A Service we could really really use today!

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A Service we could really really use today!
Posted by Miningman on Monday, August 06, 2018 7:03 PM

First off, let me state that it is real gratifying to see the Classic Trains Forum actually outpacing the Trains Forum over the last few days. Lots of superb information, opinions, history and photos and illustrations. 

Now then, here is something that we could really use today. Before you shrug it off as nonsense please take the time to think this through. Northerm Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia have many isolated small settlements, many without all weather roads or any roads at all but there are rail lines or at least a rail line can be reached easier than a centre 300 miles or more away,

We have a group of doctors that fly in to the various communities. We have medical service vans that will transport people to the city far far away. They are inconvenient, expensive and not available to everyone. 

Even here where I live with a College and a well developed town the dentist and the eye doctors are brought in for a week on  monthly basis.

We may be more advanced than we were in the days when these cars were in service but this was a terrific and much needed service that would still serve us well today. I have to go 300 miles to an eye doctor and to see a dentist, and then back again of course. Usually an overnite stay at my cost depending on appointment time. Many isolated reserves and settlements have it much tougher.

Dental Car converted from sleeper Welsford. Angus September 1931 CPR CMPRS 5715. Kevin Day Collection 

One of the most unusual cars was this seldom photographed Dental Car that for years moved around Northern Ontario's remote region to bring a dentist to the children of 52 communities in the vast area that had so little in the way of services taken for granted elsewhere. CPR operated this car beginning late in 1931 at the behest of the Ontario Department of Public Health which provided free care and paid the dentist and his assistant which was his wife. The dental equipment, furniture and other living needs was donated by a charity, the Rosedale Chapter of the I.O.D.E. The car was self-sufficient with a waiting room, an examination room, a dark room for developing x-ray photos, kitchen, bathroom, living room, and two bedrooms. 

Canadian Medical Association Journal, November 1931 

This steel car numbered 69 replaced car 53 in 1960. 
Nipigon September 1968 Wolf Kirchmeir 


CNR also operated a car in Northern Ontario from September 29, 1931 until 1977. 
This last dental car CN 15095 is preserved at the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario in Smiths Falls. 

 

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Posted by Jones1945 on Monday, August 06, 2018 10:44 PM
Interesting! What was the reason for CNR cancelled this service?
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Posted by Miningman on Tuesday, August 07, 2018 1:14 AM

I do not know. Likely this and that and that and this and a 100 page report on the rationale for why it must go with a lot of self fulfilling prophecy and circular logic...and of course what geniuses they are.

Civiliztion is dead.

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Posted by xboxtravis7992 on Tuesday, August 07, 2018 5:09 PM

While it would be cool to see a rail served version of this; for most of the US and Canada I think a bus or truck would be adequate and cheaper. I know there are a few truck based MRI machines which travel from small town hospital to small town hospital to provide a mobile scanner; so in theory a similar approach could be taken to dental and eye care.

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Posted by Firelock76 on Tuesday, August 07, 2018 5:53 PM

Miningman, those dental cars are a pretty good reminder of a saner day when the CPR and CN prided themselves on being "Canadas Railroads."

So what if they didn't add a cent to the bottom line?  They provided a much needed service and not incidentally made both 'roads look good, very good indeed, and how do you put a price on that?

Compare that to Amtraks cancelling the US Marine Reserve's "Toys For Tots" train for upstate New York this year!  There's a lot of angry Marines out there over this, and I'm one of 'em!   That funny scraping noise you hear in the background is probably a lot of bayonets being sharpened!

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Posted by Miningman on Tuesday, August 07, 2018 5:53 PM

These communities have no roads...perhaps an ice road in the winter or a snow machine trail.

Examples-- Cochrane to Moosonee on James Bay, route of the Polar Bear Express. No roads, nothing, but plenty of small Native reserves and settlements. 

Snow Lake and Thompson Manitoba to the Port of Churchill on Hudsons Bay..no roads and no hope of their ever being one as the muskeg and permafrost is not doable...many Native reserves and small settlements dependent on the rail only.

One of my students comes from a large Reserve in Northern Manitoba that has only rail access.

 

 

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, August 07, 2018 8:38 PM

Being in the USA it is difficult to comprehend the remotness of settlements in the Northern reaches of the Canadian provences.

         

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

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Posted by Miningman on Tuesday, August 07, 2018 9:51 PM

Balt--Thank you for your understanding and empathy. It is difficult to comprehend the remoteness. Some of these places sprung up because of the railroad, others were Native settlements that were there a long time and the railroads went to those areas because they were the best spots geographically with resources at hand and were located on the way to wherever they were going, usually tidewater or huge mining resources.

Of course this lack of understanding goes to the politicians. In every case a single elected Member of Parliment or Provincial Legislature represents an area the size of Texas. It is difficult enough,  time consuming and very expensive to reach their constituents who are spread out all over the frontier. One elected member vs 80 just from a city like Toronto, who could care less.

Todays reality is that 'we' are perceived by 'them' as unsustainable, their favourite buzzword. One thing is certain, Nation Building is dead for sure. Exploiting our Nations resources, which is what this country's GDP is based on, is now ( foolishly) waved off and considered something the Third World should do. Their issues are so far removed from what built this country it is mind numbing and frankly cheesing off the rest of the world. 

Folks in the North are very hearty, independant, relish the frontier but its become difficult when you are considered unsustainable. 

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Posted by Enzoamps on Tuesday, August 07, 2018 10:07 PM

Just my uneducated opinion, but I suspect one problem is in the old days when such cars existed, there was passenger service on most railroads.  Today there isn't, so these cars would have to become freight deliveries.  There is no steam or head end power on a freight train, so they arrive cold.  Would the doctors ride the train anyway, or would we fly them in to meet the train?  And in which case, why not just fly them in without the train?

There would be the cost of finding cars, the cost of fixing them up for the purpose, finding places to store them between forays.  WOuld that be less costly that a couple Cessna flights to your town?

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Posted by Miningman on Tuesday, August 07, 2018 11:03 PM

Enzoamps--Mostly Otters and Twin Otters, still a few old ski equipped Ansons for landing on the ice in the winter. The Otters too. The lakes are the runways. 

Thats fine for my town. We have a road, the most northerly paved road up here ends 1 mile out of town then it's gravel and logging roads and then nothing for a thousand miles all the way to the Arctic. 

There are 59 communities along one line, 71 on another. A float plane works fine for a family doctor but eye doctors and dentists need special equipment, especially the dentist. The cars that were retired were totally self sufficient, heat and all, including X-ray developing. 

A modern day state of the art car could easily be built and provide all the services of a modern hotel room, dental lab and required dental items. Satellite hookups for consultation and the fella can even watch the hockey game at the end of a long day. You cannot get the needed equipment from a fly in. 

The last one ran in 1977 in Northern Ontario, serving 53 communities. 

The cars were specially outfitted by the I.O.D.E., the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire, thru fundraising and charitable donations. So bravo to the Ladies. This would be something any number of charitable or social groups could do very successfully and easily. 

Not sure about the railroads with their steely eyed focus on their stock price, OR, shareholders, or whatever, but I suspect they are not the evil some make them out to be and they would be more than accommodating. Good PR and a nice fat tax deduction.

There is so much waste of money by government on ridiculous things, lavish meetings, posh hotels, fine wines and nonsense issues and so little real concern for the common man and the outlining communities. I can almost guarantee no one has looked into this for a long time. Too much politics, too much accountability involved, can't have that! , not enough common sense, dignity, or respect. It's unsustainable you see.

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Posted by M636C on Tuesday, August 07, 2018 11:17 PM

In Australia there were similar cars which provided services to remote areas where dentists were not generally available. New South Wales had these from about the same era as the CPR car illustrated, but I recall a new Dental Car being put into service in the mid 1960s. This one needed an attached power car fitted with a GM Detroit 6/71 75kW alternator to power the air conditioning and fluorescent lights, drills and X-ray machines.

This was the end of the service. I think it may have lasted ten years, but in that time the ideas of "public service" were replaced by the concern for "limiting wasteful government expendiure".

The New South Wales Government ran both the Dental Service and the Railways, so everything was covered by internal paper transfers of expenditure. Many of the remote communities served were largely composed of railway employees. There were similar mobile Baby Health Centres that saw a demand for services during the "Baby Boom" and three car sets of mobile training workshops for the Department of Education to provide early basic trade skills for remote pupils.

Overnight Mail Trains provided package services, both LCL parcels and the Royal Mail to all major junctions, with onward service by connecting diesel railcars.

But by the 1970s, there wasn't enough income from freight to cover all the ancilliaries, and locomotive depots went away with the end of steam, and track maintenance was contracted out, removing rail employees from most of the remote towns.

At the same time, the Railways stopped traing large numbers of trade apprentices. Many of these had continued in rail employment, but many others went to all the other industries with solid practical training and experience.

Of course, as the ideas of efficiency spread, post offices and banks disappeared and farms became larger with mechanisation, reducing the numbers of families. Prosperous communities became ghost towns, even in good seasons. This year is a serious drought in NSW and both the state and Federal governments are panicking as the few large grazing properties left face bankruptcy, and government funds are being provided to pay for feed for the animals (and food for the families).

But only a major disaster will spur the governments to provide even a small portion of the services provided without question in the 1950s.

The 1950s were a sort of nirvana. The men (well. most of them) had returned from the Second World War, the Korean War pushed wool prices up to unsustainable levels, as both the UN and Soviet bloc purchased any wool available to keep their forces alive in the Korean winters. This resulted in a sustained boom never seen again, where every stage of handling the wool made profits beyond their imagination.

Some of this flowed into the services described above, but by the 1970s reality returned, an goverment services became accountable for their costs.

Peter

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Posted by Miningman on Wednesday, August 08, 2018 12:15 AM

Thank you M636C. One question...did these cars provide needed services to outlying Aboriginal communities? That is the case here in Canada. It puts a different spin on it and really and truly the need is greater when this occurs. 

Today they fly everybody out all across the many settlements all across the North, rail line or not, for medical services at enourmous expense. Of course they have to get to the plane and that could be an ordeal unto itself. The Bands pay but their funding comes from the Federal Government and who knows what is going on with that big pile of dough.

I'm not Native, but 92% of my community is. I have to find my own way to Saskatoon or Prince Albert, however 4 years ago when I actually did drop dead at the top of my driveway, thankfully after calling 911, ( they say 11 minutes before something started working..I'm really not supposed to be here but hey, I'll take it), unbeknownst to me until 3 weeks later, I discovered that I had been air ambulanced out to Saskatoon and there was no charge. I'm still surprised by that. 

I could write a book about where I was those 3 weeks. That I remember and with extreme clarity.  

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Posted by M636C on Wednesday, August 08, 2018 2:15 AM

Miningman

Thank you M636C. One question...did these cars provide needed services to outlying Aboriginal communities? That is the case here in Canada. It puts a different spin on it and really and truly the need is greater when this occurs. 

Today they fly everybody out all across the many settlements all across the North, rail line or not, for medical services at enourmous expense. Of course they have to get to the plane and that could be an ordeal unto itself. The Bands pay but their funding comes from the Federal Government and who knows what is going on with that big pile of dough.

I'm not Native, but 92% of my community is. I have to find my own way to Saskatoon or Prince Albert, however 4 years ago when I actually did drop dead at the top of my driveway, thankfully after calling 911, ( they say 11 minutes before something started working..I'm really not supposed to be here but hey, I'll take it), unbeknownst to me until 3 weeks later, I discovered that I had been air ambulanced out to Saskatoon and there was no charge. I'm still surprised by that. 

I could write a book about where I was those 3 weeks. That I remember and with extreme clarity.  

 
Aboriginies now form a large proportion of the population of Western towns in NSW. They probably did in the 1950s but Aboriginies were not counted in any census until the 1967 Referendum that provided recognition of native peoples.
 
I suspect that many people just ignored their staus as Aboriginal before 1967. Certainly, many of these people served in the Army in both World Wars, when presumably the regulations were conveniently forgotten, at least until the end of the particular crisis.
 
In Australia, the Flying Doctor service provides medical coverage over really remote areas and many of their clients would be Aboriginal. They use the Pilatus PC-12, a big single engine turboprop which is much cheaper to operate than the King Air twins.
 
Other organisations provide air ambulance coverage in less remote areas, and closer in helicopters like Bell 412s are used.
 
There are many remote communities where Aboriginies live on their traditional lands. These small settlements are expensive to maintain and from time to time state and federal governments try to get these people to move to larger and less remote places. There are particular problems with kidney disease and diabetes owing to a poor choice of modern foods and the effect is more pronounced than in the general population. Kidney Dialysis machines are rarely available outside the largest cities.
 
Peter
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Posted by Miningman on Wednesday, August 08, 2018 1:08 PM

Firelock-- Thanks for your input and good to see you post! Yes it's pretty mean spirited on Amtraks part regarding the Toys for Tots and never a good idea to disrespect the Marines. Amtraks a quasi-government agency for crying out loud, what the bleep is the matter with them? Too many executives with far too much time to do nothing but sit behind a desk and think all day. You know I would expect something like this from the old Soviet Communist machinery, but not in the USA. Has everyone gone stark raving mad. Focusing on the pennies while the dollars fly by. 

As Dave has pointed out over in the Trains Forum we will wait and see  if NS or CSX step up. It's a great opportunity for them to score a whole bunch of good PR with the Marines. Which of course is always a good idea and good business. 

M636C-- Nice talking with you and getting your input. Despite the enormous distance and totally different climate and environment so much of what you state is instantly recognizable and understandable because of a shared inheritance from the past that continues on today. We are extremely grateful that our only neighbour is the USA and share a lot culturally, with language and so on, but I think Australians and Canadians could seamlessly live and function in each other's countries with little difficulty. For us, you folks talk kinda funny, and for you, you would need a parka, mitts and a toque for half the year but thats about it. 

Do Australians curl? Any curling rinks down there?

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Posted by cx500 on Wednesday, August 08, 2018 1:25 PM

Enzoamps
Just my uneducated opinion, but I suspect one problem is in the old days when such cars existed, there was passenger service on most railroads. Today there isn't, so these cars would have to become freight deliveries. There is no steam or head end power on a freight train, so they arrive cold.

The cars were self contained, of necessity, since they would be set off in various sidings along their route, probably by the way freight rather than delaying a passenger train.  School cars would usually stay for a week before moving on to the next stop.  Heat would probably be from a Baker Heater, feeding the regular steam lines of passenger cars of the era.  A small generator could provide enough electrical power for instruments and lighting.

As alluded to by others, at the time the railways had many employees stationed in remote places along the lines so had a reason to participate in the remote service programs.  It was also a time when many businesses actually cared about the welfare of their employees and acted appropriately and voluntarily. 

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Posted by Firelock76 on Wednesday, August 08, 2018 7:53 PM

Hey Miningman, I'm still out here, but being under "moderation" my posts take about 24 hours to clear, PLUS there's apparantly no "edit" feature while you're being moderated so I have to get it right the first time. 

That being the case I have to think long and hard (OW! THAT HURTS!)  before I put "pen to paper." 

And yes, it's gratifying to see the action picking up here on the "CT" Forum, and why not?  All the cool folks are over here!  

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Posted by M636C on Wednesday, August 08, 2018 9:59 PM

"M636C-- Nice talking with you and getting your input. Despite the enormous distance and totally different climate and environment so much of what you state is instantly recognizable and understandable because of a shared inheritance from the past that continues on today. We are extremely grateful that our only neighbour is the USA and share a lot culturally, with language and so on, but I think Australians and Canadians could seamlessly live and function in each other's countries with little difficulty. For us, you folks talk kinda funny, and for you, you would need a parka, mitts and a toque for half the year but thats about it. 

Do Australians curl? Any curling rinks down there?"

I live in Canberra which is the coldest large city, and even in midwinter you can walk around at lunch time in shirtsleeves if it is fine. There isn't enough ice anywhere for curling.

I've had a lot of dealings with Canadians and Canadian companies over the years and it has all been good.

In 1994 I was representing the Royal Australian Navy at a meeting in Washington of the Air Standardisation Coordinating Committee, which involved the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. A high point of this was a dinner in a restaurant in Georgetown, where the waitress was completely thrown by the range of accents in a single group.  At these meetings, where you literally sat behind a national flag at the table, a feature was the reversion to stereotype behaviour of the national representatives. But the Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders all got on well because we knew we had to put up with whatever the US and UK wanted.

I've visited Canada in 1977 and 1986. I saw the BC Royal Hudson in action in 1986. I also picked up Omer Lavallee's book on CPR steam then.

In the early 1980s I remember Canadian Naval Officers on exchange working on our submarine project, and noting that they had green uniforms and Army rank titles. I think I asked a Major if I could call him Lieutenant Commander for consistency and he rapidly agreed. I believe the old RN uniforms returned soon after that. Later at the ASCC, the Americans usually translated CAF as "Canadian Air Force" to which the Canadian replied "that will do".

But there are many more links between Australia and Canada that few realise. When I looked at the first photo of the Dental Car, I immediately recognised it as a CPR passenger car from the 1900 era. In 1905 a Canadian, Sir Thomas Tait, was appointed at the chief Commissioner of the Victorian Railways. Pretty much his first acts were to fit pressed steel cabs to new Victorian locomotives. They weren't as big as the Canadian locomotives, nor the same shape but it was immediately clear where the idea came from. At the same time the running plates above the wheels moved upward and a plarte with a percentage tractive effort figure appeared on the cab side. Locomotives had been green but were repainted in a dark red and black, the red being universally known as Canadian Red. But the passenger cars, which had been British side door style were replace by big cars with the exact side panelling shown on the Dental Car, with domed ends to the clerestory roof. Inside both the sitting cars and sleeping cars had British style compartments, but outside the dark red cars with end doors and gold lettering were hauled by red painted 4-6-0s.

In the 1950s, Australia had a carefully controlled two airline policy, one private, one government which was said to be based on Canadian policy regarding CPR and CNR (and CP Air and Trans Canada?).

Apart from the weather, a Canadian can expect to be right at home here.

I think we save a lot of money by not publishing every document in two languages. But I learned French at school and have continued to read French books (particularly on railways). Even in Paris you get better treatment if you try to speak French, but not as much in Montreal, I think.

I shall have to visit Canada again in the near future. I've spent a Christmas in Oslo, Norway, so I know about cold weather. So I'll try to visit during summer...

Peter

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