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July 16, 2010

Railways in the Old Days

I recently mentioned my book My Childhood in the Bush, a book about the early days at Brent on the CNR Algonquin Route.The book was recently reprinted because of a new exhibit this summer in Brent. Among many other things book describes homes for workers and their families in boxcars temporarily adapted as accommodations there and in various other stops. The cover of the Brent book shows one of the boxcar homes and there is a drawing of its interior as described by the lady who lived there. There were several other such “houses”in Brent – a couple of which were made by joining 2 boxcars for more space.

The boxcar school car at the Capreol Railway Museum. Manager Kirsti Colman chatting with visitor.

Children at Brent later went to school in a railcar adapted as a classroom. The classroom on wheels stayed for a short period and left homework for the students and came back later after visiting other stops. There were several of these schools on wheels in Northern Ontario. The idea was developed by a teacher Fred Sloman who lived and taught for 40 years in a school car that travelled from Capreol to Folyet north of Sudbury. He and his wife raised 5 children through high school in the school car. Over 1,000 children graducated from this “school”. When he retired he moved back to his hometown of Clinton Ontario where a park was named after him and his school car was refurbished and located there as a museum (see www.schoolcar.ca/history.html for details). A book School on Wheels describing the school car was published in 1982. Actor Gordon Pinsent stared in a TV movie about a railcar teacher and he visited Clinton and met the Sloman’s.

Capreol Rail Museum

When we reprinted the Brent book we were aware of a boxcar home at the Capreol Railway Museum as well as a replica of a Sloman school car. I recently visited the Museum 35 kilometres north of Sudbury and met with Manager Kirsti Colman who gave me a tour of this remarkable facility. The photos show the bedroom of the boxcar home and the boxcar school. It is next to the CNR rail line and also has an engine and many other pieces of rail equipment.

Bedroom of boxcar home at Capreol Museum. D. Mackey Photos.

The site also has the area heritage museum on the property located in a building that was once the home of the local CNR depot Superintendent. Others lived there until it became a museum in 1997. It has an active board and artifacts in every room. The displays on lumbering and mining were of special interest.

There is also a bookstore and a Tea Room. I picked up a copy of the School on Wheels book. The school car has a lot of Sloman memorabilia because as noted Capreol was one of his stops. For further information log on to www.NorthernOntarioRailroadMuseum.ca.  A photo of the Museum building is shown plus hours and location of the museum.

For train buffs or history buffs it is an ideal day trip full of interesting insights. Phone (705) 858-5050 or email normhc@vianet.ca . Sudbury has several excellent locations to visit including the Science Centre on the way.

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