May 312013
Heritage Park colonist car

Calgary’s Heritage Park is a wonderful living history museum. With so many exhibits and things to explore, it would be hard to see it all in a single day. Many movies and TV shows have been shot here, including the mid 1970s CBC mini series, the National Dream. For this report we try to duplicate some of the scenes from that production.

Based on the book of the same name by author Pierre Burton, along with the follow up book the Last Spike, the series at the time was the largest undertaking attempted by the government owned TV network. Filming took place throughout 1973 and the first broadcast was in the spring of 1974. There were eight one hour episodes, all narrated by Burton. If you like Canadian history we’d recommend you see it – Connie and I found it at the local library and thoroughly enjoyed watching it.

Be sure to comment on this post (below pictures).

The production company made good use of the park and in some scenes it doubled as Winnipeg Manitoba in the 1880s. Like in the first picture where we see a horse car passing a pool hall. In reality this is the “1910 village” as the park calls it. Since the film was shot, a new (old) building has been placed next to the pool hall, preventing us from doing the exact same angle. The Baron’s Snooker Parlour as it’s called has been here since at least the early 1970s.

In the next scene it passes in front of a blacksmith shop. That building has been moved since the filming and it sits further down a side street now. They do demonstrations here which are very interesting.

The horse car seen still exists and while it looks old, it is not, being a reproduction car built in the late 1960s. They laid down what looks to be some temporary tracks for those scenes.

Other exhibits doubling as a set include one of the train stations in the park. In that next set of pictures, William Van Horne, the man responsible for the overseeing of construction of the railway, is seen conversing with an associate. This was shot inside the ex-CPR Midnapore train station. As you can see little has changed between the time the series was shot and our visit. Midnapore was once a small village on it’s own, long since swallowed by the city of Calgary.

Heritage Park has quite an extensive collection of railway passenger cars and some of these were used in filming as well. For example, the one scene shows Van Horne in his private car. In our scene we do our best to duplicate the shot but unfortunately ropes prevent us from accessing the spot needed to line up the shot well.

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In the last scene, taken inside a colonists car (essentially a cattle car for people), we see some newly arrived immigrates heading west. While cramped, stuffy and uncomfortable these economy class cars were instrumental in getting hordes of people to their new homes on the prairies. Our shot shows what the car looks like when it’s empty.

Back to the author who’s books were the inspiration for this mini series. He once spoke at my school, I think it was grade seven, and I was so fascinated by what we said that afterwards we talked for what must have been a good hour or so. We discussed all manner of things especially the building of the railway and his life in the Klondike (two subjects that I so love). I am pretty certain it was this event that inspired me to be the history buff you see today.

We did not go into too much detail about the history of the various Heritage Park Exhibits used in the film and instead will save these for future reports.

Images form the series are copyright CBC.

We’ve found other interesting things at Heritage Park and to read those posts, click the links below…
Prairie sentinels – Heritage Park Calgary.
Coal mine locomotives.
CPR Selkirk locomotive 5931.

If you wish more information about this place, by all means contact us!

Date: May, 2013.
Location: Heritage Park Calgary, AB.

Heritage Park National Dream 1

Heritage Park doubles as Winnipeg Manitoba.

Heritage Park pool hall

The same scene in 2013.


Heritage Park National Dream 2

A horse car passes a blacksmith shop.

Heritage Park blacksmith

The building has moved since the National Dream was filmed.

Heritage Park Winnipeg horse car

The horse car seen in the series.


National Dream Heritage Park 3

Van Horne and an associate discuss some problems.

Heritage Park Midnapore station

The building is actually the former Midnapore Alberta train station.


National Dream Heritage Park 4

Van Horne in his private car.

Heritage Park passenger car

Inside the same car almost forty years later.


Heritage Park National Dream 5

They packed them in like cattle in the colonist car.

Heritage Park colonist car

The same colonist car today. This was economy class with little in the way of comforts.


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2 Comments on "Then and now, the National Dream"

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Kerry B
Kerry B

Do you know what other movies were filmed at the park? I saw a western recently and I forget its name but I think it was filmed there.