One of the most popular episodes of Wind at my Back is season three’s, “The Forever Leap” in which Hub Bailey jumps from a train trestle to avoid getting hit by a train. I initially thought that jumping from a train trestle would be easier than finding one but thankfully Kevin Sullivan already had a place in mind… but it wouldn’t be easy.
The train trestle that Kevin told me about was in the small town of Omemee, a good hour and a half North East of Toronto. Omemee is in the beautiful Kawartha Lakes region of Ontario not far from the City of Peterborough. Normally we wouldn’t travel so far from the studio but this was a unique location that couldn’t be found any closer. The wooden train trestle was built in 1883 and was in steady use until the 1930’s when cars and trucks became more abundant and train use started to decline. Eventually, travel on the Omemee rail line stopped completely and the tracks were removed in the late 1980’s. In 2000, the abandoned rail line became part of the Trans Canada Trail which is constantly expanding and will eventually be the longest hiking and cycling trail in the world. When finished, it will stretch 21,000 kilometres from coast to coast and have a presence in all 10 provinces and 3 territories.
Thanks to the TCT, the trestle is now extremely safe but when I scouted it in 1998 it was essentially abandoned and was actually quite dangerous. The tracks had been removed, there weren’t any railings and the wooden timbers (ties) that formed the top of the bridge were quite far apart making it very treacherous to walk on. In other words, you had to be extremely careful or you`d wind up taking your own “Forever Leap”.
Today there are railings and the deck is completely enclosed but that definitely wasn’t the case when we were filming.
As I mentioned earlier, the tracks had all been removed so the construction department had to lay down artificial tracks. It would have been a huge job to put tracks on the entire bridge, so the bridge was only shot from below.
To minimize the amount of construction material needed, the tracks were laid out on a section of the old rail bed that came around a curve. Director Ken Jubenvill composed his shots to hide the fact that the there wasn’t much track but if you look carefully at the image below you can see that the “ties” stop not far behind the boys and Maisey.
The shot of the train going across the bridge came from another Sullivan production called Lantern Hill.
The leap from the bridge was performed by stunt men who actually took a plunge into the cold water below.
Filming on the Omemee train trestle presented some challenges but it was well worth it. It is an important part of Ontario’s railway history and luckily people can enjoy it to this day both as part of the Trans Canada Trail and on Wind At My Back.
All of your favourite Wind at my Back episodes are available on DVD at shopatsullivan.com.