Platform Observation Cars Have Passed Into History, Published 16 October 1943There are no more open platform observation cars left on the Canadian National Railways, according to H. J. Lambkin, veteran railroader, who is in charge of sleepers, diners, and parlor cars (now vanished) for the C.N. R. here. Thus does railroading come to the end of an epoch. For with the streamliners adopting the glass-enclosed solarium type car, the glorious old fresh air back verandah at the rear of our trains has gone.
First sign around Ottawa of what was to come was provided way back in 1929, when the Canadian Pacific rushed its new de luxe Trans-Canada flier through Ottawa. In those days, railways did not simply bring out new cars; they brought out whole new trains. So it was that one fine day in June, the super-snappy up-to-the-minute Trans Canada made Its maiden trip from Montreal to Ottawa. Vancouver-bound, with this reporter riding in the last car. That de luxe achievement was called River Moira, and it had the then new-fangled glass end. It rode like a dream, and the glass end gave you a marvelous dust-free view of the countryside. One of the hazards of the old open observation car. when you got off rock ballast and into gravel roadbed, was the peck of dirt per mile you were obliged to eat, and then there was the ubiquitous cinder. always looking for an eye in which to drop, thereby ruining the trip.
Converted Parlor Cars.
But prior to this, the observation cars ruled the day. The old Grand Trunk, sensing that it was losing out to the Canadian Pacific, back in the last war, and immediately thereafter, converted some of their parlor cars of the 2500 class to observation cars. Thus both railways on locals and limiteds alike operated observation cars to Montreal. On such dust-free runs, sitting out at the back was one of the delights of the trip.
But as time moved on. railways began to realize the observation car had limited appeal. There were the inevitably dusty stretches for instances, and again, even the biggest platform could only hold so many. From an operational standpoint, the observation car was always a headache because it had to be at the back of the train. In a pinch, you could put a solarium car in the middle of the train. Nowadays, during this war, that pinch comes pretty often.
The C.N.R. matched the C.P.R.'s solarium effort with some local parlor cars, and the River Moira and her solarium sisters found a National equivalent in the Bay series, such as Thunder Bay.
Here a curious reflection on Canadian habits must be noted. Both railways' solarium cars had baths in them, and people therefore could take a refreshing shower, or better yet. step into the abbreviated tub for a bath. The reflection on Canadian habits is that the baths paid so little, so few people took them, that the railways cut out the ablutions in the depression, and used the space in other ways. The railways never attempted to make any money on baths but the fifty cent fee was purely for the porter. The railways did not mind not making any money, but when the baths were not even used, the cars were taken off, and converted to other purposes.
Today you will see the Moira operating, but as a compartment observation car. and under the nom de plume of Cape Moira. Her sisters, such as Thames and Severn, likewise have adopted, the prefix "Cape." But no shower baths.
Meanwhile, the Canadian National have taken off their observation platforms, and they have kept their same names, but changed their back porches. The Canadian National through cars passing Ottawa nightly on the Continental Limited, such as Fort Elllce, and so on. are no longer observation cars, in the old sense. The platform has been replaced by the glass-enclosed end. Down in the Maritlmes. the eastern equivalent, the Cape cars, such as Cape Canso, also have sloughed off their observation platforms in favor of modern glass.
Belong to History.
So, the observation cars of the Canadian National have gone. They belong to history now like the open vestibule, hand brakes, and diamond stacks. The Canadian Pacific operate their observation cars in many areas yet. but no one can say what their future will be. Certainly, no new open-platform observation cars have been built the last few years, and lt is believed none are in contemplation.
As to the post-war car. many think that the crack trains of tomorrow will be Diesel units. If they are, they will contain the glass enclosed type of observation car. All the crack American streamliners now have the indoor observation car, whether it's the Burlington Zephyr, the Milwaukee's Hiawatha, or the Santa Fe's Super Chief. The outdoor cooling system is gone.
The trend here seems to be the same way. Those of us who loved the old open platform, dirt, cinders and all, must sigh nostalgically for the old Moubt cars of the C.P.R. and the Forts of the C.N.R But we'll sigh in vain it seems; time marches on, nd the open platforms march out.