Rail Fascinating History in Small Alberta Hamlet
The whole country is excited about Canada 150. Everyone is planning upcoming celebrations, with many taking place throughout the year. A reminder of where we stand now; where we evolved from. True Canadian pride, eh!
Meanwhile, in a small hamlet in Southern Alberta, you may be surprised to discover that 130 years of Canadian history has found its last whistle stop and now resides at Aspen Crossing; just a scant 45 minutes outside of Calgary.
Celebrating Our Railway Ties!
The history of how Canada was connected by silver ribbons and the struggles, pain and loss endured to get to the last spike; are remembered, celebrated and shared here at Aspen Crossing.
On June 1st, Aspen Crossing will be celebrating 130 years of Canadian history. The story of the Diefenbaker Dining Car, begins in 1887.
Having been manufactured at the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago. This particular rail car has some extraordinary history.
Arriving in Alberta back in 1913; there has been much speculation that it once belonged to some “infamous gangster club”. After all, it did originally come from Chicago. However, it holds the distinction in Canadian history as our 13th Prime Minister’s “whistle-stop” rail car across Canada from 1958 to mid-1960. After 1962, John George Diefenbaker used the Pullman car as his private business car.
Politics by Rails
Diefenbaker’s 1958 campaign for Prime Minister was a very up close and personal one, achieved by travelling across the country by rail.
“He first adopted the use of a railway car for campaign purposes during this election. It must have worked since his party- the PC's- won by a landslide that year. Dief had been impressed after watching Dwight Eisenhower campaign for President by rail in 1952.The Diefenbaker railway car was later kept parked on a siding at Dief's riding in Prince Albert, Sask., where there was a CNR depot.”
Tracking Alberta History
“After the Diefenbaker years, the old railway car was sold by the CNR to a private owner. But later on, the 1887 Pullman again entered the spotlight, this time in Edmonton, as part of the Sidetrack Café on 112 Street, which had first opened its doors in 1981 in a former printing shop. Acts like Sarah McLachlan, K.D. Lang, The Barenaked Ladies and The Weakerthans, all had their day at the Sidetrack during its 26 years in operation. The 1887 railcar was a great addition to complete the Sidetrack's "railway" vibe, and some will remember having Huevos in the old Pullman for Sunday brunch. But in 2006, the Sidetrack Cafe was forced to relocate to make way for a condo development. The railcar was then sold to Aspen Crossing and trucked down to Mossleigh, a hamlet located about 65 km southeast of Calgary.” Quoted from Old Calgary Sidewalk Stamps
A New Location, A Rail New Purpose
And so, 10 years ago this famous historical rail car arrived on Good Friday 2006. The car and its wheels were moved on two different trucks with a combined weight of 153,000 lbs or 76 Tons. The truck and trailer that moved the car had over 78 wheels.
From “Dief the Chief” to Sidetrack Café to Aspen Crossing in Mossleigh, Alberta. The whistle-stop tour for this historic train car may have come to an end, but it has found new life serving thousands of visitors every year delectable meals, prepared with locally grown and sourced foods here in the prairies.
Of course, Diefenbaker himself was a true prairie supporter. During his administration, he initiated wheat sales to China and agricultural reform that revitalized western agriculture. So, you’ll always find the Diefen-burger, featured on the menu!
From Chicago, USA in 1887, to small hamlet in Alberta, Canada; this historic railcar has had a very diverse journey through history Canadian History.
Come join us to help Celebrate Our Railway Ties! Take a step back in time aboard the Aspen Crossing Railway – to book your next travel experience CLICK HERE!