Canada's Centennial of Confederation was a great year. In fact, Pierre Berton wrote a whole book about it being the 'last good year'. In some ways he was probably right ... eg. the NHL expansion for the 67-68 season and the end of the '50 mile rule'.
Montreal was a great place to be in 1967. Thirty years later when I learned contemporary French properly via cable TV in Ontario, I got a chance to see how Expo was celebrated on the 'French CBC' and the vibrant cultural developments in Quebec music and the other arts during that period.
In the railway realm, there was unprecedented interest in 'seeing the country' in 1967 - particularly by train - and the schedule shows some of this extra passenger traffic.
Our parents put the actual CNR Expo 67 pavilion very low on the list and we only got there on our last visit. In the official Expo guidebook, I saw nothing notable about its description to share with you. I remember a few railway images from the Ontario provincial pavilion film better than I remember anything on rails displayed at the CP and CN displays.
... In the 1960s, trains were 'the past'. Ottawa's centrally-located station was becoming asphalt-locked (1966) and Turcot was disappearing under highway overpasses - its roundhouse long gone. Expo suggested the future of transportation might be in hovercraft and monorails.
Gasoline was still cheap, so large autos were 'the present'. As the decade closed, about 400 square kilometres of farmland north of Montreal would be expropriated so the supersonic aircraft of the future could land at the new eastern Canadian airport - Mirabel.
... La Révolution tranquille precipitated new pride in, and new protections for, the French language in Quebec. Le Front de libération du Québec shook up many residents, particularly capitalists. Many of those accustomed to living and operating only in English left Quebec. Montreal's projected economic growth stopped and Mirabel became a white elephant.
In 1968, my family did 'see the country' via the CNR. (As shown elsewhere on this blog, both of our parents had already made their own separate CPR trips out and back in the 1950s.)
... During the 1968 trip, in the heat of a northern Ontario summer day, we watched ice being loaded into some of the cars' bunkers for use by their air conditioning systems. Later, a young, barefoot 'flower child' in a cafe lounge car explained she had tried everything (including gasoline) but couldn't get the black out of the soles of her feet. Fortunately, she did not have the hobby of preserving the litter of discarded train orders found blowing in division point railway yards ... like my father did.
... Later ... still in northern Ontario (you know what it's like) ... we were approaching Winnipeg. I associated Winnipeg with the Guess Who, whom we often saw performing on CBC's Let's Go. A few young people hung out in an open vestibule - creosote, warm sunshine and moaning vestibule plates. One kid (not me) told MoW summer gang employees below 'Don't work too hard!' in a friendly, confident adult way. Bingo in the diner was the evening's entertainment on the Prairies. Through the mountains we visited one of CN's second-hand full-length dome cars.
* * *
Ice for air conditioning and Bingo ... or supersonic aircraft, monorails and hovercraft?
Expo 67 was about our wonderful future!
Here are three previous posts about the Confederation Train: