do to one of your students as a joke, that's Sabotutor.



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  • This highly amusing advert for British Rail's InterCity services inadvertently illustrated why film crews sometimes just have to put up with anachronistic liveries, as the special Police paintjob that was supposed to wash off easily after filming failed to perform as advertised, and the locomotive had to be sanded down and repainted. As any preservationist will tell you, this process is not cheap for a small not-for-profit organization depending upon volunteer labour.
  • This picture of an ad for some new US Postage stamps coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.

    Anime and Manga 
  • There are lots of obvious errors in many anime like adult characters being shorter than rail gaugenote  which is about one meter in Japan. It's particularly jarring considering how Japanese love trains.
  • Blood+: The Siberia Express episode - Oh boy. The train interior is rather spacious compared to how cramped the Real Life train corridors are. The express is being hauled by a self-propelled railcar which aren't powerful enough to haul such long and heavy trains. Its front crudely resembles the Czech-made ChS2 locomotive. There is an obligatory rooftop fight scene and nobody seems to mind the electrified catenary conduit a single bit. There's more train-related nonsense but this should be enough.
  • In the penultimate episode of Canaan the last car is forcefully removed from the train whichnote  carries on like nothing happened although in reality the failsafe systems should bring it to a screeching halt.
  • This scene from Nichijou. You can clearly hear four wheel sets pass over a track joint while the train moves barely a foot. What's the size of bogeys and wheels on that train?
    • Considering the daily routine of Nichijou this should go hardly noticed by anyone.
  • SL Man and Poppo-chan from Sorieke! Anpanman. Despite being in a fantasy land, they seem to run without a coal tender, which is required for engines like them. Also, SL Man can go underwater, which would've washed out his firebox.

    Comic Books 
  • The second volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has a scene in which a Martian tripod destroys Barnes Bridge along with a train crossing it. However, while the train is spot-on for the period, it's a London and North Western Railway design. Barnes Bridge was on the London and South Western Railway, and used very different locomotives.
  • A story in the Doctor Who (Titan) comics featured the real-world Tay Bridge railway disaster from 1879. The interior drawings of the coaches were not too bad (although the side corridor was drawn way too wide), but the exterior pictures of the train were very American indeed.
  • An early Chris Claremont X-Men story has the team visit Banshee's castle in Mayo. They go by steam engine, nearly fifteen years after mass dieselization in Ireland.
  • A Black Widow book taking place in Prague has her landing on and boarding a running train. The artist did their research and looked up an actual modern Czech train. Unfortunately for the artist, their reference images did not show that that particular train type's doors do not have handles at all and open only automatically, with press buttons. Unfortunately for the writer, most trains in use in the Czech Republic nowadays, even those that do have door handles, have a safety blocking mechanism in place that prevents the doors from being opened while the train is going. note 

    Comic Strips 
  • A Doctor Who Magazine Seventh Doctor story had a London suburban train stolen by evil aliens who planned to eat the passengers. The artist created very detailed and realistic drawings of the train — unfortunately it was of a very distinctive design which was constructed for the suburban railways in Glasgow and never ran in London.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Illusionist generally does a brilliant job of capturing early-1960s Britain... apart from some very French-looking railway carriages in the background at Kings Cross station.
  • The Iron Giant features a cross between a Norfolk & Western J-Class steam locomotive and a New York Central Dreyfuss steam locomotive, when in reality a Maine Central diesel locomotive would be more fitting for coastal Maine in 1957. The Norfolk and Western J's never ran up that far (not even when the last survivor of the class, number 611, was restored to excursion service in 1982, and again in 2015, with the farthest it's ventured thus far being up to Pennsylvania's Strasburg Railroad), and all of NYC's Hudsons had been scrapped only a few years earlier.
  • The Polar Express: Things like the rolling stock bending around a mountain peak or a 100% decline, the length of the train keeps varying from five to about a dozen coaches etc etc. And let's not start on the scene with the train crossing the frozen body of water and slithering across the ice like a snake while being steered by changing the rotation of the drivers on the locomotive.note  That said, it was explicitly stated to be a "magic train."
    • In a more egregious example, the Know-It-All Kid misidentifies the locomotive as a Baldwin S-3 Class Berkshire built in 1931. The locomotive used as the model for the locomotive, Pere Marquette 1225, is actually a Lima N-1 Class Berkshire built in 1941. He was right that Baldwin built the S-3 Class, but they did so for the Erie Railroad in 1928 while it was Lima that built the same class number for the Nickel Plate Road in 1949note . Just about the only things correct about his statement were the locomotive's wheel arrangement, weight, and pulling power. Then again, he's a Know-Nothing Know-It-All, and part of his Character Development is acknowledging that he doesn't know everything.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Australian films set in the 1930s which require a steam train (such as Sirens and Rabbit-Proof Fence) will use stock footage from the 1974 film A Steam Train Passes. However, the locomotive featured in A Steam Train Passes wasn't built until the 1940s.
  • The 1979 TV movie of All Quiet on the Western Front does this twice in the scene set at Oldenburg station: Not only is the station shown far too small for a medium hub (the actual Central Station in 1914 looked like this, and the current 7-platform Main Station was opened only a year later), the locomotive shown is Austrian. Oldenburg is in Northern Germany.
  • The 2012 version of Anna Karenina features Keira Knightley and Jude Law playing Russian aristocrats, and Great Western Railway engines at Didcot doubling as Russian engines in Moscow. Besides the difference in loading gauge, the main problem is the use of a 1920s/1930s-style Great Western engine as a 19th-century Russian engine.
  • In the blockbuster film The Avengers, at the beginning of the Black Widow interrogation scene, we see an establishing shot of a Norfolk Southern freight train with American locomotives passing by the ratty looking warehouse where Natasha is being interrogated conducting an interrogation. The only problem is that the scene is set in Russia, which is not only several thousand miles away from the nearest Norfolk Southern locomotive, but wouldn't even be the correct track gauge if such a locomotive happened to be imported. The producers were aware of problem and digitally removed the NS logo and lettering, but the black on white NS paint scheme is nevertheless unmistakable as well as the North American railroad industrial design. The scene was shot in Cleveland (a good stand-in for post-collapse Russia) and filming a passing train was a spur of the moment decision.
    • They got the NS logo (the horse and the NS) but not the distinctive striping on the front of the locomotive. For a railfan, the easy assumption was that it was Russian mobsters in Newark (or some other Rust Belt city).
  • A shaky dance with plausibility in Back to the Future Part III:
    • In Real Life, the locomotive used, Sierra No. 3, would have a hard time reaching even 65 MPH on a good day, much less 88. Like electric engines, however, steam engines have the advantage of being measured in terms of pure Tractive Effort: their limiting factor is the amount of steam pressure they can generate and how long they have to build up momentum. As the engineer says, if you get the boiler hotter than Hades and have a long stretch of straight track and are willing to risk the whole thing blowing up or flying off the tracks, it's possible — the infamous Casey Jones wreck involved an engine with nearly identical stats pushed to an 80 mph "cannonball" run while hauling a light six-car train (with some help from a downhill stretch of track).
    • Doc Brown states that the logs he has created for Marty to throw into the stolen locomotive are made mostly out of anthracite coal. While anthracite does burn much more efficiently than wood, it can also be incredibly difficult to ignite, especially when it isn't broken into very small pieces. The engine in the film was also designed to burn wood, which allow too much or too little air draft to ignite the coal even if Marty did have the time to sit there and baby it. The Author's Saving Throw here is the "mostly" — if the logs consisted of finely-ground anthracite mixed with a firework-style oxidizer, it would be a rather effective way to force-feed the engine oxygen and fuel. Or blow it up like the test model.
    • The last component is steam generation — you would want as much water in the tender tank as possible, but you'd also have to make sure that it didn't flood the boiler either. note  Doc does mention that the boiler will catastrophically explode if it reaches a certain pressure, and during the last minute of the scene, rivets and seams are visibly failing and spewing vapor or jets of superheated water. Also, the train explicitly does retain the tender in the script (Doc commands the engineer and fireman to "uncouple the cars from the tender"). In Real Life, the tenders were often physically attached to the engine and could not be removed without significant effort anyway.
  • Breakfast on Pluto generally makes a lot of effort with its 1970s setting, until the scene at Paddington station when Kitten goes back to Ireland, which has loads of clearly visible modern trains. But the budget probably didn't stretch to anything more authentic.
  • A whole lot of things went Just Train Wrong in The Cassandra Crossing.
    • While an overnight train from Geneva to Stockholm isn't unthinkable, routing it via Paris is plain idiotic. Not only that, it travels from Geneva to Basel and then to Paris which is an even longer way than taking the direct route to Paris by entering France a few miles after Geneva. The train is zig-zagging its way through Europe. It's absolutely useless both to start in Geneva (because whoever wants to travel from Geneva to Paris would take a direct train) and to continue beyond Paris with a sleeping-car on the train (because it's not like there aren't any trains that can take you from Geneva to Brussels in much less time on a much shorter route). One could think that the American script writers picked some random European cities without informing themselves where exactly in Europe they're located, whether it makes sense to send a train that way, and whether Europe has a much denser network of long-distance railroad lines than the USA.
    • Not to mention that it's impossible to let a train have Paris as a mere stopover because the six major stations in Paris are all dead-end, there is no long-distance railroad line through Paris, and trains from Basel arrive in a different station than where trains to Brussels depart. Trains can only start or terminate in Paris, but not stop. Traveling through Paris via train pretty much always involves changing stations via Métro. Unlike American transcontinental trains, a stopover in a dead-end station does not require turning the entire consist from the locomotive(s) to the last car around, European railroads would simply put another locomotive on the other end of the train and continue with that one, but in Paris' case, it'd require another massive detour to get to the right station or on the right line.
    • Of five regular compartment cars, two are first class. Standard for express/intercity trains between Munich and Zürich in The '80s, but a European overnight train would never have that much first class in comparison to the second class.
    • Also, putting the sleeping-car between the two first-class coaches makes absolutely no sense. The passengers from the first first-class coach would have to walk through the sleeping-car to get to the train restaurant.
    • Over such a long distance, one would expect couchette cars on the train along with at least one sleeping-car. There are none, and instead, there are way too many cars fit mostly for daytime travel.
    • In the middle of a train runs a dining-car. This would make it highly difficult to shunt it out of the train, seeing as dining-cars weren't allowed anywhere near the ferry between Germany and Denmark in those days for fear of too much competition for the on-board restaurants. Also, this particular dining-car model isn't too likely to be allowed to operate in Denmark or Sweden. So it would have been removed from the middle of the train in Hamburg's busy main station where otherwise only a new locomotive would have been coupled to the other end of the train to reverse it.
    • Besides, at the film's time, passenger trains in Denmark were heated with steam since the DSB didn't have diesels with head-end power yet. However, the Swiss RIC cars (the two first-class coaches, the three second-class coaches and the dining-car) didn't have steam heating, so they didn't even have pipes to run heating steam through. The Danish locomotive wouldn't have heated anything beyond the first baggage car running right behind it.
    • When the train leaves "Geneva" (which is actually Basel SBB, the train's next stop), two of the three second-car coaches are missing. The second baggage car at the end of the train is there, though.
    • In Switzerland already, the train changes direction countless times. There are many scenes in which the two first-class coaches and the sleeping-car are in the rear half of the train.
    • In some scenes, a train runs through the scene which doesn't have a single vehicle in common with the Europa-Express, neither the locomotive not any of the cars. One of them even contains German cars whereas the Europa-Express is an entirely Swiss consist. Since most passenger cars were green in West and Central Europe in those days, it was believed that the audience wouldn't notice.
    • An infected dog is to be taken out of the train in a basket hung from a helicopter. This is impossible on tracks electrified with overhead catenary like almost every bit of Swiss railroad (and any mainline between Switzerland and Paris). However, when the basket comes near the train (and only then), the catenary is suddenly missing. In these scenes, the train is pushed by an off-screen Bm 4/4 diesel locomotive while the electric locomotive with its pantographs down remains in plain sight.
    • When the train approaches "Nuremberg", it is clearly running under Swiss catenary.
    • "Nuremberg"'s station itself is actually a freight station in Italy. Apparently, the American script writers didn't care because it used to be quite common for Amtrak stations especially in Flyover Country to have platforms not higher than the rails (i.e. you have to climb steps placed by the crew to board the train) or require the passengers to board from the ground next to the tracks. In Europe, however, passenger stations always have platforms at least high enough to reach the steps below the car door.
    • The locomotive that's on the train upon arrival in "Nuremberg" is an Italian E645 poorly disguised as a generic Swiss locomotive on one end to remotely resemble Re 4/4 II 11217 which was on the train all the time up to that point and numbered Re 4/4 III 11363 like the similar locomotive that pulls the train in some but not even most Swiss scenes. It's still clearly visible that the Italian locomotive has an articulated car body, as are the real front windows behind the larger faux pseudo-Swiss ones. The other end remained unchanged except for the green paint. This scene with this locomotive made it onto the movie poster. Both locomotives, by the way, would be unable to operate in Germany, the former because of the wrong current, the latter because the German catenary zig-zag is too wide.
    • The sleeping-car has miraculously transformed from a modern MU to a roughly 40 years older Z, probably because the CIWL (Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits = International Sleeping-Car Company) wouldn't let the film crew put those blinds on an almost new car.
    • In "Nuremberg", the locomotive is replaced by a diesel. While in "Nuremberg", it's an Italian D143. A refurbished American wartime switcher which doesn't even have head-end power for the train (in fact, as a switcher, it doesn't have any train heating whatsoever) is supposed to haul it on the rest of its way. Immediately after leaving "Nuremberg" behind, the train rolls through daylight and what is said to be Poland behind a French first-series BB 66000 repainted green so that the differences in comparison with the previous Italian diesel aren't too obvious, although the BB 66000 looks nothing like a D143, and maybe so that it looks more like an Eastern Bloc locomotive. (Originally and at that time still, the BB 66000 were blue.)
    • In one scene at a level crossing, BB 66033 has red covers on her headlights, making them tail lights.
    • Also, both baggage cars suddenly run behind the BB 66000.
    • The second class is depicted as saloon cars to make it look clearly inferior to the protagonists' first class. The three Swiss RIC coaches which make up the second class are all compartment cars, though. Also, the interior shot shows a first-class saloon car with only one seat on one side of the aisle and two on the other and white headrest covers.
    • When they were sealed, the two first-class coaches morphed into second-class coaches. This is very clearly visible: The first-class RIC coaches have nine compartments and a yellow line below the roof, the second-class RIC coaches have eleven or twelve compartments depending on the type.
    • After "Nuremberg", there are armed guards on the roofs of the car. It's pretty hard to stand on top of the curved roof of a European passenger car, fluted or not, and even more so when the car is moving and you're holding an assault rifle.
    • According to the movie, there is a central electronic coupling control unit under the dining-car (and only there) from which all couplers on the train can be remote-controlled. In Real Life, however, European railroads still use the same manual chain-like couplings as in the mid-19th century. Blasting one's way to that control box by detonating gas in the kitchen is just as much non-sense, for it'd rather rip the Swiss dining-car's aluminum car body to shreds or at least blow the windows out than damage the floor.
    • Besides, Swiss dining-cars have electric stoves. Where'd you get the gas then?
    • What's actually blown up is a not-so-faithful model of a French DEV regular steel dining-car that used to be all red back then. The same model is eventually driven off the Cassandra bridge.
    • By the way, the dining-car interior shots (and a group shot of the actors) were taken inside a "light steel" dining-car from the 1930s. Note how the RIC dining-car has one-piece windows and the one used for inside scenes has windows with sliding upper halves.
    • A more realistic way of uncoupling half the train would have been to undo the coupler underneath the footplates between the cars when there is no pulling force on them. A smarter solution would have been to simply pull the emergency brake which can't be bridged on these coaches (or at all in that time). And even if the emergency brakes had been disabled in any way, lifting one of the footplates and then opening the cock on one of the uncoupled main air line hoses or alternatively uncoupling the respective air hoses without closing the cocks would have stopped the train. But no, too easy and not flashy enough.
    • If (not only) a European train is separated while running without properly uncoupling the brake hoses, the rear part will not simply roll out, nor will the front part travel on. When the air brake system is opened by ripping the hoses apart, and the pressure drops, the brakes will apply immediately in both halves of the train. In the movie, none of the two train halves brakes before one of the handbrakes on the separated rear part is used.
    • It's clear from the locomotives and catenary already that only the scenes in Basel are shot on location while most of the rest doesn't even take place in the same country. Most of what should be France or Germany is actually Switzerland, Nuremberg's main station is in Italy, and Poland is actually France.
    • One has to wonder who drives the train to the Cassandra Bridge and finally into the ravine. In Real Life European railroad operation, only a driver who knows that particular line and thus has a permit for it may drive that train on that line. But if he knows it well enough to be aware of the hazardous Cassandra Bridge, he'd know better than to drive an international express train with passengers aboard over that bridge, much less at such a speed. In fact, there must not be a single engineer in Czechoslovakia who doesn't know about the Cassandra Bridge.
    • If the Cassandra Bridge is on the verge of collapsing, why isn't the line closed? Why do the Czechoslovak State Railways allow any train, especially an international express train with foreign (Western even) passenger coaches and passengers aboard, to enter that line and try to cross the bridge? How can they force a train driver onto that obvious Suicide Mission? And no, they can't be forced by the USA because neither the CIA nor the US military could have any saying in an Eastern Bloc country.
    • When the train falls off the Cassandra Bridge (which is actually the famous Viaduc de Garabit in France, designed by Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame), among the falling vehicles are the dining-car, clearly identifiable as the only red car in an otherwise mostly green consist, and two second-class coaches. Just minutes before, the dining-car and everything behind it was explosively uncoupled from the train.
    • The movie poster design used on IMDb clearly displays an older American GM-EMD hood unit standing in for the Europa-Express.
    • This DVD cover shows both the Italian E645 decorated as a Swiss locomotive and the model train with the French dining-car standing in for the actual Swiss one.
  • In the Edwardian-set Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, there is a brief shot of a train from the Great Western Railway. Except it's not, it's actually a rather poorly disguised World War II-era 'Austerity tank'.
  • The poster for the film Creep (2004) depicts a 1972 Mk1 stock Northern Line train — the stock was withdrawn four years before the film was released.
    • All but one - The London Underground keeps a single example on the disused Aldwych stub off the Piccadilly line, where Creep (and most other works involving vintage Underground trains) are filmed. It tends to stick out like a sore thumb in scenes set in the present, as it is the only unit left on the Underground still in its original unpainted state.
  • Dancer in the Dark: This locomotive appears in the film. Great Northern never owned any of this model of locomotive, which was built by NoHAB in Sweden for the European market, but the film-makers thought it was the closest they could find to an American-style diesel.
    • To be fair, this is a GM EMD construction licensed to NoHAB, pretty much an EMD F7 adapted for Europe. The EMD bulldog noses should be a dead giveaway. Nevertheless, the three headlights, the cabs on both ends and the side buffers and couplings are typical for European locomotives (the only double-cabbed US carbody diesels were six-axle Baldwin shark noses).
  • Dark Shadows opens with footage of a modern-day Amtrak train, despite being set in The '70s. This is particularly galling as the interior shot of the train perfectly replicates the time period.
  • Enigma features 1950s Mk1 British Rail Stock (with Eastern Region numbering) in a scene that takes place near Bletchley in 1943. This is quite common due to the large number of BR Mk1s in preservation (and the large number built; they were a standard carriage used throughout the system, replacing many previous designs, and the last of them weren't taken out of service until 2005), compared to the accurate pre-war types which are in comparison quite rare. The Mk1s are also all steel construction, whereas earlier types were often wooden framed or wooden bodied, which didn't help their survival.
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind passed used New Haven Line M2 / M4 / M6 trains as their Long Island Rail Road M1 / M3 counterparts by putting a large logo over the red stripes.
  • Flags of Our Fathers: At :43:05, this EMD "F" unit can be seen pulling a train into Manchester, NH with New Hampshire hero Rene Gagnon aboard. While EMD was indeed building this style of locomotive starting in 1939, A careful inspection of spotting details reveals the lead loco to be an EMD F9, a post-war model not introduced until 1953. A more appropriate streamliner would have been an EMD E7, preferably in Boston & Maine paint.
    • Not only are the diesels the wrong model, but their paint scheme is incorrect as well. The scene takes place in Manchester, NH in 1945 so the locomotives should be painted in the Boston & Maine Railroad's famous maroon and gold "Minuteman" paint scheme. Instead, the engines are painted in an early 1990's Burlington Northern paint scheme. Burlington Northern didn't even exist until 1970. This is somewhat understandable given the filming location (Glencoe, Illinois) and the almost non-existent availability of Boston & Maine diesels, however a working Boston & Maine streamliner operates at a tourist railroad in New Hampshire.
    • Glencoe, Illinois stood in as Manchester, NH and the town's Metra station is visually similar to Amoskeag Depot, a railroad station that still stands in Manchester. However, when Rene Gagnon arrived in Manchester in 1945, he arrived at Manchester Union Station (which was torn down in 1962), not Amoskeag Station. Plus, Glencoe is far less urban than the City of Manchester.
  • Garfield's movie has a scene where Garfield infiltrates a dispatcher's room and switches trains willy nilly sending them all on collision courses with one another. This would be impossible as the system would not allow the controller to switch points in front of an approaching train, and the signal system is interlocked to prohibit any movement that might cause a collision.
    • There are two trains mentioned called the "Seattle Wind" and the "Boston Express". No station has direct service to both Seattle and Boston, and such a trip would require transfers at Chicago and New York City. Amtrak's train running up to Seattle is the Coast Starlight, a successor to the Southern Pacific's West Coast and Cascade (which only ran up to Portland, with transfer services offered to Seattle by the Great Northern).
    • Also, in one shot, ten trains are shown with unrealistic consists. They all have Amtrak GE Dash 8-32BWH locomotives (with blurred out road numbers). These are freight locomotives modified for passenger usage. Nine of them are on screen at once, when Amtrak only had 20. At no point in Amtrak's history would this be realistic, as GE made them to supplement Amtrak's aging F40 locomotives while they developed the Genesis locomotive. Later they were relegated to switching in yards.
    • They also have a baggage car with three Superliner cars. Superliner cars are only used on Amtrak's long-distance trains, which are always at least twice as long and have at least two locomotives. These shorter trains could realistically be commuter trains due to their short length and high quantity, but that doesn't explain the baggage cars.note 
  • Ghostbusters II features the appearance of a Ghost Train that the titular team encounters. Said train, as Ego describes it, was the old New York Central City of Albany, which derailed in 1920 and killed hundreds of people. The entirety of the train gets a few details wrong:
    • First, the wreck itself. The deadliest wreck in New York City occurred in 1918, as the Malbone Street Wreck, which involved the New York City subway system, not an actual steam train. It was a derailment, but the actual cause was due to an inexperienced motorman (both grieving the death of his daughter and having come down with the Spanish Flu) running a sharp curve on an unfamiliar route in the middle of a union dispute (which is why he was pressed into operating the train in the first place), whereas the circumstances behind this train's derailment was never revealed. The casualties are also slightly incorrect in this regard. 92-107 people did perish in this wreck, but this train lost over 100 or so. Officially, the deadliest train wreck on record (involving trains similar to this one) is the Dutchman's Curve Train Wreck of 1917, in which 101 people lost their lives.
    • Second, the train itself isn't era-appropriate. It has a much more mid-1800s appearance, rather than the more modernized equipment in use in the 1920s.
    • Additionally, the New York Central never ran such a train called the City of Albany. They did run trains out that way, but nothing of that caliber.
    • Perhaps the biggest goof has to be the use of a steam engine in New York City. Since a rear-end collision in 1902 led to a ban of steam engines from the city (given that said collusion occurred due to heavy smoke in the tunnels leading into the city), it wouldn't have been on the head-end of the train around this time.
  • The Girl on the Train:
    • The teaser trailer for the 2016 film adaptation, which swaps the book's London setting for the more picturesque environs of the Metro-North Railroad's Hudson Line in New York's Westchester County, suggests the filmmakers used both the Hudson Line (along that river; the Ardsley-on-Hudson station can be seen in some scenes) and the New Haven Line (along Long Island Sound going into Connecticut, as its name suggests). In real life, the red-trimmed M8s of the latter (seen in one shot from above) would never be used on the Hudson Line, where Emily Blunt is shown on the interiors of what appear to be the M7s that are actually used. Also, there are no pedestrian tunnels under the Hudson Line's tracks; the one shown is on the Harlem Line in White Plains.
    • The finished movie uses no shots of the M8 cars; averting the trope there. But ... at the end, we see Rachel from the outside of the train, talking in voiceover about how her life is different now, just as she does at the end of the book. An aerial shot of the train shows it is headed towards Bear Mountain and the Hudson Highlands. However, the train car she's sitting in is an M7 electric multiple-unit passenger car, while the train shown going north is headed by a dual-mode GE Genesis locomotive, which Metro-North operates purely under diesel power outside of the Park Avenue Tunnel north of Grand Central Stationnote . In fact, the tracks at that point have no third rail, so she wouldn't have been sitting in an M7, and the interiors of the passenger cars used with Metro-North's diesel trains look completely different.
  • The military train in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is quite clearly a Spanish steam engine (note the buffers as it pulls into the station) pulling European-style two-axle cars. By the 1860s, bogie cars were well-established in America.
  • In Groundhog Day, set in Pennsylvania, a train appears with Cascade Green paint with white stripes. This suggests it's a Burlington Northern train, but BN never owned any lines in Pennsylvania. In fact, both it and its successor railroad (BNSF) operate almost exclusively west of the Mississippi.
    • It's possible this is a locomotive on loan to a company that operates in Pennsylvania (something railroads sometimes do), but that's highly unlikely to occur on just any random train.
  • In addition to the platform number issue described in the Literature section below, the Harry Potter films use exterior shots of St. Pancras station to represent King's Cross. This can be somewhat forgiven as the two stations are right next door to each other, King's Cross was in the process of being restored at the time, and St. Pancras just looks more impressive from the outside.
  • This trope goes back a ways with regards to the Hudson Line. At the beginning of the 1969 film version of Hello, Dolly!, a cute little steam train, its livery correctly identifying it as one of the New York Central'snote , chugs up the Hudson from New York to … Yonkers, where the film is set. However, in doing so, it passes the steep mountain slopes and goes through the tunnels and other recognizable sights of the Hudson Highlands … which are well north of Yonkers, but where Garrison Landing, used as 1890s Yonkers in the film, is. In fact, there are no mountains on the Yonkers side of the river.
  • The movie The Iceman is set in the late 1960's—1970's. But a modern-day train is clearly visible in an establishing shot of the New York City skyline.
  • The Imitation Game has visible overhead wire in scenes set at Euston station. While third-rail electrification (on the Watford suburban services) has been there since 1915, overhead wire did not appear there until the 1960s.
  • The train chase in the Young Indy sequence of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is filmed at the Cumbres & Toltec in New Mexico, which runs K-36 Mikados, not built until 1925. The scene is set in the 1910s.
  • Because the Washington Metro operator WMATA does not permit the filming of TV or movie scenes involving violence in their system, the finale of The Jackal where Declan Mulqueen chases Jackal into a Metro tunnel was filmed in Montreal, with a couple of stations being redressed in WMATA-type signage to look like it was done in the DC system (except for the somewhat obvious, to a metro fan, differences in station architecture and rolling stock — not the least of which is that the Montreal metro, unlike the Washington metro, has tires, while the Washington Metro has conventional steel rails.)
  • King Kong (1976) has a scene where Kong stops and attacks a New York City subway train. One car is picked up off the tracks, properly causing it to go dark as they are electrically powered via third rail. Then when Kong tosses the train to the ground, it explodes.
  • The 2013 thriller The Last Passenger is deliberately and clearly set in 2004 to get around the rolling-stock issue i.e. using a slam-door train, but the director turned the electric unit into a diesel one for artistic.
  • In The Legend of Zorro, the driver of the bad guy's train is hit by a piece of wood and falls against the throttle, shoving it forward and causing the train's speed and boiler pressure to dramatically increase. Pushing the throttle forward would actually close it, making the train slow down (and eventually stop) while a rise in speed would cause the boiler pressure to decrease.
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe creates a very impressive representation of World War II-era Paddington Station, with the correct engine and rolling stock... and then has the engine painted in 1950s livery.
  • Mission: Impossible
    • The fight scene in the Channel Tunnel. In real-life, the Tunnel consists of two single-track tunnels (and a service tunnel for electric vehicles)
    • The line is also electrified with overhead catenary throughout, which would cause big problems for both a helicopter flying in the tunnel and anyone standing on top of the train.
    • The helicopter could not get close to the train in the tunnel without being hit by high-speed winds created by the train moving at high-speed.
    • A regular French TGV is used in place of the Eurostar variant, even being identified as such in the Coincidental Broadcast; in actual fact, different loading gauges and voltage supplies — and in the case of the line between Kent and London at the time, third-rail instead of overhead electrification — make it impossible to operate a TGV in the UK. note 
    • The train is also depicted leaving Liverpool Street station rather than the actual Eurostar terminus at Waterloo.
  • Mr. Holmes is set in Sussex in 1947, but in the opening with Sherlock Holmes travelling home by train, the locomotive and carriages are in 1960s British Railways livery, the locomotive is an ex-LMS Jubilee class 4-6-0, which did not run south of the Thames, and the carriages are British Railways Mark One stock not introduced until 1951.
  • In Murder on the Orient Express (1974), the train copies the above mistake of operating a train from a low platform station (in reality a Paris freight terminal). The consist also includes a Pullman day coach, which never would have operated in the Orient Express (in the UK and Europe, Pullmans are not sleeping cars).
    • The Simplon-Orient-Express, which Poirot travels on, did periodically have Pullman day coaches operating in it, but only from Paris to Milan, not as far as Istanbul. The book also mentions having "ordinary carriages" as part of the consist (the Orient Express typically operated as Wagon-Lits carriages on local trains during the Depression years as a way to save money), but these are not seen.
  • The scene at Aldwych tube station - a station on the Piccadilly line - in Patriot Games is so full of inaccuracies it would be easier just to list what they got right. But here goes:
    • Trains from Aldwych station only ran to Holborn, yet an announcementnote  reads out a string of stations following it. The announcer reads out two tube stations - Oxford Circus and Marble Arch - that aren't on the Piccadilly line and another station - Hampstead Heath - which isn't even a tube station. The correct order for the stations being called at is Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, Green Park, Hyde Park Corner (not "Hyde Park"), Acton Town, Hounslow East and Hatton Cross. Also, all trains on the Underground call at all stations before they terminate.
    • And after the announcement is read out, another train is heard arriving at the station. Between 1917 and its closure in 1994, only one platform was used. The other platform was used as a filming location; ironically, this was one of those filmed there.
  • The subway train scene in Predator 2 is set on a train in Los Angeles, or rather, a San Francisco BART train being passed off as an LACMTA Red Line train. Now, it's kind of justifiable since at the time the film was made (1990), the Los Angeles subway wasn't yet built. It was just beginning construction, and clearly not yet available for the film, which actually takes place in 1997, by which point, the line had opened in real life.
  • Public Enemies: The producers decided to show a train arriving in Chicago. While Milwaukee Road #261 and its cars in their orange and maroon livery could be reasonably explained, the locomotive is anachronistic to the 1933 setting of the film. ALCO did not build that particular locomotive until 1944. Also, the orange and maroon livery the cars are wearing is post-war.
  • The Railway Children is mostly pretty good with this trope - as it's set on a fictional railway, most inaccuracies can be handwaved away. However, the engine that nearly hits Jenny Agutter wasn't built until the 1930s.
    • A theatrical production of the film apparently involved a British Rail Class 08, which is a 1950s diesel locomotive. What's worse is it was apparently on loan from the National Railway Museum, who really ought to know better! However, the 08 was needed to propel the other locomotive involved, an 1870s Great Northern Railway "Single" locomotive incapable of moving on its own.
  • Runaway Train from 1985 has quite a few errors:
    • The entire reason the train runs away is because the engineer suffers from a stroke and falls off the locomotive. The railroad would never have allowed any engineer to serve if he was in failing health, since they require company physicals to check for such conditions every year.
    • The dispatchers allow the train to run onto the mainline when they learn of the runaway. No dispatcher would make such a bone-headed move of letting a runaway onto active tracks, especially where there are a great deal of lives at risk.
    • The second unit on the train is an EMD F-unit, which hadn't been in service for years when the movie premiered, except for excursion services on select railroads and in museums across North America. It's true that there were still a few around, but not to the level they'd be used by Class 1 Railroads.
  • The Reluctant Dragon: In the "Making of Foley" segment featuring future Dumbo star Casey Junior, a storm washes out a bridge before Casey reaches it, and he makes a desperate attempt to stop before he reaches it. The fact he doesn't stop in time is accurate—it's the fact that he jumps over the broken bridge like he's an Olympic Jumper before he crashes that's highly inaccurate. Due to the laws of physics, he would have just fallen off and plunged into the river below, not to mention the fact he was trying to stop means he shouldn't have had enough speed to be able to make the jump anyway.
  • In Savage Messiah, a film set in Victorian England, the protagonist at one point narrowly avoids being hit by a 1940s American-built locomotive.
  • In Skyfall, part of Bond's foot pursuit of Raoul Silva takes place on a Jubilee line train of 1996 Stock that is trying to pass itself off as a subsurface District Line train, which used D78 Stock when the film came out.
    • Also, due to both Temple and Embankment being cut and cover stations, their District line platforms in the same tunnel rather than separate ones.
    • This train is also depicted having a guard in the rear cab. London Underground trains haven't used guards since 1999.
  • The rail insertion scene in Sniper is shot in northern Queensland, although set in Central America. You can't hide this when your biggest clue is a train which still has Queensland Government Railways markings, when QGR has always been traditionally a Cape gauge (3'6") system, by sticking up plaques proclaiming it as the property of the Panama Railroad, which was, at time of filming, built to Old Russian (5') gauge, and therefore unlikely to have bought used QGR vehicles to re-gauge.
  • Source Code
    • Trains do not have guns on board, as quoted by Metra's own commuter newsletter, On the Bi Level, "If conductors wanted to wield guns they would have applied for a different kind of blue uniform." Conductors also don't have handcuffs or stun guns, but Metra (like most railroads) does have its own police force, which is equipped with such things.
    • The so called "conductor's compartment" is actually an engineer cab for remotely controlling the locomotive when the train is moving in that direction, and is portrayed on the wrong end of the train car (the engineer must be able to see the track ahead). Even more so from the outside view of the cars since it shows the windshields for the cab on the right end of the car, but the side windows of the cab on the wrong end as well. Not to mention this was a Chicago bound train, so the compartment would not have been empty, there would have been an engineer on one side of the compartment, operating the train.
      • Extra cab cars are occasionally used as coaches, and when doing so, may face either direction. Still makes no sense to keep a gun there.
    • Not all cars on the train have headlights/taillights/red visibility stripes.
    • Gallery cars of the type depicted do not have a bridge over the aisle, they have stairs on either side of the aisle to reach their respective sides of the mezzanine.
      • This is a side effect of shooting the interior scenes in California's Metrolink cars, while the film itself is set in Chicago.
  • Speed: the subway train they're on in the third act has no dead man's brake.
    • That or Payne found a way to subvert it, just like he had with an elevator's emergency brakes earlier.
  • Spider-Man 2: The traintop fight between Spidey and Doc Ock takes on top of what is clearly a Chicago L train dressed to look like a New York City Subway train. There are no trains on the actual subway that have folding doors. Moreover, the train is signed as an R train, but the R doesn't have any aboveground trackage. And while there were at one time elevated train routes that ran the length of Manhattan, most of them were torn down by the 1940s and replaced with subways, except for parts of the 1 train (the viaduct that takes the 1 train over Manhattan Valley and contains its station at 125th Street actually provides the one scene of this set-piece where the actual subway appears, when Ock throws Spider-Man off the train and Spidey is briefly dragged along the street as he slings webs to latch on to the train's rear cars).
  • Stan & Ollie combines this with Eiffel Tower Effect when Laurel and Hardy arrive in London by train, with Tower Bridge passing close by their train's window. There is no railway bridge across the river that gives such an uninterrupted view of Tower Bridge, and they were supposedly arriving from somewhere in the north of England, which wouldn't involve crossing the river at all.
  • Super 8 featured a train which was, to all appearances, violating the existing class five freight speed limits...not to mention the fact that the most viable routing for the train (as shown in some of the viral material) was over Conrail tracks in 1979. Why is this a problem? Conrail inherited a broken down physical plant from the railroads which merged into it, meaning that there were slow orders all around. Potentially averted given who was doing the shipping...but given the number of derailments that occurred under the Penn Central in the years leading up to Conrail's formation, an incident of seriously questionable judgment.
    • (Of course, it is worth giving credit to the viral team, who cobbled together a spot-on routing for the shipment (and one which would only involve three railroads, about as few as you could hope to run that train on back in 1979, as UP hadn't taken over about five other Class Is).
    • It's highly unlikely that a single truck would derail an entire train in the first place.
  • In The Swarm, the driver falls against the brake, shoving it forward, causing the train to speed up and crash. Pushing the brake forward applies it, and applying the brakes is how you stop the train.
    • Then, when the train crashes, the unpowered coaches explode and burn instead of just the locomotive.
  • The VHS movie There Goes a Train is supposed to avert this, but a few mistakes make their way in, mainly from editing.
    • When Dave talks about the air brakes that trains have, he says "The motor turns this, which creates the air pressure, and allows the train to stop". In reality, more pressure in the brake pipes means the brakes are released. That is a safety feature that means a brake failure will make the train stop, rather than unable to stop.
    • When Dave is the pretend conductor, Dave makes a misleading comment saying the train is "the Amtrak Superliner". Superliner does not refer to any route or consist on Amtrak, but instead refers to the double-decker cars used on long-distance passenger trains. Calling it the "Superliner" is quite vague by Amtrak standards.
    • Speaking of Superliners, he yells "all aboard!" while leaning out of a one. The following shot of the "departing" train is actually an arrivingnote  train of single-level Amfleet carsnote . This train was also shown parked across the platform from Dave's train when he boarded it.
    • After Dave manages to stop a museum train as brakeman due to a stalled car on the tracks, Dave helps push the car off. The train should be reflected off the car, but the reflection shows empty tracks.
  • Heroically almost-averted in Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines. In one scene, set in France in 1910, Terry-Thomas lands on top of a train that train enthusiasts will recognize as being hauled by the Scottish 'Jones Goods.' However, while this is not strictly accurate, very similar locomotives were indeed working in France in 1910. In other words, it was as close as they could reasonably get in the late 1960s.
  • In Titanic, in the scene at Southampton, an American switcher is briefly seen on the dockside. Not quite the glaring error it appears to be, as the Southern Railway company did operate a few S100-class switchers bought as war-surplus from the US Army Transportation Corps, but they weren't even designed until the middle of the 1940s.note  Someone in the set design team was trying to be too clever for their own good.
  • The train scene in Torque is nothing short of ridiculous. In a time when even the once-popular F40PH is being phased out, there's a single blank vintage EMD E unit on a train that would require at least two of them. The space between the coaches is wide enough for a motorcycle to jump through; also, the end doors are open, and there are no diaphragms which means that it'd be pretty windy inside the cars. And the center aisle is wide enough to ride a motorcycle through it at not really low speed. It doesn't really matter anymore that the headlights on the locomotive are off.
  • Unstoppable is a notable aversion. While the film is clearly a dramatization centered around a runaway train; the incident is inspired by the famous Crazy Eights incident. The creators of the film also went to great lengths to accurately adhere to railway mechanics, physics and procedures. However, the producers do apply lots of Artistic License to the road name, cab number and loco model - understandable, since which real railroad would want their brand associated with a runaway train in the first place?
    • Perhaps the most egregious thing was one of the posters, mention "A Million Tons". Consider that a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier weighs in at only a bit over 100,000 tons, while a million pounds is only 500 tons, or about the weight of two locomotives.
  • Wake in Fright begins around a halt named Tiboonda on the way to Silver City. This features a schoolhouse (borrowed from the NSW education department), a pub (a hollow prop) and a pipeline clustered about the halt, which doesn't even have a shade roof. The schoolhouse being in the middle of what was a wye gives a clue that this is actually Horse Lake, on the way to Broken Hill. The halt platform had to be rebuilt with a fake sign, as there hadn't been passenger services there for decades. A train even stopped there before filming, to allow the driver to lean out and call out "Where the $%^&$%^ am I?"
  • The Shinkansen (bullet train) is powered by overhead lines, which The Wolverine gets right — the characters studiously try to avoid hitting them — but these overhead lines power the trains by way of very large pantographs, which take up substantial space on the roof the train. We could Hand Wave it as the Traintop Battle occurring atop a part of the train without one, but careful watching suggests that simply do not exist on the bullet train in the film, which is shown zooming along with no physical connection to the catenary above it. Case in point: there are at least two obstacles mounted low enough to pass between the train and the overhead lines, and Logan is forced to (carefully) leap over them. The question of how they got there aside, each of these on their own would have been knocking the pantographs off every train that passed.

  • A Thomas & Friends tie-in book (not a proper Railway Series one by the Rev. Awdry) has Gordon call Emily a tank engine. The author apparently thought that was just another word for steam engine, rather than specifically referring to one without a tender. Emily has a tender. It also has her say that she prefers to go "slow and steady", when she's based on a Sterling Single, specifically designed for speed.
  • In The Laundry Files, a number of statements are made about the railway system which wouldn't be true of the real one—for example, that East Grinstead is on the London to Brighton line. This has led to fanon that in the Laundryverse, the railway builders had a lot of trouble with Dug Too Deep.
  • "Henriette Bimmelbahn" is a slightly anthropomorphic and slightly anarchistic little steam engine from classic German children literature. How she manages to run without any tracks (probably just Rule of Cool) is the secret of author James Krüss.
  • In the Harry Potter series, students get to Hogwarts by taking the Hogwarts Express from King's Cross station, departing from platform 9¾. This platform is reached by walking through the seemingly-solid barrier between platforms 9 and 10. The only problem is the real King's Cross station doesn't have a platform between tracks 9 and 10. Rowling later claimed that she had mixed up the layout of King's Cross with that of Euston station...which also doesn't have a platform between tracks 9 and 10. To get around this in the films, platforms 4 and 5 were temporarily renumbered 9 and 10 for the King's Cross scenes.
  • Choo Choo (1937): After Choo Choo runs away, loses her tender from jumping a raised drawbridge, and reaches some creepy old woods past the city, she's already so low on steam that she puffs to a stop. In reality, being cut off from her water supply and running low on steam should have caused Choo Choo's boiler to explode.
  • Hurray For The Dorchester: The titular locomotive is shown in drawings as a 0-4-0 tender engine. The actual Dorchester had a 0-6-0 wheel configuration.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Some railway-related scenes from Downton Abbey have rather glaring errors. These include using LNER coaches on SR stations (two railway companies whose stock would likely never meet) and using a 1950s vintage steam locomotive in a 1920s show.
    • One or two teak coaches in a rake of SR stock may be forgivable as through coaches and entire trains did run across the company boundaries, using coaches from whichever company. A train from Penzance (GWR) to Aberdeen (LNER) for example, which took 14 hrs. even after the railways were nationalized and singing from the same songbook.
  • "Body 21" from Waking the Dead features a slam-door train.
  • A fun game to play while watching The Bill is spotting railway trains that have livery you would never see in East London, due to the South London filming location — South West Trains for example.
  • James May's Toy Stories plays with this trope during the model train episode. In the episode, he revived a decommissioned piece of railroad in Britain using model train tracks. He and Oz Clarke got into arguments about which model trains they should run based on historical accuracy.
  • On The Wild Wild West, the characters are able to move between cars while the train is in motion even though there are only couplings and not walkways of any sort between the cars.
  • The History Channel produced a documentary called The Men Who Built America. Naturally, railroads need to be and are involved. Unfortunately, many of the scenes of steam locomotives feature many European locomotives and trains, most of which are anywhere from 30 to 60 years too new. It's particularly glaring in the episode featuring a major Railroad Baron. Either the producers decided to cut costs and use stock footage, or they couldn't be bothered to obtain footage of available North American locomotives, some of which would have even (mostly) looked the part for the scene being depicted.
  • Another show that makes this mistake is Murdoch Mysteries, which has twice depicted Canadian trains using stock footage of British and Swiss trains.
  • A notorious historic example occurred in Edge of Darkness, involving the symbolic nuclear waste trains that repeatedly appear. The creators weren't allowed to film a real nuclear waste train for security reasons, so they mocked one up by putting a wooden replica of the body of one of the medium-sized diesel locomotives used to haul nuclear waste trains on top of a small shunter. The results were cringeworthy to anyone who was at all familiar with the real thing.
  • The shortlived Seventies show Supertrain was basically made of this trope. It was a broad-gauge rail that went for three thousand miles, it was Bigger on the Inside by a long shot, and despite being billed as a bullet train, a quick calculation puts its speed as less than 80 MPH. That's just the tip of the iceberg of a show that nearly took NBC to Bankruptcy Junction.
    • As noted by The Other Wiki, the so-called "Supertrain" was much slower than the affordably-priced Amtrak Acela Express, French TGV and Japanese Shinkansen bullet trains.
    • Furthermore, an onboard nuclear reactor is alarmingly dangerous (as Charles Stross once put it, "nothing makes a locomotive boiler explosion worse like adding reactor-grade uranium to the problem") and also ultimately rather pointless when you could just power the thing with a stationary power plant using overhead electrification.
  • The Sherlock episode "The Empty Hearse" made the limitations of what filming locations London Underground make available painfully obviously to anyone who knows the network. They summed it up by saying, "the shape-shifting London Underground network is an even bigger mystery than working out how Sherlock survived his fall":
    • The train that one car disappears from is supposedly on the District Line (a full-size line), but the CCTV shots are very clearly filmed with 1996 Tube Stock at the disused Charing Cross station on the Jubilee Line (a tube line).
    • The disused station that Sherlock and John explore is recognizably Aldwych.
    • The exterior of the car they discover is the 1972 Bakerloo Line Tube Stock train that's parked there for filming, but the interior of the car is a 1978 D Stock car of the kind used on the District Line at the time that the episode was broadcast.
    • Sherlock concludes that the “five minute” journey between Westminster and St James’s Park must have somehow been made to last ten minutes. The journey takes less than two minutes in real life, and with 28 trains per hour on that line, there's little room for delays and no room to divert a train without a significant backup.
  • An episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. set in Italy shows multi-track electrified track in stock footage... and single track non-electrified in the footage featuring the actors on the track.
    • However, the train was running from Italy to Croatia, so unless the footage was interspersed, it could be explained as the train crossing into Eastern Europe. (There are vineyards in Croatia) Less forgivable, is the presence of a GM 'A' unit at the head of the train, when they could have just about got away with an SD40, a version of which was built in Yugoslavia.
  • Doctor Who
    • The episode "Flatline" features, in modern day Bristol, two Class 117 multiple units - withdrawn in the 1990s - in BR Green! However, First Great Western have started to paint their units green with white stripes sort of kind of similar to the British Railways DMU livery so it might almost convince in the future. However, the head code is for a trainload of ballast empties via Mountsorrel.
    • In the classic serial "The Web of Fear", Victoria doesn't recognize the phrase "Underground platform" and the Doctor says the London Underground is "a little after your time, I think". Since Victoria is from 1866, he's wrong by three years. Worse in the novelization, where Victoria is utterly bewildered by the idea of putting trains underground, with all the smoke, and the Doctor has to explain they're electric. (The smoke problem severely limited the Underground in Victoria's day, but didn't prevent it.) Otherwise the recreation of London Underground stations and tunnels is superb, with London Transport themselves suspecting that the BBC cast and crew had sneaked in and filmed illegally. The rediscovery of the story did reveal two minor errors - Monument station, on the Circle Line, is wrongly depicted as a deep-level tube station, and Jamie's and Evans' off-screen underground journey from Monument back to Goodge Street would not be as easy as implied.
  • In the first episode of season 2 of House of Cards (US), Zoe Barnes is killed by getting shoved in front of a Washington Metro train at the Cathedral Heights station. Although there is a neighborhood in Washington DC called Cathedral Heights, it doesn't have a WMATA station, although the Red Line does service the nearby neighborhoods of Tenleytown, Cleveland Park and Woodley Park. The station also lacks the vaulted ceiling present at all inner city Washington Metro stations. The train also looks nothing like a real Washington Metro train. The reason for all this is that, because WMATA doesn't allow scenes with violence to be filmed in their system, the scene had to be shot at Charles Street station on Baltimore's subway line. Averted with an earlier scene where Frank Underwood has a covert meeting with Zoe in the Archives - Navy Memorial station on the Yellow and Green Lines, which was filmed on location.
  • In the Monk episode "Mr. Monk and the Buried Treasure," there's one scene where Monk, Natalie, and Troy Kroger's friends are trying to decipher a map whilst parked near a grade crossing. Then a Metrolink train, which can only be found in Los Angeles, roars by, when they're supposedly somewhere in the East Bay like Niles Canyon.
  • The season 3 opener of Ripper Street features a train crash involving two locomotives not even of Victorian design and a character coming from Manchester Piccadilly station (which wasn't called that at the time).
  • In episode 6 of Cuffs, the opening sequence involves the rescue of an elderly woman with dementia from a heritage railway. Where this trope comes in is that in between two shots, the steam engine flips around so that it's facing backwards rather than forwards.
  • Stella (UK) has one character make his way from the Welsh Valleys to London in about three hours, a bit of a stretch... but its Season 5 finale, going for a Brief Encounter homage via a kitchen fire, gives Pontyberry a direct service to Middlesbrough on a two-coach Sprinter multiple unit, a journey that takes over seven hours in real-life with four changes.
  • "Crazy Train", in the seventh season of Modern Family, takes place on the Amtrak Coast Starlight, which the family takes up to Portland for Didi's wedding. At one point Phil and Mitchell go back through the entire train to the caboose. American trains have not been required to have cabooses since the early 1980s, and have thus long since stopped using them, and in any case, passenger trains never had cabooses to begin with, only freight trains.
  • Better Call Saul: "Five-O" opens with Mike Ehrmantraut arriving by train into Albuquerque, New Mexico, ostensibly having traveled straight from Philadelphia after killing the two corrupt cops that set up his son's murder. However, 1) he's shown getting off a New Mexico Rail Runner train, which is the commuter railroad that connects Albuquerque to Santa Fe to the north and Belen to the south. In reality, Mike should be getting off Amtrak's Southwest Chief, as that passes through Albuquerque. 2) The scene takes place in 2002. The New Mexico Rail Runner didn't begin service until 2006. (To clarify, for those out there who are not train buffs and might wonder if the difference is really that noticeable, here's a picture of Rail Runner and here's the Amtrak. Can you tell which is which?)
    • This is actually a common goof, as during season 2, New Mexico Rail Runner trains can be seen in the background of a few shots when Mike is working the booth at the courthouse parking lot, again in scenes set before 2006.
  • Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, from the first season episode Murder on the Ballarat Train onwards. Victorian Government Railways of the time used Old Irish (5'3") gauge track, and the trains in the series are Cape gauge (3'6"), as they - and, for that matter, a lot of Australian productions needing a steam train - are shot on the Bellarine Peninsular Railway, which is Cape gauge. The trains are mostly very un-Victorian, given that they come from all over Australia, in a variety of liveries (ignoring, for the moment, the hapless tank engine roped in to play Thomas yearly) including distinctively Tasmanian, Queensland, and Western Australian types and some from industries such as a Broken Hill smelter and a Queensland sugar mill. The railway is a preservation line that doesn't go anywhere near Melbourne or Ballarat, beginning at Queenscliffe and travelling to Drysdale.
  • The Defenders (2017):
    • When Matt Murdock, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones take the subway to return to Midland Circle after staging a jailbreak from the 29th Precinct, they are clearly on a Port Authority Trans Hudson train passing for a New York Subway train.
    • When Luke is watching White Hat pick up Cole and some other men, he's supposedly in Harlem, yet he's standing under the BMT Jamaica Line in Brooklyn.
  • Jessica Jones (2015):
    • The same above-mentioned error of a PATH train posing as an NYCS train happens in the second episode when Jessica is taking the subway to go see the paramedic who picked up Kilgrave on the night of Reva's death.
    • Later, PATH's 33rd Street station stands in for Lower East Side - Second Avenue for the scene where Jessica threatens Jeri Hogarth's ex-wife Wendy and drops her onto the tracks.
  • Iron Fist (2017) season 2 ALSO does the whole thing with PATH posing as the NYCS, for the scene on the platform where Danny fights with Mary Walker and is subsequently captured and taken to Davos.
  • Daredevil (2015): In "Rabbit in a Snowstorm," Mitchell Ellison tells Ben Urich to do a worthless fluff piece about the subways ("Rumors Bubbling: Will Hell's Kitchen Finally Get a Subway Line?"). He tells Ben to take a poll on what color people in Hell's Kitchen might like, saying "Y'know, we've got a blue line, we've got a yellow line, we're running out of colors." New York City's subway lines are not referred to by colors, but by a letter or number. The line colors, aside from the G train and the shuttles, are based on which trunk line they use in Manhattan. Furthermore, the fluff piece seems to be asking a very pointless question, since Hell's Kitchen already has subway lines: the IND Eighth Avenue Line stops at 50th Street and 42nd Street-Port Authority Bus Terminal, both in Hell's Kitchen; while the Hudson Yards extension of the IRT Flushing Line also terminates in Hell's Kitchen.
  • In an episode of Without a Trace, the Victim of the Week is said to have disappeared on her way to Grand Central Station to catch a train to Virginia. Amtrak doesn't depart from Grand Central Station, only from Penn Station.
  • In the 2018 BBC adaptation of The ABC Murders:
    • In the London Underground scene towards the end of episode 2, the train is obviously the 1972 Tube Stock train kept at the disused Aldwych station for such filming purposes, with its large window panes and brushed-aluminium finish, neither of which would have been seen on any train running in the 1930s.
    • In the scene in episode 3 with Cust being chased across the railway tracks, there are some mildly unconvincing CGI trains, including a loose-coupled freight train hauled by an express passenger locomotive which would not have been seen on such lowly work in real life.
  • The train to Canada in "START", the series finale of The Americans, set in December 1987, is clearly a Metro North train made up to look like an Amtrak train. Why they do this is never explained, seeing as Amtrak does have a route that runs from New York City to Montreal, the Adirondack. The train we see uses a modern GE Genesis P32 locomotive painted in the Amtrak Phase III livery of the time when the episode is set, but in real life the F40PH was the main road diesel in that era (the Genesis locomotives didn't come until the mid-1990s when Amtrak needed to replace their F40PHs in favor of more efficient locomotives). Amtrak mainly used Turboliner trainsets on routes that ran in upstate New York at the time, including the Adirondack.

    Video Games 
  • While it gets the look and feel of Washington, D.C.'s metro system, The Conduit doesn't accurately depict its stations:
    • The second mission, "Contagion" ends with Michael Ford getting to the Ronald Reagan National Airport's metro station, which is depicted to be underground, but is actually aboveground in real life.
    • The seventh mission, "Homeland" also incorrectly depicts the system's Red Line. Michael Ford enters a Red Line station that is labeled "Union Station" aboveground, but is actually called "Metro Center to Gallery Place-Chinatown". The next station he travels to on foot inside the system, on the way to the actual Union Station, is called "Gallery Place-Chinatown to Metro Center" (where he has to hack a computer with the All-Seeing Eye to move a train car blocking the way), on a track that is allegedly destined for Shady Grove, the Red Line's western terminus, if the electronic timetables are of any indication. But from the looks of things, the tracks he walked on is destined for the Red Line's eastern terminus, Glenmont, meaning that the two stations he went through to get to Union Station would be Gallery Place-Chinatown and Judiciary Square.
  • Even to a person with little knowledge of steam locomotives, the artistic license taken by The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is quite glaring. First of all, the trains in the game are tiny compared to those in real life, secondly, the Spirit Train has no tender or supply car (Instead sporting a cannon of all things, which would likely be top heavy enough to tip the entire train over.) The spirit train is also very clean, with no sign of ash or smoke anywhere save for the pretty white puff-balls discharged from the chimney (Which appears to work as a whistle despite a separate whistle being clearly visible on the engine.) The train has no visible infrastructure, never runs out of water or coal, and the tracks have green ties and yellow rails and are insanely narrow. Also, the ties are arranged in a zig-zag pattern. That's several problems found without even having an in-depth knowledge of how locomotives are constructed. However, this is all Justified given the game itself mentions the train itself is magical, as well as the fact the tracks themselves are actually magic shackles binding a demon lord that just happen to look like train tracks.
    • Aside from the fact that it's a Spirit Train, the game does try to justify the flaws in locomotive design by having Anjean, who entrusts the Spirit Train to Link and Zelda, state that the train, a symbol of the spirits, doesn't normally transport ordinary people around.
  • Sid Meier's Railroads is the last game in the Railroad Tycoon series and completely omits tenders from all locomotives. Most players dislike this dumbed-down version of the game and some have created their own mods to restore the tenders.
  • Transport Tycoon is a multiple offender.
    • Just like in Railroad Tycoon, steam locomotives that should have a tender don't have one. Blame it on the engine that doesn't allow for articulated vehicles.
    • Just like in Railroad Tycoon, electric vehicles don't need catenary.
    • Unlike in Railroad Tycoon, there is no distinction whatsoever between passenger and freight locomotives. They just keep getting faster and more powerful. When the Gresley A4 comes along, it actually becomes your best choice for heavy iron ore trains. The sole exceptions are three multiple units because short locomotive-hauled passenger trains become too expensive around The '50s.
    • Most tender locomotives are identical-looking 2-6-0s. The Gresley A4 is the same 2-6-0, but streamlined. Even the only two electric locomotives look identical. As proven by countless third-party vehicles from the TTDPatch/OpenTTD user community, this could have been avoided even with such small sprites.
    • Monorails are depicted as a futuristic upgrade on railroads that can haul just about everything over just about any distance. In Real Life, there are good reasons why they've only ever been used in theme parks or as fancy urban transit.
    • Also, grade crossing for monorails and maglevs. This is the only point on the list that TTDPatch and even OpenTTD haven't fixed yet because the engine has yet to allow for Locomotion-style elevated rail.
  • The 'Train Simulator' series usually places a strong emphasis on accuracy, but when the rights agreements aren't there, there can be issues. The biggest, as Dovetail Games had no deal with Virgin Trains, is the Class 390 Pendolino... in BR Intercity livery, which was only used before it was ordered.
  • Assassin's Creed: Syndicate seems to get some of it right, but there are a few glaring errors. These include the right locomotives but in the complete wrong livery, said locomotives being used too early, and having London Victoria as a through station instead of a terminus.
  • Mini Metro:
    • Many of the non-realistic elements can be forgiven for catering to the Rule of Fun. Passengers will accept any destination station corresponding to the icons that represent them, trains can only hold up to six passengers at a time with carriages adding six more each, trains can be easily removed from, added to, or relocated within the system with little delay, and so on.
    • The train network you build need not match the layout it has in real life, nor will you likely be able to match it at all. Want to build BART with multiple Transbay Tubes, including one that crosses over to Marin County to make North Bay residents' dreams come true? Have fun!
    • The recommended way to play the game is to build circular lines that operate in only one direction. This is because it forces 50% of all passengers to take longer trips than necessary, so they have to pay more, and your trains get fuller.
    • However, one particular element stands out: The game refers to the high-speed trains you can get in Osaka as Shinkansen. Shinkansen is the name of the network of high-speed railways in Japan, not the term used for an individual train.
  • Downplayed in the Sakura Wars series. Despite the Combat Revues in Tokyo and Paris having bullet trains as a mode of transportation, there are a few things wrong with that. Japan developed the high-speed railway lines in 1964, with France following in 1981. They also weren't powered by steam, which ended around the same time that the bullet trains were being developed. At least for Tokyo, however, what we now know as the Tokaido Shinkansen originated from its first planning works in as early as the 1930s (still anachronistic, but much less so than the 60s), which did call for steam trains to run. See the other wiki for more info.
  • Blood has a mission in its first episode set in a train, and as it was a game in the 90s when 3D levels were still a novelty, it's unsurprisingly rather off. Most notably, it's incredibly wide, there are no doors on the cars, there are walkways stretching all over the place, including the cab, there's no water by the tender, and the only controls inside the cab (which has no windows) is a handful of switches that cause the train to derail (at which point the developers were pretty clearly taking the piss).

    Western Animation 
  • The ending of the Fraidy Cat episode "Meaner Than the Junkyard Cat" has Fraidy watching a trainyard with fast diesel trains passing by him. Despite being diesels, the trains have steam whistle sounds, and steam chugging.
  • Thomas & Friends has some examples. Whilst the author of the books, Wilbert Awdry, was a railway buff who made a point of getting the details right in his books, there are many examples of unrealistic railway operation in the TV series, particularly in later seasons, as advertising new toys took precedent.
    • Crane tank engines (such as Harvey) are not capable of locomotive salvage (they are used mainly for lifting and loading cargo).
    • A Japanese engine such as Hiro, or an American locomotive like Hank, would not be able to run on traditional British rails. US engines have a much larger loading gauge than on British lines, and so would collide with the first bridge or platform it encountered. Whilst Japanese steam engines are a similar size to those in the UK, they were built for a narrower track gauge, and changing the gauge would make it too wide (as the cylinders, the widest point, would have to move out).
    • Engines cannot switch tracks of their own volition, as the point-work is controlled from levers, either as an open frame or in a building, beside the line and not from aboard the engine. The sole exception are tramways.
    • It would be impractical, if not impossible, to build a railway line over a dam.
    • It's dangerous to push trains that aren't designed to operate that way. It's extremely dangerous to push trains in a snowstorm. It's even more dangerous to push trains in a snowstorm without a brake van.
    • A "grabber" style crane would not be used in the scrapping of a railway locomotive.
    • The entire climax of The Great Discovery:
      • Standard gauge locomotives are not allowed to work in mineshafts.
      • It's physically impossible to suspend railway tracks in such a way to support a steam locomotive.
      • There's no water current strong enough to propel a locomotive down a river.
      • The infamous Ramp Jump scene is impossible in itself.
      • Thomas shouldn't have had any steam left at all, it should have gradually leaked out.
      • You can't just move coal from one engine to another and expect it to start a fire — especially one whose firebox was previously flooded.
      • It's impossible to operate a steam engine without a water injector.
    • The general weirdness of the Misty Island railway: The zipline and the Shake Shake Bridge.
      • Diesel wouldn't have been able to outrun Thomas, as Class 08 shunters have a max speed of 15 or 20 mph.
      • Diesel would never have been able to keep his balance on the edge of the bridge. His spinning wheels would have caused the rails to bend, making him fall.
      • It's unsafe for steam engines to travel underground over long distances. The smoke and steam would make the air toxic and suffocate the engine's crew.
    • A steam locomotive running out of water wouldn't stop like a car out of petrol: its boiler would explode.
      • If it was short of water in the boiler the fire would be put out to prevent such a thing happening (and are designed to let water from the boiler into the fire if the level gets too low); such a scenario occurred in an early book, and whilst unpleasant the engine could continue with a reduced fire.
    • In "Fiery Flynn", the narrator specifically states that Thomas' firebox was on fire. It was as if the writer for the episode had no idea how a steam locomotive works and just assumed kids would be stupid enough not to notice this glaring lapse in logic. Either that or something else in the cab caught fire (like the gauges).
  • Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies:
    • Any Wile E Coyote And The Roadrunner short involving a train as one of the gags. One short had Coyote placing a set of fake train tracks and signal to try to get at the Road Runner ... except that Wile E. gets hit by a real train that comes out of nowhere! In another short, Wile E. chases Road Runner into a train tunnel and is scared back by the lights of an approaching train ... only to find it is the Road Runner wearing a miner's helmet; it traps the Coyote into a false sense of security when he chases the bird back into the tunnel and he refuses to budge because he thinks this train is a fak ... OOF! And don't forget the time Wile E. painted a train engine, complete with tracks ... and even going so far as to place fake tracks in front of the "tunnel"; after starting another chase, the Road Runner races into the tunnel as though it was there ... but guess what comes bursting out moments after the Coyote runs smack into the side of the tunnel and he walks off in a daze.
    • In "Wild and Woolly Hare," Bugs and Yosemite Sam are charging each other, playing chicken with locomotives. Sam chickens out first, before Bugs pulls a lever lifting his train up on extenders. Except.. aren't all the wheels still on the same rails? Rule of Funny.
    • 1937's Porky's Railroad has Porky's tiny, very old fashioned (even for the late 30's) steam engine being powered by a measly candlestick sitting in its boiler. Moreover, "Toots" is a 2-2-2 "Single" type—a locomotive of which was rarely used in the United States (being more commonplace in Europe), while the engine in charge of the "30th Century Limited" is shown as a 4-4-2 (with an animation goof later depicting it as a 2-6-2) at a time when the 4-6-4 or the 4-8-4 would have been a far better choice for fast motive power—it's even only hauling a single passenger car!
      • Likewise, a train cannot physically jump an open bridge and land on the other side unscathed that easilynote , nor does a rampaging bull have enough power to completely junk the entire consist and smash the locomotive all the way to the other side of the yard and crush it to smithereens in the process.
  • Chuggington has taken a lot of artistic licence with regard to railway operations:
    • The steam locomotive characters lack tenders (one had one, but it wasn't used and rusted away), and apparently take on water directly into the boiler.
    • Locomotives are much more dynamic than any real locomotive, and can jump off the rails and bounce back down perfectly.
  • The film adaptation of The Little Engine That Could featured several steam locomotives that for some reason do not have tenders or tanks to store fuelnote . The birthday train does have a tender, but it's never used for anything other than a place for Rollo the Clown to sit back and enjoy the ride.
    • The titular little engine, here named Tillie, is forbidden from pulling trains up the mountain on the grounds that she is "too little". In reality, smaller locomotives would be preferable to bigger ones for going up mountains, because their smaller size and narrower frame would allow them to more easily navigate the narrow pathways and tight turns that mountains are known to have. If anything, of the engines, Farnsworth would be the one least suited to mountain railways because he's too big, especially considering he's primarily built as a passenger enginenote .
    • One scene involves Rollo the Clown flagging down the snooty Farnsworth and the stubborn Pete for help in getting the stalled birthday train rolling again. Both engines manage to stop in the span of 10-15 seconds, despite Farnsworth being a fast-moving diesel hauling a small train of passenger cars, and Pete being a burly freight engine with empty freight cars behind him. In reality, both would have taken some time to stop—at least up to a mile—and certainly not in a manner of which Rollo only gets planted on the locomotive's front end or is able to side-step out of the way.
      • The same scene has Pete running very closely behind Farnsworth, arriving only a few seconds after the snooty diesel leaves. While it's true that Farnsworth being abruptly flagged down did give Pete time to catch up, railroad safety operations prohibit trains from running that closely together, just in case the one in front has an emergency (like it did here). If anything, there should have been signals keeping the trains further apart, yet they're conspicuously absent in the entire film. This is particularly troubling, since having multiple trains run in single-track territory without signals is incredibly dangerous—it was under such similar circumstances that led to Casey Jones himself meeting his end.
    • When Georgia starts breaking down, she switches onto a side track before her stack explodes. Trains cannot physically change tracks by themselves without someone to throw the switch in front of them (and given the reaction of her passengers, it's doubtful any of them were able to get down and throw the switch).
    • No railroad in their right mind would construct a route over such a dangerous mountain with a poorly-crafted bridge and an extremely steep grade after it, especially if they're transporting passengers or high-priority cargo over it. Yet Tillie almost loses her life multiple times during the trip. It's a miracle that a rickety-old bridge held up a heavy engine like Pete or was able to take a speeding passenger-liner pulled by Farnsworth.
    • The Tower refuses to send Tillie out to relieve Georgia on the birthday train, highly fraught in his belief that she's "too little" for the job, nor does he force Farnsworth or Pete (both of whom have already refused to pull the train at this point) to take over. In reality, no railroad would let anyone get away with their employees refusing to send out a relief engine to take over a stalled train, as any train sitting out there and not moving towards its destination is not only costing time, but also money. If any train stalls, they need immediate relief as soon as possible; if the Tower had a supervisor, he would have been fired on the spot for a stunt like that.
      • The Tower is later seen sleeping on the job; another big no-no in railroad operations. Falling asleep, especially in such a safety-sensitive position like that, is bound to lead to disaster, which is why railroads take painstaking efforts to reduce fatigue among its staff.
    • Doc wraps Georgia's busted smokestack in bandages to help her recover. Obviously no railroader would use such a crude method of repair.
    • When Tillie starts her morning routine to switch the other engines out of the roundhouse, there's a small gap in between the rails in each stall and the turntable. Such gaps are dangerous, as any train running over them could risk derailing if they hit them funny or ran over them too fast. As such, special devices are used to close said gaps—none of which appear on this turntable.
      • The same scene shows Tillie coupling to Farnsworth and Pete using a simple hook for a link-and-chain system instead of couplers. While it could be forgiven in the sense that this is a cartoon, and sentient engines obviously don't need human crews, such a system was retired for how easy they could come apart, and automatic couplers proved to be far more of an efficient means of holding trains together.
  • The engine pulling the train in the revised intro for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has neither a tender nor a bunker and onboard water tanks. The coal is carried inside the cab. The train in "Over a Barrel" is similarly lacking in any of these features, and even has ponies pulling the train while still having enough steam for the whistle.
    • In "MMMystery on the Friendship Express" there's a scene involving the fireman (fire-pony?) shoveling coal into the engine's firebox. Pinkie Pie calls this pony a conductor. Conductors do not shovel coal, that's the fireman. This one's easy to Hand Wave as Pinkie not knowing what she's talking about, however.
    • Since season 4, any scene taking place at the train station is accompanied with the background sounds of a diesel locomotive idling despite there only being steam trains in the show.
    • In "Three's A Crowd", one scene depicts a streamlined steam locomotive… with four wheels, a giant funnel, and no cylinders or axles.
    • In one episode, there is a passenger train with a caboose. Cabooses were made so freight trains have someone at the back to make sure none of the wheels get hotboxes (overheated axles)note . These are not needed at the back of passenger trains, as people can be accommodated at any point in the train. Also, it seems that the passenger cars only have doors on the left side. The vast majority of passenger cars have doors on both sides, often straight across from each other. One notable exception is the Disneyland monorail, which has doors on the left side only. It has only two stops anyway.
  • Pickle and Peanut: In “Runaway Train”, McSweats in a train costume (with wheels!) is barreling down a path of active tracks after being switched off of old ones, and there’s a train heading in his path. Despite being an old steam engine resembling the Union Pacific 119, it has a diesel engine’s air horn, it has no tender, and is pulling modern hopper cars.
  • A common error in many cartoons is for steam engines to be operated by only the driver (engineer in American terms), with the fireman being mysteriously absent. Slightly Truth in Television: smaller tank engines used for shunting or short lines were able to be operated by one person most of the time, but not large mainline tender engines.
  • The Transformers: Astrotrain's locomotive form has no tender. More forgivable in this case than in others, because of the whole "really an alien robot" thing, but it still ruins any chance of him passing as a proper locomotive. Notably, his Siege toy from 2019, the first time he's been depicted as a steam engine since the original, gives him a tender. A little less forgivable in his spotlight episode "Triple Takeover", set in 1985, where he tries to assemble an army of trains at a busy station — and almost all the trains look like 1930s' diesel locomotives, including a few experimental models (one of which resembles the Burlington Pioneer Zephyr), scrapped or retired decades before events of that time.
  • The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: "The Good, the Bad and the Tigger" is full of this. It even provides the page quote. The tender seems to lack a water tank and Tigger can walk through the whole train even though it includes a boxcar. And the train does some physical impossibilities like braking so hard that the cars flip through the air and land back on the rails. After Pooh and Tigger rebuild it, nothing it does should be possible. Then again, as Pooh put it, "It's a fantasy".
  • MTV's Downtown: In "Train Pain" Chaka and Fruity argue with each other with which train is faster arriving to Coney Island. Chaka states you take the "B Train" while Fruity argues you take the "R" because it's faster. It may be In-Universe though to show how clueless each character is. The B train ends at Brighton Beach and not at Coney Island, the R Train stops at Bay Ridge 95th Street. Matt is able to show Fruity that the N Train is the one you take to get to Coney Island using the subway map, and at W 4th Station Chaka and Mecca board an F Train because Chaka was impatient with the B not arriving (both Fruity and Chaka complaining to their companions how arrogant the other is!). Chaka should have stayed on the F train because that is one of the lines that goes directly to Coney Island!
  • A Snagglepuss cartoon has Major Minor assigned to evict Snagglepuss from his home cave so a railroad can go through. Snagglepuss tries to tell why a train can't go through his cave: 1. "A man's home is his castle," and 2. (Which becomes evident when the Major tries to drive a locomotive through the cave, which itself is physically impossible) there's nowhere to put the tracks on the other side since it's a canyon. It's just the Major refuses to listen until after he rams the locomotive through the cave onto the other side, where he drives it off a cliff.

    Real Life 
  • The Soviet Union used a broader rail gauge than the rest of Europe, posing some potential logistics problems for Nazi Germany which they solved in typical Nazi fashion by using slave labor to change captured rail lines in former Soviet territory from Russian gauge to Standard gauge. They also transshipped loads and even re-gauged cars by the simple expedients of swapping the car bodies to a new set of bogies (trucks in American parlance). While this worked well as a stop-gap it was uneconomical for long term use since changing rail gauge is so simple — just un-spike the rail, shift it three and a half inches, and spike it back down—that a relatively small crew could re-gauge an entire line in a remarkably short period of time. When the Russians recaptured an area they simply set the track back to Russian gauge, unless the Germans had also cut off or replaced the crossties, in which case they had to be replaced.
    • On the other hand, when the Soviet Union captured the previously Japanese held Southern Sakhalin, they found it uneconomical to re-gauge the Japanese-built railways, as they were built to the narrow Cape gauge (1067 mm) and with the light ballasting and loading gauges incompatible with the much heavier Soviet standards, so adapting the network to them essentially boiled down to rebuilding the whole railway anew, which they simply hadn't had the resources after the devastating war. Though they eventually widened the loading gauge and used the Soviet-made rolling stock with the Cape-adapted bogies, only after the Turn of the Millennium, when the island's oil industry overloaded the railway, the project to re-gauge the Sakhalin network took off in earnest, and it's projected to lag a fair bit into the New Twenties.
  • Runaway trains just do not happen in normal operation, due to the entire braking system being designed in a fail-safe manner. Any loss of pressure in the brake line or command authority in an electric control system will automatically apply the brakes on any set of cars built after the 1870s, and, until the 1980s, most heavily-laden trains had a brake van/caboose at the rear before that (nowadays, rear helper engines and end-of-train (EoT) devices do the same job). Almost all passenger and many freight locomotives contain alertness features that sense if there is a live operator and stop the train if there is not.
    • That said, the fail safety of the braking system can be disabled by accident as in the 1917 Ciurea train disaster, which leads to a number of runaway incidents every year. However, in modern times, due to brake test requirements, runaways are usually just parked cars or trainsets that get loose from a yard (as with the more recent Lac-Mégantic rail disaster).
    • Improper handling of long freight trains can lead to a complete loss of braking air resulting in a runaway. Overloaded trains can also have insufficient braking force to stop the mass. As was the case in the San Bernardino train disaster of 1989, wherein the train's bill of lading was misreported by a clerk, causing other personnel to think the train was lighter than it actually was. Coupled with the fact that not all of the locomotives on the train had working dynamic brakes, and the engineers were unable to keep the train's speed under control once they started down Cajon Pass.
    • And some freight locomotives are not equipped with crew alertness (Dead Man's Switch) devices, and some that are can be circumvented either deliberately or accidentally during the course of a Hollywood Heart Attack.
    • Though this is almost always true now, there are things that can go wrong to result in a runaway train. In a particularly infamous incident during the 1950s, a GG-1 locomotive wound up parked in what is now the Washington Union Station food court after some valves on the brakes malfunctioned and others were accidentally left closed, leaving the brakes releasednote . With that said, the whole affair was surprisingly free of drama (the relevant parts of the station were cleared in an orderly fashion, while most of the passengers just thought they'd had a rough stop), and incidents like that are hardly long enough for even a TV episode. This was the incident that inspired the finale to Silver Streak.
    • Rather than a train's brakes being out of commission, as usually happens in "runaway train" scenarios in fiction, Real Life accidents can and do happen if there's a sudden and unplanned need for a train to stop. Vehicles stalled out on the tracks are a common reason why a train might crash into something, simply because it takes a long time for even perfectly-functional brakes to halt anything so heavy.
  • If it is required to blow a train up in a UK drama plot, expect the train to be an Electric Multiple Unit or Diesel Multiple Unit of the Mark 1 slam-door stock variety. These were withdrawn from mainline service in 2005, although a number run on heritage lines. Train companies don't like you blowing up their Desiros or Sprinters. Although there are plenty of enthusiasts who would enjoy that a lot.
  • During filming of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, they ran into this trope while filming the Hogwarts Express in Scotland - the engine used was built by the Great Western Railway, which had a wider loading gauge than was normal in Britain. This meant that the engine fouled station platforms when being driven to filming locations. Slightly ironic, given that most on-screen railway inaccuracies could have been satisfactorily resolved by saying that A Wizard Did It.
  • One which turns up in real-world news reports and many fictional works is the belief that severing a coupling between two vehicles in a moving train inevitably leads to a huge crash. Passenger trains in developed countries since the early 20th century, and freight trains since after World War II, have automatic continuous braking systems that will automatically safely slow and stop a train if a coupling breaks. In earlier times, it was possible for a part of a train that broke off to run away un-braked and derail or collide with something (including possibly the front half of the train). However, even then breaking a coupling would not immediately cause the whole train to leap off the tracks and explode.
  • Most cartoon trains are actually six-wheeled steam locomotives without tenders that cannot decide whether they should be a 0-4-2, a 0-6-0, a 2-2-2, a 2-4-0, or a 4-2-0. It may or may not have drive rods.
    • And if they do have drive rods, expect them to be arranged in a way that keeps the wheels from spinning.
  • It's commonly said that train engineers on the job for any reasonable length of time will kill somebody, due to the sheer ignorance of your average person about trains. Police and emergency personnel sometimes are trained to simply restrain a person and drag them off the tracks, since that's easier than explaining that the train they see 100 feet away has already applied the brakes, and it is still going to destroy their car.
    • At least German journalists haven't understood this yet. When a car crossed a closed level crossing and was hit by a train, they write about the train speeding into the car. Seriously, if a 1.5-ton sedan with five meters of hydraulic brake lines running rubber tires on asphalt takes 35 metres to stop from 100kmh, that doesn't mean that a 400-ton regional train or a 600-ton Intercity with 200 or 300 metres of pneumatic brake lines running steel wheels on steel tracks can do the same.
    • Not to mention great underestimations regarding speeds. Some seem to believe that if cars aren't allowed to go faster than 50kmh in towns (60 on major roads), so are trains. In reality, even freight trains pass through towns at 100 or 120kmh, and the maximum speed allowed on grade crossing is 160kmh, regardless whether it's in a town or not.
    • This is an ongoing issue is parts of Australia, with public idiocy regarding train line crossings semi-regularly appearing in the news (to the point where Melbourne's Metro railway made a video and ditty about it to emphasize how stupid messing about the tracks is). To demonstrate the point, one new presenter was put behind the controls of a training system to show just how little he could do, even with a kilometer's notice, to prevent gradually bearing down closer and closer to a car stopped on the tracks until the train hit with enough momentum left to crush it like an aluminium can.
    "That's not a simulator, that's a horror movie."
    • In the UK, this is even more serious because on at least two occasions, collisions with a vehicle on the tracks has actually derailed a passenger train. Network Rail eventually threw up their hands and began the long and expensive process of replacing level crossings with bridges over the railway.
    • In Russia the engineer who ran over someone is given a mandatory leave and psychologic counseling, because the authorities recognize that engineer cannot do anything about something or someone suddenly appearing on the tracks. It is on the books, and there's a rumor (probably being spread by Russian Railways to educate the public) that engineers are trained not to apply the brakes if something appears on tracks within stopping distance. This is probably untrue, as it risks derailment, but is does work somewhat as a tactic to Scare 'Em Straight.
      • In the US, NJ Transit engineers get at least three days off in this situation. At Metro-North, the engineer who was operating the Harlem Line train involved in the Valhalla wreck has been unable to return to work and has had to retire.
  • Swedish locomotive builder, Nohab, built locomotives under license to GM EMD for European railroads. This is a decent example. The Santa Fe never served Europe, so why is this locomotive painted in ATSF's Warbonnet scheme? The same could be said of this locomotive, which was repainted for a role in Dancer in the Dark. Perhaps it's the Nohab's understandable and uncanny resemblance to EMD's ubiquitous F-Units of the 1940s and 50s.
  • After a train derailed in the UK, the a spokesperson for the train company praised the heroic driver for "staying at his controls and helping to keep the train upright and prevent more casualties". Some media even took this as far as saying that he steered the train to safety. As anyone, even a small child, with any knowledge of how railways works knows, trains cannot be steered and go where the rails take them, and once they are off the rails there is nothing anyone can do beyond throwing in the emergency brakes and holding on.
    • With the same accident, there was also praise about how well the at the time new train had stood up with just superficial damage and just one fatality. It was said to be "built like a tank", and there were many comments about "if it had been one of the old trains this would have been much worse". For those people thinking that passenger cars on trains ought to have "crumple zones" like on automobiles, a train crash does not "work" like a car crash. Maximum decelerations are much lower, and the main danger to passengers is being crushed by the carriages deforming. This was particularly evident with the old-style body-on-chassis construction where carriages would "telescope" into the end of each other with the chassis of one destroying the body of the next along with the people inside. Modern carriages - such as the BR Mk 3 introduced in the 70s and subsequent designs based on it - are designed to resist crash loads, especially end loading, without deforming. This is very evident when comparing photographs of severe crashes of old-construction trains, with mangled piles of wreckage, to photos of high speed crashes of modern deformation-resistant stock, where the carriages are scattered about the landscape but remain more or less intact. See for instance Hatfield, Great Heck, Esschede; most of the carriages are little damaged apart from one or two that broke their back against an OLE mast or that were crushed by a bridge falling on them, and it is in those damaged carriages that the majority of deaths and serious injuries occurred.
  • You would expect a railroad to avoid this, but in 2014, the French railway operator SNCF ordered trains that were too wide for many of their station platforms. They were the correct size for newer stations and platforms, but not for older and smaller ones. SNCF ended up having to redo all the smaller platforms to fit the wider trains.
  • Subverted by "fireless" steam locomotives that had neither a fuel bunker nor a water tank. These operated where the risk of fire or explosion was great (often inside certain factories), and the steam was replenished from an outside source. Some outlasted steam engines in regular mainline service for many years.
  • Random articles about Indian Railways on various news portals and possibly some printed newspapers often show the same morphed picture of a locomotive of an Australian trans-continental train called Indian Pacific, whose name appears on the locomotive- only for Pacific to be shopped into Railways. One such news portal was twice guilty of this trope- after this, since the article was on Southern Railway of India, put up a picture of a locomotive that belonged to Southern Railway in the United States, whose design and livery are nowhere present in India, where the names various Railway Zones are not painted on locomotives, but on coaches.
  • Read any given English language article on High Speed Rail and look for the mistakes. It's fun! Classics include mixing up average and top speeds ("China runs trains at 300 km/h whereas hours only average 50 mph"), calling it "the" or "a" high speed rail, as if the rail itself was somehow high speed (no it's not, "high speed rail" is shorthand for "rail vehicles and technology that allow operation at high speed" the physical line is called a "high speed ''line''"), getting usual ticket costs wrong, weird notions on what a "profitable" rail line means and of course lots and lots of misconceptions on how trains work. No, high speed rail will not simply use the existing single track infrastructure, no there will be no level crossings with trains passing at 200 mph, no high speed rail does not use Diesel, no high speed rail does not usually share track with freight. Some of this can be excused by HSR simply not existing in most of the Anglosphere.
  • Unrealistic scale is common in rail modelling. For example curves are usually much tighter compared to the width of the track than on a real railway, simply because a true scale curve would be enormous, and wheels and rails are usually thicker-than-scale for sufficient strength. Most modelers don't mind this, but "fine scale" modelers strive for greater precision. Indeed, the availability of closer-to-realistic model railway equipment has increased dramatically since the 1990s.
    • The most common gauge used in UK modelling, OO (1:76.2, or 4mm to the foot), is a "bastard scale" that's technically an example of this trope, with 4mm-scale models running on 3.5mm-scale track. It was originally designed to allow more room for clockwork mechanisms inside models of UK locomotives (which were slightly smaller than their European and American counterparts), but still running on the same HO (1:87, or 3.5mm to the foot) track. This means many models have a slightly "narrow-gauge" look when viewed head-on. EM gauge, and the even more precise P4, are "fine scale" variants, with (usually) hand-built track at true 4mm scale.
  • The most famous, and most written-about, steam locomotive in the world, the LNER A3 Class ‘Flying Scotsman’ has had this in spades during its’ life since preservation.
    • A lot of the issues are down to it being only the third member of its class built, and being a virtually brand new design concept (for Britain) it had quite a bit of Early Installment Weirdness. The chief designer, Sir Nigel Gresley, made several key changes to the design of the class in light of operational experience. The majority of ‘Scotsman’s classmates got the improved design from new, whereas ‘Scotsman’ itself only had them retrofitted in a piecemeal fashion. When it was in full Spotlight-Stealing Squad mode- making the first non-stop run from Kings Cross to Edinburgh, the first 100 mph run, starring in a movie- it was still in more or less as-built condition, including its famous 4472 running number and LNER Apple Green livery.
    • Some of the design modifications- such as a more efficient boiler, an improved chimney design, alterations to the drivers controls- fundamentally changed the locomotive, and ‘Scotsman’ didn’t get all of them fitted until after the LNER had been forcibly nationalized into British Railways. BR changed both ‘Scotsman’s livery and running number to fit in with a system-wide policy, meaning the locomotive that was retired by BR in 1963 was a very different beast to the one that had made ‘Flying Scotsman’ famous.
    • When the ‘Scotsman’s new owners at the National Railway Museum, York overhauled her in 2006, it was concluded that it simply wasn’t practical to return her to as built condition- none of the original-pattern boilers have survived, and they are too expensive to build anew. Also consider that returning her to original condition would make her performance suffer, which given that the NRM wanted her to run on the (very busy) National Rail network was considered A Bad Thing. So in 2016 the NRM, in the name of Shown Their Work, took the decision to keep its’ bells and whistles modifications and run the locomotive with its’ final, accurate BR livery and number. This did bring some accusations of Just Train Wrong from some enthusiasts who objected to the less vibrant BR livery (partly because BR based its system wide livery on that of the old Great Western Railway, a perennial Big Bad to Gresley and the LNER) and also due to accusations of trying to Un-person the LNER. Most everyday folks didn’t care, and were just glad to see her back on the mainline after ten years and some £6 million of work.
    • Whilst the NRM have gone to great lengths to avert the Just Train Wrong trope with ‘Flying Scotsman’, the same cannot be said of her previous owners in preservation.
      • Despite her fame, in the early 1960s ‘Flying Scotsman’s future looked bleak. Steam locomotives were being withdrawn and scrapped and she was not deemed historically significant enough to preserved by steam’s Big Bad at the British Transport Commission (in fairness to the BTC, they didn’t have anything like the storage space the present day NRM enjoys).
      • When the Hope Spot of a fundraiser to ‘Save Our Scotsman’ failed to meet BR’s asking price, it all looked over. Then businessman and entrepreneur Alan Pegler pulled a Big Damn Heroes moment and bought her outright from BR, on the condition that he be allowed to continue to run her in the mainline. Having agreed that he could, Pegler was free to (very mildly) say Screw the Rules, I Have Money! and to treat it as he pleased.
      • Pegler had first seen the the-then brand new locomotive at an exhibition in 1924, and had been something of a Fandom VIP ever since. Whilst restoring her completely to her 1920s condition was ruled out (for the reasons stated above) he was keen to return her to her former LNER condition as much as possible. This resulted in something of an Anachronism Stew, as she had an original shaped chimney and 1920s LNER paint job and running number but still carried BR-period fixtures and fittings from a much later timeframe, notably the boiler.
      • Pegler was quite publicity-savvy and hired PR companies in London to drum up support for his ventures with ‘Scotsman’. Furthermore his ownership of Scotsman coincided with the more widespread availability of color photography and color television, so his version in effect became the ‘Canon’ version because it was the only one most people had ever seen.
      • Pegler's final years owning Scotsman were spent on a tour of the United States and Canada with the engine. This meant in addition to the already existing anachronisms, that Pegler's crew added appliances required to operate in North America such as knuckle couplers, a high beam headlight, a cowcatcher and a bell; further giving Scotsman an aesthetic that deviated from its original condition. Pegler's subsequent financial troubles and divorce would cause Scotsman to be impounded near San Francisco, and the ocean spray off the Pacific began to cause rust spots to form on the engine which meant its paint had to be repaired once returned to Britain.
    • So engrained in the public consciousness was Pegler’s Ascended Fanon that when the locomotive subsequently came into the ownership of Sir William McAlpine, he chose not to deviate from it (despite McAlpine being a noted enthusiast and railway buff, who probably knew the livery was off). McAlpine later sold it to Dr. Tony Marchington, who went one further by reinstalling many of her BR features that Alan Pegler had removed but still kept the by-now wholly inaccurate LNER livery. When Marchington went bankrupt the locomotive was auctioned off in 2004, with the NRM winning the bid, and they ultimately set about overhauling and restoring her as described above.
  • Good grief, there were two nasty scams played upon naïve investors at the end of the 19th century, both by the same man. The Holman locomotive (or Holman Horror) was basically your typical Baldwin steam locomotive on roller skates, and Mr. Holman fooled people into investing thousands(if not millions) of dollars in a machine that even children would describe as a bad idea. The fact that he pulled the same scam about ten years after the first does not bode well for Wall Street.
  • In a rare aversion of this trope, the Strasburg Railroad chose to end their leases on the Pennsylvania Railroad steam engines 1223 and 7002 (a 4-4-0 and a 4-4-2 respectively) when both engines needed extensive boiler repairs that would have altered their physical structure beyond historical accuracy, deciding it wasn't worth the cost (finically or historically) to perform such work on engines they didn't otherwise own.
  • It is a strange habit of US based municipal projects to use stock photos of British or European steam locomotives to represent the municipalities "train heritage." Examples include this mural in Evanston, Wyoming which is a vague bastardization of US and European influences, another mural in Churubusco, Indiana showing a European locomotive at an American train station, the police patch of Heber City, Utah which shows an obviously British locomotive design with the words "HEBER CREEPER" emblazoned on the side, and the US Postal Service using an LMS Black 5 4-6-0 steam locomotive from the UK on a poster to advertise the 150th anniversary of the completion of the first American transcontinental railroad in 2019 (as shown above in the Advertising tropes section as well). What makes this stranger is that many of the towns and government agencies guilty of this are often a few blocks away from active heritage railroads or museums were they could have easily got a photo of a local train in preservation as a reference instead of sourcing stock images of trains on the opposite side of the world.
    • An egregious example from the US's Federal Railroad Administration's Facebook page, using footage from the Sauschwänzlebahn in Germany to describe the Strasburg Railroad in Pennsylvania.
    • The FRA's official brochure for establishing quiet zones along the tracks features a British Class 323 EMU very prominently on the cover, a train which has never remotely come close to being seen in the United States.
  • News outlets often seem to pick images for news concerning railroads by Googling "train" and then selecting the first pic they stumble upon that seems royalty-free. The result is news reports about High Speed Rail with a picture of a suburban commuter train labeled, "Symbolic picture." It's not so much that the editors think Viewers Are Morons, it's that they're just as clueless about railroads as they believe their readers are.
  • Albeit intentional, the A1 60163 Tornado a 21st century new build of a 1940's British steam locomotive design; debuted in primer paint in 2008 with the URL for the project on it's tender to create a forced case of Anachronism Stew. After break in runs, the engine was later painted in several accurate period schemes to the original 1940's engines.

Alternative Title(s): Did Not Choo The Research


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