Railway Schoolhouses

In a recent Facebook post by the Archives of Ontario, they had posted pictures of railway schoolhouses. I had never heard about these, so I decided to find out more.

In remote communities the only way some children got their schooling was by a school house that traveled the rails. In Ontario, they were used from the late 1920\’s to the late 1960\’s. In Newfoundland, railway schools were in existence during the mid 1930\’s to the early 1940\’s.

The school car would pull into town for a week or so, and all school age children would be taught all the normal subjects you would see in a traditional school. At the end of the time period, the kids would be given homework to be completed by the time the train came back. In the evenings, adults could receive schooling themselves, or take advantage of the music and books there. They would even host movie and bingo nights! The teacher and their family also helped those with literacy problems fill out forms, as well as those new immigrants who had little or no English.

The school cars were operated jointly by the government and the rail companies, There were desks, blackboards, and pull down maps. It didn\’t look much different than a regular schoolroom in a bricks and mortar school.The school car also had an apartment set up for the teacher and their family. Fred Sloman was a rail car teacher for over 30 years, and raised his family travelling the rails from settlement to settlement.

Aboriginal, Finnish, Norwegian, French and British children inside a school train at Nemigos, near Chapleau, Ontario, around 1950
Source: Library and Archives Canada/National Film Board of Canada/Photothèque collection/PA-111570
© Public Domain. Credit: H. Wright Corp.

You can find out more about railway schools here:



The Whig

Collections Canada

National Film Board

Galt Railway Historic Park

2 thoughts on “Railway Schoolhouses

  1. Interesting! I'd never heard of railway schools either. I have heard of School Ships though. They were sometimes called Industrial ships and boys were sent there by the courts, mostly in the UK and Australia.


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