Wheels Leave Hell: Spring in the Air

For me it all started on the trail with The Lone Ranger and his faithful companion Tonto  Here is his Fan Club

Lone Ranger

He was  dressed in an immaculate costume and mask, never shredded an inch of dust from his long dusty rides. His blue shirts never creased and there was never a sweat stain to be seen. His beautiful white horse was groomed to the minute and  although  his silver bullets brought down the "bad men " , there was never any visible signs of blood.

 After came  The Range Rider staring Jock Mahoney and his side-kick Dick West ( Dick Jones) known as the "All American Boy ", This was another wholesome family watch. Our two clean-living heroes performed 78  half hour episodes over nearly three years in the 50s
They did all their stunts.

Range Rider

Over on the "independent channel (ITV) were Rawhide and Wagon Train.

Rawhide was the story of a continual cattle drive and in its way one of the first literal ' Cowboy " programmes. It brought the actor Clint Eastwood ( Rowdy Yates ) to millions via the small screen.

Wagon Train began an eight year run from September'57. Shot in black and white, except for a failed experimental  colour season in 1963, it nevertheless reached number one in the TV ratings. More info here:Wagon Train

After the above individuals and wandering groups it was time for a proper Western Family. This was supplied by Bonanza and The High Chaparral

Bonanza  ran for 14 seasons; allowing viewers to establish continuity with " The Cartwright Family"
who lived at the 'Ponderosa Ranch '. Dad Ben, had three sons, Adam, Hoss and ' Little Joe'. Each son had a different mother, all tragically having  died leaving Ben a triple widower. This exemplified the very male nature of these early television Westerns.

More Info here:Bonanza

The High Chaparral  was one of my favourite Westerns. It was our families first venture into the world of colour television, making it all the more special. In it, 50 year old John Cannon defended the Chaparral ranch against Apaches and Mexicans from over the borders. It had good knockabout stories, including assorted ranch hands ; such as ; Uncle Buck, who mentored Ben's youngest son Blue. The women, of course only had to look beautiful and fret when trouble occurred.

More detail here : High Chaparral

All of this reminiscing regarding Westerns is because a couple of weeks ago I saw the very last episode, after a run of five seasons of the magnificent Hell On Wheels.

Hell On Wheels.

  • "Cullen Bohannon, a former soldier and slaveholder, follows the track of a band of Union soldiers, the killers of his wife. This brings him to the middle of one of the biggest projects in US history, the building of the transcontinental railroad. After the war years in the 1860s, this undertaking connected the prospering east with the still wild west. 
  • The show introduces real characters such as Thomas Durant, who was responsible for building the railroad from east to west. Bohannon may be the main character, but his adventures are cleverly woven amid real historical events and issues. There were hostilities among whites and recently freed slaves working on the rail line. There were also difficulties with the Irish crews, who weren't considered to be too much better, during those times. Of course there were also conflicts with Indians, who resented the crossing of their territory with total disregard of their sacred places. And of course there are difficulties with the building of the railroad itself, weather problems, difficult terrain, cheating officials, and late payrolls. Also shows the difficult lives of women in the era. "

The principal character Cullen Bohannon was played  by Anson Mount.

This part took him into extremes of temperature, terrain and was the exact antithesis of the above Westerns . The mud was real and all got 'down and dirty'. The tough gig of building the railroad often caused  rowdy behaviour as each day's work was celebrated in drink and whoring.

The woman, including a journalist , editor and ranch owner were shown as tough, resourceful and intent upon survival.  This was life in the raw, an uncompromising realistic depiction of Western frontier life.

Mention must be made of the other pivotal character Thomas ' Doc ' Durant. He was the wheeler-dealer who organised the financing of the Union Pacific Railroad. The US government paid for each mile laid, so it was no surprise that the Doc seldom had the route mapped in straight lines.
Durant was played by the Irish actor  Colm Meaney. As one viewed the programme, one could not fail to observe the relish that Colm inhabited  the part.

The history of the two railroads; the Union (east to West) and The Central Pacific  (west to east ) totalling over 1700 miles when joined and complete, was the story of corruption and financial mis-management. Many lost fortunes in this enterprise.

Whilst the series as a whole,was largely a work of faction; nevertheless the arc of the story followed broadly actual events.

Thomas 'Doc ' Durant, for example was based on a real life character.
Here are his details from Wikipedia:

"Thomas Clark Durant (February 6, 1820 – October 5, 1885) was an American financier and railroad promoter. He was vice-president of the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) in 1869 when it met with the Central Pacific railroad at Promontory Summit in Utah Territory. He created the financial structure which led to the CrΓ©dit Mobilier scandal.
He was successful in building railroads in the Midwest, and, after the UP was organized in 1862 by an act of CongressJohn A. Dix was elected president and Durant vice president of the company. The burden of management and money raising was assumed by Durant, and, with much money at his disposal, he helped to secure in 1864 the passage of a bill that increased the land grants and privileges of the railroad. He organized and at first controlled the CrΓ©dit Mobilier of America, but in 1867 he lost control of the company to brothers Oliver and Oakes Ames. Durant, however, continued on the directorate of the Union Pacific and furiously pushed construction of the railroad until it met the Central Pacific RR on May 10, 1869. The Ames group then procured his discharge.[1]"

If you can get a chance to see this series I am certain you won"t be disappointed. It has screened
 on T.C.M channel and can be viewed on Amazon Prime.


Spring, we hope is just around the corner. Here are some floral reminders.


Well March, the only month with two British saints ( David and Patrick) is upon us.
The Cheltenham National Hunt Festival beckons (14-17 ) and thus my wishes go out to all 
 jockeys that themselves and their intended mounts remain healthy and well.

Wifi for now ,


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