"Rocky Mountain Express" not only shows the Canadian Rockies in all their glory, but it also demonstrates what it's like to ride on The Empress, aka the Canadian Pacific 2816, a restored train from the 1930s.
On the National Geographic Theater's big screen at the Putnam Museum, you’ll have the feeling of actually being aboard the train that goes from Vancouver to Calgary as you take in an incredible landscape that includes mountains and valleys.
The movie's audience has a broad and varied demographic. History buffs won’t want to miss it because it details the way the first transcontinental railway in the nation was developed and built. Aficionados of trains, regardless of their age, won’t want to miss it because they’ll get to see up-close how the steam train is operated. And travel buffs won’t want to miss it because of the glorious spectacle that’s visible as the train moves along.
The Canadian Pacific Railway was finished in 1885 after years of work and sacrifice from thousands of people the world over. William Cornelius Van Horne from Chicago led the construction of the railway, and then became president of the company after the railway traveling through some of the world’s toughest terrain was completed.
Canadian filmmaker Stephen Low, a 30-year veteran of big-screen movies, is a longtime admirer of steam locomotives. His love for the big machines shows in the way he depicts the motion and sounds of the train. It took five years for him to finish the film with incredible shots not only from the vantage point of a passenger, with cameras placed all throughout the train itself, but also aerial views shot from helicopters.
The story of the railway’s construction is depicted with clever CGI maps and archival photos of the people involved in the development. Although steel and tracks are the story's focus, it never loses sight of the people — thousands of whom died on the job — who made the supreme sacrifice to build the great route because of weather, avalanches and other dangerous working conditions. Low includes the human drama and tragedy as he follows the train on its journey from west to east. Adding to the compelling story is the classic Peter, Paul & Mary version of the folk song “500 Miles.”
Get the Weekender Newsletter
Plan your weekend with our hand-picked list of the Quad Cities' best bets for entertainment.
Before you take your journey to the Putnam in Davenport to see the movie, I highly recommend that you make rockymountainexpressfilm.com your first stop. It’s the official website for the film, with beautiful scenes from the movie and information about how it was filmed.