Silent film with heroine tied to railroad tracks

Any of our silent film buffs here able to identify this cultural meme? What film(s) had the heroine either tied to the railroad tracks (while the villain twirled his mustache) or tied up to be bisected by a spinning lumber saw? I’ve been watching some old silent films lately and it occurred to me to wonder if this might be available on DVD somewhere.


I wondered about it once, so you could start with this thread.

I believe that The Perils of Pauline (1914) is the source of that cliche – if it wasn’t the first, it was certainly the most well-known.

Curses – foiled again.

It was already a cliché by 1913, when comedy producer-director Mack Sennett parodied it in Barney Oldfield’s Race for a Life, with Mabel Normand tied to the tracks as moustche-twirling villain Ford Sterling manned the train engine.

While some modern sources claim that The Perils of Pauline (1914) had a tied-to-the-tracks scene, I am skeptical. No such scene happens in the few episodes of the serial that survive, and I’ve never seen a still photograph of the scene. And like I said, it was already a comical cliché by that time. I’d be more convinced if someone could present 1914-era evidence.

I am resurrecting this thread because I think I have an answer to the question: the melodrama The Train Wreckers (1905), probably the most popular Edison film made that year. Charles Musser describes the plot:

A still photograph of the rescue.