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Canadian Farmer Collects Historic Rail Cars
You’d think a Saskatchewan grain farmer might be interested in restoring old tractors or trucks in the months when he’s not working with crops, but that’s not the case with Gary Southgate. From his farm near Battleford, Southgate has worked countless hours for several years to learn about, locate, evaluate, and acquire more than 50 historic rail cars and engines. His vision is to recreate a small version of the Super Continental, which was Canada’s transcontinental train from 1955 to 1977.
“I began by looking for cars from the Canadian Pacific (CP Rail) and found out there weren’t that many available from the 1950’s,” Southgate says. “So I switched my focus to Canadian National (CN Rail). I have some of each in the collection.”
About half of his cars and engines are now being renovated in the scenic town of Eastend, Sask., nearly 230 miles south of where he lives. Southgate is building a station and rail siding there alongside a short line track to store, renovate and display the equipment. By 2023 he hopes to have a train assembled that will take visitors on scenic tours between Eastend, Ravenscrag, Robsart and Shaunavon.
Over 9 years, in addition to farming 3,000 acres of his own land and renting 3,000 more for grain crops, Southgate has acquired about 45 passenger, dining, sleeper, and other cars along with five engines. Between buying, moving, and renovating them he’s invested well into 7 figures of his own money and has yet to gain much income. Southgate’s cars and engines keep their original Via Rail Canada numbering system and during restoration, the CN cars are being repainted in the dark green, black, and gold trim of the Canadian National line from the 1950’s. Interiors are being cleaned and wiring is being replaced so the cars will be heated and air-conditioned with working electrical.
Several cars and engines in Southgate’s collection have historical significance. He acquired car numbers 5302 and 5307, known as “Balloon Tops” by CN employees and “Canadian Flyers” by rail fans, from the Bluewater, Mich., Chapter of the National Railroad Historical Society. Car number RPCX 5226 was built in 1937, used in service by CN Railways, and later sold to Michigan collector Harold Frye in 1984. “Frye did an amazing job restoring the car to original condition,” Southgate says. “It was one of the cars used in ‘The Polar Express’ movie that was filmed in Michigan.”
He acquired another rare car known as “Cape Tormentine” from the Florida Railway Museum and returned it by rail flat car to Saskatchewan for renovation. “Eleanor Roosevelt rode in this car on a rail trip across Canada,” Southgate says.
One of his engines is CP Northern number 3101, built in 1928 as a steam locomotive. It, along with number 3100, worked continuously for 25 years pulling overnight passenger trains between Montreal and Toronto and was later converted to burn oil and pull freight trains in the Prairie provinces. Three additional engines he purchased were used for Super Continental rail service.
Sleeper cars, sleeper-buffet-lounge cars, 6-wheel coaches, baggage cars and baggage dormitory cars round out his collection.
“There was a lot of excitement in the air when four engines and 20 of my rail cars arrived at Eastend in April 2022,” Southgate says. “Now we’re busy getting the necessary permits and approvals and cleaning equipment so we can get things rolling. It all takes time, and we have to meet several safety requirements.”
“We’re trying to preserve rail history while creating a tourism and educational venue that will interest people of all ages,” Southgate says. “It’s been a long and time-consuming process, but we’re getting much closer to having a viable enterprise.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Gary Southgate, North Battleford, Sask. (ph 306-481-5681).

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2022 - Volume #46, Issue #5