This photograph shows the interior of a railway dining car, and demonstrates the variety of ways in which people could experience train travel, from ordinary to lavish settings. Dedicated dining cars were first introduced by American George M. Pullman in 1868, and they became a popular feature of Canadian passenger trains in the late 19th century as the country’s rail network expanded, with longer routes and faster travel requiring dining on the go. Although we don’t know the name of the rail line on which these passengers were travelling, dedicated railway cars for meal service were fairly prevalent on the Canadian Pacific Railway because of its lengthy routes—even though some of its lines were too steep to accommodate dining cars!
This photograph is from the Archives of Ontario’s Spinks family fonds (F 4374), consisting of photographs taken by William H. Spinks and his brother, Alfred Spinks, in Woodstock, Ontario. We don’t know the story of these train passengers, but the similar overalls worn by some of these men suggest that they were part of the same group—perhaps labourers or, based on the estimated date of the photograph, World War I soldiers.