Johnny Day (Peter Alford)Jim Horning (Arthur Curtiss James)
Joseph E Daniel
Of Rails & Sails is a one-hour docudrama about the extraordinary life and times of Arthur Curtis James, a relatively unknown railroad baron, prominent and intrepid yachtsman, generous philanthropist, avant garde socialite and secret philanderer, who was one of the ten richest men in America in the 1920s and 30s, owning one-seventh of all the railroad track in the United States. Unlike his contemporaries - Vanderbilt, Morgan, Rockefeller - Arthur Curtiss James is not a household name. Arthur was a private man who did business quietly, efficiently, and smartly. His far-reaching, enormous philanthropic activities were done without fanfare, often anonymously. Yet he is an exemplar of privileged life during the Golden Age. He was the last great railroad developer, building the final and most complete transcontinental railroad system in America. He was also an extraordinary yachtsman who owned and sailed three of the great, legendary yachts of the time - over a quarter of a million lifetime nautical miles! His main residence was Beacon Hill House, a 33-acre estate in Newport, Rhode Island, but he owned expansive mansions in Manhattan and Tarrytown, New York, and in Coconut Grove, Florida. By all accounts he was a likable, reasonable gentleman of good humor. He was a patron of art and culture, and a generous benefactor to those in need. He was adventurous and fun loving - perhaps a little too fun loving, as whispered rumors of his infidelity and womanizing were not uncommon amongst the employees living on his estate. One such insinuation cost a close relative her inheritance. Drawing on the remarkable likeness of actor James Horning as Arthur, and Johnny Day as his friend Peter (and the film's narrator), Of Rails & Sails tells the story of this remarkable man, who died in 1941 but whose footprint still looms large today.