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Woodstock on a Rail in 'Festival Express'

Detail from the poster for 'Festival Express.'
Detail from the poster for 'Festival Express.'
Detail from the poster for 'Festival Express.'
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Detail from the poster for 'Festival Express.'

In the summer of 1970, a train carrying Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, The Band, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Buddy Guy and Janis Joplin rolled from Toronto to Calgary, stopping for scheduled concerts along the way.

Billed as the Canadian Woodstock, The Festival Express was a musician's dream and a promoter's nightmare. The train was loaded with musical instruments, food, liquor -- and a film crew.

Three decades later, Bob Smeaton, director of the Beatles Anthology television miniseries and a film on Jimi Hendrix, worked with 75 hours of raw footage to make Festival Express.

"I thought that the best thing to do would be to make it the way that I feel they would have made it had they made it in 1970," he tells

Smeaton gave the film a distinctive "retro" feel, utilizing a split screen familiar from the period documentaries about Woodstock and the Monterey Pop Festival and foregoing any of the visual enhancements of contemporary videography.

As the director says, "I wanted people to see the film and feel as though they're being transported back to 1970."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Liane Hansen
Liane Hansen has been the host of NPR's award-winning Weekend Edition Sunday for 20 years. She brings to her position an extensive background in broadcast journalism, including work as a radio producer, reporter, and on-air host at both the local and national level. The program has covered such breaking news stories as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the deaths of Princess Diana and John F. Kennedy, Jr., and the Columbia shuttle tragedy. In 2004, Liane was granted an exclusive interview with former weapons inspector David Kay prior to his report on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The show also won the James Beard award for best radio program on food for a report on SPAM.