The judicious use of a train (usually) to interrupt a Chase Scene.
The Train Escape comes in three distinct flavors:
Type 1During a chase, the quarry can usually get away by darting across a set of tracks just ahead of the train. The pursuer will inevitably get caught by the train, and the quarry makes good his escape.
A common subversion might be that the quarry actually stops on the other side of the tracks to gloat... only to discover that it's a short train that passes by in just a few seconds, allowing the chase to continue.
This can also be applied to street chases, with traffic (usually a semi or other big truck) pulling out from a side street — or, really, any sudden (if temporary) obstacle which obstructs or impedes the pursuer, allowing the quarry a significant head start or outright escape. Typically involves a car chase, but a foot chase will work just as well.
Type 2During a foot chase, the quarry will hop onto a train to escape the pursuer. This can involve boarding a ready-to-depart train at the station, with the doors shutting in the pursuer's face; but it usually works best if the quarry has to actually charge down the tracks in order to catch a moving train, and the pursuer is just that one step too far behind and cannot catch up as the train accelerates, taking the quarry with it.
Doesn't work as much today, with most modern trains having a) automatic doors or b) doors that are locked before departure. So nowadays the quarry jumps on top of the train, and sit down gasping while their pursuer is left in the dust. In modern "Wuxia" films, the pursuer will follow, resulting in The Climax — a Traintop Battle. As with Type 1, street traffic (generally a semi truck) can be used instead of an actual train.
Type 3Both pursuers and pursued are on a moving train, and the person(s) being chased unhook a part of the train to separate them and escape.
All three variations of this trope often work as a way to artificially extend the plot, as the bad guys get away and the heroes have to go look for them all over again.
Compare Off Bridge, onto Vehicle.
Although it should go without saying, that any attempt to do these in the real world will most likely end with the person being pursued getting killed by the train. A single locomotive weighs hundreds of tons, and the train behind it is often thousands of tons or more. They will not stop on a dime if something appears suddenly in front of it.
Do not, under any circumstancesnote , cross an active set of tracks with a train coming. You will most likely not survive the attempt.
Anime & Manga
- Not exactly a chase, but Naota escapes an annoying conversation with Haruko in FLCL by going under the crossing guards and crossing the track before a commuter train passes.
- In Tintin: The Broken Ear, Tintin's car just barely makes it past a train, which delays his pursuers. Unfortunately, their car catches up with his in the mountains.
Film — Animated
- Watership Down (1978), a group of protagonist rabbits who were trying to get away from an Efrafan patrol are saved in this way, after it runs over the Efrafan officer. The escapees interpret the train as a messenger sent from the rabbit sun-god, Frith, but the Efrafans have a better understanding as their warren is near the railroad.
Film — Live Action
- King Of The Rocketmen (1930s serial film)
- Weird Science: one of the protagonists evades a police chase this way.
- Time Chasers (Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode): a tractor pulls across the road, cutting off the pursuers long enough to give the Designated Hero a healthy lead.
- In Next, thanks to the main character's future-viewing powers, we get to see him both crash into the train and escape thanks to it.
- The first National Treasure film used the traffic variant. It works, temporarily.
- In The Cannonball Run, two of the racers escape a police car by jumping over a train.
- The Train Man escapes from Seraph, Morpheus and Trinity this way in The Matrix Revolutions.
- The opening of Primal Fear, when Aaron Stamper was running from the police.
- Dick Tracy (1990), while Kid was trying to escape from Dick Tracy.
- The Transporter pulled this off during the opening chase sequence.
- In the 2007 Transformers movie, Sam is chasing his "stolen" car when it runs over train tracks just before a train passes, cutting Sam off. Also, later in the movie, a concerned Mikaela follows Sam on her scooter and is cut off by a police car.
- Played with in the final scene Entrapment, where it is combined with Offscreen Teleportation, and executed by a Gentleman Thief played by Sean Connery, and a Phantom Thief played by Catherine Zeta Jones. Done to death in all its hilarious application.
- Enemy of the State: Will Smith and Gene Hackman still have time to duke it out mano-a-mano while the pursuers are stuck behind the train.
- The New Zealand movie Snakeskin features a scene where the heroes are fleeing some skinheads over a drug deal gone wrong. The heroes manage to evade the skinheads by performing a Dukes of Hazzard stunt involving racing a freight train through a level crossing. Naturally, the skinheads do not make it and are forced to wait. They are left even further behind after the train slams on the brakes and ends up stopping while still blocking the crossing.
- Man on a Ledge. As the main character is escaping from the cops at the beginning.
- In The Goat, Buster Keaton is chased by three police men but a crossing train traps his pursuers on the other side of the tracks, allowing Keaton to escape.
- Performed in To Live and Die in L.A. during a car chase.
- In Mississippi Burning, the two FBI agents are cut off by a train during their pursue of some Klan members. The delay causes them to arrive late to prevent the mutilation of the black boy in the forest.
- Big Hero 6: During the car chase, GoGo uses this move to put a moving train between them and Yokai. It doesn't throw him off for long though.
- Logan: Logan, Charles and Laura escape from the Reavers in Mexico when they cross just ahead of a very long freight train.
- In Power Rangers (2017), the Rangers pull this trick to escape from the police after discovering the Power Coins. They get reamed by the train, and the only reason they aren't reduced to mulch is because the Power Coins have already turned them into superheroes.
- Hot Bot: After Racing the Train, Limus, Leonard and Bardot manage to to cut across in front of a freight train; leaving their pursuers stranded on the other side of the tracks.
- In The Town That Dreaded Sundown, the Phantom escapes from Captain Morales and Deputy Ramsey by dashing across the railroad tracks ahead of an oncoming train.
- Alex Rider:
- Point Blanc combines Type 1 and Type 2. Snowboarding down the mountain towards the railroad tracks, Alex uses a passing freight train to block enemy guards on the other side of the track with a machine gun, then jumps on to the top of the train to get away.
- In Eagle Strike, Alex crosses in front of an oncoming tram in order to escape the cars pursuing him on bike.
- Hilda: in Hilda and the Great Parade, when running from Trevor with the unconscious raven, Hilda loses him by jumping across the train tracks just before a train passes, and Trevor is thus forced to wait.
Live Action TV
- Done during the penultimate chapter of The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed. Interestingly, the guys being chased don't know it, and only use the Train Escape as a habitual precaution.
- Prison Break, a few times.
- In the pilot episode of Knight Rider, the Evil Minions use semi-tractors as obstacles for Michael and KITT to allow the Big Bads to escape. Of course, thank's to KITT's super-abilities, the obstacles are bypassed with ease.
- Another Knight Rider episode featured an odd reversal/variant: a villain uses his nitro-powered car to push his victim's car into an oncoming train.
- In yet another episode it looked as though a passing train would enable their pursuers to catch up, only KITT ended up leaping through a train thanks to a boxcar whose side doors had conveniently been left open. Of course, the side of a boxcar isn't that sturdy compared to some of the things KITT has crashed through in the course of the series, so this was probably a concession to the budget.
- In the sixth season finale of The Amazing Race, the second place team was less than a minute behind the first team, when running to the finish line. The second team then got held up at a railway crossing, giving the first team the victory.
- Castle Rock: In episode 9, which is set entirely in the alternate universe that The Kid came from, and where Henry Deaver somehow ended up in during the 11 days he went missing. When Molly convinces The Kid to help Henry get home, but has to ditch the police car following them, she stops for a railroad crossing, then suddenly accalerates and crosses it right before the train arrives.
- Midsomer Murders: In "Death in a Chocolate Box", the killer attempts to escape from Barnaby by dashing across the railway tracks ahead of an oncoming train. They don't make it.
- In Dick Tracy, Shakey does it to lose the pursuing Tracy in his climatic attempt to escape.
- Mario Kart 64, in the Kalimari Desert track.
- And also done in Cruisin' USA in the Death Valley level.
- In Team Fortress 2's "Meet the Scout", the RED Scout offs two pursuers by luring them in front of a train, and double-jumping away Just in Time.
- The Simpsons episode "Homer the Heretic" subverts it: Ned and his family pursue Homer in a car; Homer attempts a Train Escape and just makes it across at the last moment, but Ned manages to jump through an empty boxcar to continue after him.
- In "Kill the Alligator and Run" (the one in Florida), Homer loses a chasing police car by crossing in front of an oncoming freight train, and then, in a Double Subversion, promptly gets hit by an Amtrak train going in the opposite direction on the second set of tracks.
- From "Treehouse of Horror XIV" - When Homer becomes Death and is made to kill Marge, he kills Patty instead and tapes Marge's hair to her head. God figures it out and chases him with a beam of light. Homer speeds away, comes to some train tracks and just makes it across. God's light has to wait on the other side until the train gets out of the way.
- Shaak Ti and two other Jedi use trains both for evasion and for dividing-and-conquering during their flight/fight against Grievous's Magnaguards in the Star Wars: Clone Wars miniseries. Shaak Ti escapes Grievous himself by using the Force to tie his cape to a passing train.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Applejack tries to make an escape from the rest of the Mane 6 this way, and makes it. Her friends then simply fly over the train. Applejack is visibly annoyed at forgetting two of them are pegasi.
- In Scooby-Doo! and the Reluctant Werewolf, Shaggy attempts to lose the other racers by driving in front of an oncoming train. However, everyone else successfully makes it, except for Iron Butt-Monkey Dracula.
- Bugs Bunny is seen getting away from Elmer aboard a train in "The Unruly Hare," but then he jumps off, tumbling to the ground because "we civilians musn't do any unnecessary traveling these days."
- Heckle and Jeckle escape the prison warden by hopping a train in "Out Again, In Again."
- A train blocks the progress of the drivers in the Wacky Races debut episode "See Saw to Arkansas," yet Dick Dastardly's Mean Machine is on the other side. The train stops long enough for the other racers to go through a boxcar so the race can resume.
- In the eleventh Pokémon movie, our heroes got on a train that was about to depart to evade Zero's Magnemite/ton/zone. Conveniently, they were never asked for tickets, much less to pay for the windows they busted when fighting against Zero's Pokemon when they were eventually found...
- In Spiral, this happens between Rio and Hiyono in the arc involving both delivering a key to Ayumu so he can take off a bomb strapped around his neck, and recovering incriminating tapes. Hiyono gets pushed onto a train going the wrong way, but she still manages to deliver the key by getting back on a different train and tossing it out of the window to where Ayumu is waiting to catch it.
- Alina Rose does this in an attempt to escape Robyn in Robyn Hood: I Love NY #12: grabbing hold of the last car of a subway car as it pulls out of the station. However, she is not quite fast enough to escape and, when she cannot force the carriage door open, she is forced into a Traintop Battle with Robyn.
- In The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #25, Indy and Jessie Hale escape from a gang of bandits by chasing after a train and clambering on to the caboose before the bandits can catch up with them.
Film — Live Action
- Will Smith's character successfully does this in The Pursuit of Happyness.
- In U.S. Marshals, Wesley Snipes escapes from Tommy Lee Jones using this. He reaches the roof of a train station just as the train is pulling out, runs to match speed with it and jumps onto the top of the train.
- In Rat Race, Enrico is being chased by a crazed ambulance driver, and avoids him by jumping onto a train going at full speed.
- A variant occurs in The Great Escape with two of the escapees running up to a train just as it is pulling out so the guards on the platform will not have time to check their papers.
- Blade grabs the end of a train with one arm while holding the love interest in the other. The train pulls them to safety while dislocating his arm.
- Used hilariously in the opening scene of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, when the main character jumps on the train and starts talking to some hobos he finds there, only to get yanked off in mid-speech as he's still chained to his fellow escapees who haven't been able to climb up also.
- A subway variant occurs in The French Connection, ending with the target waving goodbye to his pursuer.
- The Bourne Supremacy: Bourne evades police at a train station, and eventually gets away on one. Double Subverted. The train doesn't leave right away, his pursuers close in, and Bourne has to get off the train, then double back. The second time he boards, the train leaves.
- Bright Lights, Big City: Jamie hops on a departing subway train to escape from his estranged brother.
- A Hard Day's Night. Incidentally, The Beatles were going to catch the train anyway for the next leg of their tour, but getting away from their squealing mob of fangirls was a bonus.
- In Unknown (2011), the hero notices that he is being followed but manages to escape his pursuer by boarding a car at the Berlin subway right before the doors close up.
- In Mirage (1965), the hero escapes the henchmen by quickly getting onto a bus that rushes off before his pursuers arrive at the station.
- In Species, Young Sil who has just Escaped from the Lab gets away from her pursuers by jumping on a passing train.
- In the New Zealand film Goodbye Pork Pie, while evading Police in Wellington they drive through the railway station before driving the mini from a goods platform into a moving boxcar, wherein they hide it until they reach Greymouth in the South Island.
- This scene was re-enacted in the 2017 remake, Pork Pie.
- Ring of Fear: After escaping from the asylum, O'Malley is spotted and pursued by the police. He scrambles on to a passing freight train and is followed by one of he cops. He then leaps from the top of the train onto another train going the opposite direction on the next track and losses his pursuer.
- Played with in Child of the Hive. When Alex, Ben and Will run into the Underground to escape pursuit, Alex concludes that the trains weren't given a script to follow because they have to wait for one to arrive.
- A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway. After the protagonist deserts he jumps on a train to get across a guarded bridge.
- Alex Rider: Point Blanc combines Type 1 and Type 2. Snowboarding down the mountain towards the railroad tracks, Alex uses a passing freight train to block enemy guards on the other side of the track with a machine gun, then jumps on to the top of the train to get away.
- Artemis Fowl:The Arctic Incident has a particularly strange version of this. Flying goblins with artificial wings and laser cannons have trapped Butler and Root in a snow cave beneath an avalanch set off by their blasts, so Holly and Artemis divise a plan to get them out by boarding a passing radioactive train and attatching a rope fastened to Root's anti-grav belt to it. They board the train and Artemis has to get on the roof, make a hole with some acid, and open the door from the inside to let Holly in. The only reason this works is because the goblins assume the radiation will kill them anyway and are afraid shooting the train will blow it to smithereens, and them with it.
Live Action TV
- Subverted in an episode of Angel; instead of giving up the chase, the monster grabs the end of the train as it moves off and climbs inside.
- Scott Dunn, the Serial Killer Big Bad of Castle's episode "Boom!", manages to escape Beckett in a foot chase by getting on a subway.
- An odd variant of this trope comes in Kamen Rider Den-O. The titular hero's train, the DenLiner, is capable of travelling through time and space, as well as lay its tracks down on any surface, even on thin air. This means that it can literally swoop down out of nowhere and allow the heroes to simply jump on board, or scoop them up while travelling at max speed.
- In Day Break (2006), Hopper fools his pursuers by stepping onto a train but somehow being able to exit the car the other side and hide in the subway tube.
- CSI: In "Who and What", it appears the killer has done this. However, he has really paid a hobo to put on his cap and board the train to throw the police off his trail.
- The Kill Point: Mr. Pig is the only one of the robbers who manages to become a Karma Houdini after hopping onto a passing train to escape the pursuing SWAT team.
- Hanna: at the end of "Friend," Hanna catches a ride on a departing passenger train by running after it and climbing onto the rear of the last car.
- In the Broad City episode "Getting There," Abbi and Ilana hop a subway turnstile and are chased by a security guard. They run onto a train right before the doors close.
- Towards the beginning of Final Fantasy VII, Cloud escapes pursuit by jumping on top of a train as it passes under a tunnel.
- In Planet Alcatraz, Boar escapes from the Industrial Area by killing the guards and hopping on the train used to transfer weapons to other areas.
- In Red Dead Redemption Marston can jump from his horse onto a moving train. This can make a Rule of Cool escape, since he can usually outrun his pursuers, but the train is way cooler, especially if bound for the Mexican border.
- No idea whether this is a reference, parody, subversion, or inversion, but the Ghost Train segment in Final Fantasy VI (where, at one point, the protagonists are pursued by the train) deserves some sort of mention.
- The end of the "Fear That Gives Men Wings" stage of Max Payne has Vinnie Gognitti jumping onto a train to get away from Max. Max has to do the same with the next train in order to end the level and continue the chase. The fact that Gognitti managed to pull this off after a lengthy rooftop chase and then somehow jumped off the train without breaking every bone in his body, and did so after taking a bullet to the gut in a cutscene, is somewhat at odds with his depiction as a whiny Non-Action Guy...
- Mirror's Edge likes this: There's a few levels which involve jumping on or between moving subways.
- By "on", we literally mean on: Faith trainsurfs subways, and jumps from one to another, to escape the bad guys.
- In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the player can do delivery missions using trains. Initiating the delivery mission while wanted will cause the player to lose their wanted level.
- Often utilized in Agent USA to escape cities whose citizens have been turned into walking TV static before they overwhelm the player.
- Leaping onto a train and riding it to freedom is the final stage in the escape from Vorkuta in Call of Duty: Black Ops. Sadly, Reznov doesn't make it aboard.
- Gavin boards a train on the Underground to escape from Patient #12 in KateModern: The Last Work.
- Used in a "Runt and Rita" short in Animaniacs: Chased by Nazi dogs, Rita makes it to the train, but Runt misses it; so Rita disembarks from the train to stay with Runt.
- Yet another example from The Simpsons: In a scene which homages the opening sequence to Raiders of the Lost Ark, Bart evades Homer by making an escape like this on the school bus. It should be noted that the scene referenced from Raiders featured an airplane escape.
- Batman: The Animated Series:
- The Clock King, in the episode of the same name, uses this trick to make a dramatic exit after his first face-to-face encounter with Batman: "I don't know what to tell you, Batman... except that the 9:15 is always six minutes early."
- Also, in "Mad Love" the Joker falls off a ledge onto a train's roof during a chase scene. He tries to taunt Batman, only to find him standing right behind his back.
- An American Tail: Fievel Goes West: Tiger manages to catch the train to escape a pack of dogs. Who should he meet inside but the engineer's dog?
- Hermes and Bender hop a train to escape Mom's killbots in the Futurama episode "Lethal Inspection".
Anime & Manga
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, Kimblee and Scar are fighting aboard a train; when Kimblee is seriously injured, he detaches the back end of the train (containing Scar) to escape.
- In an early chase scene in Castle in the Sky, Pazu unhooks the tractor unit of the train to shake off the pursuers.
Film — Animated
- In Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension, second dimension Candace detaches the a minecart with the first dimension heroes inside so she, her brothers and the other resistance members can escape from the robots chasing them.
Film — Live Action
- Done by Buster Keaton in the short The Goat; he also accidentally leaves behind a flatcar full of soldiers in the same way in The General.
- Done during both the Traintop Battles in The Lone Ranger.
- Train: After setting fire to the rest of the train, Alex uncouples the last carriage (with her in it) and it coasts gently to a stop while the burning train speeds away.
Live Action TV
- Arrow: In the Season 7 episode "Longbow Hunters", while on a train that is transporting a dangerous weapon, Diggle orders Felicity to remotely unhook the wagons that Diaz and the Longbow Hunters are in so they can't get to the weapon. When Felicity can't bring herself to do it since that would mean Diaz escapes again, Curtis does it for her.
- Doctor Who: In "Nikola Tesla's Night of Terror", the Doctor gets rid of a mysterious figure chasing her, her companions, Nikola Tesla and his assistant on a train after separating him from his weapon, by pulling the bolt out of a coupling, leaving the attacker on the back half of the train as the rest speeds on to New York.
- In Grandia, Justin and Co escape from Nina, Saki and Mio by detaching the engine from the rest of the train with their enemies in the engine. Since Justin had broken the brake lever before that happened, the Garlyle soldiers were stuck in the moving train for hours until it slowed down, while the heroes walked away.
- Violent Storm: At the end of the second stage (which is entirely set on board a train), after the player has defeated the boss, Joe, Red Freddy unhooks the train carriage that the player is on in order to escape.
- During one level of Vandal Hearts, the boss is at the head of the train, while the player's army starts on the last car. Once the boss notices them, he orders his men to unhook the cars one by one, which they do every other turn. Any characters still on a car when it detaches are removed from the fight.
- Done quite by accident in Curious George: Follow That Monkey.
- In the Wallace & Gromit short The Wrong Trousers, Feathers McGraw does this on a model railway.
- In The Simpsons Reverend Lovejoy does this on a train ride at a zoo to escape from killer baboons.
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold: Babyface and his gang try to do this to Batman and Plastic Man in "Bold Beginnings!".
- Fillmore!: The perp of the week does this in an attempt to escape from Fillmore following a Traintop Battle atop a miniature train in "Next Stop: Armageddon".
- Boo Boom! The Long Way Home: Episode 26, in order to help a group of war prisoners (including Boo-Booms parents) escape from the train that is transporting them to a labor camp, Boo-Boom and Viola unhook the carriages containing the prisoners, and the rest of the train continues on without them.