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Rocky Mountain Express Thunders Onto the Giant Screen At the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center’s Heikoff Giant Dome Theater; Opening Saturday, March 9, 2013!

Awarded 2012 Best Film (in a tie with To the Arctic, currently playing), Best Film Short Subject and Best Cinematography by the Giant Screen Cinema Association!

February 12, 2013



VIP Media Screening to take place on Thursday, February 28.

Special Guest, Producer Pietro L. Serapiglia, Joins Us for a Q&A to Follow



San Diego, CA—February 8, 2013--All aboard for the ultimate in romantic railway travel. Rocky Mountain Express, a wonderful giant screen experience for IMAX® theaters by award-winning filmmaker Stephen Low, roars into the Heikoff Giant Dome Theater at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center on Saturday March 9, 2013. Rocky Mountain Express weaves together spectacular IMAX aerial cinematography, archival photographs and maps and the potent energy and rhythms of a live steam locomotive to immerse audiences in this remarkable story from the age of steam.


Rocky Mountain Express received top honors for Best Film in a first-ever tie with To the Arctic (currently playing at the Fleet) and was awarded Best Film Short Subject and Best Cinematography by the Giant Screen Cinema Association (GSCA). These awards are voted on by giant screen theaters from around the world and were presented at the GSCA 2012 annual conference in Sacramento, California.


Rocky Mountain Express propels audiences on a present-day steam train journey through the breathtaking vistas of the Canadian Rockies and relates the extraordinary story of the building of the nation’s first transcontinental railway. Ride the rails along deep river canyons and over high mountain passes—discover some of the most beautiful and rugged landscapes on earth and join in the human drama and epic engineering that shaped a continent.


The completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in 1885 ranks among the greatest engineering feats in history. The project drew on the labor and expertise of thousands from around the world, including a young American railway superintendent named William Cornelius Van Horne. Born and raised in the Chicago area (Frankfort and Joliet, Illinois)—Van Horne supervised the building of the CPR—the longest and most challenging railway on earth—and later rose to become president of the company and one of the greatest figures in Canadian history. On his death in 1915, Van Horne’s body was transported back to Joliet for burial in Oakwood Cemetery. The launch of Rocky Mountain Express brings new life to a remarkable North American railway legend.


If Van Horne and his builders had failed, would Canada exist today? The very existence of the young Dominion of Canada hinged on the decisions that were made about where to build the railway and on its success or failure. Spanning thousands of miles and some of the world’s greatest natural barriers, the CPR’s grand transcontinental project and its wandering ribbon of steel drew together far-flung communities isolated in the wilderness, shaped a new nation and changed the face of the North American continent forever. The success or failure of the venture was decided deep in the mountains. Retracing the original route aboard the majestic steam engine 2816, Rocky Mountain Express transports audiences back to the age of steam to re-live this alpine nation-building odyssey.


Rocky Mountain Express is a culmination of Low’s remarkable 30-year career shaping films for the giant screen. Kindled in childhood, Low’s love of high-fidelity cinema and his fascination with the steam locomotive have come together in this new production—a giant screen experience that brings alive the magic and drama of the steam age for audiences of all ages. “There just isn’t a subject more perfect for the big screen than a giant steam locomotive,” reports the filmmaker. “This is a film I’ve wanted to make since I was a kid. Couple this with an epic nation-building story of engineering one of the most impossible railways in the world, and it was just something that had to find its way onto the IMAX screen,” added Low.


Explains producer and long-time collaborator Pietro Serapiglia: “While the story of the building of the CPR has been told before, it’s never been seen or heard like this—with the visual scale and fidelity of IMAX and the power of a carefully crafted six-channel soundscape.” Mr. Serapiglia will join us on February 28 at our VIP Media screening, and is available Wednesday and Thursday for interviews!


The film itself was in production for five years, as the production team worked to schedule perfect shooting opportunities with the star of the project, the Empress (CPR 2816), a steam locomotive built in 1930 and now restored and operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway. Low filmed extensively from the air using a helicopter and gyro-stabilized camera mount to capture the train’s journey and the great diversity of the western landscape. “Ultimately, we mounted IMAX cameras all over the train as well,” says Low. “We wanted to give audiences an intimate ’being there’ experience of steam power and this magic place that even train engineers don’t get to experience.”


As the film unfolds, the kinetic train journey is punctuated with richly animated 3D maps and lovingly restored archival images that give audiences deep insights into the dramatic story of shaping a transcontinental railway through some of the most beautiful but forbidding terrain on Earth.


The production was filmed with full 15/70 negative—world’s largest film format, guaranteeing spectacular image fidelity on the giant screen. Sound, too, is a vital part of the experience, and the team has carefully and faithfully captured and rendered in six-channel sound the remarkable symphony of sonic moods produced by a locomotive, matching this with an original musical score by celebrated composer Michel Cusson.


Rocky Mountain Express is directed by Stephen Low and produced by The Stephen Low Company/Age of Steam Film Company Inc. (producers Pietro L. Serapiglia and Alexander Low). The film was shot with the collaboration of the Canadian Pacific Railway. It had its world premiere at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (Ottawa-Gatineau) September 30th, 2011, and its U.S. premiere at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago on October 7th, 2011, and has played across North America.


Rocky Mountain Express opens Saturday March 9, 2013, and will run in an open-ended engagement.  The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center Heikoff Giant Dome Theater is located at 1875 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101. Giant Dome Theater show admission (1 film + access to all exhibit galleries): Adults $15.75; Children $12.75; Seniors $12.75.  The Fleet’s normal hours are Monday–Thursday 10AM–5PM, Friday & Saturday 10AM–7PM and Sunday 10AM–6PM.  For information on tickets and showtimes, call (619) 238-1233 or visit our website at http://www.rhfleet.org/shows.

For more information on the film, visit www.stephenlow.com/media/rockymountainexpress.



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About The Stephen Low Company

The Stephen Low Company is a leading producer of the IMAX experience, and a distributor to IMAX theaters and other giant-screen theaters worldwide. Filmmaker Stephen Low is one of the world’s foremost large-format film directors, acclaimed for his skillful combination of creative story-telling and technological innovation. Mr. Low is the director of more than a dozen award-winning giant-screen films, including Rescue (3D), The Ultimate Wave Tahiti (3D), Legends of Flight (3D) and Across the Sea of Time(3D), Mark Twain’s America (3D), Beavers, Titanica, Super Speedway and Fighter Pilot, among many other well-known giant-screen titles. His unique creative vision, storytelling ability and 3D innovation, together with his penchant for complex and large-scale projects, has yielded an extraordinary body of work recognized and enjoyed by audiences everywhere. For additional information, visit: www.stephenlow.com.




“This is awesome! You’re going to want to take the whole family.”

—Dina Pugliese, City TV, Breakfast Television, Toronto


“IMAX film features spectacular scenery, thrilling sequences...” * * * 1/2 [Three-and a-half stars]

—Jay Stone, The Ottawa Citizen / Postmedia News


Rocky Mountain Express is not just a glorious, flag-waving account of how a young nation completed a sea-to-seaway rail line, driving the last spike at Craigellachie, B.C., in 1885. It’s also a story of mudslides and avalanches, balky steam engines that blew their boilers on steep grades, and miles of track that at one point advanced by just five feet per day, at a cost of six lives per mile.” * * * [3-stars]

—Chris Knight, National Post


“…An amazing IMAX film... incredible story of how Canada’s first transcontinental railway was laid. Veteran director Stephen Low uses incredible IMAX aerial photography and breathtaking vistas to put the audience into the landscape. Through archival photos and beautifully animated 3D maps you get a sense of how difficult it was to lay each mile of track. If you enjoy landscape photography as I do then you will absolutely love this film. … The sound design in the film is also first rate. How can you go wrong with a steam locomotive on an IMAX screen? I often felt like I was sitting beside the tracks when the train whisked by onscreen.”



“With just the right blend of excitement, history and the beautifully filmed Canadian landscape, this film will appeal to both parents and children alike.”



“In a new IMAX film, viewers will feel like they are flying over, or riding on, a train that cuts through rugged, steep mountains in one of the planet’s most breathtaking spots…’It was breathtaking; it was awesome,’ says Beth O’Donnell, 59, of Ruff Creek, Greene County, who attended a preview of the movie with her husband, Mike. ‘You felt like you were right on (the train).’”

—Kellie B. Gormly, Pittsburgh Tribune Review


“A restored steam engine roars through cliffs and valleys in “Rocky Mountain Express…” This a film primarily about images and sounds, and the footage captured by Low—just the sheer theatricality of the train itself--is indeed stunning. An engine chugs alongside a river, a heavy plume of steam drifting back, and the picture is mirrored perfectly in the watery reflection just below. It’s a gorgeous, poetic tableaux. Later, the train pulls into a station, steam shooting from valves, huffing like a horse expelling air through its nostrils. Low also includes some terrific archival photos, including one of a steam engine caught in mounds of snow after an avalanche, which remains a problem for sections of the route.”

—Nina Metz, Chicago Tribune


 “…The film does an amazing job of making you realize just how hard a task it must have been to construct a railway line through the Rockies. Is anyone from out west? If so, you know just how huge the mountains are, and seeing those mountains on an IMAX screen was jaw dropping.”

—Sarah Sorensen, owlblog@owlkids.com


“Absolutely breathtaking. I’ve never seen steam captured on film so compellingly. I’ll be seeing it again, I’m sure!”

—Rob McGonigal, Editor, Classic Trains


Rocky Mountain Express is totally awesome. The film takes you on a magical journey with the Canadian Pacific

Railway’s #2816 over the Canadian Rockies. Not only do you get great shots of 2816, but the scenery across Canada is breath taking. The route is Canada’s first transcontinental railways. This film is a must-see for all railroad enthusiasts and everyone who wants to experience the beauty and majesty of God’s creation.”

—Father Jay Finelli, www.steamingpriest.com




About the Empress (Locomotive CPR 2816)

Locomotive 2816 is a class H1b Hudson-type locomotive built by Montreal Locomotive Works in December 1930. (Montreal Locomotive Works was owned by American Locomotive Company). The 2816 worked with the top passenger trains of the 1930s between Winnipeg and Calgary and subsequently in the Quebec-Windsor corridor. The locomotive regularly operated at speeds in excess of 70 miles an hour. After logging more than two million miles in active service, the 2816 made its final revenue run on May 26, 1960.


After a complete three-year rebuild, the resurrected locomotive 2816 re-entered active service in 2001 as the Empress, a roving ambassador for Canadian Pacific Railway. CPR Empress is now the only surviving H1b Hudson and one of only a handful of preserved and operating CPR steam locomotives in North America.


Building a Transcontinental Railway


A Transcontinental Dream. The Canadian Pacific Railway started in the mid-nineteenth century as a dream: a ribbon of steel that would stretch across the North American continent, through thousands of miles of sparsely inhabited wilderness and then through three mountain ranges to reach a remote colonial outpost on the Pacific coast.


In 1870, a rail link from sea to sea was what was needed to make Canada a viable nation.  An American link to the Pacific had just been completed in 1869, connecting Sacramento, California, with Omaha, Nebraska, and ultimately the eastern seaboard via multiple railroads. The Canadian venture, hundreds of miles to the north, would be a different sort of undertaking, a single sea-to-sea line traversing over 4,600 kilometers (over 2,850 miles) and a mountain landscape so rugged and impenetrable few adventurers had ever crossed it on foot.  In 1871, the government of the fledgling dominion made a pledge to distant communities: join us in Confederation and we will build a railway to your doorstep. There were no adequate maps of the intervening space or the mountains that awaited them and the Prime Minister of the Dominion had never even traveled the vast wild land in question. Many said the railway could never be built and that it would be foolish to try.


Across the continent the obstacles were daunting: the Precambrian Shield featured 700 miles of granite, impenetrable boreal forest and uncountable lakes. The shield was followed by 300 miles of muskeg (machinery-swallowing bogs) and a windswept desert of grass 800 miles wide. Finally, to reach the Pacific’s ragged and little-explored coastline, the builders would need to penetrate the ultimate barrier:  a range of mountains rising 8,000 feet above sea level. And beyond it another range. And beyond that, another still. The Rockies, the Selkirk and the Monashee mountains: four hundred miles of rocky, snow-peaked chaos punctuated by deep chasms and roaring river gorges—some of the most stunning and unforgiving territory a railway surveyor ever set eyes upon. It was engineering insanity.


The railway would be built simultaneously from the east and from the west beginning in 1880—the converging lines were to meet in the mountains.  By 1883, a vast investment had brought the railway and perhaps the Dominion itself to the brink of bankruptcy.  Yet as the railhead and work crews pushed to the foot of the Rockies, there was still no real evidence of a practical way through.


The Builders. There were few if any real options.  The future of the railway and of the nation hinged on an improbable and impossibly steep route endorsed by one surveyor, a tough American named Major A.B. Rogers.  The railway would adopt Rogers’ route and lay track through what its general manager, William Van Horne, called, “the worst place on Earth.”


Tens of thousands from around the world labored to construct the Canadian Pacific Railway.  It was an effort that engaged British investors, Canadian government financing, American engineering know-how and tens of thousands of laborers from across North America, from China and around the world.   They came for work and for land and inevitably they got adventure. Evidence of their remarkable feats is carved deep into the rock and woven into every bend and bridge. The place names carry their stories, preoccupations and identities: Jaws of Death, Hell’s Gate, Rogers Pass...  Many stayed and made this harsh, unforgiving land their home.   Many others lie buried beside the track where they fell—killed in explosions, crushed by rock falls or smothered by avalanches.   Almost every mile of track claimed its share of human life.


The Last Spike. The hammering of the Last Spike on Nov. 7, 1885, deep in the mountains at Craigellachie, B.C., signaled the completion of the railway. The line was a triumph, uniting far-flung communities into a single dominion, sea to sea.   The track strung together some 800 communities along its transcontinental length—many of which had emerged to service its needs and exploit its potential.  While the railway would struggle to keep the route operating through the difficult high mountain passes, the rail link would endure and with it, a growing young nation.



Filmmaker Profile: Stephen Low. Rocky Mountain Express is the passionate undertaking of Canadian filmmaker Stephen Low, director of more than fifteen projects for the giant screen. Low’s enthusiasm for trains was kindled as a child on visits with his father to the rail yards in Montreal in the late 1950s when the last of the great steam locomotives were still in service. Later, out of university in the early 70s, Low worked as a brakeman on freight trains on the Canadian Pacific Railway before ultimately turning his attention to the craft of filmmaking and a thirty-year career shaping extraordinary experiences for the giant IMAX® screen.


Stephen Low never tackles the simple subjects. This Montreal-based filmmaker has strapped cameras to the surfboards of world-champion surfers (The Ultimate Wave Tahiti); put a camera right in the cockpit of a screamingly fast Indy car (Super Speedway); he’s taken audiences closer than any camera has ever been to birds in flight (Skyward); delivered more experiences in the IMAX® 3D medium than any other director; and he's one of a relatively small number of human beings privileged enough to have traveled to the abyssal depths of the ocean -- first, to film the wreck site of the Titanic for his film Titanica, and then to the Mid Ocean Ridge to tell the story of the discovery and exploration of hydrothermal vents in Volcanoes of the Deep Sea. These are just a few of the highlights from an extraordinary career.


Stephen Low’s attention to his craft, storytelling passion and innovative approach to filmmaking have resulted in over 75 awards worldwide, including a Kodak Vision Award for Lifetime Achievement.  Low’s unique creative vision and storytelling ability, together with his persistence on typically complex and large-scale projects, has yielded an extraordinary body of work recognized and enjoyed by audiences around the world. With Rocky Mountain Express, the award-winning filmmaker has trained the camera lens toward one of his greatest passions and shaped a cinematic experience that brings to life the steam era and explores one of the most critical moments in the shaping of the Canadian nation—the building of the young Dominion’s first transcontinental railway.


Beginnings. Born in Ottawa and raised in Montreal and southern Alberta, the young Low was no stranger to film. His father, Colin Low, is a distinguished documentary filmmaker and cinema pioneer whose career at the National Film Board of Canada spanned over 50 years and garnered the institution a legion of awards, including nine Oscar nominations.  Stephen Low studied political science at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, graduating in 1973.  He began his film career in 1976, working as a cameraman and editor in Newfoundland and directing his first giant screen film, Skyward, in 1983.


Recently Released. Released in June, 2011, Rescue (3D) engages audiences in the international response to the Haiti earthquake and follows the experiences of four individuals whose military and civilian training and roles take them into emergency situations like Haiti. Released in 2010, The Ultimate Wave Tahiti features nine-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater and Tahitian surfer Raimana Van Bastolaer in a 3D film about the art and science of waves and wave riding. Legends of Flight, a 3D production on aviation, follows the creation of a next-generation jetliner and transports audiences into the skies to explore the evolution of flying technology and its inspiration in nature.


Pietro L. Serapiglia, Producer/Vice-President. In his adventurous 35-year career, producer Pietro L Serapiglia has traveled to and documented some of the most exotic and forbidden places on Earth. He has been at the forefront of developing, producing and distributing films and collaborated in a senior capacity on over 40 TV dramas, music videos, feature films and documentaries. In the last two decades, Serapiglia has focused primarily on cutting-edge, science and exploration documentaries and helped set the standard for excellence in IMAX films.


After graduating from high school, Pietro joined the prestigious National Film Board of Canada in 1974, where he diligently worked his way up in various capacities. His creative passion and drive drew the attention of NFB Film Commissioner Sydney Newman (The Avengers, Dr Who) who introduced Pietro to many of the NFB’s talented filmmakers, including legendary documentary directors Donald Brittain and Norman Mclaren. Soon after, Serapiglia began his apprenticeship with director John N. Smith (The Boys of St. Vincent and Dangerous Minds). In his time at the NFB, Pietro was involved with such films as the critically praised UNIVAC United Nations Series (1976) and two Academy-award nominated films, First Winter (1980) and Gwynne Dyer’s Goodbye War (1982).


In the early 80s, he studied filmmaking at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles and returned to Montreal to create FilmLegend, an innovative production and distribution company for music videos (CBS, RCA and Atlantic Records), fiction and documentaries. At the time his highly praised videos played regularly on the newly born MuchMusic and MTV. Serapiglia frequently partnered with many acclaimed industry people, including Tony Green, Kevin Hunter and famed Nashville musician/music producer Barry Beckett

1984 was the breakthrough year of his first IMAX film, River Journey, which was presented at the Louisiana World’s Fair. Serapiglia began his association with director Stephen Low in 1986 and their prolific collaboration has resulted in several award-winning, internationally acclaimed IMAX films, such as Beavers (1987), Flight of the Aquanaut (1992), Titanica (1993), Super Speedway (1997) and Mark Twain’s America 3D (1998).


Titanica was the first feature-length IMAX film ever made and the highest-grossing Canadian film in 1992. It also paved the way for James Cameron’s Hollywood production Titanic. Its stunning, pioneering, deep-ocean cinematography and extraordinary underwater lighting would serve as a starting point for several more breakthrough films and paved the way for his underwater masterpiece Volcanoes of the Deep Sea (2003) in collaboration with the prestigious National Science Foundation and Rutgers University. In 2007, he turned his attention to the skies with the IMAX aerial thriller Fighter Pilot.   


Serapiglia and long-time collaborator Stephen Low launched two new electrifying films in 2010: the adrenaline-pumping adventure Ultimate Wave Tahiti 3D, featuring nine-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater, and the breathtaking aviation journey Legends of Flight 3D. Two additional films were released in 2011: the dramatic global emergency response team documentary Rescue 3D and the transcontinental steam train journey Rocky Mountain Express.


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  If you would like complimentary tickets to see this or any IMAX film or Digital show or visit the exhibitions, please contact Susan Chicoine directly at schicoine@rhfleet.org/619 685-5743/619 325-9416.  Let me know what date and how many, and I will leave passes for you at the will call window.


About the Fleet Science Center:

The Fleet Science Center connects people of all ages to the possibilities and power of science to create a better future. At the science center, you can explore and investigate more than 100 interactive exhibits that pique your curiosity and become immersed in an IMAX film adventure that shows the wonders of the planet--and beyond--in the Eugene Heikoff and Marilyn Jacobs Heikoff Giant Dome Theater. For young science enthusiasts, the Fleet offers science workshops both at the Fleet and at schools throughout San Diego County. For adults, we offer events like Suds & Science and Two Scientists Walk Into a Bar™ at locations all over San Diego. We support communities by leveraging science resources to meet local needs. Teachers are encouraged to join our Teacher Partner Program and take advantage of our professional development opportunities. Additionally, at the Fleet Science Center, visitors will find unique educational toys and games, books, IMAX DVDs and more in the North Star Science Store, and pizzas, sandwiches, salads and healthy treats in our Craveology cafe. Located in Balboa Park, at 1875 El Prado, two blocks south of the San Diego Zoo on Park Blvd., the Fleet is San Diego's science center. Science starts here and opens a world of possibility. For information regarding current admission prices, visit our website at fleetscience.org.
About Balboa Park:
Located near downtown San Diego, Balboa Park is the largest urbancultural park in the United States. First established by the City of San Diego in 1868, it is also one of the oldest city parks in the nation and is the most visited single destination in San Diego. Its 1,200 acres include 17 museums, many gardens and attractions, the San Diego Zoo, miles of hiking trails, and multiple athletic complexes to explore and discover. For more information, visit balboapark.org.