By T.M. McKewown, Manager
Passengers board The Dominion on Track 7 at Windsor Station - Circa 1947
Photographer unknown - Library and Archives Canada MIKAN 3613396.

 Internal link   Introduction

 Image Many years ago Canadian Pacific published a series of ten books named the "Foundation Library". One particular book added to this collection, published in 1946, is named "Canadian Pacific Facts and Figures". It contains many short stories and articles dealing with the company during that period. This month's article from that book, "Sleepers, Diners, and News Service", written by T.M. McKewown, Manager, is reprinted here for your enlightenment with the addition of some appropriate images.

 Internal link   The 1946 Article

The Sleeping, Dining, and Parlor Car Department and News Service is comprised of four units:

  1. Sleeping and parlor cars;
  2. Dining, cafe, buffet, and commissary cars;
  3. Station restaurants;
  4. News service.

The directing personnel are as follows:

                     Assistant to the Manager
                           - Montreal -
   Eastern Lines:                    Western Lines:
   General Superintendent,Toronto    General Superintendent, Winnipeg
   Superintendent, Montreal          Superintendent, Winnipeg
   Superintendent, Toronto           Superintendent, Moose Jaw
   Chief Supervisor, News Service,   Superintendent, Calgary
   Montreal                          Superintendent, Vancouver
                                     Chief Supervisor, News Service,

It is the function of this department to play the role of host to thousands of Canadian Pacific guests every day in the year.

Every single hour of the day and night, passengers board our sleeping cars at various points along the vast Canadian Pacific system there to find comfortable berths in which to spend hours of relaxation and refreshing sleep, and later to enjoy tasty meals in dining cars or station restaurants, or possibly, the light refreshments made available by News Service salesmen on trains.

 Internal link   Sleeping and Parlor Cars Service

Canadian Pacific Railway tourist sleeping car number 6206 is a second class sleeper with a kitchen where passengers may cook their own meals - 1925 Photographer unknown - Library and Archives Canada MIKAN 3402647.

The lines in which sleeping and parlor cars operate, and the number of cars assigned to each line, is decided upon by the passenger department and is, of course, governed by the volume of traffic and the train service. The movement of cars is controlled by the transportation department, and under the Sleeping Car Department comes the operation of the service, that is, the manning of cars, furnishing of linen, blankets, soap, hat bags, and other miscellaneous equipment. The laundering of linen, cleaning of blankets, and replacement or renewal of miscellaneous equipment is what might be termed the "housekeeping" branch of the department.

Approximately 30,000 blankets are laundered per year by a special process in order not to destroy the texture of the fabric. There were required for essential passenger service during 1945 approximately one million pieces of linen, and the laundry bill for the combined operation of sleeping, dining, tourist, parlor cars, and restaurants, was $484,500, or, over $1,300 per day. The number of pieces of clean linen required daily for all services was 67,000.

In order to maintain this linen in the best of condition, linen repair rooms are located at Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary, and Vancouver, where expert seamstresses are kept constantly at work.

When a sleeping car is turned out of shops, it is equipped with a suit of linen and other equipment, and an inventory card is placed in the locker so that the porter will know what equipment is on the car. When a car returns from a trip, a check of both the clean and soiled linen is made and if there is a shortage the porter must explain the cause. Sufficient clean linen is then placed on the car to bring it up to standard. The miscellaneous equipment is also checked and brought up to standard. While en route, sleeping car conductors and porters make notes of any car defects requiring repairs and make a report, so the car department may have them fixed before car goes out again.

 Internal link   Selection and Education of Employees

The selection of employees for positions as sleeping car conductors and porters is done with the utmost care by experienced men. Not only must the applicants have the very best references from former employers as to character, honesty, and ability, but they must be made of that timber so essential to a good employee, a pleasant, courteous, manner under the most trying circumstances.

After an employee has been engaged he has to go to the school of instruction, where he is taught how to make down berths, properly control the air-conditioning, heating, and ventilating systems, keep cars clean, and to look after car equipment and linen. He is also taught how to give the most efficient service to the public. When an employee has been thoroughly trained and instructed, he is placed in the service, where travelling inspectors watch his work and give any further coaching that may be necessary. A complete efficiency record of each employee is maintained by the superintendents, whereby they can tell if the employee is measuring up to the standard which has been set. If an employee has failed to come up to this standard, the superintendent personally points out any shortcomings and how to remedy them.

On long transcontinental runs between Montreal or Toronto and Vancouver, porters have to divide up with the sleeping car conductor the very few hours' rest, between the time the last passenger retires and the first one arises. In order to make up for lack of sleep en route, they are provided with adequate layover at turnaround points, where the Company provides them with attractive quarters or rooms in private houses. On their return to home station, they are given a longer layover in order to fit them for the succeeding trip.

It may be noticed that Pullman cars are sometimes operated over Canadian Pacific Lines. This is done in order to provide convenience to the travelling public in the matter of through accommodation. For example, between Toronto and Chicago a Canadian Pacific car runs over the New York Central Lines from Detroit to Chicago (which railroad has a contract with the Pullman Company to give a sleeping car service on their lines), and, rather than break the car line at Detroit and cause the transfer of passengers from one car to another, the service is worked out on an equalization basis, the Canadian Pacific car running right through to Chicago and the Pullman car through to Toronto. The Canadian Pacific retains the earnings in the Pullman car while it is in Canadian Pacific territory, and the Pullman Company retains the earnings in the Canadian Pacific car while it is in their territory, the expense being borne by the owner of the car and equalized by the Company which has the shorter portion of the trip putting in the lesser number of cars.

 Internal link   Dining Car Service
Canadian Pacific Railway dining car service - 1920 Photographer unknown
- Library and Archives Canada MIKAN 3380557.

There is a difference in the method of recording the financial operation of sleeping and dining cars, inasmuch as all sleeping cars are considered in the aggregate in the operation of the service, whereas each dining car is treated as a separate unit, like one unit in a chain of restaurants. The equipping of a dining car from shops is handled practically the same as described for sleeping cars, but of course there is much more equipment, such as silverware, crockery, glassware, pots, pans, and other utensils.

After the car is equipped and ready for service, a crew is selected, which under normal traffic conditions consists of a steward, chef, second, third, fourth, and fifth cooks, and five waiters. The menus for the trip, which have already been made up by the superintendent, are handed to the steward and chef, who place a requisition to the dining car stores for a sufficient quantity of food to prepare all the items on the bill of fare. The supplies are then put up by the storekeeper, like an order in a grocery store, the steward signs for what he receives and is handed an invoice showing the cost of the food supplies. When the car returns from a trip, the supplies on hand are checked, and the cost of food consumed is figured out. The amount of cash received for meals is balanced with the food cost, and the profit or loss for the trip is then known.

From the results of these operating statements the superintendent is able to judge whether or not the crew has operated the car on an economical basis. There will likely be a profit shown on the sale of food for the trip under ordinary circumstances, but there are additional expenses to be added in the superintendent's office in the matter of overhead, such as wages, laundry, crockery, and glassware renewals, upkeep of silverware, linen, and utensils. The cost of coal, charcoal, ice, and cleaning must also be added. There are also the wages of the storeroom staff and salaries of supervisory officers, so that in the end there is a considerable loss in the year's operations.

In figuring the losses on dining cars, it is not the practice for the Canadian Pacific or any American roads to include interest on capital investment, depreciation on the car, periodical shopping or maintenance, that is, running repairs. That losses will occur on dining cars is recognized as part of the price which must be paid in order to give the travelling public what they want in the matter of satisfactory meals at reasonable prices. The traffic officers all over the continent know that a satisfactory dining car service at comparatively low prices must be given if people are to be encouraged to travel by railway, and every road on the American continent suffers yearly losses in the operation of their dining cars, some running as high as 75 cents lost on every dollar taken in as revenue.

Cleanliness, pure foods well cooked, costly furnishings and appointments, while very necessary, do not make a dining car service. It is the human factor that gives it its distinction. No matter how well a meal is prepared, if the waiter who places it before the guest is slovenly or indifferent, naturally the guest is not very favorably impressed. Years of experience, with careful training, are required to qualify a dining car waiter in the arts and artifices of the trade. The proper way of serving dishes may be carried out in a mechanically perfect manner and yet the guest is left feeling that the service is inadequate, he feels that the personal element is lacking. A good waiter takes a pleasure in anticipating the wants of his patron. On long runs it is, of course, necessary for employees to sleep in the dining car, and each car is equipped with cots and bedding, which are stored in lockers in the daytime. On short runs where cars lay over at night, the Company furnishes quarters or rents rooms in private houses for the accommodation of the dining car crews.

 Internal link   Commissary Cars

On the declaration of war in September, 1939, it was realized that it would be necessary to provide adequate facilities for the feeding of large numbers of the armed forces who would be moving from one training camp to another and from training camps to the seaboard, en route to the scene of hostilities. As a result of the satisfactory experience with commissary cars in the last war, it was decided to follow the same general procedure for the feeding of members of the armed forces, and therefore 12 dining cars were converted into commissary cars. The change required no structural alterations but only a different layout in the interior. The dining car kitchen was converted into a butcher shop with large refrigerators for the storage of the great quantities of perishable supplies required to feed a train load of soldiers. The dining car pantry, with well arranged lockers, was not altered and was used for the same storage on the commissary cars as when the car was in regular dining car service. Cooking equipment was placed in the former dining room and consisted of the following:

       1 standard 6 foot range 3 feet wide;
       1 upright 10 H.P. tubular boiler;
       1 steam jacketed meat roaster;
       2 50 gallon capacity standard steam jacketed kettles;
       4 2 basket type vegetable steamers;
       1 double sink;
       1 cook's table.

A service counter the full length of the room was installed upon which to serve the fatigue parties which were assigned to take the food from the commissary car to the colonist or tourist cars in which the members of the armed personnel were accommodated.

While it was possible to cook food by using the steam from the road engine, the upright boiler provided steam at all times so that cooking could be done ahead without the necessity of the engine having to be attached to the train, and this was of considerable advantage at the departure and arrival terminals when meals had to be prepared before the train started to move, and in cases where meals had to be served on arrival at terminal after the road engine had been detached.

These commissary cars could very easily take care of the feeding of five or six hundred men, for which was required at least three or four dining cars, and they reduced the dead weight in relation to the number of cars on the train two or three times, thus enabling a larger number of loaded cars to be handled.

The method of feeding the troops was to have tables set up in each section of the cars in which they had accommodation, and the knives, forks, spoons, plates, cups, etc., placed on the tables at mealtime. When the time for serving the meal arrived, a fatigue party consisting of six men from the armed forces personnel was sent from each car in rotation, starting from the first car at the front of the train and the last car at the rear, who went to the commissary car, which was in the centre of the train, and received their supplies in large carriers. The soup, meat, vegetables, and dessert were divided up amongst the various members of the fatigue parties who also looked after the dishing out of the food to the men in their sections in the car, and it only took from 15 to 20 minutes to distribute all the food from the commissary car to the individual men in the cars.

The washing up of the dishes was done in the colonist car kitchen by members of the armed forces who were paid by the railway company for doing this work.

In order that the crew of the commissary car were able to have comfortable sleeping quarters while en route, a crew's sleeper was provided along with each commissary car.

The commissioned officers on the troop train were fed in sections of a sleeping car by regular dining car waiters, but if the number of officers was 50 or more on any move, a regular dining car was provided in order to take care of the feeding of these officers. Following are specimens of menus served to military officers and men:


   Breakfast                  Luncheon            Dinner

   Fresh Fruit                Soup                Soup
   Cereal with Cream          Entree or Joint     Roast or Entree   
   Ham or Bacon with Eggs     Potatoes            Potatoes
   Potatoes                   Dessert             Salad
   Toast                      Bread and Butter    Pie or Pudding
   Marmalade or Jam           Tea or Coffee       Tea or Coffee
   Tea or Coffee


   Cereal Hot or Cold         Hot Meat           Soup
   Sausage & Scrambled Eggs   Potatoes           Roast(Hot or Cold)
   or Bacon & Eggs            Vegetable          Vegetable
   Bread and Butter           Bread and Butter   Potatoes
   Marmalade                  Pudding or Pie     Dessert
   Tea Coffee                 Tea Coffee         Bread and Butter
   or Milk                    or Milk            Tea Coffee or Milk

That the meals served were satisfactory to both officers and men was attested by the large number of favorable comments received in this connection.

 Internal link   Hospital Cars
A Canadian Pacific Railway Military Hospital car - Date unknown Photographer unknown.

During 1944 the Company constructed ten hospital cars, which were equipped with 28 beds, dispensary, and other appurtenances necessary for the care of wounded members of the armed forces returning from the battlefront. These cars are serviced by the Sleeping Car Department which furnishes and launders linen and supplies, soap, cleaning materials, and other miscellaneous equipment.

There are now a total of 10 hospital cars operated by the Company, in conjunction with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps.

 Internal link   Station Lunch Counters
The lunch counter in the Canadian Pacific Railway station
at McAdam, New Brunswick - 20 Jul 2016 Steve Rogers.

Station lunch counters are operated by the department at most divisional points. At these lunch counters passengers may obtain light refreshments promptly, at reasonable prices, while the train is being serviced and inspected. These facilities are operated by attendants, on commission basis, and most of the supplies have to be shipped from the news department storeroom located in each superintendent's district. Each lunch counter is operated as a separate unit and the net revenue is included in the News Service official figures. The larger station restaurants, such as those at Montreal (Windsor Station), Moose jaw, Calgary, and Vancouver, however, do not come under this service, but are operated in conjunction with the Dining Car Department.

 Internal link   News Service
A Canadian Pacific Railway News Agent cap - Date unknown Photographer unknown.

The News Service is operated not only as a convenience to the travelling public but is a source of considerable profit to the Company. News stands are located in the larger stations, where the latest newspapers, magazines, books, cigars, cigarettes, and tobaccos may be obtained at city prices. The news agents on trains also provide an important service to the travelling public. At one time their stock-in-trade consisted mostly of papers, magazines, cigars, cigarettes, popcorn, and candy, but in recent years they have enlarged their stock-in-trade by providing coach passengers with light refreshments obtained from the dining car. These supplies consist of sandwiches, tea, coffee, orange juice, tomato juice, etc. These items are sold at reasonable prices and the service is very popular with the travelling public.

Another service provided by the news agent on most night trains is the renting of pillows to passengers in day coaches. Many passengers cannot afford to purchase a berth in a sleeping or tourist car, and find the renting of a pillow, at 25 cents, is the solution for a comfortable night's rest in the coach. The News Service, under the superintendent of each district, has to look after these pillows, which must have a clean slip applied each time they are rented, and the pillows must be thoroughly aired before being re-issued, and frequently washed in order to keep them in proper sanitary condition. News agents on transcontinental trains, going through the mountains, carry a large assortment of view books and are thoroughly posted on the historical and scenic points of interest, which they are continually pointing out to interested passengers.

 Internal link   Summary

The war has placed an enormous burden on the department in the handling of the greatly increased volume of traffic, and some idea of the increase is given by the following table of percentage of increase in business during 1945 over 1938:

         Sleeping, tourist, and parlor car earnings up   205%
         Dining car earnings up                          406%
         Station restaurants earnings up                 317%
         News service earnings up                        310%

The number of employees in the department for the same period shows an increase of 50 percent but this does not give the whole story because in 1938 many employees were working part time, whereas now they are all working full time and many of them put in long hours of overtime.

 Internal link   Associated Links

Canadian Pacific Railway

Canadian Pacific Historical Association

Passenger Car Photo Index

Additional CPR Web Sites