Movie Based On Real-Life Train Drama


UPDATED: Friday November 12, 2010 3:18 PM

 A Hollywood film debuting on Friday about a runaway train is based on true story that happened in Ohio.

Much of the film was shot in the Buckeye State, 10TV's Angela An reported on Wednesday.

"Unstoppable" stars Denzel Washington and profiles a train with no passengers headed straight toward a city.

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The real-life drama played out nine years ago through miles of track in northern Ohio.

Jess Knowlton never imagined 20 minutes of his life as a train engineer would become a story on the silver screen.

"When you see it, hang on to your seat, it's going to take you for a ride," Knowlton said.

In 2001, Knowlton and conductor Terry Forson got a call about a runaway train that was barreling through northern Ohio.

An engine attached to 47 rail cars had no one at the helm, An reported.

"It was up ahead of us and the dispatcher called us and told us," Forson said.

"They asked us to go catch it and I looked at Terry and he looked at me and we said 'OK,'" Knowlton said.

The runaway train was traveling at 55 mph and an attempt to shoot out the train's safety switch failed.

The only option left was to chase the runaway train with another train going in reverse, An reported.    Once latched, the engineers could slow the runaway train down.

At its highest speed, the runaway train passed by more than 100 railroad crossings through four counties, An reported.

"This I what you call an open knuckle," Knowlton said. "When the train went by, we looked at the last car; we could see the knuckle was open."

Knowlton said they had a half-mile window to close the knuckle when the trains touched.

In train time that meant the men had 46 seconds to connect the two trains and prevent disaster.
After 66 miles, the runaway train came to a crawl and was just slow enough for another man to jump aboard and shut the engine off.

Last month Knowlton flew to Los Angeles for the premier of "Unstoppable" and met stars like Mimi Rogers, who first brought the story to director Tony Scott.

"Me, he's playing me, the old salty dog," Knowlton said of Washington playing him in the movie. "I believe in doing my job and doing it right, and don't put up with too much horse play."

Knowlton said he hopes the film will raise awareness about train safety. He also said the movie has a special credit at the end to his late wife, who passed away from cancer during the filming.

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