The Canadian Pacific Railway business car #8 was built in 1929 as one of a fleet of ten steel superintendent cars each named after a Canadian province. It is a short business car, 70 feet instead of 85 feet like standard business cars.
The car’s interior was originally built with a meeting room, 2 bedrooms and a full galley and was finished in varnished mahogany with brass fittings, typical of the highest standard in its day. It was used by the CPR all across Canada as the General Superintendent’s private car until the late 1960s.
In 1970 the car was purchased by a private individual and it was moved to Gastown in Vancouver, and became “Le Railcar” restaurant. Its bedrooms were removed and it was converted to large dining space but the original fittings and some of the mahogany were still maintained. The restaurant had a few different owners before the railcar found itself with Marathon Developments, a subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific Railway company. In March 2002, Marathon donated the railcar to the West Coast Railway Association (WCRA) as they wanted it off their property.
With the help of the Canadian Pacific and a heavy lifting transportation company, the car was disconnected from its spur in Gastown and lifted onto the CPR mainline. This work had to be done on a Saturday so as not to impede the weekday operations of the West Coast Express. CP then interchanged the car to CN to move it to North Vancouver and then onto BC Rail for the final trip to the West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish.
In 2003 the Tong & Geraldine Louie Family Foundation donated the funds required to the WCRA to get the Alberta restored back to its classic 1929 style and to full operating condition. WCRA volunteers took 5 years in restoring the car.
The restoration was an authentic re-creation with new inlaid mahogany throughout (the only original wood left in the car is the buffet in the dining room). The current floor plan of the car is with a dining room, lounge and galley. The rear of the car features the classic business car open outdoor platform, the spot often seen with politicians or officials delivering speeches to a crowd. The interior classic observation lounge has large windows on both sides as well as at the back. It is the “living room” of the car with comfortable seating and fine wood tables and is an amazing place to watch the scenery roll by!
The large open dining or meeting room is 30 feet in length and can accommodate up to 16 passengers in vintage first-class style travel. A finished bar is at the far end of the room ideal for serving snacks and beverages.
In January 2011 a grand event was held to dedicate the newly built railcar WCXX008-Alberta. Mr. Brandt Louie dedicated the railcar to his maternal Grandfather who worked as a Pacific Passenger Agent for the CPR Steamship line.
The Alberta now resides in the CN Roundhouse & Conference Centre and is used for special excursions like the Polar Express Private VIP car.