Sleeper Somerset (arrived 1989)

Original Floor Plan and Interior Finishes of the Somerset


The Somerset was one of nearly 60 S-Class sleepers built in 1929 to re-outfit the Trans-Canada Limited as well as other main CPR trains.

The payout is based on a popular 12 & 1 floor plan used for most sleeping cars of that period and contained: 12 sections each with a "section" (an upper and lower berth) along a central aisle. (... INSERT part of thumbnail 1. 58 - showing night and day sections...). There was a single private drawing room containing a section, a day sofa (which could be made into a third bed at night), a private attached washroom, and a cast glass decorative window between the room and the hall for light. The men's smoking and washroom at the A-end of the car had seating for 5 and a separate toilet room. At the other end of the car was a ladies' dressing room which had seating for 4 and an attached toilet room. Hallways at each end of the car by-passed the men's and women's rooms, and the drawing room.


The interiors were finished in quarter-sawn Honduran Mahogany. Extensive marquetry adorned the surfaces of the upper berths and 7 large brass decorative grills covered vents in the upper ceilings. Each lower seat (berth) contained a small square shaded light fixture in the corners. Tall, highly-decorative brass fixtures provided lighting along the aisle in the main sleeping room and in the drawing room.    


A Brief History of the Somerset before its Arrival at the Museum


With the economic depression of the 1930's, these cars were used on other transcontinental trains because of their newness and popular design. After considerable use for World War II troop movement, the car underwent a complete refit with the drawing room being modernized, all inlaid panels being painted, and the car re-named Travers. They were also air-conditioned with ducts installed inside the car which lowered the ceiling by approximately 6 inches. As well, the paired windows in each section and drawing room were consolidated into one large window to make viewing easier, and the car to look more modern. In an extensive alteration, the main structural steel posts on each side of the windows were moved closer together, with the centre post completely removed. The corner lighting fixtures were removed and replaced with modern aluminum fixtures on the centre of the bulkhead wall above the seats, while the upper fixtures were removed and replaced with modern fixtures in the ceiling. The original floral plush upholstery was also changed to a simple tightly woven green material without pattern, and the head rests were covered in white vinyl. (...INSERT - slide # 1 - interior of Somerset/Travers on arrival at museum). It was last used on the Expo'67 Limited - and was among the last heavy weight sleeping cars used by the CPR.

The car was found along with day parlour # 6751, requiring lifting by crane and transport by truck to active track. (.. INSERT slide # 2 - showing lifting of the car by crane) It had minimal water damage to a few of the upper berths and some of the upholstery. (... INSERT - slides # 3 & 4 - veneer damage & closeup) The men's room, however, had substantial damage to the veneers, and several of the mirrors were missing, nonetheless it was considered to be in very good condition for its age and time out of service. Almost everything else was intact in the car.

Work Done on the Somerset after its Arrival


The fact that some damage had occurred to the figured veneers and inlays on a few of the upper berths helped a decision to restore half the car along its length, and improve (or "restore") the modernization along the other half - a unique solution to a problem which also increased the interpretive opportunities. The right side of the ca,r going from B -end to A-end, was selected for the restoration because it would allow the men's room to remain as found in the deteriorated condition, while the drawing room and ladies room could be left as modernized. The drawing room was an intact modernized version, so its interpretive value in this car was important, while the Rutherglen had the restored original version of this room.

On the restored side of the car, all berths and lower armrests were stripped, repaired and 8 layers of varnish applied - the same for that side of the hallways through the car. (... INSERT Colour photos # (1 & 2) showing interior panel restoration). All wooden wall panels against the outside of the car were removed to expose the steel frame for alterationas to install the original paired windows. The rivets on the steel posts at the edge of each window were cut so that the posts could be relocated to their original place. The original rivet holes had been welded over, but they were able to be re-cut, and the posts re-rivetted into their original location. Narrow steel cover plates were re-fabricated and installed between the paired windows to produce the original architectural detail and proportions. (... INSERT B&W photos # 1 & 2 - showing steel work). This was very similar to the steel work done on the Rutherglen - but involved only one side of the car. 30 old Honduran mahogany-sash inner and outer window frames were refurbished to fit these openings, thus completing the original architectural integrity of the car.

All duct work survived in the ceilings, so a new fan unit for heating and cooling was installed in the centre linen closet. The 1940's ice air conditioning fan system, was left intact above the exposed ceiling of the mens room, and forms an 'as found" mechanical display. The windows on the outside of the car then had black covers installed to give the car a night appearance, while those on the viewing corridor side were already quite dark. Two berths on each side were left up to provide a view of the sections as they would appear just before being made into beds. The other eight berths were lowered to become beds with heavy wool curtains hung along the centre aisle to enhance the night scene. The lighting was also placed on dimmers to allow viewing at reduced levels.

Upholstery on the restored side was done in an original looking floral plush, (... INSERT slide # 5 - new upholstery) while the modern upholstery underwent a conservation treatment to stabilize it and to improve its display quality. Original-looking brass corner lights with decorative square glass shades were installed on the restored side, while the holes left by the previous modern fixtures on the bulkhead wall were filled during restoration; modern fixtures remained on the other side. Original single mirrors, framed in mahogany, were restored for use between the paired windows, in contrast to the two unframed mirrors used to each side of the modern windows. Half of the ceiling was also painted cream (for the restored side) but left green for the modern.

What remained of the modern carpet was also conserved for re-use along that side of the main aisle, while another sub-carpet was installed along the restored side, to be covered (when funds permit) with wool Axminster to enhance the division of the two sides. The end doors and both interior hall swing doors were restored down the centre to be consistent with the restoration theme. Even the words "Built by Canadian Pacific Angus Shops" were left in this centre line.

Work Yet to do on the Somerset (as of 1999)

  1. Wool Axminster carpet is still required for along half of the hallway and central aisle to accentuate the restored side of the car.
  2. Half of one side of the stenciled lettering on the end doors also needs to be done in gold leaf as per the original.

Other Notes on the Somerset

To many visitors this is one of the most popular interpretive cars because of the split into two eras of decor.


Sleeping car, Rutherglen