Rocky Mountain Express

Synopsis: A history of the nation's first transcontinental railway accompanies a steam-train ride through the Canadian Rockies.
Genre: Documentary
Director(s): Stephen Low
Production: Stephen Low Films
  1 win.
46 min

absorbs little water.

Torrential rains erode

and sculpt sandstone cliffs

into hoodoos that can collapse

into mudslides,

and bury the line.


Here, engineers and tracklayers


a new set of obstacles

that could be neither

filled, nor bridged,

nor tunneled through.

When construction crews

arrived at these lakes,

they fully intended

to bridge them and continue.

But when they dropped weights

attached to 400 feet of rope,

they never reached the bottom.

The lakes would be simply

too deep to cross.

Trains would have to take

the long route around--

as they do to this day.

(engine chugging rapidly)

Where the ground was flat

and the grades easy,

General Manager Van Horne

pushed hard

to make up for time and money

lost in the canyons

and mountains.

They were Canadians, Americans,

British, Europeans, and Asians.

(men chatting, tools clanking)

They froze in bitter cold

and toiled

in fierce summer heat,

eaten raw by insects.

Yet, with bare hands,

they laid as many as six miles

of track every day.

In 1882,

nearly 500 miles of track

were laid in a single season--

a world record and a source

of enormous pride

for the track crews.



(whistle blows)


At the railroad town

of Revelstoke

the canyons, lakes and deserts

of the interior lay behind.

Relatively easy going,

compared to the Selkirk

and Rocky Mountains

looming ahead.

General Manager Van Horne

was an amateur geologist,

a talented artist,

and an accomplished violinist.

Though he was best known

as an all-night,

scotch-drinking poker player.

Perhaps his greatest

gamble, however,

lay in the route chosen

east of Revelstoke.

Van Horne, the CPR,

and the government

were anxious to keep

powerful American railroads

from moving

into Southern Canada.

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Submitted on August 05, 2018


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"Rocky Mountain Express" STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 1 Jun 2020. <>.

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