Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Colonist Car No.1202


Colonist Car 1160 (C.P.R.) at Glacier House BC
Library & Archives Canada MIKAN 3607544
When I saw this tweet by Heritage Park in Calgary, I was intrigued. How did our ancestors travel to their homestead upon arrival into Canada? What was it really like? When you think about planning a life changing trip in the late 1890s what do you take with you? The Saskatchewan Gen Web group wrote a brief article about pioneers travelling to the homestead.

From the late 1880s, the pioneers travelled by train to points in the eastern provinces and also to the farms in western Canada. According to Wikipedia, there are five colonist cars that survive out of over 1,000 in Canada. Two of these workhorses were owned by Canadian Pacific (C.P.R.) and three were owned by Canadian National Railway (C.N.R.). In Alberta, (C.P.R.) No. 1202 is at Heritage Park and (C.P.R.) No. 2514 is in Squamish, B.C. at the West Coast Railway Association Museum.

In September 2016, Heritage Park announced it's plan to restore a 1905 colonist car (Colonist Car No.1202) that it has owned since 1964. Heritage Park's social media team has put together a few reports Blog 1Blog 2, Blog 3 and the most recent, Blog 4 to describe the events concerning the restoration.

It was soon picked up by the local media and each has their own interpretation of the story.
CBC News reported about the carpenter's experience in renovating the car and their enthusiasm certainly shines through. CBC has also provided a video clip.
- The park's project is also highlighted on YouTube - the Discovery Channel's Daily Planet. Date: Jan.16.2017.
- The Calgary Herald's reporter, Kerianne Sproule wrote an article using archival footage from Library and Archives Canada - This piece of Canadian history is coming back to life in a Calgary workshop.
- Valerie Fortney, a reporter for the Calgary Herald offered this review: Colonist Car offers glimpse into early days of Western Canada.

There is also information available on Heritage Parks' Facebook page and they highlight one of their exhibits - 'Journey of a Lifetime'. The exhibit is travelling around the country currently being provided in Halifax and soon going to Vancouver.

The other large railway company operating at the time in Canada, Canadian National Railway has three surviving colonist cars which are located in Eastern Canada, two in Ontario at the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario and Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa. The New Brunswick Railway Museum in Hillsborough also provides a number of exhibitions and events to celebrate the colonial railroad. The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 have built a replica of a colonist car circa 1920s.

Railway Enthusiasts in North America

The Canadian Railroad Historical Association (CRHA) was founded in 1932. It is currently branded as ExpoRail, the head office is located in Quebec and there are 8 divisions across Canada. Since 1961 they have operated the Canadian Railway Museum, as well, they have published the magazine Canadian Rail since 1937- some links are below.

SOME RESOURCES FOR RESEARCH INTO RAILROAD CARS AND RAILROAD RECORDS:

Canadian Rail Magazine - an index to the periodical - published bi-monthly - 1949-2014

Canadian Rail__Index_no_1-117.pdf This is quite a large file (9 Mb) and takes some time to load.

Canadian Railway and Marine World Periodical available via Archive.Org

Canadian Railway Records – A Guide for Genealogists  – revised and expanded by Althea Douglas and J. Creighton Douglas available for purchase via the Ontario Genealogist Society eStore. Other railway resources are available for purchase on Global Genealogy.

Museums
Squamish, B.C. - West Coast Railway Association Museum

Calgary, Alberta - Heritage Park Email: info@heritagepark.ab.ca
The Alberta Railway Museum Archives are located at the Provincial Archives of Alberta at 8555 Roper Road, in Edmonton. Access the database: http://www.apraarchives.net/collection/

Wainwright, Alberta - http://www.albertarailwaymuseum.com/links.html

Saskatchewan Railway Museum
Smith Falls, Ontario - Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario

So,
How did our ancestors travel to their new homes from their point of arrival into Canada? Mostly by rail, and when the rail ran out, then by oxen driven cart or horse and buggy.

What was it really like? One way to understand their experiences are to doggedly search newspaper articles, diaries and personal accounts. Genealogists and historians have provided clues and hints in academic papers and accounts gleaned from these resources.

This example comes from an article that I wrote about Pioneer Women's Diaries and highlights a book written by Jessie Browne Raber, 'Pioneering in Alberta' which has a vivid description of the preparations that an English family undertook to emigrate to Canada.
From the article: "She (Jessie Browne Raber) also mentions the Immigration Hall and the crowds of people. After their health inspection, they found a cab to take them to Montreal where they stayed the night, and then boarded their train to Calgary. The book continues with arriving at their new home and adjusting to the weather, the people and their new community." 
When you think about planning a major trip in the late 1890s what do you take with you? From the book mentioned above, 'Pioneering in Alberta' Jessie mentions that her family only packed the necessities and that they were told that the winters in Canada were 'something fierce'. Their family and friends gave them bedding, warm clothing and even a ham! The curator of the exhibition at Pier 21 in Halifax notes that immigrants had to pack their own meals and cook them in a tiny little kitchen which was located on one of the cars. As well that a ticket cost $7.00 per family before World War One.

At the very end of another of my articles - English Families to Steinbach, Manitoba there are links to examples of emigration from England to Canada.

Lastly, let us not forget that these Colonist Cars carried our brave boys to wars across the seas in 1914 and 1939. They also brought my own grandfather and father home.  Thank You to C.P.R. and C.N.R.

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