Retracing Fess Parker’s steps in Georgia

ATLANTA – Fess Parker, a long-time actor known for portraying famous historical figures turned California winemaker, died today. He was 85.

Parker is perhaps best-remembered for playing both Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone on television shows based on the real life historical figures. But, one of his often-overlooked roles has a strong connection to Georgia.

Parker portrayed James J. Andrews in Walt Disney’s 1956 movie “The Great Locomotive Chase.” The movie retells the story of the Andrews Raid of April 12, 1862, in which Union soldiers stole a locomotive planning to destroy the Western & Atlantic Railroad between Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tenn. Their plan failed.

The movie was filmed on the Tallulah Falls Railway in 1955. Disney is said to have selected the railroad – which ran between Cornelia, Ga., and Franklin, N.C., and ceased operation in March 1961 – because it more closely resembled the Western & Atlantic Railroad as it did in 1862 than the actual railroad itself did at the time of filming.

While the railroad is no longer in operation and few remnants of its former existence remain, the Tallulah Falls Railroad museum in Rabun Gap, Ga., features a number of exhibits about the railroad and a two-foot gauge railroad. A picture of Parker during the filming of “The Great Locomotive Chase” is among the museum’s collection of historic pictures on display.

After he retired from show business, Parker opened Fess Parker Winery in Santa Ynez, Calif. The winery served as the fictitious Frass Canyon winery in the 2004 movie “Sideways.”

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