Those who read this blog know we spend a lot of time in the Crowsnest Pass region of Alberta. We finds so much to do there – there are trails to hike, mountains and ridges to summit and lots of historical sites to explore. Plus, as it turns out, a Silver Streak movie then and now series to shoot. Parts of that film were shot in and around the Pass and in this report we do our best to duplicate those scenes.
The movie was released in 1976.
In the first shot we see the Silver Streak passing by. This scene which we do our best to match, was taken in Sentinel Alberta near the west end of the Pass. In the background, two modest ridges (unnamed from what I can find) help line things up. The striped stack from the gas plant also provides a good reference point. In the then shot, a road crossing can be seen, but we took our picture from the other side of it due to heavy vegetation that has grown up in the interim, that would have blocked the view.
In the second scene, Gene Wilder’s character is seen walking the tracks after have accidentally fallen off the train – in total he would fall off or be thrown off the train multiple times. Clearly they shot in the early spring and it appears quite chilly out – I know that from experience and in the windy Crowsnest Pass, that time of year can be numbing. We line up the same scene and do a pretty reasonable job of it. In behind is Sentry Mountain, a moderate scramble route.
Staying in the same location, but changing positions, we now see George Caldwell (Gene’s character) looking cold and glum as he ponders what to do next. Our shot, which is looking west, duplicates that from the movie. In behind is the Crowsnest radio tower, a place we’ve been up. That structure, the ridge itself and that one telephone pole all help line things up. The latter is now missing one cross buck but otherwise is tilted exactly as seen in the earlier shot.
Moving on to the next scene, George is running towards the road in hopes of flagging down a passing car. The highway has been moved a bit west and now crossed the tracks on a bridge. Remains of the old road are easily found however and while the bridge blocks some of the scenery, we are still able to line up the scene using the mountains in back. In addition to Crowsnest Ridge on left, we can see Phillipps Peak/Tecumseh Peak on right. That mountain has two high point, each with it’s own name and is also a nice scramble to the top (so I am told).
In the final scene, our view is from a vehicle, with Gene Wilder doing his best to flag it down. While most of the road is gone, it’s easy to see where it was. Plus the small ridge in back, Wedge Mountain, confirms our position. Given this is (was) a highway, it’s good that they put in the overpass. Much safer.
All the shots we’ve documented, by the way, are within a kilometre or so of each other.
Keep in mind that while we try our best to duplicate a scene, we are sometimes limited by various factors. Th aspect ratios on the movie cameras are different then on ours and sometimes they used cranes or hoists to capture a scene, where as we are stuck to the ground. Anyway our goal is to have fun and if we get a shot spot on, great, but if not, we really don’t care.
It’s not clear where these scenes were supposed to take place, they never say, but one can presume the rocky mountains in the US. Instead, as we all know, Canada filled in for most of the scenes in that motion picture.
The railway here, along the CPR’s Crowsnest Subdivision, is it’s southern mainline. Extending from Lethbridge to it’s namesake town, and beyond, it’s home to perhaps a half dozen or more trains a day. It’s a conduit for coal heading east from the mines just west over the BC border. Plus lots of bulk materials (potash in particular it seems) move west headed to the US connection near Yahk BC.
For filming they must have shut down the line for at least some of each day. Other scenes were shot just west across the BC border along the same line and we’ll be tackling those at some point. They will require a bit of a hike in, but that’s not a problem for us.
For the filming of the movie, not only did the producers utilized various CPR’s lines around he province, they also rented an entire CPR passenger train. The railways had a surplus of equipment at this time, and was more than happy lend them out to the movie. Not longer after filming Via Rail, Canada’s national network took over CPR’s money loosing passenger operations. Interestingly, one of locomotives used in the filming still exists (retired but not scrapped) as do most of the passenger cars, which still remain in Via service. These cars date from the 1950s, meaning most of Canada’s passenger trains are an operating museum.
This train was the first passenger consist to use the line since the Kettle Valley Express (westbound) and Kootenay Express (eastbound) were discontinued in the 1960s. These trains travelled this southern mainline between Vancouver BC and Medicine Hat Alberta.
At the base of the radio tower ridge is the very interesting Crowsnest power plant.
Silver Streak is a great movie, one we recommend. Not just because it was filmed in our province either, rather it’s quite funny and clever, even if (to train geeks) there are many glaring errors.
Images from the movie are copyright 20th Century Fox.
To see some other Silver Streak then and now series we’ve done, click each of the links below…
Silver Streak movie then and now – paper burning scene.
Silver Streak movie then and now – bridge jump.
Silver Streak movie then and now – small town station.
If you wish more information about these places, by all means contact us!
Date: June, 2013.
Location: Crowsnest Pass, AB.