“On July 23, 1926, the most expensive single shot in silent-film history was filmed for The General. This was the shot in which a bridge previously sabotaged by Johnnie collapses under the weight of the Northern soldiers’ train. Three or four thousand local people had gathered on that hot summer day to witness what would be the single-most expensive shot of the silent era. $42,000 (over a half-million dollars in by 2010 standards) had been spent for the scene’s exhaustive preparation. At three o’clock in the afternoon, Keaton gave the signal to the six cameramen to begin cranking. The unmanned engine made its way across the tracks. The timbers of the bridge had been partly sawed, and when a dynamite charge went off, the bridge snapped in half. The engine dropped with a huge splash of scalding steam into the river below.
The train’s whistle was said to have emitted a long, mournful scream, signaling to the spectators that something catastrophic had occurred. A dummy had been left at the throttle to give the impression that a live engineer had perished in the crash. When the dummy’s severed head floated by in the adjoining stream, more than one woman in the crowd fainted. And the looks of shock you see on the faces of the Union officers in the movie were real, because the actors who played them were not told what was going to happen to the train.
The Texas would languish for fifteen years in the Row River. It was not disposed of until World War II when it was sold for scrap.”