A Stainless Steel Streamliner
new era in rail travel in Canada began April 24, 1955. The Canadian
Pacific Railway introduced The Canadian, an ultra-modern,
lightweight, highly attractive stainless-steel streamlined train.
The train would offer the world's longest dome ride: 2,881.2 miles.
Postwar Canada believed passenger train travel had
a healthy future, so Canadian Pacific met the demand by introducing
this fancy new service. There were two dome cars (there should have
been more), a handsome dining car with excellent food, and a variety
of sleeping arrangements: roomettes, double bedrooms, a drawing
room, berths and more.
last car of each train-known as the Park car-became the most well
known. The car had a rounded-end observation lounge, a beverage
room with the dome level above it, and first class sleeping space
made up of a large drawing room and two bedrooms. Each car was named
for a National or Provincial Park. The beverage room featured original
murals by Canadian artists, some of whom were members of the Group
of Seven. The example shown here is titled Eutsuk Lake. Painted
by Edward John Hughes, it graced the wall of the car Tweedsmuir
Park, named for the BC Provincial Park where you would find Eutsuk
Canadian was faster than the existing Dominion
service: Running time from Vancouver to Montreal was just over 71
hours. The Dominion, which continued running until 1966,
made many more stops, taking almost 85 hours.
Engineer R.J. McQuarrie pulled his 14-car train
out of the CPR's Cordova Street station at 8:00 p.m. Sunday, April
24. There were just over 300 passengers aboard, and a crew of 22.
At 1:00 p.m. Montreal time on the same day the westbound Canadian
left for Vancouver. (There could be as many as six Canadians
in service at once.)
The Canadian was known for the fine food
served in its dining cars. For breakfast, scrambled eggs cost 75
cents, a pot of coffee was 30 cents. For lunch or dinner you could
have a sirloin steak ($3), and a great apple pie for dessert (30
until I talked to train buff extraordinaire Jim McGraw did I learn
of the CPR's ice breakers. You can plainly see them
in many of the photographs in a 1986 book called The Canadian,
by James W. Kerr. They're stiff metal projections sticking up from
the roofs of the railway's locomotives, designed to knock off icicles
that formed on the ceilings of the line's many tunnels! That feature
was necessary to protect the forward-facing windows of the dome
Ironically, the Canadian's sleek stainless-steel
cars had been inspired by an American train, the California Zephyr,
and were built by an American firm, the Budd Company of Philadelphia.
Many of the components, however, were made in Canada. (The cars
were very well built: "Amazingly," says Jim McGraw, "the
stainless steel cars built by Budd in 1953 and 1954 for Canadian
Pacific Railway, are still running off the miles more than 50 years
The Canadian was responsible for a
spike in the number of train travellers, but, sadly, it was
short-lived. Today, VIA Rail-which took over the service in
1978-runs the Canadian just three times a week (and
on CN rails). And a trip that cost $77.85 in April of 1955
(one-way coach Vancouver to Montreal), when the average weekly
wage in Canada was $61, will set you back about $730 today.
The average weekly wage in B.C. for a 40-hour
work week these days is $780. So in 1955 it would have cost
you somewhat more than a week's wages to make that journey,
somewhat less to make it today. All aboard!
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