May 26, 2024

The Real ‘Stand By Me’ Bridge

The ‘Stand By Me’ bridge is the real location for one of 80s cinema's classic scenes.  Once used by loggers, it is now part of a hiking trail.

The cast of 'Stand By Me'
The cast of 'Stand By Me'

You probably know the story.

In 1950’s small town America, four teens trek out into the forest when they hear that there’s a dead body out there. They have some half formed ideas about reporting the find to the authorities and being rewarded, really its just an excuse for an adventure.

They camp out overnight, share stories, and talk about girls.

Following the train tracks towards their destination, the boys are confronted with an imposing railway bridge, over a steep drop:

RAILROAD BRIDGE – EXTERIOR - DAY

 

The boys have reached a long railroad bridge over a small river. They all glance at each other and then at the bridge, uncertain if they want to chance crossing it.

 

Vern: Any of you guys know when the next train is due?

 

Chris: We could go down to the Route 136 bridge.

 

Teddy: What, are you crazy? That's five miles down the river. You walk five miles down the river, you gotta walk five miles back. That could take 'til dark. If we go across here we can get to the same place in ten minutes.

 

Vern: Yeah, but if a train comes there's nowheres to go.

 

Teddy: No there isn't. We'll just jump.

 

Chris: Teddy, it's a hundred feet.

 

Vern: Yeah, Teddy.

 

Teddy: Look, you guys can go around if you want to. I'm crossing here. And while you guys are dragging your candy-asses halfway across the state and back, I'll be waiting for you on the other side, relaxing with my thoughts.

 

Gordie: You use your left hand or your right hand for that?

A choice has to be made: detour to the pedestrian bridge, or take their chances and cross where they are, and hope that a train doesn’t come.

Getting ready to cross the Stand By Me bridge

Even before you have seen it, you know how this is going to play out.

The boys will cross where they are; while they are crossing, a train will come.

And this is exactly what happens.

Director Rob Reiner on set in 'Stand By Me'
Rob Reiner

‘Stand By Me’ was former actor Rob Reiner’s second film as director (after the classic 1984 comedy ‘This is Spinal Tap’). The movie, a classic coming of age tale, was based on a short story by horror writer Stephen King.

Casting the teenage leads took some time, but eventually Reiner found four young actors he was happy with. This was a high quality ensemble that included future movie stars River Phoenix and Corey Feldman, and future TV stars Jerry O’Connell and Wil Wheaton.

Once casting was complete, Reiner took his actors on location to Oregon a few weeks before filming was due to start.

As well as rehearsing scenes, the group spent time just hanging out, or playing theatre games. This allowed realistic relationships to develop between the actors, which could then carry over into the movie.

The chemistry between the cast, handsome scenery, and perfect, sunny weather, made for a happy set:

‘It was like a summer vacation. It was really beautiful in Eugene, Oregon, we had great weather, and it was just a fun group of guys. We drove around a lot, and would go and hit the bars together. I can’t recall ever working like that since, actually.’

 

-  Casey Siemaszko, 'Billy Tessio'

Although Reiner ratcheted up the intensity, when required.

Train crossing the Stand By Me bridge
Don't look back, RUN!!

While most of ‘Stand By Me’ was shot in Oregon, the train scene was shot in California, on the McCloud River Railroad Bridge, in the Burney Falls State Park.

Reiner filmed the actors and the train separately, combining the footage in post-production. At times he felt he was not getting enough of a reaction from O’Connell and Wheaton, and resorted to uncharacteristic bluster to provoke a greater emotional response.

He reportedly yelled at the actors, questioning their abilities, and then filmed another take immediately afterwards, when both boys were legitimately upset. This is the take that made the final version of the film.

A photo of Burney Falls National Park, Oregon
Burney Falls State Park.

The railroad was established in 1897, as a private line to ferry lumber from the sawmill town of McCloud. At the time the region was a major logging centre, timber the primary local industry.

In the early twentieth century, the line was expanded to connect other logging towns in the area, with the main rail line in Upton.

The Federal Government commandeered the line during World War I, with timber required as a war material, before returning it to private ownership in 1920. Further expansion of the line continued through the 1920s, as the logging industry in the area continued to grow.

But by the 1950s, the local industry began to contract again. Sawmills closed, and branch lines that serviced those areas followed suit. The principal line on the railroad continued, and survived past its 100th anniversary, but its eventual closure was only a matter of time.

The real 'Stand By Me' bridge, present day
The real Stand By Me bridge

Having changed hand several times, the private rail firm ‘Four Rails Inc.’ finally closed the railway altogether, in 2005. The tracks were removed, and the land put up for sale.

It seemed likely that the railway, and surrounding woodland, would be sold for private development. But there was a happy ending to the story.

Local non-profits discovered the railways closure, and combined forces to try to acquire the railway corridor.

The real 'Stand By Me' bridge is part of a hiking trail
Walking across the Bridge, present day.

With funding from the National Parks Service, an 80 mile stretch of the former railroad was purchased in 2010, and was subsequently turned into a walking trail, ‘The Great Shasta Rail Trail.’

This continues operation to this day, and is a popular destination for hiking, camping and mountain biking.

The 'Stand By Me' Bridge is still in place, and looks much as it did in the movie. Watch the full scene from the film here.

 More MUSEUM OF LOST

4 thoughts on “The Real ‘Stand By Me’ Bridge

  1. The Steam Engine used in this movie was also used in the making of Emperor of The North with Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine ..The “19 “ is now in The Age Of Steam Museum in Sugarcreek , Ohio ..

    1. Yes it was, that was my grandpa Georges’s train. He was the conductor on both movies. I’ve been with him many times on his train The Blue Goose

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