One of the more curious artifacts in the museum is Canadian National heavyweight sleeper car 15095, built in 1913. What makes this car curious is that is was converted in 1951 into a dental car. The bedrooms in the car were remade into living quarters for a travelling dentist, a dental office and a nurse's room.
The car, which was converted in 1951, owed its new lease on life to the Ontario government, which introduced a program in the 1930s to provide free dental care to children in remote communities in Northern Ontario, many of which were connected to the outside world by the Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, Ontario Northland main lines or other northern subdvisions (think of towns like Sioux Lookout, Capreol, Kapuskasing or Cochrane).
Children would enter one end, be treated in the dental office halfway down the length of the car before exiting the other end. The dental car travelled with an accompanying car that stored the dental supplies. This car had three options for its power supply. It could receive power from a train consist, a generator or directly from the hydro grid. The dental car would also serve adults, for a fee.
The car served as a travelling dental car before being retired in 1977. Shortly after, it was preserved in Toronto and was on display there before it was acquired in 1990 by the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario. This is what the car looked like when it was stored in Toronto (below).
Photo courtesy of the Canada Science and Technology Museum online archives
The museum's volunteer in the dental car told me that each end of the car retained much of its original mahogany interior décor. I took this photo of what the hallway near the entrance looked like. This is what a passenger would have seen as they boarded this car in 1913. That head you see in the bottom of the photo is my daughter practicing her photobomb skills.
This room, below, was once the men's smoking lounge. It was converted to a kitchen as part of the dentist's living quarters.
Some beds were removed from a bedroom to make up the dentist office. My daughter thought the stuffed animals on the dentist's chair were a nice touch.
This shot below shows you what the exterior of the car looks like right now. The car is perched at the end of a long wooden boardwalk. I've read some conflicting points of view online regarding this Canadian National paint scheme. Some seem to like it while others hate it. I, for one, like it.
This final shot gives you an idea of the collection at the museum. When I took a handcart ride on the track between these cars, I was able to see the seven or so passengers cars in various states of repair. Given the museum relies on volunteers, I'm guessing it will be a long road ahead for some of these old beasts.
The volunteer in the dental car told me that the car, which was known as Camrose, was also used on Canadian Pacific trackage in Northern Ontario, making it likely that it might have made its way to Chapleau, where my Grandfather worked as a rolling stock mechanic.
The dental car is one of seven at the museum (see above). CP and CN both contributed three old passenger coaches to the museum as part of its creation in 1985. Some bear no outward identifying marks, which makes it tough to trace their history.