These “then” pictures from the 1976 movie Silver Streak aren’t that terribly interesting and normally we’d ignore them as being not worth a report. However, with the discovery of some behind the scenes shots taken by ex-CPR employee Larry Buchan while they filmed these scenes, it takes on a whole new dimension. Now it’s interesting!
In the first then picture we see the runaway train near the final climax in the movie where it crashes into the train station in Chicago. In reality it just west of downtown Calgary and heading towards it, far removed from the Windy City. My attempt to duplicate the shot was pretty poor due to limited access and the the huge changes that have taken place in the neighbourhood since the movie was shot. All conspired to make it impossible to line up a shot effectively.
The next couple images from the movie show scenes shot in and around the Calgary train station, just east of where the first image was filmed. The location of the runby shot could not be duplicated due to access issues, but by tracking down the buildings shown in the movie that still exists (many of which are obscured by newer buildings), finding the approximate location was easy. The last then image shows a signal light and was taken right at the entrance to the covered station. The location of this picture can be confirmed because of the building seen in the top right. It still exists and in fact is home to a friend. Duplicating this shot, for obvious reasons, would be impossible.
Now we move on to the interesting bits! Our good friend Larry Buchan, as mentioned a long time ex-CPR employee, was able to dig up some pictures he took while the movie was be made. In these shots we’re looking at the very area where the scenes we’ve discussed were taken. When these were taken the area south of the tracks just west of the station was open, now there are too many buildings blocking the view.
The lead engine in the first behind the scenes picture, thinly disguised for the fictional railway AMRoad, is actually CPR 4070. This General Motor Diesel Division (GMDD – London Ontario) model FP7a was built in 1952 and for a time in the 1950s and 60s carried the number 1426. Equipped with a steam generator for passenger service, it worked various local and long distance trains across the CPR system including holding down the lead on the railway’s crack cross-continent train, The Canadian. This engine could also be found pulling freights too and I have seen many such pictures showing it working in that less glamourous role.
In the movie, 4070 was accompanied sister engine 4067. The latter, playing second fiddle in the movie, was sold to Via Rail, Canada’s then new passenger train carrier, in 1978. It’s long since retired and scrapped. Locomotive 4070 however stayed on the CPR roster into the early 1980s before being sold to a commuter railway in Quebec. After retirement from that service in the early years of this century, it was sold to a tourist railway in the same province. I understand it was never used by them though and otherwise languished in the dead lines. As of a few years ago, the unit still existed and was stored unserviceable, although I have not been able to find newer data on its status.
Of the passenger cars seen, we can confirm the identity of the end car, which was the CPR’s Kokanee Park dome observation. After the railway quit the passenger business, it was conveyed to Via Rail, who continues to use it to this day. In fact, most if not all the cars seen in the movie are still around. By watching the film, we’ve been able to acquire most of the car numbers. The consist included a number of coaches, Chateau series sleepers and a baggage car. It’s amazing to know that these cars, built by the Budd Company in the 1950s and rebuilt many times since, still continue to be used to this day by Via Rail. The end dome car had a special ladder added to it for the duration of the filming.
In addition to Calgary (numerous locations), the movie was filmed in various places around Alberta, including High River, The Drumheller area, the Crowsnest Pass region, along with BC, Toronto Ontario and US locations.
It’s amazing how much Calgary’s skyline has changed since the shooting of the film. Yet some of the buildings seen back then are still there.
These images are scanned from print film and are not the best quality, but are still immensely fascinating. Thank you Larry for allowing us use of them.
Images from the movie are copyright 20th Century Fox.
To see some 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 – boarded up train station.
Silver Streak movie then and now – small town station.
The bottom four images are copyright Larry Buchan and to visit his very interesting blog, where he shares stories about his time working on the railway, go here…
If you wish more information on what you see here, by all means contact us!
Date: 1976 and February, 2013.
Location: Calgary, AB.