E-Series Backgrounder

VIA Rail Canada’s largest group of sleeping cars was the 52-member E-series, numbered 1110-1161 and bearing names of Canadian communities, large and small, beginning with “E”. With four open sections, four double bedrooms, and eight duplex roomettes (a “4-8-4” plan in passenger-car shorthand), the versatile cars were assigned to overnight trains on all parts of VIA’s network until their retirement in the early to mid-1990s.

Made up berth in a VIA rail E-series sleeping car

Located at the vestibule end of the car, the configuration of the duplex rooms gave these smooth-sided sleepers their distinctive “upstairs/downstairs” window arrangement. Carbuilders employed duplex roomettes to increase private, enclosed berth capacity within the confines of the standard 85-foot car length. Introduced experimentally in 1940, they were first adopted in Canada with 20 cars built as Canadian National’s 24-duplex-roomette I-series cars in 1949-50. Half of the I-series’ duplex roomettes were at normal car-floor height, and the rest were elevated above this level and accessed from the corridor via steps.

By the time all 52 E-series cars were conveyed from original owner Canadian National to VIA Rail Canada in 1978, several had been repainted in the VIA-CN image, and the type remained the backbone of VIA’s Blue-and-Yellow sleeper fleet until retirement with the advent of the HEP-1 program’s rebuilt ex-CP Rail stainless-steel Budd equipment in the early 1990s. That latter group also included duplex-roomette cars: CP’s 29-car Chateau series, with a floor plan combining four sections, three double bedrooms, one drawing room, and eight duplex roomettes.

The namesake of VHA’s preserved Edmundston (No. 1115) is the northern New Brunswick city, located beside the Saint John River opposite Madawaska, Maine, and one of the larger population centres on CN’s former National Transcontinental Railway. Today, Edmundston, N.B., is the division point between CN’s mainline Napadogan and Pelletier subdivisions.

As part of its early 1950s passenger equipment renewal program, Canadian National acquired 141 streamlined cars from the Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Co. of Chicago. Among the several floor plans built by P-S for CN, the E-series cars were built between January and April 1954 as P-S Plan 4124A, Lot 6922. Under CN’s passenger-car classification system, the E-series cars were designated class PS-79-C.

As CN’s largest group of streamlined sleeping cars, the E-series saw service throughout Canada, and eight cars (Nos. 1120-1127) were leased to the Pullman Company for five years, from the time of their delivery in 1954 until April 1959, for cross-border operation between Montreal-Toronto-Chicago and Montreal-New York City. Under this arrangement, the cars were staffed by Pullman employees but retained their standard Canadian National paint and lettering, with small PULLMAN identification appearing at the ends of the upper car sides.

The E-series cars were delivered in Canadian National’s then-new green, black and yellow colour scheme, with circular maple-leaf monograms at each corner on the cars’ lower sides. The railway’s 1961 visual redesign program brought a change in livery, to black and light grey, accented by the new linear CN symbol in red-orange.

While most of VIA’s remaining E-series cars were taken out of service and placed in storage in December 1992, Edmundston continued in northern Quebec service on the Montreal-Senneterre Abitibi until April 1996. Click here to read about the car’s preservation and restoration after being retired and sold by VIA.
—Kevin J. Holland

E-Series Sleeping Car Diagram
E-Series Sleeping Car Diagram

Similar Articles