Canada interior photo CNR railway car school Northern Ontario c. 1930

$65.00 CAD

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Nice large photo of children in one of Canadian National Railway's school cars. In the background blackboard and teacher.

"For some 40 years, pupils in remote parts of northern Ontario attended some very unusual schools. Instead of going to the schools, these railway car schools came to them!"

Written on back: ‘c.7 10413

Stamped “PHOTO Chemin de Fer National du Canada’.

Small tear lower left border. Light corner crease.

20 x 25 cm // 7 ¾” x 9 ⅞”

(Red text is an electronic watermark that is not physically part of the photo for sale)


Until the 1920s, children living in northern Ontario often lived in settlements that were too small or too temporary for the construction of a regular school to be practical. As many as 75% were the children of railway employees, who were posted along the rail lines to maintain them. Other affected children were those whose parents did hunting, trapping, and forestry work. Once a permanent settlement had 12 pupils, the Department of Education would build a regular school in the community; however, until then, pupils had to rely on correspondence courses, with mixed results.

In 1926, the Ontario government conducted a two-car pilot run of the railway car schools.  The rail cars were donated by the Canadian National Railway and the Canadian Pacific Railway and were converted into schools by the Ministry of Education. Teachers Walter H. McNally and Fred Sloman taught 82 children during this pilot run, stopping at 14 points along two rail lines. Of these children, 57 had never before attended school, and only 4 spoke English.