BRADENTON — A little movie magic came to Bradenton Friday with the iconic Tropicana juice train as the Hollywood star surrounded by adoring rail enthusiasts.
As GE locomotive No. 3029 came into view with a loud blast of its horn, people by the CSX track off Third Avenue shouted and waved as the movie cameras rolled.
It is all part of a commercial production to promote GE products. The Bradenton filming will become part of a two to three minute online commercial following the train’s journey from Florida up the east coast to New Jersey.
“This is great,” said photographer Charles Wissmann of Bradenton, who had come to take photos of a friend’s daughter and ended up being part of the show.
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Film director Andrew Wonder has a crew of four following the train and two others on the train for the journey.
“We are trying to capture the train’s point of view,” he said. “We want to give people the experience of making them feel they are part of the journey.”
State-of-the-art production equipment was put together to capture the 54-hour train trip.
A lunch-box size computer called a cinedeck is converting the shooting into slow-motion.
“So Florida might end up being a 25 second sweep down the rail and then slow motion filming at the stops,” he said. A helicopter also is providing overhead shots.
The mile-long train is expected to arrive in Greenville, N.J. between 2 and 4 a.m. Sunday.
Gary Budd of Inverness hopes to follow it at least to Rocky Mount, N.C.
The rabid rail fan found out about the shoot and drove from his Inverness home Friday to be a part of the filming.
“For rail fans, the juice train if one of the most popular,” Budd said. “It’s all about the heritage.”
As the train headed north, Budd headed for his car. hoping to catch up with it in Ocala or Wildwood. With his hand-held radio, Budd tunes into rail frequencies for the chatter and communicates with other rail enthusiasts.
“I’ve been a fan since I was 13,” he said with a smile. “Trains have been my life.”