Observe The Passing Of The Observation Car, Published 15 December 1947
Take a good look at that old fashioned observation car running these days on the back of the North Shore train. Old 6518 is the last observation car we are likely to see running regularly out of Ottawa. She's on the run while svelte, slick solarium car. 65S0 is in Angus Shops getting that New Look.
There was a time when observation cars were a sign of class. The carriage trade, when they rode a limited, had to have an observation car. The only trouble was that if a train ran fast enough, you ate your proverbial peck of dirt, not in a lifetime, but in an hour. Real rail fans like myself, of course, chewed the railway gravel and loved it, but a lady in a summer suit, for instance, had to consign her garb to the tub any time the limited ran faster than a mile a minute.
Some up and coming roads used rock ballast as a dust eliminator, and even went to the expense of oiling crossings. But all in all, it was a costly business.
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The open observation car was also a delight to camera : fans, since they could stand back there and take all the pictures they liked. Today, crowded and crammed in behind a solarium car, even if you are lucky to find one at the end of the train, you have to try and take pictures through the grimy glass. Maybe too, the. light is not right. In the old days, on an observation car, you usually could so manage somehow that you could get a picture. Today such a photo is. mainly a study in dirty windows. This is no reflection on the effipiency of railways, but it's beyond the power of any railway to keep windows clean after they have travelled about 1,000 miles, let alone 2,000.
There was a time when, if a train did not have an observation car, it was not strictly first class. The Canadian Pacific prior to the last war put observation cars on the local trains between here and Montreal. The old Grand Trunk used standard parlor cars, and hoped to get away with it. This they failed to do, and their old 2500 series of parlor buffet cars had to be converted into observation cars. So then both railways had the glass end and platform cars for many years. Finally, in 1930, the Canadian National reconverted some of those cars which had first been standard vestibule end, then observation end, back to standard end again, and they had an honored place on the crack International Limited between Montreal and Toronto.
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But it was a sign of the times when Sir Henry Thornton, who was always as up to date as tomorrow, failed to instal observation cars on his six-hour train. He put radios in them which they haven't got today, as he was the talk of the civilized world with his telephone service, from your own car to your own office or your own home. The charge was the cost of the long distance ser vice plus 50 cents.
But when Thornton passed up the observation car for the solarium car, then you knew that the halcyon days of the observation car were over. They still linger on in quite a few lines, but Ottawa has banned them. Neither the Canadian National nor the Canadian Pacific operates an observation car regularly out of Ottawa, and of course the New York Central does not cater much to that class of traffic.
The old fashioned observation car was bright, roomy, and comfortable, and seemingly nothing they can do to these solarium cars can make them has as cheerful, half as clubby as the observation cars. Yet doomed they are and nothing can bring them back.
The observation car is going the way of the mustache cup, the buggy whip, high buttoned boots, and player pianos. I for one here and now shed a sentimental tear at its passing.
Goodbye old 6518, we've been friends a long time, and I am sorry tc see you go