Friday, July 2, 2021

The Confederation Train visits Kingston


In 1967, Canada celebrated its Centennial of Confederation, and hosted Expo 67 in Montreal. CN and CP were corporate exhibitors at Montreal's Expo 67, and the Confederation Train was one of Prime Minister John Diefenbaker's pet projects - one he imagined as early as 1961. The train was formally commissioned by the Centennial Committee in 1962.  Commission Chairman John Fisher wrote to CN president Donald Gordon and CP President N.R. 'Buck' Crump regarding the project, and the first meeting with CN and CP officials was held in April, 1963. A steam-hauled heavyweight train was even considered! 

The final consist, with equipment contributed by both railways:
  • FP9A 1867 (CP 1411)
  • FP9A 1967 (CN 6509)
  • SGU 15463 (CN)
  • Baggage 4221 (CP)
  • 10-5 sleeper Oak Grove (CP)
  • Diner 1303 (CN)
  • 10-5 sleeper Ash Grove (CP)
  • 10-5 sleeper Fir Grove (CP)
  • Generator car 4731 (CP)
  • Exhibit cars 2210, 2236, 2258, 2266, 2285, 2298 (CP coaches)
The train's eye-catching purple scheme was designed by British graphic designer Peter Vincent and Canadian graphic designer John Arnold. Triangles on the car sides were intended to complement the stylized Expo 67 maple leaf logo designed byToronto artist Stuart Ash. Purple was chosen so as not to be interpreted as the colour of any political party! Artwork (above and below) from Rapido Trains Inc.'s planned 2015 release.
Canadian Pacific's employee magazine 'Spanner' featured the work taking place at Montreal's Angus Shops in the April, 1966 issue. Here, shop forces work on the coaches during their conversion to exhibition cars:
Chronoligically, visitors would travel through time as they walked through the six exhibit cars, in order:
  • Car 1: The Land is Born, Indigenous culture.
  • Car 2: Early European explorers and immigrants
  • Car 3: Pre-Confederation Canada
  • Car 4: The years 1867-1900
  • Car 5: The Twentieth Century
  • Car 6: World War II to the Centennial Year
Governor-General George Vanier's wife, Madame Pauline Vanier, 'launched' the train on January 1, 1967. In preparation for the train to deadhead west as the second section of CN's Panorama, its doors were sealed and locked. At Winnipeg, it switched to CP lines on its journey to Vancouver. To get to Vancouver Island, the train was carried on CP's Princess of Vancouver, debuting on January 9, 1967. At CP's Windsor Station in Montreal:
The train's itinerary included 316 days visiting 65 cities, with millions of visitors touring the train.
  • Jan-Feb: British Columbia
  • March: Alberta
  • Mar-Apr: Saskatchewan
  • Apr-May: Manitoba
  • May-Aug: Ontario, including Ottawa from July 1-12 and Kingston August 22-25.
  • Aug-Sep: Quebec
  • October: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island
  • Nov-Dec: Quebec
Our family with the train at Dorval - September, 1967 (L.C. Gagnon photo scanned by D.J. Gagnon):
Eight units of Canada 67 Confederation road caravans would be included, to reach communities off rail lines.There were 7 million visitors to the caravans at 655 display sites, from May to November, 1967. The cost of both road and rail programs was $48 million. 
The above caravan view on Highway 401, likely near Division Street, through Kingston is one of a series of photos that reside in the Queen's University Archives, (V142.5-44-47). Here are more taken between August 22 and 25, 1967: the train arriving on the waterfront remnants of the Hanley Spur which would last only another three years, and several views from various angles showing daytime and nighttime visitors and celebrations:

You know it's Canada when you see wooden snow fence used in summertime! St. John Ambulance van and volunteers were onsite in Confederation Park. The aptly-named park created after CP vacated its remaining waterfront trackage,was dedicated the year before with CPR 1095 'The Spirit of Sir John A".

The train served as a backdrop for parades, celebrations and concerts, while visitors continued to queue.

I'm sure none of the visitors went away unsatisfied with their trip through time. None.
An aerial view showing the exhibit cars, Confederation Park's pathways, arch and concert state, Ontario Street and City Hall. The train's support cars reached Johnson Street with the power cut off at the Canadian Locomotive Company plant trackage. The plant would close two years later.
1967 was a year of optimism, pride, youthful enthusiasm and hope for a 
better Canada, while acknowledging our unique history!
Lots o' links:
Running extra...

As we approach Canada Day 2021, controversy swirls around our constitutional monarchy, our nationhood, our Canada, our very identity. Some suggest shame should be the tone of this Canada Day while some have given their all to ensure that which we have built together endures. Why would we not grow to understand it, celebrate it, and move forward together?

You can knock an icicle down, or you can wait until it melts away as the warmth of spring arrives.

Last fall, I ventured down to Confederation Park. In hand I had my camera, and some archival photos I'd printed off. My goal was to recreate some Dear Photograph scenes along Kingston's waterfront. At the time I didn't foresee a second book on the subject. But now there is one, currently awaiting final proofing and printing, and this image will appear on the cover: 


Robert Archer said...

Excellent Post Eric.
Somehow, I missed seeing the Centennial Train back in '67 which is odd because that was the kind of thing my Dad liked to take us to see.
I am fully in agreement that Canada is always worth celebrating even though we must acknowledge past errors.
Happy Canada Day!

Rob Archer.

Eric said...

Hmmm, that's a mystery missing out on the Confederation Train. We can catch up now!

Watch for an additional post celebrating Canada Day. This is too good a country to let it get away!

Thanks for your comment, Rob.

Mike said...

Hi Eric, I learned quite a few interesting things about Kingston's past from your blog. I enjoy the old photos especially. I drew the Ernestown station here on my YouTube art channel and thought I'd mention it to you, since your blog is where I first found out about it some years ago now:



Eric said...

Hi Mike,

Thanks for your comments about Trackside Treasure. It's good to have you aboard.

Thank you also for sharing the link of your drawing of Ernestown station. I cycled out to the station from Amherst View in my teenage years. It seemed like an awfully long way on my no-speed bike, including getting chased by a farm dog at one point. Speed record!

You've captured the essence of Ernestown and the entire scene!

Unknown said...

Hello Mike,
I was interested to read your page on the Centennial Train and Caravans. My Father was Major John D. Coupland who was the officer responsible for the training of the 350 crew on the train and the caravans. Dad passed away in January of 1995. He would be pleased that people like yourself are still enjoying the memories of that time. He had a family of seven children and we were/are still very proud of him. I don't have a lot of information in the way of photos but a few and if you were interested please feel free to contact me. When I google the Centennial Train and Caravan there is one photo front and centre where my Dad is inside a one of the caravans and pointing up at a canoe...white shirt and tie. Thank you, Winifred McCulloch.

Eric said...

Hi Winifred,

It would certainly make sense to have a military man organizing this major undertaking! It was nice to hear your story about your Father. I'm sure that was a career highlight for him and your family. If you'd like to email me those photos sometime, my email address is

Thanks very much for your comment and also for your Father's time in the service of our great country!