Rocky Mountain Express. Courtesy of The Stephen Low Company.
Numerous films have been made about the building of Canada, and our country’s railways have always been of particular interest. Few films, whether educational about Canada or more specific to railroading, has ever been made in such fine detail while utilizing the most unique of large-format movie techniques – IMAX.
Rocky Mountain Express tells in detail the story of the building of the Canadian Pacific
Railway (CPR) primarily focusing on the construction of the rail network through the Rocky Mountains. Given the nature of the story, and that although the bare material would be interesting to some (i.e. train fans, history buffs, etc.) the story required something that could captivate and hold audiences for fifty minutes. Therefore, talented IMAX film maker Mr. Stephen Low decided on bringing Canadian Pacific Railway’s restored Hudson steam
locomotive No. 2816 (dubbed the Empress) to the big screen to help tell this remarkable story.
Mr. Low has followed a life-long dream of railroading and film making passion combined, and had always wanted to do a film on the construction of the CPR through the Rockies. Little did he know that he and his crew would have the opportunity to use, courtesy of the CPR, a fully functional main line steam locomotive in the film.
Key components of the film are its educational value, historical accuracy, breathtaking scenery, and the No. 2816 Empress Steam Locomotive, itself.
From young school children to adults, a film with the educational value of Rocky Mountain Express should be seen by all Canadians. The film highlights the productive relationship between Canada and the United States, as one of the main stories is of William Van Horne, the son of an “Illinois dirt farmer” who led the charge as CPR’s General Manager during the construction.
There have been numerous books and films made about the building of the CPR. However, few incorporate with historical accuracy, the visual and editorial detail that has been included in Rocky Mountain Express. Mr. Low and his team went to great effort to film locations along the line such as ancient snow shelters and cemeteries that nobody knew still existed today. This helps drive home so many historical points in the film about the people who built the CPR and their struggles.
Much of the film’s breathtaking scenery was shot from a helicopter flying through the mountains, while most of the time pacing steam locomotive No. 2816 and her train. Watching the remarkable scenery on the gigantic IMAX screen leave most viewers speechless and in awe! Mr. Low has captured Canada’s Rocky Mountains in all of their glory.
The film features Steam Locomotive No. 2816, and seldom has film captured the majesty of a steam locomotive like in Rocky Mountain Express. Using many innovative camera angles and microphone placements (many mounted on No. 2816) the film captures every fascinating aspect of the steam locomotive. From clouds of steam hanging in the air above the train for miles, to high speed running gear shots showing first-hand the mass of machinery, to the sound of the high speed rhythmic machine gun cadence of her exhaust there is nothing left undocumented.
Considering most people in our society today only know a steam locomotive to be “Thomas the Tank Engine” or a rusty hulk in a park, it is truly a blessing that average people can view these massive, powerful, yet graceful machines with such accuracy.
This film highlights Canada and its humble yet powerful beginnings and struggles, which is a miraculous story of which many have forgotten or overlooked. Hundreds of thousands of people throughout North America and overseas already have seen this film as it is being shown all over the world. There are dozens of theaters on the waiting list to show it. If the general population did not know anything about Canada and our story, they certainly will after watching this IMAX film.