In honor of his 100th birthday, Bill Chapman had the opportunity to journey approximately 75 years into the past, immersing himself in the rich history of British Columbia.
Chapman, a resident of Penticton, B.C., reached the age of one hundred on Saturday.
On January 1, 1947, he held the position of a brakeman on CP Rail steam locomotive No. 3512. Chapman was a member of a team responsible for transporting the train across a portion of Slocan Lake located in the B.C. Interior, approximately 700 kilometers to the east of Vancouver.
The locomotive, along with its tender and caboose, unexpectedly fell off a barge connected to the boat and sank to the lake’s bottom. The deepest parts of the lake reach a depth of 300 meters.
The cable that linked the barge to the boat had to be cut to keep the boat from being dragged under, and the train assembly was never found.
The Last Stop: Canada’s Lost Locomotive is a documentary that has been recently finished by a team of filmmakers. It focuses on the incident and the search for the sunken No. 3512. Chapman, along with his family members, had the opportunity to watch the film at home last week.
The special screening was courtesy of producer Colten Wilke and other members of his team, and it left Chapman — the lone surviving member of the train crew — marvelling at the big-screen telling of the CP 3512 story.
Chapman expressed in an interview with CBC that he finds it very thrilling, although he struggled to put it into words.
He complimented Wilke, saying that they have done an excellent job.
“It’s quite fascinating. It evokes nostalgic recollections.”
A key member of the expedition
Wilke is not only a filmmaker but also holds the professions of a professional diver and a commercial fisherman. The fascination with the legend of the lost locomotive in The Last Stop prompted him to organize an expedition in order to locate it.
The filmed venture begins with expedition members searching limited local records and doing a logistical survey of Slocan Lake.
Things become more intense when Wilke uncovers the presence of a crew member named Chapman, who joins the team and shares firsthand experiences that indicate a specific area to search.
I experience tingling sensations from it.
The debut of The Last Stop took place at Cinéfest Sudbury in September. According to Wilke, when Chapman appeared on screen, there was a gasp from the audience in the fully occupied theater.
Wilke commented that they nearly sucked all the air from the room.
“They were completely caught off guard.”
This was the initial occasion for Chapman to witness the completed product at his home. Alongside him, his daughters Sue Chapman and Elaine Kosma, son Tom Chapman, and other relatives were also experiencing the film for the first time.
“After watching The Last Stop, Sue Chapman expressed a tingling sensation at the thought of her father as a young man and reflected on how close it was for her not to exist.”
“It prompts us to reflect on him during his youth and the tasks he undertook during that time, as well as the potential risks involved. When our father goes to work, we often don’t give it much thought, but this truly makes us realize its significance.”
Bill Chapman was reminded of that fateful moment from years ago while watching the film, which made him reflect on the significant changes that have occurred for railroad workers.
“He commented that the entire thing was quite an experience.”
Many individuals are unaware of the events that occurred during that time.
Wilke mentioned that there has been a significant amount of interest in the film and that plans for distribution are currently being developed.