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Friday, June 29, 2012

Pacific takes to the rails!

Two years ago, someone complained to the Toronto Star that there was a disused level crossing in Ajax, Ontario that was slowing down traffic.  The Star discovered that the level crossing was on a siding connected to the Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee plant and that there was a private passenger car sitting on it.  A follow-up article offered a glimpse inside this piece of Canadian railway history.  The Pacific was used as part of the 1939 Royal train and was also used by John Diefenbaker during his election campaign.  The luxury car was later acquired by Paul Higgins Sr., owner of Mother Parkers, and was stored at their Ajax plant.  The articles hinted that the coach might be refurbished as part of the company's centennial in 2012.  It was!

This month, the newly-restored Pacific took to the rails as part of Mother Parkers 100th birthday celebration.  The car is being attached to the rear of VIA Rail and Ontario Northland passenger trains and will be crossing the country, carrying guests and raising money for Alzheimer's research.  A tentative schedule is available here.

Pacific at Oshawa station, 25 June.

One of the first trips was on the end of VIA train 67 on 25 June.  On this quiet, clear evening, the train pulled into Oshawa station for a brief stop.  A group of smiling people, including Paul Higgins Jr., came out onto the rear platform to greet me and another railfan.  Before the train pulled away again, Paul Higgins Jr. handed down tins of Martinson Coffee for myself and Matt Soknacki.  This was a kind gesture and good PR. 

It is very rare to see private rail cars nowadays.  Decades ago, it was common for company bosses to own their own coaches and have them attached to trains.  Due private jets and liability concerns, it became much less attractive for railway companies to handle passenger cars that they didn't own.  This tour is very special and there is plenty of time for railfans to get out and see the coach for themselves.  Details of the tour can be found at: http://motherparkersremembers.ca/.  The tour is in support of the Alzheimer's Society, certainly a worthwhile cause.

And what of the coffee?  I am not a coffee drinker, but the sealed tin has become part of my railway memorabilia collection.  After all, it isn't every day that you get coffee supplied by such a special coach!

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