In this, our forth Silver Streak movie then and now post, we take a look at the derelict boarded up station seen in the movie, actually Calgary’s old CNR train depot. While made up to look abandoned it really didn’t need much help at that time as it had sat unused for many years and was forgotten and vandalized. Now it’s home to a ballet company and the building looks better then ever.
In these two scenes from the movie, the main characters, those of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, provide information to the police (who use the station as a base) on the highjacking of of the Silver Streak. Various scenes were shot not only on the outside of the building but inside as well and these allow a good look at the old depot while it was still outfitted for that purpose.
Used by passenger trains up until 1971, this station is odd in that it’s on a stub end track. Meaning, trains had to be turned around either before of after using the station as there were no run through tracks. This must have been a bit of an operating nightmare.
Originally, the building was not a station. It was constructed in 1905 as the St Mary’s Parish Hall by the local Francophone Roman Catholic Church, as a place for meetings, concerts, recitals and that sort of thing. The area where the building was located was then known as Rouleauville, but is now called the Mission District.
Serving its original purpose for only a short time, the building was later sold to the Canadian Northern Railway, a predecessor of the CNR, for use as office space. In 1913 it was converted to the station we see now, and at that time a brick addition was added to the south side. In 1985 it was gutted by fire but by 1987 it was cleaned up and fixed and put to good use by the Alberta Ballet company, which still use the building to this day.
This station was and is still flanked by a large church on the west side and a school on the east (St Mary’s High School), both of which were founded by the same religious group that constructed this building.
By the time they filmed the movie the building had been vacant for a number of years although the tracks were still in place. They remained so for at least a year after and me and my ne’er-do-well friends visited there sometime in 1977. On our visit a private passenger car was found sitting at the station, which we had great fun climbing all over. It belonged to a travelling old fashioned “country fair”, which was set up at the nearby Stampede Grounds. We were given free entry tickets by the person who was inside the car. And this fair? This is the first time I have thought of it in decades and I am currently planning some research on it. It’s a cloudy memory.
The CNR was always a minor player in Calgary and the much busier CPR station was located a number of blocks north of here, right downtown instead of on its fringes. Even today, the CNR line, now long since cut back to an industrial park on the east side of town, is much quieter than the rival Canadian Pacific Railway. Calgary is a CPR town plain and simple and the CNR is only an interloper and this modest station reflects that.
In the two pictures you can see that much has changed in the passing years, but even in spite of that much has remained constant. It was very easy to make these shots, although we are never perfect. In the first shot the station walls have changed very little, the train bridge, while converted to a public pathway, is still there and other bits help line it up. The large building in the background is no more and the tracks are long gone, replaced by a parking lot.
Even with all the changes since the filming of Silver Streak, the feel of the place is still very much that of a train station.
In the second set, the main clues are the angled projections on the high school in the background. These make squaring up the shot pretty easy.
And speaking of that high school, I believe it’s close proximity to the station made shooting the film… well…interesting. If you watch these scenes in the movie, in the background one can see students jumping out from behind buildings and hamming it up for the cameras. But you have to look hard. Pretty funny stuff actually.
This report will mark the end to this series for now. We’ll do some more, but in while, and after we finish with the Calgary scenes we’ll head further afield to the small towns and rural places in the province where they shot some of the others.
Images from the movie are copyright 20th Century Fox.
To see other Silver Streak then and now reports we’ve done, follow these links…
Silver Streak movie then and now – walking the tracks.
Silver Streak movie then and now – paper burning scene.
Silver Streak movie then and now – small town station.
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Date: February, 2013.
Location: Calgary, AB.