One of North America's most diverse and most widely-dispersed rolling stock fleets did not turn a wheel. It was not interchanged. It was never inspected by a carman or even put in a consist. But it took on thousands of passengers. For an hour or two at a time. They ate hamburgers, blew out candles, and ate cake. They were at McDonald's restaurants in Charlottetown, Winnipeg, Bay Roberts, NL, Lasalle QC (ex-CP), Orillia ON, Stratford ON, Spokane, Tulsa, Waterford NY, Swanton OH, Stillwater OK, Elkton VA, Thayer MO, New Bedford MA, Crystal Lake IL, and Santa Monica, CA (the latter still with ACI tag!) and countless other untallied locations. Welland, ON hosted RMCX 001 - an ex-CN caboose with appropriate reporting marks. I posed witih our two kids on a trip to Niagara Falls and the Welland Canal in June, 1995 during a breakfast stop (top photo). This fleet began to form around 1978. Just in time for the bowl-cut generation, as this 1979 TV commercial shows.
Ottawa's St Laurent Boulevard location hosted one (above) as did McDonald's Bells Corners location. An ex-CN caboose in Cowansville, QC (below). Only the top and bottom photos are mine - the others are from online photo sites like Flickr. Actually the top photo was taken by my wife, with me and the two kids on the rear platform! Interestingly, while the ex-CN Welland caboose is shown in the 1995 Canadian Trackside Guide, it was not included in the 1989 version. A casual search of Ontario locations in that year's CTSG yielded ex-CN cabooses in Chatham, Collingwood, Georgetown, Kitchener, Leamington, Mississauga (2), Nepean, Orangeville and Owen Sound, with an ex-CP caboose in Hamilton. In the 2008 CTSG, none of those sites still had cabooses. Collingwood's and Owen Sound's were moved to nearby stations/museums.
Though McDonald's corporate department seems to have had a policy on placing these cars, there was no mandated paint scheme. Cars were taken from local railways, so car types also varied. Some had cupolas, while some did not, such as this Mount Holly, NJ ex-Conrail bay window:
With 37,000 locations worldwide, there is considerable variation in McDonald's restaurant design. For some time, McDonald's has been ditching the formica tables and cheap wood panelling, red-and-yellow 'cafeteria' look of its restaurants to make them appear more cafe-like, i.e. without those pivoting chairs on posts with hard backs! Ouch. The same is true for the cabooses! Composite construction in Boulder, CO:
Barstow Station in Barstow, CA actually gets reviewed on Tripadvisor and Yelp. It's one of the remaining railroady facilities with three (!) passenger cars and a red-and-yellow caboose plus blue Santa Fe boxcar:
The current i'm lovin' it campaign began in 2003, and was one of 23 slogans that McDonald's has trumpeted in its advertising over the years.
This brightly-painted ex-CN caboose is no longer at the McDonald's restaurant on Lougheed in Vancouver (below). Party hats, the 'municipal' presence of Mayor McCheese and the delight of opening cheeseburger happy meals within the confines of a caboose would be memories in the making.
With the steady demise of party cars, many have found new homes in museums or with private owners. Some franchisees have taken the cars with them or moved them to friends' properties. Locally, the Thurlow Golf Centre, just north of Belleville on Towncentre Drive, just off North Front Street/Highway 62 still hosted a off-rails caboose in this June, 2015 Googlemaps street view:
Interestingly, I wondered why this former DT&I 153/Grand Trunk Western caboose had arrived in Belleville yard back in September, 1997, in the company of CN ingot cars and ballast cars. The caboose may no longer be at the golf centre, which is now out of business.
After this post was published, Jeremy MacPherson kindly sent in this online auction site photo of an ex-CN caboose in Saint John NB that later served as a take-out in Quispamsis. Equipped with gingerbread and air-conditioning!
If you've seen Trackside Treasure's sidebar, you'll see my second of five blogs - it's Fast Food and Trains (FFAT for short). As we all know, if you're trainwatching, you're eating fast food (sorry, granola types if I'm superimposing my values on yours - chew on). This post would be equally at home on that blog.
The current McDonald's order-taking process has also seen a sea-change since the seventies. No more rows of queued customers standing before pimply-faced paper-hatted peons. Instead, it's one order taker (don't use the electronic kiosks - they're job-killers for a corporation that prides itself on promoting productive teen labour) and a pod of prospective partakers, standing around like penguins waiting for fish to be flung, as in the film Happy Feet.
Speaking of flightless birds, the Snowbirds definitely do not qualify. Note the arrowed Battery Park location )formerly Canadian Locomotive Co.) that was our ground-bound perch to see the peak of professionalism put forth by these error-free air demonstration aeronauts over Kingston last weekend:
CANADA 150 nose logo! Here over Kingston airport, with two spares on the apron: