When Hollywood needs a “grabber” to catch people’s attention as they sit through trailer No. 12 at the local cineplex before the movie they paid to see actually begins, there has to be real drama up on the big screen, something you just don’t see in daily life.
That’s one of the reasons movie directors love train wrecks. No, not the kind that features Owen Wilson and his estranged girlfriend taking over a bankrupt petting zoo, or a “Wolfpack” of buddies on a road trip to debauchery at a Las Vegas bachelor party — with all the hilarity that ensues.
No, I’m talking about the kind of wreck that features a 125-ton, 6,000-horsepower beast of a diesel locomotive, preferably smashing into some previously immoveable object or hurtling off the tracks at high speed — and the guilty pleasure that ensues as violent destruction explodes in full Dolby Digital Cinema glory.
From the many classic Westerns in which bad-guy bandits/white-hat heroes leap onto a mail train chugging across the Great Plains to steal/save the mailbags stuffed full of cash, moments before said train plunges off a 200-foot tall trestle, to such contemporary cinematic classics as “Golden Eye,” the 1995 Bond flick in which Pierce Brosnan’s 007 rams a tank into a speeding, flaming locomotive pulling a train carrying both the movie’s evil supervillain and Bond’s female love interest, to “The Fugitive,” in which Harrison Ford as convicted murderer Dr. Richard Kimball escapes from an overturned convict bus moments before a freight train crushes the bus, flies off the tracks and destroys everything in its path for the next quarter mile, directors have had a century-long love affair with capturing on film the explosive power of gigantic, speeding machines that basically smash anything in their path.
And sometimes real life imitates art, as happened in the city of Lakeland, Fla., last week, as a train smashed into a stalled semi-truck.
The result of that epic locomotive crash, thankfully photographed for posterity (click here), also provided local residents of that central Florida city with an unexpected holiday surprise.
Who says there’s no Santa?
Here’s what happened, according to reports by radio station The Drive.
Meat from Heaven
Apparently, a tractor-trailer truck owned by the Colorado Meat and Seafood Company, whose parent company operates a cold storage and distribution facility in Lakeland, stalled out on CSX railroad tracks at an intersection in town in the predawn hours. The truck was packed full of frozen food, including boxes of meat and seafood.
“The driver reportedly tried to contact CSX to warn them of the situation,” according to the story, “but a freight train came barreling through the intersection before he could reach anyone and crashed straight through the trailer, tearing it in half.”
That sounds like a nicely staged vignette on which some second-unit director could cut his teeth in the next Michael Bay blockbuster. Only this destructive scene took place in real life, and what happened in the aftermath probably wouldn’t fit the narrative of most action flicks, anyway.
The wreck scattered hundreds of boxes of frozen steaks, bacon, and shrimp packages across the tracks and the roadways. However, company officials notified local authorities that the truck’s cargo was going to be written off as a total loss, and there would be no salvage efforts undertaken.
CSX employees who responded to the crash then began picking up the food and throwing it in a dumpster to clear the tracks, according to the story, which continued as follows:
“Meanwhile, a fairly large crowd of nearby residents had gathered, and authorities decided to allow them to take whatever they wanted from the wreckage, since it was all destined to be thrown out. The giveaway reportedly lasted for over an hour until CSX asked police to clear the scene so they could reopen the tracks to train traffic.”
You can practically hear the holiday bells ringing in the background, and the story concluded with a quote from a local resident named Jessie Woulard.
“People are hungry,” Woulard told Fox 13 TV News. “Some people are so hungry they’ll wash it off. Everybody needs something. It’s Christmas.”
But the real miracle was that the crash involved a food truck and not a coal train.
Editor’s Note: The opinions in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, a veteran journalist and commentator.