The movie is a fictionalized account of the 1917 Winnipeg-to-St. Paul dog-sled race, sponsored by the Great Northern Railway. The main character in the movie, Will Stoneman, is based on two real-life participants in the 1917 race: Albert Campbell, the eventual winner, a mixed-blood Cree trapper from Manitoba who endured harassment from his racist white competitors throughout the race; and Fred Hartman, the only American participant, who was touted as a hero during the race by American newspapers, but had to drop out when his sled dogs fought among themselves and his lead dog was killed. J.W. Harper, the president of the St. Paul Winter Carnival in the movie, is based on Louis W. Hill, son of railroad magnate James J. Hill, president of the Great Northern Railroad.
The trains used in the movie were from the Lake Superior Railroad Museum (LSRM) in Duluth. Due to the fact that they were actual operating trains, actors could not operate as engineers or the conductors. They were all volunteer employees of the museum. Some of them still work there (As of August 2004).
David Bedford, owner of Black Ice Dog Sledding Equipment and real-life dog sledder, did the mushing for "Borg" throughout the movie. He used his own 7-dog team led by "Chase", a malamute. Filming his scenes took 3 months. David's wife Shilon helped to establish the Minnesota Malamute Club