North House Museum will present a Tiny Film Festival Sunday afternoon, Apr. 3, from 2 to 4 p.m. There will be two shows, one starting at 2 p.m. and the other at 3 p.m.
The festival will feature three very different short films with a common theme of old time railroad days. The first film is “The Runaway Engine,” a 1912 silent movie from the popular series, “The Hazards of Helen.” The star was Helen Holmes and she did almost all of her own stunts in this action packed story.
This series and another, “The Perils of Pauline,” were being made as the suffrage movement came into the news. Our Helen is a young railroad telegraph operator and is considered not up to a man’s job by the head office. The plot concerns an unattended runaway locomotive that Helen saves from crashing into a passenger train by quick thinking and risky stunts. This pre-OSHA footage, void of any special effects, will have you on the edge of your seat.
As a special treat, accomplished local musician Terrance “12-finger” Zimmerman will provide the live musical accompaniment to the story, recreating the authentic experience of the silent era.
The second film to be shown is the award winning documentary, “Gandy Dancers.” Before machines were invented to do the heavy labor of maintaining, or “lining,” the track, it was done manually by work gangs. Black workers created a rhythmic call-and-response structure that coordinated their movements and actually allowed workers some control over the pace of the physically demanding labor. Because this system was so efficient, it was encouraged by railroad management. The documentary features eight African American retired railroad workers recount that life and recreate their musical chants and work songs. Some may find their candid language occasionally offensive. This is a good time to take children in to play with the electric train.
Last but not least, the museum will show some fascinating footage from 1955 of the Meadow River Lumber Company’s steam train operation. Watch their geared Heisler #6 speed through the woods and ford creeks. Hear for yourself the authentic song of the steam whistle that for decades echoed through the hills of Greenbrier County.
There will be refreshments and a last chance to see the Age of Steam Exhibit. As always, donations are appreciated and help to make these special events possible. For more information, contact the historical society at 304-645-3398 or email@example.com.