Canadian National Super Continental

A number of other trains acquired dome cars after 1956, mainly by acquiring them when other railroads stopped running passenger trains or by shuffling around the equipment of existing trains. In the early 1960s, for example, the Norfolk & Western leased the Wabash Railroad from the Pennsylvania (which had owned it since 1941) and eventually used Wabash domes on the Cincinnati-Norfolk Pocahantas and Cincinnati-Newport News Powhattan Arrow.

Click image for a larger view of this ad from the March, 1954 issue of National Geographic.

The most important train to acquire dome cars from another railroad was the Canadian National’s Super Contintental, which competed with the Canadian between Vancouver and Toronto/Montreal. As a largely government-owned railroad, Canadian National lacked the flash of the Canadian Pacific. Although it advertised in early 1954 that it had made the largest purchase of streamlined passenger cars in history, its introduction of the Super Continental on April 24, 1954 was overshadowed by the inauguration of Canadian Pacific’s stainless steel Canadian on the same day.

Several heavyweight cars are discernible in this postcard of the Super Continental. Click image for a larger view.

Canadian National didn’t help its case by painting the train in a boring black-and-green with yellow pinstripes reminiscent of the Northern Pacific’s early Pine Tree paint scheme. To make matters worse, despite its record purchase, the Super Continental was not completely streamlined, as it included several heavyweight tourist sleepers and other cars that had been modified to have a streamlined appearance but which are notable in photographs by being distinctly taller than the newer lightweight cars. And of course, unlike the Canadian, the Super Continental lacked dome cars.

This postcard shows a former super dome on the Super Continental, a Skyview observation car on the Ocean, and CN’s worm logo on a Montreal Locomotive Works locomotive.

That was partially rectified in 1964. After the Milwaukee Road discontinued the Olympian Hiawatha, Canadian National purchased the six super domes and Skytop observation cars used on that train. It dedicated the Skytops (which it renamed Skyview cars) to the Montreal-Halifax Ocean and Scotian trains, while the domes were used on the Super Continental–but just west of Winnipeg. The domes were open only to sleeping car passengers.

A heavyweight coach is visible near the front of the train and heavyweight tourist sleepers can be seen starting three cars behind the super dome.

At this time, Canadian National revised its color scheme to an even more boring black and white (or, usually, black and grey), made only slightly less tedious by the red noses on the locomotives adorned with CN’s uninspiring “worm” logo. Even in the late 1960s, the Super Continental was rarely, if ever, an all-streamlined train, as a heavyweight coach was usually included for short-distance passengers and heavyweight sleepers were included for low-cost accommodations.

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