Canadian National Dental Car
Whistle Stop Dentist: Life on the Dental Car 1931-1935
The Railway Museum has on-site the only remaining dental car in North America
In 2012, the museum was thrilled to accept a donation from David Brownlow. Mr. Brownlow’s father was the first dentist to participate in the Dental Car program. The donation includes many personal family photographs and ephemera that allows us to recreate a comprehensive look at ‘Life on the Dental Car’.
The Dental Car arrived at the museum from a former museum site in Toronto in 1990 and restored to its present condition. The other two dental cars in existence were scrapped when taken out of service in the late 1960s.
The car was created as a 1913 Heavy Weight Sleeping Car outfitted with mahogany. This mahogany is still intact in the front and rear ends of the car. The car went through several name and number changes including being called “Camrose”, after the Town of Camrose, Alberta.
In the 1930s the Ontario government funded a program to provide dental care to children in remote Northern communities.. Canadian Pacific and Canadian National each contributed three old passenger cars to be converted. This car in particular was donated by CN and was converted in 1951 to become a dental car. As part of the conversion the men’s smoking lounge became a kitchen, some beds were removed to provide a dental area, and two bedrooms with washrooms were created.
As a dental car, Camrose, provided care to school children in Northern Ontario. For an extra fee, adults could also have their problems managed. For twelve months of the year a dentist and dental assistant worked on the car. The children could enter at one end of the car while the private entrance was at the other end. A second car traveled with the dental car for storage of dental supplies, books and food. The car had three sources of power: train, hydro grid, and generator.
The car functioned as a dental car until its retirement in 1977. At that time the dental car was replaced by RVs which the government expected to be a more cost efficient method.