Aside from gondolas, better suited for bite-sized travel, trains are probably the most pleasant and picturesque way of getting from A to B. One can sleep in a train, feast in a train, daydream in a train, lulled by the rhythmic sound of train cars gliding on rails and dazzled by the scenery waltzing by. No GPS needed, no risk of tumbling down from the sky.
But for us to enjoy this ease of travel, it’s good to remember countless men once had to blast through mountains and lay down tracks, often in subhuman conditions and at the peril of their life, while others are still tasked with keeping equipment shipshape year-round – not a breezy job either.
In celebration of all things locomotive, check out these archival photos and illustrations taken from some of our essential train films. The titles of films you can watch on NFB.ca are highlighted in green.
Railroad Town (1956). A portrait of Melville, Saskatchewan, one of the vital service stations that keeps the Canadian National Railways running smoothly.
Railroaders (1958). A short doc about winter railroading in the Canadian Rockies and the men who keep the lines clear.
The Railrodder (1965). Buster Keaton crosses Canada from east to west… atop a railway track speeder.
Runaway (2009). A short animation that unfolds aboard a train whose freewheeling passengers celebrate and make merry while disaster looms just around the bend.