In the early days of Capreol, there was no formal education to be had as the closest school was located miles from town.  Since most of the men were employed as trappers, prospectors, lumberjacks, or railway men, they did not have the means to send their children to another town for education.

Canadian National School on Wheels No.1 railway car.  Photo courtesy of the Northern Ontario Railroad Museum and Heritage Centre.In 1926, Dr. J.B. McDougall, the assistant chief inspector for the Ontario Department of Education, suggested that a railway car be outfitted into a classroom for the children.  The CNR donated a newly painted wooden boxcar to the Department of Education for this purpose, and the first local school was created.

Over the years, the CNR would donate additional boxcars for use in education.  These "school cars" would travel throughout Northern Ontario to the Manitoba border.  Each car would travel 160 miles, stopping for one week periods at designated locations every ten or twenty miles.  Children would attend school for one week and be taught enough studies to last them until the car returned five or six weeks later.  Children from elementary level to high school were taught in these cars.

The school teachers would live in the boxcar in separate quarters, while the rest of the car served as the school.  The boxcar would be coupled with any regular train traveling north along the CN line.

Many of the early settlers along the railway were immigrants who did not speak English.  The school car provided these individuals with an opportunity to learn the language.

The school car program operated until 1967 when it was discontinued.  At the peak of its operation, there were seven cars in use, educating over 226 students throughout Northern Ontario.


Material compiled from Capreol: The First 75 Years, 1918-1993.

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