This car was built in 1913 for CNoR as a heavy weight sleeping car outfitted with mahogany. This mahogany is still intact in the front and rear ends of the car. The car went through several name and number changes including being called “Camrose”, after the town of Camrose, Alberta. The sleeping car could hold 26 passengers. It traveled more than a million miles over 40 years before it was retired from active passenger service in 1951.
In the 1930s the Ontario government funded a programme to provide dental care to children in remote Northern Ontario communities. Canadian Pacific donated two old passenger cars and Canadian National donated one. These cars were then converted into dental cars for the dentists to live and work on.
This car was donated by CN and was converted in 1951 to become a dental car. As part of the conversion the men’s smoking lounge became a kitchen, some beds were removed to provide a dental area, and two bedrooms with washrooms were created to house the dentist and his family. It served as a dental car to serve Northern Ontario from 1951-1977.
As a dental car, Camrose, provided care to school children in Northern Ontario. For an extra fee, adults could also have their teeth examined, cleaned, and cared for. For twelve months of the year a dentist and dental assistant worked on the car. The children and adults entered at one end of the car while the private entrance was at the other end. A second car traveled with the dental car for storage of dental supplies, books and food. The car had three sources of power: train, hydro grid, and portable generator.
Most of the dentists came from Toronto. The Railway Museum has been able to contact many of the dentists, dental assistants, and their families who worked on this dental car. The Railway Museum held a reunion for the dentists several years ago. The contact with the various dentists has provided valuable information and artifacts from the dental car. Pictures, stories, artifacts, and donations have helped in the restoration of the dental car to its former grandeur. For example, former dentists and/or family members have provided the dental equipment for the exhibit.
Image from “Whistle Stop Dentist: Life on the Dental Car 1931-1935”
The two CPR dental cars were scrapped when taken out of service in the late 1960s.
CNR 15095 functioned as a dental car until its retirement in 1977. At that time the dental car was replaced by recreational vehicles (RVs) which the Ontario government expected to be a more cost-efficient method.
The Dental Car was purchased by John Weir in 1990 from Toronto & York Division of Canadian Railway Historical Association. Upon its arrival at the Railway Museum the Dental Car was fully restored to its present condition. The Railway Museum has the only remaining dental car in North America!
In 2012, the Museum was thrilled to accept a donation from David Brownlow. Mr. Brownlow’s father was the first dentist to participate in the Dental Car programme. The donation includes many personal family photographs and ephemera that allows us to recreate a comprehensive look at ‘Life on the Dental Car’.