A documentary film chronicling the search for a train that sank in Slocan Lake in late 1946 has premiered at a film festival in Sudbury and should be screened locally soon.
The Last Stop: Canada’s Lost Locomotive examines an infamous incident that saw an entire CPR train tip from a barge. It follows the filmmakers’ efforts to locate it and features the last surviving member of the train’s crew.
Director Kaio Kathriner said the film is being shopped around to distributors and broadcasters, but in the meantime, it’s touring the festival circuit.
The film had its first screening at the Cinefest Sudbury International Film Festival on Sept. 16. Kathriner and several colleagues who worked on it were present.
“It was an amazing experience to see our movie on the big screen,” he said. “It was so rewarding. All the images, sound, mood, excitement and adrenaline. It all came through.”
Although Kathriner has made many short films, this is his first feature-length production.
While the Sudbury audience was unfamiliar with the story, Kathriner said as a big mining centre and major stop on the CPR, it’s similar to towns in the Kootenays.
“People loved it,” he said of the reaction. “What I was excited about was that these folks were on the edge of their seats for the whole hour and and a half. We worked really hard to weave the history and the story of the train with the excitement and adventure of the dive and the search.”
Now Kathriner says they will be entering the film in other festivals “everywhere between Kelowna and Calgary,” including Nelson and Nakusp while they try to secure a broadcast or streaming deal to make the film available to a wider audience. He expects to attend those screenings with producer Colten Wilkie.
Wilkie and executive producer Clint Stibbard have wanted to tell this story for a long time, he explained. Stibbard has know of the story since childhood, as his father once worked at a mine in Sandon and brought his kids to the Slocan Valley on holiday.
The pair decided they wanted to find the train and enlisted Kathriner’s help as filmmaker — Stibbard and Kathriner played on the same hockey team.
“So he hired me and and away we went,” Kathriner says. “The next there and a half years of my life unfolded telling the story about a train at the bottom of Slocan Lake.”
Most of the filming was completed in 2020. Initially, they planned to shoot a teaser to create interest in the project before committing to it in full, but Kathriner says they quickly realized they really only had one shot.
“This dive team is only going to come out once, and they’re not that cheap. So we had to take full advantage of them being there,” he says. “We had to bring our whole team out and we have cameras rolling for days and days.”
In addition to the search on the water, they interviewed locals, shot underground in a mine and took drone footage of the lake. The past few years have been spent editing the finished product, “and my god, are we ever excited what we ended up with.”
The key to the film was Bill Chapman, the brakeman on the crew, he was asleep on the caboose when the barge tipped. Now living in Penticton, he provided his memories and pointed the crew to the location of the wreck.
“He became an integral part of our story because he gave us the most clues about where the train was and what happened that day and how everything unfolded,” Kathriner says.
On Oct. 7, Chapman will turn 100. And to celebrate his birthday, Wilkie and Kathriner are going to his house to show him the film. “We are so excited to bring this thing full circle,” Kathriner says.
Info on local screenings will be announced in the coming weeks and months. You can watch the trailer below.