General Motors E7A No. 765 - "The Train of Tomorrow", on display at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, Ontario, in August 1949. Paterson-George Collection.
Each work morning, as my bus transports me past the Ottawa railway station, I am transported back in time. It took me several days to realize why. Then it dawned on me.
Sitting in the yard at the station are three for CP "Park" series dome observation cars. Trailing off in the distance are six Budd Cars (RDCs) whose radiators in the morning mist also look like domes.
My mind keeps seeing a complete train in which every car has a dome. Only once before in my life have I ever seen a train like this.
Stratford, Ontario, October 20, 1949. I started school at Shakespeare Public School. All the elementary schools in Stratford are named after Shakespearean characters - but the two in the area where I was born were named after the man and his wife, Anne Hathaway.
The school was one block south of the CN tracks, leading from Stratford to London (Guelph Subdivision). The nearest crossing to the school was Victoria Street. It had double tracks -one the passenger lead to the station and the other the freight lead to the yards and roundhouse.
Trains coming into Stratford from the east usually changed off their heavier motive power before proceeding. Because of the track configuration, both the arriving and departing engines had to proceed down to a switch west of Victoria Street and then back up several city blocks either to reach the station or even further if going to the roundhouse. Eastbound locomotives had a switch just east of Downie Street which allowed them to position themselves at the east end of the station, which was quite a bit easier.
You can imagine how much I loved this Victoria Street crossing. The locale was further improved by this gorgeous little blonde whose parents lived right next to the crossing. I am pleased to say that I had good taste because she later, as a teenager, went on to win several beauty contests.
Now, on October 20, 1949, Stratford was a city dedicated to steam locomotives. The big repair shops were undergoing expansion to deal with the wear and tear on equipment occasioned by World War Two. Then General Motors brought "The Train of Tomorrow" to Stratford. It sat at the station for a day and my Dad, who worked at the CN shops, went over while there was good light to get black and white photos of it. There it sits in the album, with its four domed cars and E7A locomotive out in front. My Dad even took a picture of the rear car with its door open for the public to walk through. It carried a big "Train of Tomorrow" sign more like the name on the stern of a ship. The rear car did not have the sharpness of the CPR "Park" cars but was more blunt.
Anyway, it is this train which I remember as I pass Ottawa Station each morning. I can still remember the morning of October 21, 1949. I left home early to be able to walk to school with this blond who had captured my eight-year-old heart. Even better, though, was the sight as I was able to witness "The Train of Tomorrow" gliding out of town, towards London.
This has got me to wondering. Whatever happened to the train? What cities in Canada did it visit? Did it influence CP's decision to buy Budd-built equipment for "The Canadian"?
Bytown Railway Society, Branchline, April 1994, page 15.