Safety Third is a Shires animated short film that was released in 1950.
The film opens with an overhead shot of the Illinois Central Railroad's sprawling railroad yard in the morning, where all the trains are fast asleep, all except Carrey Jones' train, with No. 2, an American 4-4-0: Carrey Senior/Junior/Western Jones, Sr., which is slow asleep. The shot begins to focus on a single train and eventually cuts to a closeup of the cab window, where Carrey is revealed to be sleeping in his engine's cab.
Doffing his bedclothes (he is fully dressed in blue overalls and a stereotypical engineer's cap underneath), he checks his watch and realizing that he is behind schedule, hurriedly readies his engine to depart. Mail is loaded aboard the train and with a toot on the whistle, Carrey sets off at a dangerously high speed through the maze of switches and sidings, nearly t-boning two other trains in the process before making it safely out of the yard (much to the switchman's relief).
At first, the trip is uneventful and we see Carrey relaxing in a rocking chair in front of the open firedoor, casually stoking it one piece of coal at a time as if it were a parlour stove. Further on, however, the weather turns nasty, flooding the tracks like "the bed of a creek" and all but swamping the train. Eight hours late, but nonetheless undaunted, Carrey climbs up on the cab roof and uses his coal shovel as a paddle. Before long, he has cleared the flood and is on his way again.
No sooner is the train back up to full speed, though, then Carrey is forced to bring it screeching to a halt: standing in the middle of the tracks grazing, is a large brown cow which finally moves aside after much shouting and whistle blowing on Carrey's part.
Unfortunately, a new problem presents itself. A stereotypical villain with a black handlebar mustache has tied a lady to the tracks in front of Carrey's train. Unwilling to waste any more time stopping, Carrey rushes forward, stands on his engine's cowcatcher, and scoops up the terrified woman just seconds in the moment in which the train is about to run her over. The villain turns to the camera and exclaims theatrically, "Curses! Foiled again!" Casey is in such a hurry now, that he doesn't even stop to let her off, depositing her (rope and all) in the arms of a pleasantly surprised station master as he rushes past the next platform at full speed.
Hours later, night has fallen and Carrey's engine is now steaming full-bore through a narrow, snow-covered mountain pass. As the train passes over a high trestle spanning a gorge however, another stereotypical villain who is "not on the level" nearly brings things to an explosive end. Once again undaunted by a seemingly impassable obstacle, Casey's engine now struggles, huffing and puffing, up the side of the gorge and continues on his way.
A short while later, the camera focuses on a backside shot of a group of armed men on horseback as they watch the train from up on a hillside in a desert. Casey is about to get his train attacked by train robbers! The next shot finds the whole gang inside the cab, brandishing their guns and knives menacingly. At first, Carrey is so caught up in stoking the boiler, that he is oblivious to their presence. It is in the next moment that he accidentally picks up one of the bandits along with his coal shovel-full of coal that he finally notices the uninvited company when he nearly shovels one of the bandits into his engine's furnace. Even then, Carrey is more annoyed by the distraction than anything else and begins to fight the train bandits, hitting them repeatedly with his coal shovel while continuing to stoke the boiler.
After quickly throwing the last of the would-be thieves off the train, Carrey checks his watch and is horrified to discover that the train thieves have put him behind schedule once again. Determined to make up for lost time whatever the cost, he opens the throttle so wide that he actually rips the handle from its mount and throws it away.
The scenery outside quickly becomes a blur as the train travels faster and faster. Carrey adds more coal to the furnace, and, when running out, also uses his coal shovel and rocking chair, until the ribbing on the engine's boiler exterior is forced off. Casey gives the engine some running repairs while the train roars down a hill.
Just a bit further away, while otherwise occupied, Carrey doesn't notice that another train, a slow freight train, double-headed by a pair of 4-8-0 engines No. 77 and No. 5 is coming toward him on the same track, although Carrey is too busy fixing his engine's whistle-topped dome to notice. As the other train approaches, Carrey grabs his engine's dome and puts it back on. An elder engineer, with a corn-cob pipe in his mouth, who, on the other train, and while piloting his front engine, upon seeing Casey's train coming toward him, screams 'Egad!' in fear, and blows the whistle, but continues to say 'Oh My Gosh!', just to let the others know that Carrey's train is heading toward them like a bullet. The brake-man of Carrey's train, upon seeing the double-headed slow freight train, gasps, climbs out of the caboose, and runs up to the engine to tell Carrey about the oncoming train, but knows that Carrey can't hear the brake-man, who continues to warn about the other train, which is still approaching. As the other train approaches when the train speeds down the mountain, the conductor blows the whistle, and then fails to get the message through from Carrey. As the conductor says 'So long.', he jumps off the train, and now in the next shot, a far away view from Carrey's train, is still seen on the engine's roof in the next shot. The workers on the other train, upon seeing Carrey's train, gasp and jump off their engines with their freight train unharmed and run for cover, and just as Carrey sees the other train approaching him, he finally yelps 'Egad!' in surprise one more time, before the two trains collide into each other with a humongous explosion in a cloud of black smoke.
Afterwards, we are taken to a station, presumably the one Carrey is meant to terminate at, and, with Carrey being late, the Porter fears the worst. Then, much to his joy and surprise, Carrey rolls down the hill in the remains of his engine carrying a bag of mail.
A beaten up Carrey then shows his watch with pride, it stating he is 'ON TIME-ALMOST'. And the Narrator says 'Next time, take it with the train!'
- Director: Bob Cormack
- Story: Cap Palmer
- Animation: Cy Young, John McManus, Don Taito, Ben Cox
- Effects Animation: Don Patterson
- Layout: Don Smith
- Background: Terry Lind
- Music: Paul J. Steck
- Camera: Gene Moore (uncredited), Sid Glenar (uncredited)
- Film Editor: Levitow Robertson (uncredited)
- Sound Director: C.O. Stevens (uncredited)
- Sound Effects: Dale Pickett (uncredited), Jack King (uncredited)
- Ink and Paint: Warren Johnson (uncredited)
- Sound Recording: Harold J. Scott (uncredited)
- Orchestrations: James Dietrich (uncredited)
- Carrey's train is featured in the short Out of Scam as the model train Douglas Duck rides in his train set.
- The end of the scene where Carrey is leaving the railyard in a hurry, is mimicked in Detective Rat, a Remy Rat Shires Cartoon.
- Michael Shires Cartoon Classics: Shires's Tall Tales
- Michael Shires Treasures: Shires Rarities
- Shires's American Legends