The television and film industry discovered New Mexico, and now it has found its commuter train cuts a mighty fine figure on screen as well.
The Rail Runner appeared in the background of several episodes of the Emmy Award winning series Breaking Bad. The show’s spin-off, Better Call Saul, also took a shine to the train and was highlighted in one episode in the first season. It seems that trains, at least the one in New Mexico with its modern look and roadrunner design, looks quite fetching to producers and directors.
“There is something special about a train on the big screen,” said Jim
Graebner, a production specialist who has been part of New Mexico’s film industry growth since the beginning. He also is the director of the film technicians training program for Central New Mexico Community College.
“I think the Rail Runner has a streamlined 1930s look to it with futuristic Art Deco lines,” he said. “That make it a good fit for film and TV hearkening back to the movies like ‘20th Century’ with John Barrymore and Carole Lombard spending most of their time in the flick on a train.”
Last August, crews with Better Call Saul reserved the train for an eight-hour shoot in Downtown Albuquerque. The new series debuted in February 2015.
The episode with the Rail Runner showed aerial footage of the train traveling through Waldo Canyon, south of Santa Fe. But most of the scene takes place onboard the train and at the Alvarado Transportation Center in Albuquerque. One of the show’s major characters, Mike Ehrmantraut, played by Jonathan Banks, appears in the scene. There are even a few Rail Runner employees in the scene who were cast as extras. Catch it on Netflix, it’s worth the look back.
There was an additional scene filmed inside the ABQ RIDE lobby at the Alvarado Transportation Center. Since the show is a prequel to Breaking Bad, the Rail Runner staff supplied the Better Call Saul production crew with posters and ads of the New Mexico Rail Runner to cover up dated materials on the flat screen LED panels inside the lobby.
“While we are very excited about the opportunity to showcase the Rail Runner in this new series, it is not the first time the train has been part of a film or television show,” said Marketing Manager Jay Faught. “There has been at least a half dozen times when crews have reserved the train for filming. One time, they even used our office.”
The Rail Runner appeared in the opening scene of the USA Network series pilot, In Plain Sight. In that scene, the two main characters of the show were picking up a person at the Downtown ABQ Station who had just traveled across the country to Albuquerque so they could enter the witness protection program. In Plain Sight was picked up for five seasons on USA. In the final season, the train was again part of the show as Mary and Marshall, the show’s main characters, were putting someone on the train at the Sandia Pueblo Station.
Films/Shows Involving the New Mexico Rail Runner Express