|Ontario Science Centre photo of a Canadian Pacific steam train|
The other day I got to see the documentary Imax film that's been showing at the Museum of Civilisation since the beginning of last month: Rocky Mountain Express.
At the end of the nineteenth century, against the odds, William Cornelius Van Horne of Illinois built the most challenging stretch of the trans-Canada railway, through the mountains of British Columbia and Alberta. He was aided and abetted by crazily obsessive surveyor-engineers like Major A.B. Rogers of Rogers Pass fame and assisted by heroic Chinese workers in the construction crews. They were paid $1 a day for their work in horrendously dangerous conditions. Tragically, hundreds of them died before the railway was finished.
Stephen Low of Ottawa directed the film, which I thought outstanding. A report in the National Post described the cinematography:
Cameras mounted on the engine’s cowcatcher, above the drive wheels and atop the boiler provide a train’s eye view hearkening back to some of the first frames of motion-picture film ever made. Helicopter footage captures the romantic pairing of engine and landscape ...and if you've ever read Pierre Burton's book The Last Spike you'll know what a gripping story is told in the voice-over.