Wright Track

On the Wright Track

Price is $25.00, and it can be shipped for $6.00 postage to addresses in Canada. Postage will vary for other addresses. E-transfer and cheques are accepted for payment.

C.P.R. School Car # 2  was not only their school, but their home. Their Dad was their teacher and their Mom, also a qualified teacher, was there not only to support her husband and keep their home running smoothly, but to give the extra help to the students when needed. Letters and speeches written by Bill and Helen Wright and memories written by their four children, Shirley, Harvey, Nancy and Chris are sure to interest anyone who loves Ontario history. Discover what it was like to live in a converted rail passenger coach car that moved along the rails from one settlement to the next during the regular school year.  The formula of teaching at each stop for a week and leaving each student with four weeks of homework was not easy. These memories are sure to paint some vivid pictures for the reader.
Learn how  and when the School Car program began, and when it ended.Never before have the written memories of an entire School Car family been compiled and published.
The classroom was 22 feet  long and 9 feet wide, and the kitchen  was 9 feet  x 9 feet and the living room was 9 feet x 12 feet. Talk about tiny houses which seem to be all the rage  these days and “online”  or “remote” learning. Here is where it began.

Meet the Wright family and enjoy the ride through history.

Bonnie Sitter, Interview on Up North with Jonathan Pinto: Ontario’s school railcar program. CBC Listen. Jan. 25, 2021

Dan Rolph, “Bonnie Sitter releases latest book “On the Wright Track” in Exeter-Lakeshore Times Advance. January 14, 2021.

William E. McLeod, On the Wright Track: Memories from C.P.R. School Car #2–a Review in The Chapleau Express, January 14, 2021.

Shawn Loughlin, “Exeter’s Sitter pens new book on Northern Ontario school car” in The Citizen, January 7, 2021.

Book Review


A review by William E. “Bill” McLeod

“On the Wright Track: Memories from C.P.R. School Car # 2 is a delightful, well written and eminently readable account of the lives William and Helen Wright and their four children . From its inception in September of 1928 to its retirement in June of 1967, Mr. Wright taught in the railway school car that ran between the C.P.R. Divisional Points of Chapleau and White River in Northern Ontario.The school cars (there were seven of them that ran on the C.N.R., C.P.R. and the T. & N.O.) were railway cars converted into a school room and living quarters for the teacher and his family.  The cars were conceived in the mid 1920s by J. B. MacDougall of the Ontario Ministry of Education.  Their purpose was to deliver education to the children of railway workers, mostly track maintenance men, who lived and worked at isolated locations along the railways of Northern Ontario.  The children of trappers, prospectors and lumber jacks were also welcome.C.P.R. School Car # 2 ran from Chapleau to White River serving the remote whistlestops of Esher, Nicholson, Bolkow, Carry, Grassett and Amyot.  The car would be pulled by a freight train from one stop to the next where it would be shunted off the main line for a week during which time the children would be given a week of intensive teaching.  They would then be given homework assignments to be completed before the train stopped again on its return trip.  One cycle from Chapleau to White River would last about a month.Teaching on the school cars required a very special person and his wife.  It was a very remote existence and, if the couple had children, those kids would have to be raised without the benefit of interaction with peers their own age.  They made their own fun doing puzzles, playing board games, snaring rabbits, fishing and scavenging pop bottles that had been thrown from passing trains.  In season they picked blueberries which they sold to their grandfather in Campbellford.  They did very well on the Grade Eight high school entrance exams that were required in those days.  Most went on to post secondary education. To tell this story the author chose to invite the four Wright children to write a chapter describing their lives before they went off to high school.  Shirley was born in 1935, Harvey in 1936, Nancy in 1938 and Chris in 1943.  They had nothing but good things to say about their experience.  Two former pupils were also asked to make a contribution and they too were very positive.In 1946, Mr. Wright built a cottage on Wangoon Lake at Esher which the family enjoyed until 1983 when they sold it to the Dixon family who still own it. Whenever I read any comments about the school cars by the students they are invariably positive about their experiences and their respect for Mr. Wright. However, in 1967, it was time to retire to a new home in Bobcaygeon, Ontario.  Before leaving Chapleau the Wrights were honored at a reception thrown by the teachers of Chapleau High School and by the Reeve and Councillors of the town.

To order or obtain more information e-mail bonnie.sitter@gmail.com
Bill McLeod is the author of four books about Chapleau and area – The Chapleau Game Preserve, Murder in the Schoolhouse: Sudbury, Ontario’s Last Hanging, CHAPLEAU: Retrospective on Life in an Isolated Northern Community and St. John’s (Anglican ) Residential Schools, Chapleau, Ontario, 1907 to 1948  Details on content and ordering instructions can be found on Bill’s website billmcleodbooks.com.

“On the Wright Track: Memories from C.P.R. School Car # 2 is a delightful, well written and eminently readable account of the lives William and Helen Wright and their four children. “

Bill McLeod

From Doug Bundy, Goderich Ontario (With Permission)

“I purchased your book On the Wright Track from Fincher’s the other day, and have just finished reading it! What a joy, and it brought back lots of memories! Not because I was ever a student on a School Car but because my father was a CNR agent back in Saskatchewan , when I was growing up! Many of the stories of how kids got along, living on the “Tracks”, and being wary of oncoming 
trains  etc., etc. made me recall my growing-up days as a CNR Kid!

I can remember the times, we would “walk the rails”, and often pick up items that had been 
dropped or thrown from trains, or of placing pennies on the rails so that after the trains
 passed over them, they became a flattened keep-sake!

During the summer between graduating from high school, and starting at the University of Saskatchewan, I actually worked on the “Section Gang” in Avonlea, where my Dad was the Agent! It was hard work, but I think I earned about $1.25 an hour, for an 8-hour day, that started at 7 AM! I learned a few Polish swear-words from the 2 Polish guys who worked with me!

For several years as I was growing up, the task of retrieving the “stick” that had a curved end , that Dad would attach the “Train Order” paper that he had received via the Telegraph at the Station. He would place the paper in the notch between the main part of the stick, and the curved end, and hold it up . so the Engineer on the train, as it was passing through, could put his arm through the curved part, retrieve the paper, and toss the “stick” down again. It was my job to run after the train, and retrieve the stick and return it to Dad.

Even though my bedroom window faced out towards the tracks, about 10 feet away, I was able to sleep through the noise of long freight trains barreling along the track.

We got lots of summer vacations on the train. My uncle lived in Tacoma, Washington, and we sometimes traveled the CNR Trans-Canada train from Regina, all the way to Vancouver,
 and then  connected to another train down the coast to Tacoma to visit him!

Anyway, thanks for bringing up all those memories!”

Hi Bonnie,
I have finished reading your excellent book, On the Wright Track. I enjoyed reading the first hand accounts on what life was like living on the school car. These were certainly special people, committed to a cause of helping children be educated, even in remote parts of Canada.
It is a great Canadian story. Well done!

S.C.  Quebec