‘Old timers get off on trains’

By Calgary Herald Reporter Mark Hallman

Joe Chollack peered down the multitrack mainline toward the beckoning signal and notched out the throttle of freight No. 901′s lead locomotive four locomotives gripping the track with 12,000 horsepower and 83 cars of mixed freight in motion.

“We’ve got a shorter train than usual today and should make it to Field in good time” Chollack said as the train he would pilot westward through the Rockies and Spiral Tunnels crept through Calgary downtown.

Tall, lithe and alert Chollack 58 takes obvious pride in his work as an engineer a position he had worked toward since hiring on the Canadian Pacific Railway 35 Years Ago in Lethbridge.

“Back when I started I remember shoveling 20 tons of coal into the fire box of the steam locomotive on a 100 mile stretch between Lethbridge and Crowsnest Pass”

“I feel a bit of nostalgia for the steamers. All you needed to fix them was a hammer and chisel, but with these diesel locomotives being complicated, all you can do sometimes when something goes wrong is to throw up your hands” Chollack’s eyes remained glued to the oncoming track he knows so well as the train sped west into the foothills. A second’s glance and he could tell the train’s location on the 135 mile run to Field BC, within a tenth of a mile.

“Anybody can run an engine with a bit of instruction, but handling a train is another story. Every train handles different than others. You never know what might happen each trip”
Chollack said a foot of slack exists between cars in a train permitting the cars to surge forward and backwards – a situation having dangerous consequences if handled improperly.

“The challenge of running the train is managing the slack so the cars don’t travel back and forth and break apart”

Approaching Cochrane No. 901 navigated the passing track around a maintenance gang known as “Gandy dancers” among railroaders. Looking hot and weary in the noon day sun, the workers stretched up their hands in a supplicating motion asking Chollack to toss out cans of water. Chollack tossed out several tins and then shrugged his shoulders at the man he passed standing near the tracks when all but the engine crew’s supply was gone.

Stan Zimmer, No 901′s head end brakeman, called out signals to Chollack and talked about the easy money he makes working run through freights from Calgary to Field. “I don’t have to get off and switch cars off the train.” Said Zimmer, 27. Each trip’s different and what’s more. I get paid to travel through this beautiful scenery.

The train travelled swiftly through Banff and Lake Louise on superbly maintained track, representing several years’ heavy capital investment by CP Rail. Nearing Stephen B.C. Chollack slowed the train with a gentle application of the air brakes to undertake a brake test. The Continental Divide appeared as a slight hump in the distance.

Lighting a cigarette while awaiting the test’s completion. Chollack said “Being away from home so much on trips has been hard on my family. My wife is disappointed when I disappear at a moment’s notice. Giving a two-hour, the railway can call me for a trip anytime of day or night.
Test completed No. 901 started the descent towards Field travelling no more than 20 mph. Zimmer shut tight the cab’s windows to keep out diesel fumes as the lead locomotive entering the black darkness of the Spiral Tunnels upper loop.

The headlight stabbed through the darkness illuminating the tunnel’s Rocky Interior and small streams of water showering down the walls. Trailing out of the tunnel mouth, the tail end of the train could be seen above the emerging engines as No. 901 slithered out of the tunnel down the grade into Field.

At the Field bunkhouse the crew of No. 901′s eastbound counterpart freight. No. 902 was called for 7 PM. Conductor Doug Ferguson, 50 stood on the station platform looking over the waybills of CP Rail’s hottest freight train running east bound from Vancouver to Toronto and Montréal through points in between.

Ferguson bantered with locomotive engineer Mike Kulikowski 49 dressed in traditional engineer’s pinstriped garb, who to give the crew riding the caboose a smooth ride that would leave the coffee pot sitting upright on the stove.

“It can get mighty rough back on the tail end” said Kulikowski. “If the slack starts running in and out you can get a nasty jolt back there.

“I’d rather be up front, cause if the train derails and the guys in the caboose started seeing cars going into the ditch, you sure know where you’ll be going too.”

Once aboard the caboose, paperwork done Ferguson pulled out a grocery bag full of ingredients and started peeling potatoes and boiling water for a stew. I’m one of the few guys on the road still cooks his dinner,” said Ferguson “I just don’t like restaurant food.”
Coffee simmered on the stove as No. 902 moved eastward through the growing dark racing No. 901′s route through the Rockies. Ferguson recalled times past when brakeman had to clamber onto the roofs of freight cars whenever the weather to relay signals by lantern between the locomotive and caboose.
“It was dangerous running along the car tops and it could be miserably cold in the winter.”

Bob Rose, 36 Ferguson’s tail end brakeman sat in the caboose cupola watching the freight cars ahead wind in and out of curves and tunnels, looking for drag equipment or sparks from overheated bearings.

“Some of the old-timers get off on trains, but for the younger guys, it’s just another job.” said Rose who quit the railway twice but came back because he didn’t like jobs with regular hours. “I like the job but it can be a pain in the winter time if a coupler breaks and you have to drag a 75 pound knuckle half a mile through blowing snow to fix it.”

Rose said the hobo of the past who would jump a boxcar for a ride is given away to young people seeking the warmth and shelter of one of the unmanned diesel locomotives pulling the train During the 30s Rose said, brakeman would walk car tops throwing off freeloaders. But today if he finds someone on the train riding illegally, he said he’s wary of forcing the issue with an angry passenger.

“One night I walked back through the units and found about five people sleeping on the floor of one of the engine cabs. I stepped on someone in the dark but kept walking. You never know one of them might have a knife.”

Nearing Calgary No. 902 slowed for level crossings and pulled through the city centre reaching Alyth yard when the train would be serviced for a scant hour before departing east.

Ferguson and Rose packed their gear, stepped down off the caboose and headed for home, knowing the next call to move a train might come at any time, night or day.

Photos from the Calgary Herald article October 7, 1978.

1.) Joe Chollack at the throttle running CPR’s hotshot freight No. 901 west on the Laggan Subdivision.

2.) No. 901 approaches steel railway trestle crossing the Bow River with the Rocky Mountains in the background.

3.) No. 901 passes by telegraph wires along the track on the Laggan Subdivision.

4.) No. 901 emerges from portal of a Spiral Tunnel that were built by the CPR in 1908.

5.) No. 901 after emerging from the lower portal of Spiral Tunnel 2 crosses over steel railway trestle that crosses the Kicking Horse River.

6.) Joe Chollack stretches his legs, leaning against the control console of CP 5759.

Both the locomotive engineers mentioned in this newspaper article I choose to train with on the Laggan Subdivision in the summer of 1979


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In the new year January 1979 I finished making all my shifts on yard engine’s on January 2, I worked the 16:00 N. Industrial with yard foreman John MacLachlan, we had the 6714 for power and Ron Wilson was my locomotive engineer instructor.

The next day I worked the 15:30 S. Industrial with yard foreman Scotty Taylor, we had the 6717 for power and Bill Dixon was my locomotive engineer instructor.

On January 4, I worked the 09:00 Tramp at the General Yard Office, we had the 8102 for power and Bruce Hatton Senior was my locomotive engineer instructor, I had worked this assignment in December, and we switched piggyback trailers, and bad order cars off of outgoing trains. After lunch we would switch the Gulf Oil refinery in Inglewood.

In Pay Period No. 2 I worked six more yard engine assignments:

January 5, 07:00 Industrial (coach engine) 6717 foreman Ken Gray, engineer Stan McPhedran

January 8, 14:30 Industrial (coach engine) 6719 foreman Oscar Schwab foreman engineer Benny Maser

January 9, 09:15 Tramp (Western Cooperative Fertilizers & Canadian Industries Limited) the yard foreman was Pete Lotwin, our locomotive 8423 and my engineer instructor was Tom Craig. We would take a train full of rock phosphate from Alyth to the Western Cooperative Fertilizer plant to make fertilizer out of. Their plant was located halfway between Ogden and Shepard at Mile 169 on the Brooks Subdivision, we would also bring to Alyth any loads finished products, these would be covered hoppers loaded with fertilizer, and boxcars loaded with bags of fertilizer. We would also go to the Canadian Industries Limited this plant manufactured Nitroglycerin and Dynamite they would make batches of 10,000 pounds of Nitroglycerin and make Dynamite out of it, before we could enter the plants compound we would have to turn off all our portable walkie-talkie radios, and the radio on the locomotive, to prevent the radio signals from setting off blasting caps that they made there.

January 10, 10:00 N. Tramp 6714 foreman Kurt Sommers (Maple Leaf Mills, Calgary Brewing and Malting Brewery, and more warehouses out on the main track of the Red Deer Subdivision Engineer Ronnie Lamont

January 11, 09:00 Government foreman Gordon Engen 6717 (Switched Canada Malting Limited, Pillsbury Canada Limited, Alberta Distillers, and Iko Industries) my Engineer instructor was Elmer Benner. Going into switch Pillsbury Canada brought back memories, I had come a long way from the days I started working there loading boxcars with flour in the summer of 1968, when I was 19 years old. Now in 1979 I was taking all the loads out, and spotting up empties for loading, it was great talking to some of the old guys I used to work with.

January 12, 07:00 Pulldown Foreman George Clovechuk 8103, 8417 engineer Vince Watt, this was my last yard assignment.

On January 15, I made my first road trip on the Brooks Subdivision,

I phoned the Calling Bureau and asked which locomotive engineers took trainees, they told me Walter Guse did, and he was first out and lined up for train No. 952 a second-class train that ran daily, it was called the stock train, as it carried refrigerated loads of beef destined for Montréal and Toronto. I phoned Walter and introduced myself and asked him if I could go out with him on this trip, he said that it would be all right and I could meet him at the Alyth Diesel Shops booking out room. Walter H. Guse was born January 23, 1923 he entered the service of the CPR as a Wiper on February 21, 1943, when he was 20 years old, and was promoted to Locomotive Fireman on April 1, 1943.

The Calling Bureau phoned me at 17:15 for No. 952 at 19:15, I got down there just before 19:00, as locomotive engineers were paid on their trips 15 minutes Preparatory Time at the beginning of their trip, and 15 minutes Final Inspection at the end of their trip. Walter was a good-natured man, from the old school of engineers, his wife would wash, iron and starch his overalls, and railway cap, and he would wear a tie with his work shirt, we had three 3000 hp EMD SD-40 locomotives the 5613 was our lead locomotive followed by the 5716, and 5597. We read and signed the bulletin book, compared our Railway Approved Watches with the Seth Thomas No. 17 weight regulator. And marked the error of our watches in seconds on the Enginemen’s Booking Outward Sheet, the time signal was broadcast every morning at 11:00, and the crew dispatcher who looked after the clock would mark on the clocks comparison card its error in fast or slow in seconds. We then grabbed our grips and went out to the west end of Pit 3 for the shop staff had run our power outside.

Our head end brakeman had showed up, and he checked our flagging kit, to make sure it had a red flag, eight track torpedoes, and seven red fusees with matches. Walter and I walked through our locomotive consist, checking to make sure all the locomotives were online, and all the trailing control circuit breakers, for the dynamic brake, and air brake valves were in the correct position. Walking down the running boards between the locomotives we would check the water level for the radiators, the fuel filters, and the level of oil in the governors. We then did a visual of the running gear, and brake shoes on each side of the locomotive, with this done the head end brakeman would do a radio test with his portable walkie-talkie, and he would back us off the shop track.

We then phoned the Train Yard Coordinator to find out what track our train was in, we would then call the Car Department Planner and ask him if it was okay to couple on to our train in P-5. He would then call the Pulldown Supervisor for a route to get on to our train. I was running the locomotives and Walter would coach me on some of the features of the locomotive controls. One pointer he gave me was that the brake shoes on the locomotives had a tendency to ice up in winter weather, and working the power with a 10 pound reduction on the independent (locomotives) brakes would condition the brake shoes. The cabs of these large General Motors locomotives were very comfortable, with good seating for the locomotive engineer. When we were coupled on in P-5 the brakeman would cut in the air from our locomotives to the brake pipe, he would advise the CD Planner that we were on our train. The brakeman would then release the eight handbrakes that secured our train, and walked westward doing a visual inspection of the cars, his counterpart the tail end brakeman would be doing the same from the caboose, when they met they would crossover to the other side to inspect the cars. The conductor Mars Wolfe would show up on the crew bus, and gave us our train orders, and paperwork for our train.

We compared our Railway approved watches, and read our train orders, and checked our paperwork, tonight our gross tonnage was 4099, and we had 50 loads, 30 empties, for a total of 80 cars, so our train length was about 4100 feet. It was 20:15 when we were ready to leave the yard, we called the Pulldown supervisor, for a route out of Alyth he told us to go out P-1, we called the Interlocking Operator at 12th Street E. and told him we were ready to leave Alyth and wanted to go out P-1, he said he would notify the Brooks Sub Dispatcher, and would timeout a signal on the Bonnybrook bridge crossover, we watched and the dwarf signal turn from red to green, which indicated it was a slow clear signal, and meant that we could go 15 miles an hour through the crossover on the Bonnybrook bridge. We could then go track speed when we cleared the crossover. When our caboose cleared the crossover the tail end crew would notify us and the conductor would give us the timeout of the yard as 20:45.

I opened up the throttle and was going 55 mph when we left Ogden, Walter coached me on some of the physical characteristics of the Brooks sub, and like the independent brakes in the yard, it was important to use the automatic brake on the train periodically to keep their brake shoes conditioned from ice buildup. We were in CTC (Centralized Traffic Control) for the first 50 miles between Ogden Mile 171.1 and Gleichen Mile 124.8 this operating system is controlled by the Brooks Subdivision Dispatcher from his office in Calgary, he has a panel that controls all the signals, and the switches at all the sidings, the first East of Ogden was Shepard with a siding capacity of 128 cars about 7000 feet, at Mile 165.6. Leaving Shepard it was downhill a bit so I had to set the automatic brake on the train, while bailing off the independent brake on the locomotives, this kept the train stretched out, and I could use the throttle to control the speed. Next we passed through Indus, with no siding just an elevator track, where the track was fairly level, 3 miles West of Dalemead, another 128 car siding at Mile 152.5, the intermediate signal displayed Approach Signal (indicating yellow) this told me that the next double aspect signal at the West end switch at Dalemead could display Stop (red on both the top and bottom aspects) Approach (yellow over red) or Restricting (read over yellow) that would indicate I was take the siding at Dalemead. I applied the automatic brake about 2 miles out that started to slow down the train, I could see the home signal at the West switch displaying Restricting so I had to get my speed down to 15 miles an hour to go through the turnout into the siding, it was a good meet as the westbound was coming up the main, once I had cleared the West end, he would get a clear signal, and we would get a restricting signal out of the East end of the siding.

At Mile 147 there was a Hot Box Detector, a new technology that had been recently installed by the railway, it had heat detecting sensors near the rail on both sides of the track, and a large metal cabinet painted silver and full of the electronic equipment. On top was a large three number digital scoreboard. When the train went by it started counting the axles from the head end of our train. Our train had 80 cars times 4 = 320 axles, our 3 locomotives had 6 axles for a total of 18 axles added to the train gives us 338 axles, when the train had passed the detector the digital scoreboard would light up if there was a display of 000 that meant all was okay and the tail end crew on the caboose would radio the results. Now if the digital display red out 204 we would have to stop our train, and the tail end brakeman would have to walk up 33 cars and check the wheels and axles on 3 cars each side of the of the 33rd car, sometimes the problem would be simple, like partially applied handbrake, or a retainer valve left applied, if it was an overheated journal the tail end brakeman could change out the cotton lubricating pad, and add Galena grease to the journal, if this could not be corrected the car would have to be set out from the train at Carseland. Most of the cars by then had roller bearings, and were much more reliable than the old journal boxes, but when they overheated they could melt an axle off in a distance of 7 miles. This new technology, like the diesel locomotives that made the locomotive firemen’s redundant in the 1950s, this improvement was the first nail in the coffin that led to the eradication of the tail end brakeman’s in the summer of 1979, and eventually led to the elimination of the caboose. There were four others scanners one east of Gleichen at Mile 120.5, one east of Bassano at Mile 92.5, one east of Brooks at Mile 60.5 and one east of Alderson at Mile 30.9.

It was downhill towards Carseland another town with an elevator track, I kept my speed down and leaving there I had to slow down to 50 miles an hour on the curves between Mile 145 and Mile 134. The next 128 car siding was at Strangmuir at Mile 144.6 finally we approached Gleichen with its 128 car siding, and an open train order office on the east and where we would leave CTC and go into ABS (Automatic Block System where there were block signals much like the CTC system, but all the siding switches were hand thrown by the head end brakeman, and the tail end crew entering and leaving sidings) From here we would be governed by timetable and train order authority, so we had to look for the indication of the train order signal at the station, it could display green, (no train orders) yellow, (slow down to pick up train orders) or red (stop before fouling the siding switch if there was a conflicting movement, or the train orders were not ready)

In our case as we approached the station we can see the yellow light that showed up clearly in the night. The station operator is standing on the front platform and has a wooden hoop that he has clipped our train orders onto. I reduce our speed to 40 miles an hour, and our head end brakeman opens his window and sticks his gloved hand out the window to retrieve the hoop that they Operator has raised up to the height of the window. The brakeman than unclips the train orders and throws the hoop onto the ground for the Operator to retrieve later. The brakeman gives the orders to me to read over (The nickname for train orders is “Flimsies” as they are typed or written on onion skin thin paper as there are three carbon copies made) stapled on top is a Clearance Card that reads: Station Gleichen, January 15, 1979, Orders for your train are: and the numbers of all the train orders, there are a few orders that have four numbers and relate to track conditions, and other physical conditions on the subdivision. The more important orders have three numbers, and they give us time on opposing scheduled trains, train meets, and other pertinent orders that affect the running of our train for the next 125 miles to Medicine Hat. At the bottom of the Clearance Card is the time cleared and the three initials of the train dispatcher, along with the signature of the Operator, I read the orders and handed them over to Walter to peruse, he then gives them to the head end brakeman so we all have an understanding of what they contain, and making sure there are no errors. Another set of orders were hooped up to the caboose for the conductor and tail end brakeman. They radioed us that they have their orders so I could get the train speed back to 55 mph.

The next siding and elevator track was at Cluny, at Mile 117.2, with its 153 car siding, it was downhill through Cluny and then started uphill, then went
downhill to Crowfoot Creek Mile 110 then went uphill over to Crowfoot Mile 105.3 with its 151 car capacity and elevator track, next we went through Bassano Mile 97.5, there is a yard there and the siding holds 152 cars, it is also the junction for the Irricana and Bassano Subdivisions, and has an open train order office, its signal was clear so we high balled through, the next siding was Lathom at Mile 89.6 with its small siding that held 71 cars, next was Southesk at Mile 80.5 it had a 66 car siding that we had a train order on that it was out of service due to rough track. This was half way through our trip, and it was Walter’s policy with engineer trainees that they only work half of the subdivision, so he took over the controls and I watched and learned.

Walter took us through Cassils Mile 73.6 it had a 140 car siding, the next station was Brooks at Mile 66.8, it had a short siding that held 77 cars, it also had an open train order office, and the signal was yellow and we picked up some train orders, we had a meet with the westbound at Kininvie Mile 44.4 our train being superior by direction, we would hold the mainline and the westbound would take the siding. After Brooks was a new siding at Campbell mile 54.5 with the capacity of 153 cars, it was built to replace Bantry. The next station was Tilley with no siding just an elevator track, We Got to Kininvie and the westbound had not arrived, and he was stopped by the scanner at Mile 30.9. We pulled down to the east end, and our brakeman walked out and lined the main track switch so the westbound could enter the siding without stopping, Special Instruction U on Hot Box Detectors reads;

Special Instruction U – HOT BOX DETECTOR SYSTEM:
On Subdivisions where this Special Instruction applies the following will govern:
SCANNER – To avoid abnormal heat indication from a source other than defective equipment, enginemen should when practical avoid prolonged use of the train brakes approaching this point in any application of brakes while a portion of the train is passing the scanning equipment.
INDICATOR – This is the form of a WHITE LIGHT mounted on a mass and IS NOT A BLOCK SIGNAL. The last indication displayed will apply as follows:
STEADY BURNING or UNLIGHTED – stop before fouling switch at the inspection point and immediately communicate with the train dispatcher. If communication fails, perform standing train inspection.
FLASHING – No evidence of overheating.
The train dispatcher will provide information as to the location of overheating. The journal is to be inspected and if no evidence of overheating is found, that car and at least two cars on each side must be inspected for any condition which may be responsible for the abnormally heat condition, opening all journal box lids as part of the inspection. Before proceeding, the train dispatcher must be informed of the result of the inspection and any action taken.

New instructions had been bulletined for the new scoreboard type of Hot Box Detectors:

Special Instruction U does not apply. See Bulletined Instructions

Scanner and Direction Set off
Display Board of Travel Point

Mileage 30.9 Eastward Suffield
Westward Alderson

When display board indicates other than “All Clear” (Three Zeros) or “No Defects” stop must be made and inspection performed prior to proceeding to the set off point.

Luckily the problem was a sticking brake and they cut the brake out, and came westward through the siding, we had a 15 minute delay. If the defect required the crew to set the car off at Alderson, we would have been there at Kininvie for three quarters of an hour or more.

Our head end brakeman inspected the westbound for defects on the South side as the train entered the siding at Kininvie, and high balled the crew on the caboose, so they did not have to stop their train entering the siding, the crew on the caboose would inspect the North side of their train. When they cleared our brakeman lined the main track switch normal and we got a clear signal to proceed. The next siding was at Alderson Mile 35.3 it had a small 71 cars siding, and is elevators had been torn down many years ago, all that was left there of the town was some building foundations and the cemetery, before Alberta became a province in 1905 this was supposed to be the border between Alberta and Saskatchewan, but this was changed and the Alberta and Saskatchewan border ended up being near Maple Creek, Saskatchewan about 50 miles East of Medicine Hat.

The next siding was at Suffield Mile 25.8, it siding capacity was 149 cars. It had an open train order office, and the train order signal was clear. The Suffield Subdivision ran 83.9 miles south westward to Lomand. On the North side were loading tracks, during World War II the British Army had a training base that is still there today, the Army moves its equipment by train and it is a very busy time when they come to do their training. It’s great for the Medicine Hat’s economy, as when the soldiers are on leave they call for taxis to take them there, where they left off a little steam in the local bars, and frequent the restaurants. Prince Harry was there one year in the 90s, and he got a limousine to take into Calgary to check out the city’s nightlife, membership in the Royal family does have its privileges. Leaving Suffield the track goes downhill steeply to Mile 22.5, then it goes uphill to Bowell at Mile 15.1 with its 153 car siding, the climb up to Bowell is the controlling grade for eastward trains on the Brooks subdivision, with our light train it was no problem but for heavier freight trains it can be a real struggle, and if you stall you have to double your train over to the siding, this involves cutting off of your train and take it over to the siding, and return for your tail end portion pull it up and pick up your head end portion, a very time-consuming chore, that is avoided if possible, but let’s say one of your locomotives quits and can’t be restarted you would end up doubling. Leaving Bowell it was all downhill to Redcliff Mile 6.8 with its 153 car siding, Redcliff had industries including the Dominion Glass plant that manufactured bottles. Medicine Hat sat on top of an enormous natural gas field, when Rudyard Kipling visited the community around the turn of the 20th century he made the remark “Medicine Hat the city with Hell for a basement” this attracted lots of industries there were potteries one called Medalta (an abbreviation for Medicine Hat – Alberta) they made stoneware crocks that are very popular with collectors, another pottery was Rycroft I have a couple of their commemorative ashtrays in my collection. When I moved to Medicine Hat in the winter of 1973 it was a boom time as many construction jobs building fertilizer plants, and a methanol plant. There were no apartments free to rent, and I had to live in a hotel the Assiniboia.

Leaving Redcliff was the start of a steep descent with grades of 1.4% down into the river valley of the South Saskatchewan River where the city of Medicine Hat was located. We radioed the yardmaster at Medicine Hat for yard being instructions, he told us to bring our train down the main track to the station to change crews. Walter showed me some high-speed techniques on bringing a train down the hill to the railway bridge across the river into the yard at Medicine Hat. Leaving Redcliff at 55 mph Walter would set up the air brakes at the West Mileboard for Cousins that had a Wye to service the fertilizer, and methanol plants on the North side of the main track this was at Mile 4.5, if you had made the right application of air the speed of the train would be 45 miles an hour when you past the East leg of the Wye at Cousins. At the intermediate signal at Mile 1.4 your speed would be down to 25 miles an hour, and down to 20 miles an hour at Mile 1, from here you could see the home signal on the bridge, it displayed clear and we stopped at the station to change crews.

We arrived at Medicine Hat at 00:15 and were off-duty at 00:30 we had made our run in 3 hours and 30 minutes, a good run as the actual running time to Medicine Hat was 3 hours and 10 minutes. We checked the line up and it looked like we would get a hotshot at around 06:00, so we would get a few hours sleep, the locomotive engineers bunkhouse in Medicine Hat was an old two-story frame house that had bedrooms for the Passenger locomotive engineers and firemen on the main floor, and eight bedrooms on the top floor. There was not enough room for the Enginemen Trainees, so we had reserved rooms in the Cecil Hotel a block north of the CPR station, it was not the most comfortable room on the top floor of the hotel, but I considered myself lucky, as the trainees would cook in these top floor rooms in the summer with no air-conditioning.

I told the crew clerk at the Medicine Hat station that I only needed a one-hour call, at 05:55 I was called for train No. 965 for 06:55, it was a run through, as opposed to off of the shop track. The coffee shop on the main floor opened at 06:00 so I had enough time for coffee and some breakfast before I went over to the station.

Our conductor was Joe Yuhas our units were 5702 on the head end and 4576 a Montréal Locomotive Works Alco, it was classed by the builder as a MLW M-630, and it was outshopped to the CPR on February 20, 1970 and was classed as a DRF-30f (Diesel Road Freight 3000 hp, subclass f). We had 33 loads and 6 empties, a total of 39 cars weighing 2584 tons. With 6000 hp and 39 cars I had no problem ascending up out of the river valley to Redcliff, in the steam locomotive days this was a pusher district, and pusher engines were assigned to push trains up westward on the Brooks’s subdivision, and eastward on the Maple Creek subdivision. Now it was common practice to have an extra diesel locomotive to act as a pusher out of Medicine Hat to Suffield where it would be set off for an eastbound freight to pick up and take back to Medicine Hat.

I quickly climbed up to Bowell, then down the dip to Mile 22.5 then uphill to Suffield, we passed a couple of eastbound Extras in the sidings at Campbell and Cassils, then Walter took over for the rest of the trip to Alyth. Approaching Strangmuir the intermediate westbound signal that was 3 miles out from the home signal) displayed yellow (An Approach Signal) Meaning that we were taking the siding. Walter showed me what to do, it was downhill from east of the intermediate signal and he applied the automatic brake to slow us down to 20 miles an hour, approaching the mile board he released the brake as the track started to ascend up to the east switch at Strangmuir and you could control your speed of 15 miles an hour using a low throttle position. Walter also told me that the same track configuration was at the east end of Shepard. Leaving Shepard we called the Train Yard Coordinator at Alyth for yarding Instructions, he told us to yard in P-6 and secure our train on the east end of the track, we called the Pulldown tower for a route, and he told us and the operator at 12th Street E. tower to bring us in P-1. We yarded and cut off our power asking the operator at 12th Street E for a route to the diesel shops in N yard, he told us to take the crossovers under the Blackfoot Trail overpass to N yard lead, and he would line us back to N-14. As we backed towards the Alyth diesel shop Walter told me it was my turn to play bellboy, as the locomotive engineers booking in and out room was on the West end of the Alyth diesel shop, and where we spotted our units on the fuel rack was quite a distance to carry our grips. Walter slowed down enough for me to get off, and I walked across to the booking in room, and waited for Walter to walk up from the fuel racks. I got him to fill out my report, and we called it is a day.

We had January 17 off and were called on January 18 at 01:15 for No. 902 another second-class priority train, with two EMD units 5739 and 5522, our conductor was Kasper Houck, our train had 61 loads and 1 empty, and we had 2897 tons, we were out of the Alyth yard at 02:55. Walter ran the train to Cassils, and I took over and took my first train down the hill from Redcliff into Medicine Hat, I had learned from what Walter showed me last trip and had no problem running this train down into the river valley, of course I was lucky as it was a fairly light train. We had arrived at Medicine Hat at 06:15 and were off-duty at 06:30.

After a few hours rest we were called for No. 965 at 12:50 with units 5590 and 5620 with conductor Joe Greenstein, our train consisted of 57 loads and 6 empties with 3887 tons. Walter ran our train to Cassils and I took over from there to Alyth we were off-duty at 19:30, it was Walter’s turn to play bellboy and I spotted the units at the fuel racks east of the diesel shops.

I missed the next trip as I had an appointment with my dentist, so on January 20, I worked a yard shift on the 16:00 Hump with Yard Foreman Neil Cameron and Locomotive Engineer Pete Laing, we had the 8633 4460 8409 for power.

On January 22 we were called for No. 902 at 22:00, our conductor was G. Hogg and my locomotive engineer was Jimmy Miller who was working this trip of the locomotive engineer’s spare board as Walter had booked off. Jimmie E. Miller was born on August 22, 1923 and hired on the CPR as a wiper on September 18, 1947, and was promoted to locomotive fireman on December 5, 1947. We had 37 loads and 29 empties and our tonnage was 2946. For power we had MLW 4710 as our lead unit with 3020 as our trailing unit, the 4710 was classed by MLW as an M-636 and was outshoped to the CPR on December 18, 1969. The CPR classed this as a DRF-36 a (Diesel Road Freight 3600 hp class “a” the first in the series of these locomotives. At 3600 hp it was the most powerful locomotive in the CPR’s fleet. They were only run between Winnipeg and Alyth, as they were unreliable for the mountains as they were plagued with water leaks. It seemed like the Winnipeg shops dispatch these locomotives hoping they would break down and Alyth would have to fix them, Alyth did the same thing, so breakdowns on the road were quite frequent. The trailing unit 3020 was an EMD locomotive classed as a GP 38 it was outshoped to the CPR March 24, 1971 and was classed by the CPR as a DRS-20b (Diesel Road Switcher 2000 hp subclass b) the CPR ordered 20 of these locomotives 3000 to 3005 in 1970, and the balance of 15 locomotives in 1971. Jimmy let me run the train the whole trip, and it was quite an experience, these MLW diesel locomotives were notorious for their lateral movement. When I got the train up to 55 miles an hour the lateral movement got worse, it felt like the locomotive would rock right off the rails. They used to joke about them saying that you could read the numbers on the end of boxcars next to the unit as they swayed back and forth. I was glad to get off the train when we arrived at Medicine Hat; we were off-duty at 03:35.

On January 23 we had a long layover not being called until 19:15 for train No. 953 out of the yard. Jimmy ended up on held away which starts after 12 hours away from home, that started at 15:35 so he earned 3 hours and 40 minutes that works out to 45 miles pay. Being called out of the yard meant that we had to go to the Medicine Hat shop track to get our power; our train had been built in the yard. Our conductor was VG Moir we had 57 loads and 8 empties, and our tonnage was 6190, this was the heaviest train I had yet on the Brooks sub. We had two good SD 40 – 2 units 5726 and 5653 and we were able to make it out of Medicine Hat All right it was a long night and we were off-duty at 07:35.

On January 25 we were called for No. 952 at 19:15 with units 5572, 4505, and 5773. Our conductor was Elmer McCready, and we had 58 loads and 9 empties tonnage 4874. It was an uneventful trip, and we were off-duty at 00:30. After a good night’s rest we waited for our call, it was a dead head on the passenger train No. 1 for 13:10.

Whenever a crew was called to deadhead on the passenger train, the locomotive engineer would ride in the coaches, and as I was an enginemen trainee I was required to ride on the head end locomotive with the locomotive engineer and fireman. Our conductor was Stan Long and our locomotive engineer Reggie Avery, and the fireman was Garth Rosemond, we had locomotives 1400, 4475, and 8511, 1400 was built by GMD and classed as a FP7a, it was outshoped to the CPR April 30, 1953 CPR classed it as a DPA15a (Diesel Passenger A unit, 1500 hp and the first in subclass “a”) 4475 was built by GMD in class as a F9B (The “B” stands for Booster unit, it has no locomotive cab and can be only moved for hosteling and the operator has to look out one of the side portal windows.) It was outshoped to the CPR February 26, 1954 CPR class it as a DFB-17a (Diesel Freight B unit, 1700 hp and subclass a) it was changed 89 mph gearing at Alyth. 8511 was built by GMD and classed as a GP9R it was outshoped to the CPR on November 30, 1954 CPR classed it as a DRS-17a (Diesel Road Switcher 1700 Hp Subclass a) these units came equipped with 89 mph gearing for passenger service. They were dual service locomotives that could be used for freight and passenger service.

The train was heated with steam generators, and Garth would show me the duties required as a fireman. They were located at the back end of the CP 1400 A unit, on either end of the CP 4475 B unit, and inside the short front hatch dual service CP 8511 a Diesel Road Switcher.

The steam generators were made by Vapor Clarkson, in 1903 a Chicago businessman Egbert Gold introduced the “Vapor” car heating system which used low pressure saturated steam. When the railways of North America changed their motive power from steam to diesel electric locomotives an alternative for heating the passenger coaches became a problem as in the steam era there was enough steam from the locomotives to heat the passenger coaches. Gold’s company now known as the Vapor Car Heating Company came out with a compact water tube boiler that fitted in the rear portion of a diesel electric locomotive’s engine room. It used diesel fuel from the diesel locomotives fuel tank, and water from the locomotives cooling water tanks. The steam generator burned diesel fuel there are long spiral tubes, and coils nested in the center of the generator to form a single tube that is several hundreds of feet long water is pumped through, these were surrounded by flames and hot gases. The heat is provided by the combustion of diesel fuel is sprayed by compressed air through the atomizing nozzle, in the fuel spray head into the fire pot above the coils. Here the fine oil spray mixes with air supplied by the blower and is ignited by a continuous electric spark in the top of the unit. The fire and hot gases flow, first downward then outward through the nests of coils.

The supply of fuel is regulated to evaporate 90% to 95% of the water pumped through the coils. The excess water flushes scale and sludge and is carried over with the steam into the steam separator, where the water and the sludge are removed before the steam flows into the train line.

A motor drives the blower, water pump, and fuel pump at a constant speed. The water bypass regulator automatically controls the steam generator output by regulating the amount of water fed into the coils. Before entering the coils, the water passes through the servo-fuel control which admits spray to the fuel nozzle in direct proportion to the water entering the coils. The servo-fuel control also adjusts the damper to admit the proper amount of air for efficient combustion of the fuel.

The train line steam pressure is regulated by adjusting the handwheel on the on the water bypass regulator. The length of the train and the weather conditions determine the settings.


On the Okay 4625 Steam generators that the CPR used, the valves designated with odd numbers must be OPEN during normal operation of the steam generator. Valves designated with even numbers must be CLOSED during normal operation of the steam generator. The open valves are equipped with cross type handles; and the closed valves are equipped with round type handles. In addition the CPR had brass tags on the stems of the valve handles.

I.) The following valves must be OPEN during normal operation of the OK steam generator:
1 – Atomizing Air Shutoff Valve
3 – Coil Shutoff Valve
7 – Remote-Control Trainline Shutoff Valve
7a-Reset Lever
9 – Return Water Outlet Valve
11 – Steam Admission Valve to Trainline Pressure Gauge
13 – Steam Admission Valve to Water Bypass Regulator
15 – Stop and Check Valve (Closed during start or shutdown procedure)
17 – Three-Way Washout Valve
19 – Water Bypass Regulator Shutoff Valve
21 – Water Supply Stop Valve

2.) The following valves must be CLOSED during normal operation of the steam generator:
2 – Coil Blowdown Valve and Switch
4 – Fill Test Valve
6 – Layover Connection Shutoff Valve
8 – Manual Water Bypass Valve
10-Steam Admission Valve to Radiation (Open in cold weather)
12 – Steam Separator Blowdown Valve
14 – Washout Inlet Valve
16 – Washout Inlet Valve
18 – Water Pump Test Valve
20 – Water Suction Drain Valve
22 – Water Treatment Tank Drain Valve
56 – Return Line Valve (Standby)

It’s one thing learning about the OK Vapor Clarkson steam generators in the classroom, but the hands-on experience on the student trips were well worth the time, especially later on when you are on your own working as a locomotive firemen.

On January 28 we were called at 02:30 for a train of empty boxcars, and were run as 2nd 948 with locomotives 8622, 4461, and 8511. That trip we had Mars Wolfe as our conductor with 73 empties, and 2658 tons, a long night arriving at Medicine Hat at 11:35. After a good rest we were called that evening at 23:35 for 2nd 965 with locomotives 5627 and 5522. Going home we had conductor Charlie Patton with 44 loads 11 empties and 3018 tons this was a fast trip getting back to Alyth at 05:55.

On January 31 I was called to attend a class in the Train Dynamics Analyzer in the Alyth Back Shop with Road Foreman of Engines Steve Shapka, on the new Air Form Method for measuring brake pipe leakage when performing brake tests.

I had missed my turn so I worked an afternoon Yard Assignment the 15:30 S. Industrial with locomotive engineer Bill Dixon on the 6713 with yard foreman Scotty Taylor.

On February 4 Walter and I were called to deadhead at 20:45 on the Greyhound Bus to Medicine Hat, we booked outward at the Alyth Shops and we took a taxi to the Greyhound Depot downtown Calgary arriving at Medicine Hat at 01:30.

After a good night’s sleep we were called for No. 901 at 10:45 with units 5745, 5660, and 5528. Our conductor was Gary Ophiem our train consisted of 52 loads 2 empties and 2759 tons. It was an uneventful trip and we were back at Alyth and off-duty at 18:00. This was my last trip with Walter; I thanked him for taking me as a trainee, and was grateful for all I had learned from him. From now on I would not be playing bellboy every alternate trip.

On Thursday, February 8 I was called for the Zone 3 Way freight with locomotive engineer Ed Anderson he was born on January 7, 1925 he hired on as a wiper when he was 22 years old on January 20, 1947 and was promoted as a fireman on May 3, 1947 we were called for 07:00 for power we had the 8833 and 8642, our conductor was Ernie Demers, tail end brakeman Bob Wright and head end brakeman Mel Derksen, we departed Alyth and ran to Shepard on the Brooks Subdivision where we picked up some tank cars from the second siding, we left the main track for the Strathmore Subdivision and ran 20 miles to Langdon, where we went northward on the Langdon subdivision, crossing over me automatic interlocking with the CNR and mileage 9.6 we went to Keoma where we spotted some grain empties at the Alberta Wheat Pool elevator, then on to Irricana, Beiseker, Acme spotting up the elevators and where we stop for lunch. After lunch we ran 2 miles North to Cosway the junction with the Acme subdivision, we then ran through Linden, Sunnyslope, Allingham, Torrington and Wimborne where we spotted up all the grain elevators, and then went on the Meers Spur 3 miles North to the Shell Oil gas plant where we switched out loads of sulfur tank cars, and spotted up empties. We were off-duty at 15:05, and started a new ticket and day and ran back to Cosway with our loads of sulfur and all the grain loads from the elevator tracks, these we took down to Acme and set them over to the second siding, we then ran back to Cosway and continued on down the Langdon subdivision where we spotted up the elevators at Carbon, Sharples, Hesketh, and Kirkpatrick we then got permission to enter the CNR’s Drumheller subdivision and registered our train, and got train orders from the operator to run down to Rosedale junction, where we went back onto the Langdon subdivision for a run to East Coulee, things changed since I had worked here in 1975, the wooden trestle truss bridge across the Red Deer River was no longer able to handle the weight of locomotives, and the Atlas Coal Mine had to run their loads of coal down to the bridge by gravity and pushed them onto the bridge with one of their front-end loader tractors where we could pick them up. We no longer stayed overnight in East Coulee but returned to Drumheller where we had rooms for the night in the local hotel. After a good night’s sleep we started back on the Langdon subdivision at 08:15 picking up the loads of grain along the way to Acme where we stopped for lunch, we then picked up our loads from the second siding and lifted the rest of the elevator tracks to Shepard and yarded at Alyth where we were off-duty at 19:45.

Ed was a practical joker; he would give me some basics about running the locomotives, like using a little bit of independent brake to slow us down. I had some experience running a locomotive when I was a brakeman working with Stan McPhedran. I remember after lunch at Acme Ed said that he was going to ride on the caboose for a while and left me and Mel on the head of the train, there were air gauges on the wall by the conductor’s desk that would show the air pressure on the brake pipe, Eddie would close the valve underneath and bleed the air pressure off and exclaim to Ernie who was a nervous guy to begin with that we had lost our air, Ernie would have a fit. Next Eddie would ride up in the cupola on the caboose where the radio was, and would shout up to me that I was killing them back there and to quit using the independent brake. I remember one trip back in 1974 when I was working the Zone 2 way freight as the head end brakeman, Eddie, who was a big man, got a trip with us of the locomotive engineers spare board, we ran the 72 miles East to Bassano, and Ed ate four sandwiches, then a can of salmon, and a bunch of candies. At Bassano we went over to the Chinese restaurant in the Imperial Hotel for lunch, Eddie would order a large entrée that he polished off; the waiter asked him if he would like any dessert, Ed replied no thanks I’m on a diet!

We had the weekend off and were called on Monday, February 12 at 09:15 with the 8545 and 8523 for power, Ernie Demers had booked off and Bob Wright was our conductor, this trip we went to Wimborne switched the Shell Oil gas plant and we were off-duty at 15:50, we doubled out and returned to Alyth and were off-duty at 00:10 on February 13.

I went back to training on the Brooks subdivision this time I went with
Fred Plotnikoff born March 4, 1926 he hired on as a wiper when he was 20 years old on December 9, 1946 and was promoted to fireman on February 3, 1947. Fred was working on a vacancy in the East pool I had worked with him many times in the yard at Alyth and we got along together good. We were called on Friday, February 16 at 08:30 for train No. 948 with three locomotives the 5903 an EMD SD-40-2, it was outshopped to the CPR on December 21, 1978 so it was only three months old. 4440 a DFB-15d another EMD outshopped to the CPR on February 29, 1952 and
DS-10e 7085 an Alco yard engine built by the Montréal Locomotive Works in 1949. We had conductor EJ Kline and a light train with 20 loads and 28 empties, tonnage 2490 we had a good trip and were off-duty at 16:50

We were called just after midnight on February 17 at 00:01 for train No. 965 with locomotives 3002, 3000, and 5525. Our conductor was AH (Al) Belangette and we had 40 loads, 30 empties, tonnage 3800 which we were able to go up the hill out of the Medicine Hat river valley with no problem; we were back at Alyth and off-duty at 07:25

We were off for a couple of days getting called February 19 at 20:45 for No. 952 the stock train, called this as it used to haul livestock cars eastward, it still carried refrigerator cars of processed meat for markets in Montréal. For power we had two SD 40 – 2’s 5707, 5757, and DFB-1500e 4468. Our conductor was Al Belangette again; we had 49 loads, 6 empties, tonnage 3700. We arrived at Medicine Hot and were off-duty at 03:00.

We doubled out at 03:00: for a hotshot train 2nd No. 901 with 2 SD-40-2’s 5769, 5680 plenty of horsepower for our train. Our conductor was George Mitchell we had 40 loads, 10 empties, tonnage 3224. We arrived at Alyth and were off-duty at 09:30 that was a fast flip and we were okay duty for 12 hours and 45 minutes.

We were off for over 46 hours when we were called on February 22 at 07:45 for train No. 940 we had two EMD locomotives a SD-40-2 5740, and a SD-40 5553, with a DRS-17d 8686 outshopped to the CPR on August 20, 1957. Our conductor was Joe Yuhas we had 82 loads and 9 empties, tonnage 7049, a fairly heavy train with loads of lumber, cement, tank cars of liquid sulfur, so our big challenge was making it over the controlling grade of the Brooks Subdivision eastbound between Suffield and Bowell, our power worked well and we were able to make the grade arriving at Medicine Hat and off-duty at 15:10.

We had a chance to rest up and we were called for a hotshot train No. 901 after midnight at 01:05 we had good EMD power 5551, 5571, and 5642. Our conductor was Terry Van Clief and we had 60 loads and 10 empties, tonnage 3733. We arrived at Alyth and were off-duty at 07:15.

We went back to work on February 24, being called again for No. 952 at 18:45 with EMD locomotives 5550, and 5642. Our conductor was Doug Van Riper and we had 40 loads, 7 empties, tonnage 3379. We arrived at Medicine Hat and were off-duty at 01:45

After a good night’s rest we were called at 11:30 with EMD 5661 and MLW 4730. Our conductor was Nick Romanuk we had 52 loads, 9 empties, tonnage 3965 we arrive at Alyth and were off-duty at 18:45.

We were off 48 hours and were called on February 27 once again for train No. 952 at 19:00 we had two MLW’s 4707, and 4770 with EMD 3016. Our conductor was Sid McClellan we had 47 loads, 15 empties, tonnage 4012. We arrived at Medicine Hat and were off-duty at 01:05.

After another good night in bed we were called at 08:00 for a work train with EMD 8689. Our conductor was HG Hamilton we had 15 loads, 2 empties, tonnage 716. Our train was loads of railway ties in old stock boxcars, and we had to spread them along the right-of-way between Medicine Hat and Redcliff this we did and we were finished and off-duty at 16:45. This left us first out and we took our call for 18:35 for train No. 965. This gave us time to have some dinner before going back to work. For power we had EMD SD-40-2’s 5600 and 5691. We had conductor HG Hamilton again 63 loads, 3 empties, tonnage 3857. We arrived at Alyth and were off-duty at 00:20.

This was the last trip I worked with Fred as he got bumped off the vacancy he was working, I thanked Fred for taking the as his training, and I learned a lot more of different techniques for running trains. I took a few days off to look after some personal business.

I returned to work on March 6, getting called for train No. 954 at 02:15. I was now training with Doug Blacklaws he was born on November 24, 1925, he served in the Navy during World War II and he hired on as a wiper when he was 20 years old on July 9, 1946 and was promoted to fireman September 19, 1946. Doug was a quiet guy very soft-spoken, and that avid reader of books. For power this trip was 2 EMD SD-40-2’s 5711, and 5604. We had conductor CJ Aikins with 29 loads, 54 empties, and tonnage 4980.
It was a long night and we arrived at Medicine Hat and were off-duty at 10:15.

We had a bit of rest and were called that afternoon at 15:30 for an Extra West a grain train, for power we had 4 EMD SD-40-2’s 5751, 5621, 5651, and 5790. We had conductor Al Belangette and a real heavy train with 93 loads, 2 empties, tonnage 10320. It was quite a struggle up out of Medicine Hat to Redcliff, but these good EMD locomotives did the job okay. We arrived at Alyth and were off-duty at 02:25.

We were off until March 8, and were called for another night trip at 21:45 for train No. 98 with a consist of empty grain cars. We had for power 3 EMD locomotives 5589, 5705, and 8614. We had conductor Eric Stephenson with no loads and 68 empties, tonnage 2538. We arrived at Medicine Hat and were off-duty at 04:55.

We had a good rest and were off-duty over 12 hours when we were called at 17:20 for train No. 965 with 2 EMD SD-40’s 5557, and 5549. We had conductor Terry Van Clief we had 51 loads, 29 empties, tonnage 4456. We arrived at Alyth and were off-duty at 23:00

I worked a yard shift the 23:59 IYO Tramp on March 12, with Ivan Miller as my instructor we had the 8115 for power.

The next trip was on March 14 we were called for No. 952 at 19:00, we had lots power with four EMD’s 5606, 5549, 5649, and 5672.We had conductor Gary Opheim with 53 loads, 14 empties, tonnage 4874 another fast trip we arrived at Medicine Hat and were off-duty at 01:00.

We doubled out at 02:30 on train No. 901 with EMD’s 5790, and 5562 for power. We had EJ (Beans) Desharnais for our conductor with 41 loads, 43 empties, tonnage 5128 we arrived at Alyth and were off-duty at 10:30

Doug took a trip off and I had a spare board locomotive engineer Ted ES Washbrook he was born on February 10, 1929 and hired on as a wiper in Lethbridge on December 5, 1947 and was promoted to locomotive fireman on March 29, 1948. Ted’s father was the locomotive engineer in Lethbridge. We were called for No. 940 Toronto Empties at 19:30 on March 17 we had lots of power with 3 EMD SD-40-2’s 5747, 5782, and 5659. We had conductor Beans Desharnais No loads, 66 empties, tonnage 2337 we arrived at Medicine Hat and were off-duty at 01:45

We laid over for 12 hours and were called at 13:45 for train No. 967 with EMD’s 5709, and 5562 for power. Our conductor was Art Ressler and we had 51 loads, 1 empty, tonnage 4017. We arrived at Alyth and were off-duty at 19:35

We were called on March 20 for train No. 940 at 15:45 for power we had an EMD 5672 and a MLW 4703. Our conductor was Doug Campbell and we had 73 loads, 10 empties, tonnage 6589 we arrived at Medicine Hat and were off-duty at 23:45.

We had the night in bed and were called for train No. 925 at 07:55 with EMD 5569 and MLW 4718. Our conductor was Dave Wesner and we had 81 loads, 13 empties, tonnage 6393 we arrived at Alyth and were off-duty at 15:45

On March 23 we were called for No. 954 at 21:45 with lots of power all EMD 5547, 3014, 3012, 8409, 8530, and 8639. Our conductor was Wayne Gray and we had 14 loads, and 65 empties, tonnage 3336. Out of Gleichen we were ran as Second No. 98 so we had to put up the green flags and turned on the green classification lights. Here are the rules that governed us running as sections, in our case there were three sections.

We had a Form F (4) Train order that read:

Engs 5844 5547 and 8837
Run as First Second and Third No. 98
Gleichen to Medicine Hat

The first and second named engines will display
signals and run as directed. The third named
engine will run as directed but will not display signals.

UCOR Rule 20. All sections except the last will display two green flags and two green lights by day and night in the places provided for that purpose on the front end of the engine.

Engine Whistle Signals Rule 14 (k) – 0 0 (One long and two short blasts of the whistle) To call attention of an engine and train crews of trains on the same class in the same direction, inferior trains and trains affected by the signals at train order meeting, waiting, or passing points, to signals displayed for a following section, and must hear the answer 14 (k-a) o o – (Answer to 14 k) or stop and notify trains of signals displayed.

We had a. Form G Train Order that read like this:

Eng 1413 run as passenger extra
leaving Medicine Hat on Saturday
March 24th as follows with right
over all trains
Leave Medicine Hat two o’clock 02:00 am
Cousins two naught six 02:06 am
Redcliff two twelve 02:12 am
Bowell two nineteen 02:19 am
Suffield two thirty 02:30 am
Alderson two thirty-nine 02:39 am
Kininvie two forty-six 02:46 am
Tilley two fifty-five 02:55 am
Campbell two fifty-eight 02:58 am
Bantry three naught two 03:02 am
And all the stations West to Gleichen

Note: Words and figures which are to be pronounced and spelled in transmitting and repeating by telephone will be underlined, but will not appear in train orders. They will appear in the Train Dispatcher’s book. In our Form G (3) order 1413, Saturday, 24th, two o’clock, two six, two twelve, two nineteen, two thirty, two thirty-one, two forty-six, two fifty-five, two fifty-eight, and three naught two, will all be pronounced and spelled in transmitting and repeating the order.

The reason there was a passenger extra was that No. 1 The Canadian was running too late to run on its regular schedule. On its normal schedule it was due out of Medicine Hat at 12:20 and the schedule was only good for 12 hours, so in this case No.1 of March 23 was 13 hours and 20 minutes late on its scheduled time.

Looking at the passenger extra’s times we figured that we could make it to Bantry in time to clear the westbound in the siding. I set the brake approaching the west mile board coming up to Bantry, I miscalculated and we overrun the siding switch by six car lengths, fortunately the passenger extra had not arrived. I quickly released the air brakes and backed up to the siding switch that was lined and we took the siding. The passenger extra arrived with locomotive engineer Adam Lee and enginemen trainee Les Kosar. I blew the whistle signal 14 (k) and they acknowledged by blowing whistle signal 14 (k-a)

We arrived at Medicine Hat and were off-duty at 07:30.

After some rest we were called at 18:30 for an Extra West of Vancouver grain. Our power was 2 EMD’s and 2 MLW’s 5521, 4731, 4500, and 5645. Our conductor was Eldon Kastning we had 109 loads, 1 empty (the caboose) tonnage 10695. We arrived at Alyth and were off-duty at 06:10 with his heavy train it was a long slow trip just under 12 hours on duty.

On March 27 we were called at 07:15 to deadhead by Greyhound bus to Medicine Hat our taxi from the Alyth diesel shops to the Greyhound depot was held up in traffic and we missed the bus so we were canceled and went home.

That afternoon we were called at 13:10 to deadhead on No.2 The Canadian passenger train, it had 1425, 1406 for power and I made a student trip with the locomotive engineer Homer Edwards, and the fireman Dean Barysien we arrived at Medicine Hat at 17:30.

We arrived and were first out to take a call for Second No. 965 at 18:00 for power we had 2 EMD’s and 1 MLW 5764, 4562, and 5545. Our conductor was Kasper Houck we had 66 loads, 34 empties, tonnage 5574. We arrived at Alyth and were off-duty at 23:35. This was the last trip I worked with Doug and I thanked him for taking me as a trainee, and for what I had learned from him.

I was called at 14:45 on March 30 for train No. 940 my locomotive engineer instructor was Dennis Garrett, I knew him from working in the yard at Alyth he had a lot of seniority and he worked the 8:00 Hump assignment. Dennis grew up and lived in the Inglewood district in SE Calgary near the Alyth roundhouse he was born on January 21, 1925 he hired on as a wiper on August 19, 1941 when he was 16 years old, and was promoted as a fireman a year later on August 20, 1942.

March 30, we were called out of Alyth for No. 940 at 14:25 for power we had 5567 4753 5543. Our conductor was Ray Burns, we had a fairly heavy train with 63 loads and 13 empties, tonnage 6095, and we had a good trip arriving at Medicine Hat and off-duty at 22:45.

We had the night in bed and were called in the morning at 07:45 for an Extra Grain drag with units 5782, 5553, 8497, 5615, 8542 and dead yard engine 7085 our conductor was Jerry (Psycho) Metcalf and we had 97 loads, five empties, tonnage 10,725 the heaviest train I had to run since I started training on the road. I had two others weighing 10,695 10,320 training with Doug Blacklaws. We left Medicine Hat and got up the hill to Redcliff okay. We had a meet with an eastbound hotshot, and we had to take the siding at Kinninvie. I set the brake about 2 miles out, and we were close to the siding switch, when the amp meter went higher and the train went into emergency, I had put too much air into her, the head end brakeman walked back about 30 cars and said that I had got a knuckle (a knuckle is the hinged part of the coupling system that is on each end of railway rolling stock, and locomotives, it is connected to the drawbar assembly by a 2 inch round pin that it pivots on) the knuckle was like the weakest link in a chain and breaks in two, they are easily changed out by spare ones we carry on the locomotives and cabooses, we threw one off the lead locomotive and the brakeman closed the angle cock on the east end car and we were able to pump up the front portion with air and we pulled ahead 30 car lengths. Dennis got out and lined the siding switch, and the brakeman retrieved the 80 pound knuckle and brought me back to the joint where he replaced the broken knuckle and we put the train back together. The hotshot had arrived and was stopped at the east end of Kininvie. We cleared him in the siding and didn’t cause too much of a delay about 10 minutes, and we never heard about it. It was my first knuckle, and I was thankful that it was not a drawbar on the wrong end, or any end in this situation it would have created a longer delay. I have that East mile board from Kininvie in my collection to remind me of that trip.

The next trip was on April 2nd going down on No. 954 with units 5797, 5505 we were called at 11:45. Our conductor was Wilf Larson we had 30 loads and 35 empties tonnage 3321 we arrived at Medicine Hat and were off-duty at 19:45 a good trip.

We returned home on April 3d on train No. 967 with units 4705, and 4723. Our conductor was Bobby Holmes we had 77 loads and 8 empties, tonnage 6742.

The last trip I made with Dennis was on April 5th going East on the stock train No. 952 called for 19:00 with 5751, 5561, 5541 for power. Our conductor was Nick Romananuk we had 47 loads and 9 empties, tonnage 4784 another good trip we arrived at Medicine Hat and were off-duty at 01:00.

Once again we had a night in bed and called at 10:45 for an Extra West of potash with conductor Hamilton with 94 loads, 1 empty, tonnage 10,480, I did better this trip and we arrived at Alyth and were off-duty at 18:30.

This was my last trip on the Brooks subdivision, not counting yard engines I had made 24 trips on freight, way freight, work train, and passenger trains. I moved down to the Laggan subdivision making my first trip on April 10, 1979


1.) West end of Alyth Diesel Shops taken, by me in the spring of 1975, from the Blackfoot Trail overpass. The locomotives on the right side of the photo are on the fast track used to move power from the east end of the shops to the west eng. To the left are Pits1,2, and 3 with out going locomotives sitting outside Pit 1, and 3. There is a sidewalk along the powerhouse and a set of stairs beside the second locomotive in Pit 3 that takes you to the Locomotive Engineers Booking Outward office. Out of sight behind the powerhouse to the left arm Pits 6, 7,8, and 9. Incoming locomotives off the road are spotted on the east end of the shops where they are refueled, sanded, and filled with water for coolant if necessary. The locomotives enter the shops from the east end and are inspected, and repairs are made, brake shoes changed if necessary.

2.) A night-time photo of the west end showing an EMD Diesel Road Switcher outside of Pit 1.

3.) An example of a Outward Report: Enginemen and Firemen this one came from the Passenger Train Booking Outward in downtown Calgary, the first column on the left is for the Number of Engine, followed by the train ( in this case it is No. 1) then the direction ( West), Time Ordered For (12:05) The Date ( September 8) Actual Time on Duty (11:50) Time Watch Compared with Standard Clock (11:50) Variation From Standard Time: Seconds (4) Fast or Slow (fast) Enginemen’s Signature (Glenn Chugg) Next Fireman’s Actual Time On Duty Date (September 8) Actual Time On Duty (12:00) Time Watch Compared with Standard Clock (12:00) Variation From Standard Time Seconds (3) Fast or Slow (Slow) Fireman’s Signature (Ed Anderson)

4.) Alyth Diesel Shops Enginemen’s Standard Seth Thomas No. 17 Regulator Comparison Clock.

5.) Seth Thomas No. 17 Regulator Comparison Clock dial with Roman Numerals from1 to 12, and Arabic Numerals from 13 to 24. In 1969 the page to Canadian Pacific Railroad Time Service Department changed all the clock dials across the system to silkscreen aluminum ones with Arabic numerals. The one at Alyth escaped this change.

6.) Seth Thomas No. 17 Regulator Comparison Clock from my collection with newer silkscreened dial, and Comparison Card that shows the clock is 2 seconds Slow.

7.) CP Rail Pacific Region Timetable 83 Taking Effect at 01:00 Mountain Standard Time, Sunday, October 25, 1978. The CPR changed timetables every six months on the last Sunday in October and April.

8.) CP Rail Timetable 83 Brooks Subdivision schedules that I worked under during my training from January 15, to April 3, 1979.

9.) Approaching scoreboard type Hot Box Detector on Brooks Subdivision

10.) A Close-Up view of the Hot Box Detector, the sign in the foreground with the two black circles, warns snowplow operators to lift up the points of the snowplow, and to retract the wings in order to avoid tearing out the hot box detector’s sensors that sit between the tracks. The silver painted mast holds up the black scoreboard above the hot box detectors electronics bungalow.

11.) Medicine Hat train station built in 1906 and doubled in size in 1912. It is built out of red brick and sandstone with a cedar shingle roof. The three windows on the ground floor on the left-hand side was the passenger waiting room. To the right of the first turret our doors that lead to the operators office where we get our train orders, and there is a Seth Thomas No. 17 weight regulator Comparison Clock. There are bulletin books, a train register, and Enginemen’s Booking Outward, and Booking Inward registers, the crew dispatcher has his office here. There are other clerks with desks that are part of the Customer Service Center. To the right are locker rooms for all the trainmen and conductors working on the terminal. To the right of the second turret on the ground floor is the yard crew’s lunchroom. On the second floor our offices for the Assistant Superintendent, and Safety Officer, there are also classrooms for rules instruction.

12.) Locomotive Engineer’s Bunk House, this two-story wooden framed building facing North Railway Street, was originally a boarding house located on the South side of the yard. The CPR bought the structure and moved it to where it sits now. It has nine bedrooms on the second floor for the through freight locomotive engineers, and on the West side of the ground floor of four bedrooms for the passenger locomotive engineers and firemen. There is a front room with television and a large table for eating meals, and there is a kitchen on the East side of the ground floor.

13.) The Cecil Hotel at Medicine Hat built in 1912 it had seen better days; this is where enginemen trainees stayed as there was not enough room in the bunkhouse. It was a block away from the station, and had a coffee shop and restaurant on the ground floor left of the entrance doors.

14.) A photo I took from the third floor bedroom that I stayed in, you can see the CPR station, and to the right of the tree the Assiniboia Hotel that I stayed in during the winter of 1973. I was happy to stay in the Cecil during the winter, and felt sorry for the poor trainees that would have to say here in the summer, there was no air-conditioning, and Medicine Hat had very hot summers

15.) The East end of the Alyth Diesel Shops, where we would spot our locomotives on the fuel rack and walk up to the Booking Inward office for our trip started. In the foreground on the left where there is a railway track switch, you can see a pathway; the locomotive engineers fought for this improvement, and saved them from having to walk alongside the tracks where there was crater grease on the ground that would make a hell of a mess if you got some on your work boots. The Maintenance of Way employees made this path out of old railway ties with fine gravel to walk on right up to the concrete apron outside the diesel shops doors.

16.) Another photo looking to the East with other locomotives waiting to be serviced, the large tank on the right-hand side was full of diesel fuel for the locomotives.

17.) CPR Passenger Conductor Stan Long does the time honored tradition and compares his Railway Approved Pocket watch with Seth Thomas No. 17 Comparison Clock at Medicine Hat at the start of his tour of duty.

18.) Schematic diagrams of a Diesel Passenger A unit showing the location of the Vapor Clarkson steam generator.

19.) Steam Generators controls on the left-hand side of the Diesel Passenger A unit. The push button on left-hand side top is for blowing down the steam generators separator valve, looking backward while pushing the button you can see the steam and condensates boring outward at the rear of the locomotive. If it does not work properly, the fireman will have to go back into the engine room and blow the steam generator separator valve manually by stepping on a foot pedal. Below the blowdown button is an emergency shutdown switch shielded by a cover so it is not pressed inadvertently. To the right is a circuit breaker, then a steam gauge showing what the steam generators pressure is.

20.) A side view of a Vapor Clarkson steam generator showing the steam generators pressure gauge, and atomizer gauge on the left-hand side. On the right-hand side is the servo regulator (nicknamed the bow tie because of its shape) it automatically controls the steam generator output by regulating the amount of water fed into the coils. Before entering the coils the water passes through the servo-fuel control, which admits fuel to the spray nozzle in direct proportion to the amount of water entering the coils. The servo fuel control also adjusts the damper to admit the proper amount of air for efficient combustion of the fuel. Underneath that is the Return Water Flow Indicator Glass when operating normally the return water will flow 4 to 12 times a minute.

21.) Diagrams of Vapor Clarkson OK 4625 steam generators, showing the names of the components.

22.) A schematic diagram of the Vapor Clarkson steam generator color-coded to show feedwater in gray, return water in blue, steam in yellow, fuel oil in red, air in white, and washout in green.

23.) Vapor Clarkson Corp. builders plates showing Serial No. 7912. Stating to Use This Number When Reporting to ICC (Interstate Commerce Commission.) This would only apply in the United States.

24.) Owners plate from the Canadian Pacific Railway showing Serial No. SG 207, and MAWP Maximum Allowable Working Pressure of 300 pounds. And Date Built August 1956.

25.) Approaching East Coulee on the Langdon Subdivision in February 1979.

26.) Zone 3 Way freight caboose hop at East Coulee February 1970 with EMT Diesel Road Switchers 8642 and 8833.

27.) View of East Coulee’s yard tracks. The track to the right of the locomotive has a wooden platform made of bridge beams for unloading flat cars of farm machinery and other equipment loaded on flat cars.

28.) Old derelict service station in East Coulee, Alberta

29.) Abandon coal miner’s shacks at East Coulee.

30.) Some more coal miner’s cabins at East Coulee.

31.) A real estate sign for a property in the ghost town of East Coulee.

32.) An advertising brochure for the modern computerized andyard at Alyth from 1971, the photo on the top left corner shows Dennis Garrett at the controls of the 08:00 hump locomotives.

33.) A photo of the front coupler of a locomotive, you can see the knuckle in the closed position, and the steel pin that it pivots on. The steel rod to the left of the coupler is used to unlock it so the knuckle can be opened to couple on to other cars.

34.) The East Mile Board of Kininvie that was located at mile 43 of the Brooks Subdivision.

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Posted on 15-01-2013
Filed Under (Alberta 1970s, Calgary 1970s, CPR, Many Jobs and Trades) by Broken Rail

1976 working as the helper on the 22:30 Pulldown with yard foreman Bill Armstrong, he got bumped and Vern Sinclair came on the job. I wrote my “B” card examination on January 8th. I was placed on the No. 12 Relief on January 14, and was bumped to the spare board on January 16th. On January 18, I was called for a road trip as the head end brakeman on a through freight North on the Red Deer Subdivision to Red Deer, Alberta 92 miles north of Calgary. My call was for No. 987 for 11:15 with unit CP 5521 and locomotive engineer Al Peters, the conductor was Clare Robinson it was a quick trip and we arrived in Red Deer and were off duty at 16:05. Our accommodation was at the Buffalo Hotel across the street from the station, I shared a room with the tail end brakeman whose name I don’t recall. We laid over and were not called until 20:15 the next day it was for No. 78 with locomotive CP 5651 with locomotive engineer Mickey Young, and conductor Stan McCormick a different crew that I had going up we arrived back at Alyth and were off duty at 02:15. I made 271 miles for the round-trip; the worst part was a layover being away from home 39 hours. The rest of the month, I only worked two shifts a 16:00 Extra, and the 24:00 Government with yard foreman George Mattern. February was slow I worked a 09:00 Tramp (Gulf oil.), 23:30 Tramp, 24:00 Pulldown, 23:30 N. Industrial, 15:45 Tramp, 14:30 Pulldown when I was placed on the No. 1 Relief, bumped again I went on the No. 12 Relief with yard foreman Ken Smith for a couple of days when I went back on the spare board February 16 were I worked another nine shifts until March 8 when I was placed on the 24:00 Government with yard foreman George Mattern, I remember one night working this job I was the engine follower, and the long fieldman was Donny Hayes (nicknamed “Half a Buck” as his father was an old-time conductor called “Buck” Hayes” we were flat switching a train on the west end of N-12, setting out some trailers and adding some empty tri decks back onto the train, Donny was on the east end of the cut in position to make a coupling onto the standing portion of the train about 30 car lengths away, I was up around the corner on the lead relaying signals to the engineer from our foreman George, who was making a coupling onto the cut of tri decks, we were switching without air and when George tied on the coupling didn’t make and the cars started rolling, Donny, oblivious to the fact jumped on the point to ride it down to a coupling, we were working with lanterns on that job, no radios, George was frantically waving his lamp at Donny to try to tell him we had not coupled on, finally in total disgust George through his lamp about 20 feet into the air, letting it crash to the ground, Donny in the meanwhile was giving lanterns signals to slow up for the coupling and giving car lengths, finally realizing that the cars were picking up speed and not slowing down, he bailed off as they crashed into the standing cars, no damage was done, but George really took a strip out of Donny when we got everything back together, just another night on the railway. George himself was a real character, he would wear old striped coveralls that were so dirty with grease and dirt, they looked like they would stand on their own when he took them off at home, he also wore a red hunters cap with the brim curled up in the front, it was pretty dirty too, he was fairly short and stout like a barrel, had long, unkempt hair with a grizzled beard, he didn’t really talk that much and what kind of grunt like a caveman, he drove an old 1 ton truck with a flat deck and a wrecking hoist on the back, a true character, but great guy once you got to know him. I lasted a couple weeks and then was back on the spare board into April.

On April 3 I was called again for a road trip this time going west of Calgary to Field, British Columbia on the Laggan Subdivision. I was called for train Robot 603 with locomotive CP 5826 on the lead (These 5800 series General Motors locomotives were the only ones set up with the radio equipment to operate robot trains.), with locomotive engineer Bill Yeats, and conductor Eddie Pawlluk we were ordered for 22:15 and had 100 loads of sulfur, this train had come in from the Red Deer subdivision, they had brought in from the North towards the Calgary depot, and backed it into P yard, and we had to Robotize it at Alyth before going west. The CPR had pioneered robot controlled trains starting in the late 1960s, the system was called Locotrol, you would have a consist of six General Motors SD-40-2 3000 hp locomotives, and a robot car that contained sophisticated radio equipment. The procedure was to insert the robot car and two locomotives approximately two thirds of the way towards the tail end of the train, in this case behind about 60 cars, the consist was marshalled off of the Alyth diesel shop track with the four lead locomotive, followed by the robot car and the two slave locomotives. The lead locomotive CP 5826 with its special radio equipment could communicate back and forth with the remote consist through the robot car, the locomotive engineer via radio signals could communicate with the slave units, and could have the lead four units and throttle eight and the slave units and throttle two, or in dynamic braking, depending on the track profile, this made for smoother operation, and by having the extra horsepower towards the tail end of the train much more tonnage could be pulled with the locomotives more evenly distributed, another bonus was especially in cold winter weather conditions air could be pumped from the slaves in both directions towards the caboose, and they head of the train, this way the brake pipe, and reservoirs could be recharged much quicker them pumping all the air from the lead locomotives. I called the operator at 12th Street E. tower and told him we wanted to robotize our train that was in P-4, he gave us permission to come off the shop track and crossover the hump leads at the 11th Street E. roadway underpass, and to slave units into the pocket (a small run around track.) In front of 12th Street tower, I jumped off at the 11th Street crossovers and guided Bill back into the pocket in front of 12 Street, and asked him for permission to cut off the slave units, he did what was required on his part to isolate the units, and gave them permission to uncouple, I close the angle cock on our lead units, pulled the pin, and told him to go westward when we had gone far enough. I told him to stop, 12th Street tower lined us for P-yard running lead and I called Bill and told them it was okay to back up eastward 30 cars towards P-4 when we reached the east side of the Alyth overpass I brought them to a stop and lined a couple of switches, I radioed the Car Department Planner and asked for permission to couple on to our track, he give us permission and I brought Bill back to a coupling on P-4 and cut in the air, meanwhile the tail end brakeman had worked his way up from the caboose to the cut number, when Bill had sufficiently charged up the brake pipe the tail end brakeman made the cut and with permission from 12th Street E. tower we pulled westward on P-yard running lead to double over to slave units, I jumped off the head end just west of the pocket, and when Bill had pulled out far enough I brought him to a stop, when the operator at 12 Street E. tower had lined the switch . I brought Bill back 10 car lengths to a coupling on the slave units, I then got a stretch and cut back in the air, I proceeded eastward to the point of the slave units, and when Bill had everything set up, I asked 12 Street E. tower for a signal and line up out of the east end of the pocket, I got a restricting signal, and we proceeded eastward towards P-4 when we entered the west end of P-4, I called the tail end brakeman and said we were on our way back, he took over radio communication, and I bailed off to get on to the head end, with our train coupled up, we notified the Car Department Planner that we were ready for a brake test, in the meanwhile Eddie had arrived by crew bus to the head end with our paperwork and train orders, we compared watches, and I read out the train orders to the engineer, and we read over the paperwork we had 13,500 tons, Eddie took the crew bus back to the caboose, when we finished the brake test and the Carman signed our brake test forms, we were ready to go, I called the tail end and asked me if they were ready, they replied yes, I then called the operator at 12 Street E. tower telling him we were ready to depart westward out of P-4, he said he would get back to us, after a few minutes he called us and said it was okay for us to depart out of P-4 and that we would be crossing over to P-1 in front of the tower. So we went up P-1, by the IYO, through Depot 2, and across 14th Street West where we had a clear signal to leave the interlocking into CTC at Sunalta leaving the yard at 00:35 we started our trip 135 miles west to Field, BC, although it was dark this was a new experience for me, I had worked east of Calgary on the mainline all the way to Swift Current, Saskatchewan, this was usually high speed operation on the relatively flat prairie topography with the exception of the river valley in and out of Medicine Hat. This was different terrain starting out at the altitude of 3438 feet at Calgary and climbing through the foothills and into the east side the Rocky mountains range to the Continental divide at mile 122 at the altitude of 5280 feet, the highest pass of any railway in Canada, so we slogged along at a fair speed running parallel to the south side of the Bow River, by the siding of Brickburn and crossing the Bow River over the twin bridges at mile 7.6 & 7.7, west on the mainline through the storage yard at Keith mile 8.10 to 10.2, pass the siding at Bearspaw mile 14, and climbed up to the community of Cochrane, then downhill crossing the Bow River at mile 25.72, then climbing uphill past the siding at Radnor and Ghost Dam at mile 33.4, and picking up some speed through the Morley flats, by the siding at Ozada, and downhill past Mile 50.1 crossing the Bow River once again east of Kananaskis, then by the siding at Exshaw going past the massive Lafarge cement plant at mile 57, then through the Gap model 62 that had been relegated to a storage track, we then passed Canmore mile 68.7, a once thriving coal mining community, the mines were now shut down, but new development was just beginning for what became a major community being located outside of the Banff National Park movement, we went on our climb up around Tunnel mountain then downhill through the town of Banff where there was a descent to a level crossing just press the station at mile 82.2, we sojourned on through the Bow Valley Parkway by the sidings of Massive mile 92.7, the storage track at Castle Mountain mile 99.0 and Eldon at mile 106, then up to Lake Louise mile 116.6, altitude 5052 feet, where we climbed up the 1.8% grade to the Rocky Mountain Continental divide at Stephen Mile 122.2, where we tipped over downhill on our 2.2% descent, levelling off through Hector then it was all downhill past the siding at Partridge mile 128.0,

Seth Partridge was a Calgary locomotive fireman who became a hero on August 9, 1925, it was a hot night when a landslide came down the mountains and Seth, and his engineer noticed some rock coming down an early warning, he showed his heroism by leaving his train at this location and running down hill to where off duty sectionmen were sleeping in their bunkhouse at Yoho station, he was able to warn them before the catastrophic slide wiped out the buildings they were sleeping in. He received many awards, and had the siding named after him, something that is usually more reserved for high-ranking company officials, surveyors, or large stockholders. He was also promoted as a Road Foreman of Engines, which he did for a while, but eventually went back to running steam locomotives, and the first diesels on the Laggan Subdivision.

We then headed westward started into the 3255 feet long No.1 upper spiral tunnel making a 48 foot descent, and turning 288° inside Mount Cathedral emerging in a northwest direction, passing the storage track at Yoho mile 129.8 and entering the 2922 feet long No.2 spiral tunnel making another 50 foot descent, and turning 226° in the bowels of Mount Ogden to emerge going westward and crossing over a bridge on the Kicking Horse River, then passing by the siding at Cathedral mile 134.2 going through some snow sheds and a small tunnel on the edge of Mount Stephen and arriving at the bottom of the mountain valley at the village of Field, British Columbia mile 136.6 altitude 4200 feet where we stopped at the station and changed off with a crew from Revelstoke, British Columbia who would take the train through the mountains and the Rogers Pass, we were off duty at 07:10.

After a good sleep, I had some lunch in the bunkhouse cafeteria that was open 24 hours a day, I then had opportunity to walk around Field for some sightseeing, we were called for No. 902 a hot shot freight at 17:35 with locomotive CP 5685, and 89 cars, we made a great trip home, climbing up to Stephen, then it was downhill pretty well all the way into Calgary and Alyth and off duty at 22:50 a little over five hours, we were only gone 24 hours and 35 min. and I made 338 miles a lot better than that trip to Red Deer where I only made 271 miles and was away from home for 39 hours. It was also nice working a whole subdivision in CTC, not like the Red Deer that was dark territory, meaning there are no signals, and all switches are hand controlled. The rest of the month of April was pretty slow I only got three more shifts for the month, May was another story. I got another trip west on the Laggan subdivision getting called On May 1st for the Coquitlam Empties at 17:40 we had locomotive CP 5589 with 73 car the conductor was Eddie Pawluk and we were in and off duty at 00:30. We doubled out on the Boxes 6 (Empty grain loading boxcars.) at 03:00, we had 113 cars with locomotive 5826 the same lead locomotive I had for my first trip west in April we arrived back at Alyth at 11:05 and were off duty at 11:30 making the round trip 17 hours and 50 min. making 342 miles, this was another good trip, I had a chance to rest up at work the, 24:00 Pulldown that evening the spare board was really busy, that was away it always was being either feast or famine, April was the latter and May the former working every day on the first pay half from April 30, to May 13. I made a road trip west, 11 yard shifts at straight time, and 2 yard shifts at overtime, the second pay half was just as good making 10 regular yard shifts, 2 at overtime, and one eight hour statutory holiday for Victoria day, between May 14, and May 26. On May 27 I was placed on the No.13 Relief with locomotive engineer Jimmy Duncan and yard foreman Kenny Hauser, on my days off I was called for a road trip east on the Zone 2 Wayfreight with locomotive engineer Bob. Palser, and conductor John Mandzie we had CP locomotive 8823 and were called for 11:45 and arrived at Brooks and were off duty at 22:30, on June 3 we went to work at 06:45 going west to Bassano, then making a Standard turn on the Irricana subdivision arriving at Alyth and off duty at 23:00 making 503 miles, another good pay half.

Wrote my rules and “A” examination, and was promoted on June 1, 1976, which qualified me to work as a Conductor and Yard Foreman. Went on 10 days annual vacation between June 14, and 27 I traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia to visit my sister, at the time they were hiring brakemen for the British Columbia Railway, so I went up to North Vancouver, took my medical, and wrote my examinations with the plan of asking for a leave of absence from the CPR, and try out railroading in British Columbia, on my return from vacation I asked the General Yard Master about a leave of absence, but he would not give it to me as I had just written up for my promotion, and they would be short of Yard Foreman during the summer holiday time, so that finished my opportunity to try out railroading in British Columbia. On June 30 I took a day vacancy on the 09:00 Government with Cecil Head as the Foreman and locomotive engineer Bruce Hatton, I was bumped and went on a vacancy working the 10:00 E. Calgary assignment that worked out of IYO with locomotive engineer Vic Currie, Yard Foreman Alec Montgomery (nicknamed “Monty”) he was quite a character, a World War II veteran who lived downtown and spent a lot of time at the No.1 Legion, never drove a car just walked to work he was tall and lanky about 6 foot 3″ with bright red curly hair this assignment looked after all the customers on L and LA leads that ran alongside the North mainline in the yard on the Cushing and Brewery leads This included many customers on the South side Cushing lead there was Standard Brands that made yeast, Tiger chemicals, a couple of lumber yards, a Simpsons Sears warehouse, and Hector steel, on the North side was a concrete plant, the Calgary Brewery, and Maple Leaf Mills that had a flour mill and a feed plant. We also looked after customers on the North mainline there was a dog food plant called Dr. Ballard’s they made “Perky” a brand of dog food that I fed my cocker spaniel Wimpy when I was a youngster. They were some other warehouses, to spot, at one time the large Union Packing Plant was near here but it shut down in the 1960s. We also looked after the short “M’s” on the Mayland Heights industrial lead working after Spurs from M-4 to M-29 these included in Inmont ink that received tank cars of printing ink, M-8 National Cable Co. M-9 Bridge Brand produce, and Woodward’s furniture warehouse, a lumberyard, National Cable Ltd. warehouse, a plastic factory that got hopper cars of plastic pellets, and M-29 Nabob Spice Co., I was bumped again and worked a couple of shifts on the 07:30 South Industrial with Yard Foreman Harold MacLeod, and locomotive engineer Barney Martin, I then went on the No.3 Relief assignment with Yard Foreman Jack Boden, and locomotive engineer Norman Case with locomotive CP 6610 on the first shift, this job worked the 07:00 Industrial (called the coach engine as it did passenger work.) On Wednesday and Thursday’s, the 07:30 North Industrial on Fridays and Saturdays, and the 06:30 Industrial Tramp on Sundays. I see on July 21, we had the CP 6578 on the coach engine.

On July 24 I was set up as the Yard Foreman on the No.9 Relief assignment with locomotive engineer Jimmy Jones my helper was Emil Kinch we worked the 14:30 Hump on Friday and Saturday’s, the 16:00 Hump on Sunday on Mondays, and the, 15:00 Industrial on Tuesdays was bumped after a week and went on a vacancy on the 10:00 E. Calgary with locomotive engineer Vic Currie and Yard Foreman O.J. Hudson (Ole) a big Swede. I was then placed as Yard Foreman on the 16:00 Pulldown, assignment with locomotive engineer Vince Griffiths I worked this job until August 11 when I was bumped I then went on a vacancy on the 07:00 Industrial with Yard Foreman Bill Hermann, and locomotive engineer Norman Case work this job until August 23 when I was bumped and went and worked the No.13 Relief assignment this job worked the 16:00 “B” Tramp on Fridays, the 09:00 Gulf Oil on Saturdays and Sundays, and the 22:30 Pulldown on Mondays and Tuesdays the Yard Foreman was Ken Hauser, and the locomotive engineer Ben Maser, pulled Out of Service from October 16 to the 19th, and received 10 demerits for not being on duty when required, thereby delaying the starting time of the yard assignment. I had not booked off my assignment, and was unavailable were called, so a spare man was called out and took a to hour call that he was entitled to, causing the delay to the assignment.

Looking to expand my horizons, I saw a bulletin in the bid book asking for qualified yard foremen to apply for the position of Relief Car Retarder Operator, there was to successful applicants a senior foreman Harry Shunamon, and myself, I trained on my own time, coming in a couple of hours at a time and trained with the day shift Operator Nick Nikiford, the afternoon shift operator Gordon Mikkelson, the night operator Gordon Searight, and the relief operator Adolph Wirachowski and qualified as a relief Car Retarder Operator on October 25, 1976, Harry didn’t finish training and dropped out, so I became the No.2 Relief Car Retarder Operator behind Tommy Arnott, this would require me to work each Friday on the midnight shift, when Tommy was working holiday vacancies, and for men that were off sick.

I was bumped that day and worked the No.12 Relief assignment, but was pulled to work as the Yard Foreman on two Extra Yard assignments at the GYO on October 27, and 28, at 24:00 with locomotive engineer Fred Plotnikoff these extra jobs were crappy and you never got much of a break we worked our butts off the first shift, and got off with a 15 minute quit (quit was a railway term, most assignments in the yard were given they productivity bonus of getting off early from their shift when all the work listed was completed.) Most jobs were finished between one and two hours earlier, the next night we thought to ourselves were not going to let this happen again, our supervisor was Toby Frewin who was the Deputy General Yard Master those shifts. We did our usual work switching cabooses on the west end of the yard, spotting some trailers at the piggyback ramps, had our coffee break, then did more flat switching on the west end setting some bad orders off of outgoing trains, we then took the bad order cars and set them on to the west end of V-9 a track that was used to hold cars to be repaired in the one spot car repair shop, we then spotted our engine on the west end of “Y” yard and went on had our lunch break in the GYO lunchroom, after beans (railroad slang for lunch.) Toby give us another list with a pile of work we did some are flat switching and spotted some piggyback trailers, our last move was to dig a car out of the track in “P” yard and when the hump had finished doubling V-3 to V-4 use one of the clear tracks to take the car to the east end of the yard, and take it out to the East Foothills Industrial district, located behind the Ogden shops adjacent to the CNR Sarcee yard were there were industrial spurs that both railways looked after. We would then spot the car at a warehouse as it was a hot car that the customer needed to unload in the morning, so once again it looked like we weren’t going to get much of a break. When we went to go take the car to the east end of the yard we realized that the hump hadn’t even started to double the tracks together, I was about to phone the yard master and find an alternative clear track, when Fred suggested that we just follow instructions and do what we were listed with, so we sat and waited in the dark until, after about an hour the hump finally started to double the two tracks over by the time they had cleared the way we had waited another 40 min. then we slowly went down to the east end of the yard, by then it was 07:30 Toby then called us on the radio asking if we were on our way back from East Foothills, to which we replied that we hadn’t even left the yard yet, he said what delayed you so long, I told him we had to wait for the hump, for a clear track to run down as listed, he wasn’t too happy and grumbled why didn’t you call for a clear track, I said I do what’s listed. We had him this time and ended up making an hour’s overtime by the time we got back, we also benefited with a extra hours overtime that the old-timers called “The Golden Hour” this was from a local agreement made up in 1970, when the newly yard was being built at Alyth, at the time our local contract allowed us a second “beans” lunch break after working one hours overtime, with other shifts coming on duty an agreement was made to pay the extra power overtime to avoid tying up the yard engine so the next shift could use it. The customer was happy as you got his car just on time, and I never heard anything else about it.

The No.12 Relief worked the 24:00 Government on Wednesdays and Thursdays, the 23:00 “B” Tramp Fridays and Saturdays, and the 24:00 Tramp on Sundays, my Yard Foreman was Ken Smith and the locomotive engineer was Martin Blanchard I moved on to a vacancy on November 1 on the No.2 Relief that worked the 22:30 Pusher on Thursdays, the 24:00 Hump on Fridays and Saturdays, and the 22:30 Hump on Sundays and Mondays, the Yard Foreman was Andy Anderson, and the locomotive engineer was Pete Laing. On November 2,3,5, and 6th I worked my first pay shifts as a car retarder operator on afternoon, 2 midnights, and one day shift. I went back on the No.13 Relief working as the Yard Foreman the first two nights, and with Ken Hauser the rest of the week. On November 17 I went on an afternoon job the, 15:45 Tramp with Yard Foreman Jake Surette, and locomotive engineer Vic Currie, I worked one more midnight shift as a car retarder operator on November 25th, then moved on to a vacancy on the No.8 Relief. This job worked the 22:30 Pusher on Fridays and made a shortchange working the 14:30 Pusher on Saturdays and Sundays, making another shortchange and working the 06:30 Pusher on Mondays and Tuesdays, this was a good job as a week went really fast finishing on Tuesday afternoon about 13:30 and not having to return until 2230 on Friday it was like having three days off. One thing about being promoted and having your Yard Foreman’s ticket is that if you are working a regular assignment, you can be pulled off at your starting time to work any assignment that’s Yard Foreman is booked off, or called for an Extra yard assignment. This happened the next two days on Saturday. I was called as the Yard Foreman on the 14:30 Pulldown with locomotive engineer Lloyd Erb, and on the Sunday I was called as the Yard Foreman on a 10:00 Extra with locomotive engineer George Carra, I finally worked the 06:30 Pusher on the Monday and Tuesday with Yard Foreman, Donn Parker, and locomotive engineer Larry Letourneau on November 30. I jumped on a vacancy on the 07:00 Industrial (coach engine.) For a week with Yard Foreman Jack Boden and locomotive engineer Ron Lamont then I worked the 14:30 Industrial (coach engine.) With Yard Foreman Ron Niblett, and locomotive engineer Ralph Teters finished the year working the Relief Bleeder assignment


1.) CP Rail Internal Correspondence:

Date: Calgary, March 24, 1976 Files: 059.01
010.5 C&T
From: J.M. White

To: Yardman R.D. Band Trainman D.L. Jamieson
Yardman M.G. Showers Trainman R.G. Baril
Yardman L.T. Murphy Trainman D.M. Sanford.
Yardman W.J. Avery Trainman A.T. Kuzmicz
c/o General Yardmaster, Trainman R.J. Schmick
Alyth. c/o General Yardmaster,
Trainman L.F. Boissonneault Alyth.
Trainman L.S. Buchan

In accordance with Article 7 clauses (b) of the U.T.U. (T)
Yard Agreement and Article 35 clause (b) of the Road.
Agreement you are required to take examination in the
U.C.O.R. for promotion to Yard Foreman and/or Conductor.

Please obtain an “A” Book from the General Yardmaster at
Alyth, completed as per instructions in the front cover.
And turn it into the Assistant Superintendent’s office.
For correction. This book must be completed and corrected.
Before examination is taken in the Rules car.

Please present yourself to the Supervisor of Rules Instruction.
In the Rules car on its next day in Calgary. Bulletin notice.
Of instruction times and dates will be published.

Signed J.M. White
Assistant Superintendent

2.) CP Rail Internal Correspondence:

Date: Calgary, May 28, 1976 Files: 059.01
010.3 C&T
From: J.M. White

To: Yardman R.D. Band Trainman D.L. Jamieson
Yardman M.G. Showers Trainman R.G. Baril
Yardman L.T. Murphy Trainman D.M. Sanford.
Yardman W.J. Avery Trainman A.T. Kuzmicz
c/o General Yardmaster, Trainman R.J. Schmick
Alyth. c/o General Yardmaster,
Trainman L.F. Boissonneault Alyth.
Trainman L.S. Buchan

This is a reminder of my letter of March 24th, 1976
instructing you to complete an “A” Book and present
yourself for instruction in examination for promotion
to Yard Foreman and/or Conductor in the Rules Car.

You will note bulletin No. 114 dated May 26th, 1976
outlines and dates of instruction and re-examination.

You are also reminded to familiarize yourself with the
contents of Articles 35 of the Collective Agreement for
trainman and Article 7 for yardman.

To date I have received only one written up “A” Book

Signed J.M. White
Assistant Superintendent

cc: Mr. P. Lens, Calgary
Mr. H. Duby, Calgary
Mr. R.W. Fulton, Calgary
Mr. H.E. McAfee.
Mr. J.B. Kershaw, Edmonton

3.) CP Rail BULLETIN B 37-131. October 13, 1976






1.) My Rules Examination “B” Card dated on January 8, 1976 that requalified me as a Yardman-Trainman signed by Rules Examiner J.B. (Bernie) Kershaw, who was formerly a Train Dispatcher from Edmonton, Alberta.
1-1.) CPR Rules Instruction Car No. 54, this photo was taken by me at the east end of the Calgary passenger depot in 1979, the old converted passenger coach was made into a rules instruction car, with a classroom for 25 students were desks were set up on each side with a walkway down the middle with teachers desk and blackboard, at one and, it also had living quarters for the rules instructor J.B. Kershaw, he would travel around Alberta and teach rules, and employees would write there periodical rules examination, when not on the road it was stationed here in Calgary in the East stub track that was used to store extra passenger coaches, and was connected to steam heat in the winter.
2.) George Mattern at retirement party.
3.) Don Hayes (Half a Buck) 2003.
4.) CP 5826 photo taken by A. Patenaude in Montréal in 1986, this General Motors SD-40-2 3000 horse power locomotive was our lead unit on my first road trip West of Calgary on April 3, 1976 on sulfur train No. 603, 10 years before.
5.) East mile board for Partridge siding taken circa 1965, photo taken by Nicholas Morant the CPR’s photographer.
6.) A photo of the rock slide at Yoho station on August 10, 1925 from the CPR corporate archives.
7.) Another photo taken by the CPR’s photographer Nick Morant in the 1940s showing Seth Partridge on the right and his fireman reading over their train orders, these photos were published in John Garden’s Canadian Pacific featuring Nicholas Morant’s work.
8.) My Rules Examination “A” Card dated on June 1, 1976 for my promotion to Conductor-Yardforeman once again signed by Rules Examiner J.B. Kershaw, this now allowed me to work as a conductor on the road, and a yardforeman in the yard. If I accumulated too many demerits I could be demoted back to a trainman or yardman.
9.) Photo of locomotive engineer Fred Plotnikoff, Fred hired on at the Alyth roundhouse as an engine wiper on December 9, 1946 and was promoted as locomotive firemen on February 3, 1947. He was working the locomotive engineer’s spareboard when we were called to work an extra yard on October 28th.
10.) This photo was taken on the sixth floor of the control tower of the General Yard Office. This is the Train Yard Coordinator’s (TYC’s) control panel of the yard, at the helm with his back to us is Harold N. Frewin (Toby) he started with the CPR as a clerk and October 29, 1956 was his seniority date as a yardmaster he was No. 13 on the 1970 Yardmaster Seniority List for Calgary, yardmaster’s were taken from the ranks of clerk’s and yardmen who applied for bulletined positions. Toby was the GYM on October 28, 1976 when I worked as the Foreman on the extra yard with Fred Plotnikoff
11.) Below Toby on the seniority list in position No. 14 was M M Stroick (Mike) who started as a yardman in 1952, and became a yardmaster June 30, 1958, in 1975 he rose up into the ranks to the position of Superintendent, Alberta Region
12.) CPR Form 104 signed by Superintendent M M Stroick debiting my record with 10 demerits for not being available for duty on October 16, 1976
13.) Gordon Mickelson at control panel of Retarder Operators room on the third floor of the General Yard Office, he is watching the two CRT monitors that have a computer list of the cars coming off of and class yard track destinations, the two doors on the right-hand side were used to bring in all the large equipment for the computer room that occupies most of the floor behind him, the retarder operators room overhung the main floor of the building, but was poorly designed with the cement pillar in front of Gordon that obscured his view of the class yard, Gordon hired on August 31, 1948 as a Yardman, he was No. 2 on the seniority list of the six original whose seniority dates were March 30, 1970 when the new hump started operations.
14.) A photo of me at the control panel on midnight shift taken in 1976, there are many changes from the previous photo, the operators panel was moved over two feet to the left, improving visibility of the class yard, and the two CRT monitors have been replaced with a single monitor mounted on the cement pillar underneath the weather station, the telephone is gone, replaced by a direct system with a rotary dial on the control panel just above the newspaper on the table, and you could communicate directly through the boom microphone, many of the phones in the tower were connected to the system through the toggle switches on the panel above the rotary dial. There was a foot pedal to step on when he wanted to reply, and by lifting your foot off you could hear the other party talk through the intercom, lights above the toggle switches indicated when someone was calling in, the intercom system was also tied into outside speakers mounted on poles outside of the hump shack on the hill, and beside each set of group rechargers down in the bowl of the yard.
15.) General Yard Office control tower looking North towards hump, the master retarder is visible to the left of the double aspect signal mast that showed the status of the humping operations, with a loaded grain hopper entering group retarder, retarder operator’s control room is visible above Canada on the hopper, it is on the third floor of the building, above on the fourth floor was the Deputy General Yardmaster’s office, the fifth floor was used by the Car Department Planner, and the sixth floor was used by the Train Yard Coordinator, the TYC clerk, and the West End Yardmaster.
16.) A photo view of five of the six group retarders in the bowl of the classification yard, and five of the groups of eight tracks from 1 to 40, the telephone poles down the middle divide C-24 and C-25.

(1) Comment   
Posted on 10-08-2012
Filed Under (Alberta 1970s, CPR) by Broken Rail

In January 1975 I was working the Zone over the New Year’s holiday until Wednesday, January 8, when I was bumped off the assignment by a senior brakeman. Rather than go back to Medicine Hat, the calling bureau, told me that it would be a couple of vacancies coming up the following week, so I stayed in Calgary as I already had an apartment there, as I was working vacancies off of the Medicine Hat spare board I was entitled to a 100 mile deadhead in each direction. After my tour of duty, so on Thursday January 16 I was called for a trip on the Zone 2 Wayfreight as the head end brakeman we had the CP 8483 for power, the tail end brakeman was Don Borne, and the conductor was Ron Gauvreau who had just transferred to Medicine Hat from Edmonton. We made the usual trip from Alyth to Brooks and on Friday from Brooks to Standard, spotting the elevators at Makepeace, Hussar, Chancellor, and standard then back to Brooks, going home on Saturday from Brooks to Alyth. Then on Monday, January 20 I got a week’s vacancy on the Zone 3 wayfreight working as the head end brakeman on the CP 8835, Jim McKinnon was the conductor, and Bev Rogers was the tail end brakeman, with that tour of duty completed on January 25, I then got another trip on the Zone 2 wayfreight on Monday, January 27 with the same crew I had earlier getting off January 29, I then was called for Monday February 3 as the head end brakeman we had an Alco (MLW) CP 4223 for power on the Zone 3 wayfreight with Fred Foulston as the conductor, and Jim McKinnon as the tail end brakeman, I made one trip going to Wimborne and returning to Alyth the next day, I then took a trip off going back to work on Monday, February 10 as the head end brakeman with the CP 8831, & PNC 112 as power, this week we had Ron Gauvreau as Conductor, the following three weeks on February 17 I worked the head end again with the CP 3014 as our lead unit, with Conductor Fred Foulston on February 24 I worked the head end with the CP 4229, and an March 3 we had the CP 8823 I worked the one trip and was bumped again, and I didn’t work again until March 20, which didn’t bother me as I took the time to go out and buy a brand-new motorcycle with all the money I had saved working these wayfreight assignments over the winter of 1973-74. I bought an English motorcycle a Norton 850 Commando painted in metallic blue, it was a lot bigger than my Honda 90, the last motorbike, I owned back in 1965. Black on the Zone 3 I was called as the head end brakeman with the CP 8539 with Conductor Fred Foulston, I got another trip on March 31 on the head end with CP 8653 for power, and on April 7 I worked the head end with CP 8645 as our power.

On Thursday April 10th 1975 I was called for our regular time of 08:15 on the Zone 3 Way freight, this was my last trip to Tudor on this assignment with the regular crew Conductor Fred Foulston, Tail end Brakeman Jim McKinnon, and Locomotive Engineer Stan McPhedran.

Of all the locomotive engineers I had worked with on the assignment, Stan McPhedran was my favorite, he was always good-natured, and great to work on the head end with, he had grown up in the Ogden district where I lived, and we had a lot of common acquaintances, including his brother Jim was a machinist at the Ogden shops, he told me many stories of growing up in the district in the 1930s, he had served his country during World War II enlisting in the Seaforth Highlanders and had landed in Italy in that theater of the war. We had lots of adventures together one incident I already referred to was on the snowplow from Shepard to Irricana with the conductor running the plow. I remember another occasion when we had left Alyth for Shepard on a bitterly cold winters day, the later model General Motors GP locomotives from the 8600 to the 8800 series were equipped with cab heaters on each side of the locomotive cab, the brakeman’s was behind his seat, and the locomotive engineers was directly in front of him, and provided defrosting for the front window, they were motor driven with a three position switch, and had a radiator core that was connected to the engines cooling system by pipes, this was a far better system than the first-generation 8400-8500 series that had motors mounted on the bulkhead wall between the cab and the engine hatch, these heaters blew warm air in from the engine compartment, and didn’t work very well. I remember we were going about 55 miles an hour after we had left Ogden on the way over to take the siding at Shepard to do our work, when the cab heater in front of him sprung a leak filling the cab with hot water and mist from the condensation, it was so bad you couldn’t see out the windows, so Stan had to open his window to see our way over to Shepard, we got into the siding and got a hold of the diesel shops, their advice was to bring the power back to Alyth, we had a trailing locomotive pointed in the right direction westward, so we were able to shut off the supply of water to the cab heater, and we left our train at Shepard, backed out of the East end of the siding and went westward back to Alyth to get a new locomotive, this caused us about a three-hour delay, but at least we had heat. One other winter trip I remember we were called out of Alyth, they were real short of power on morning and they gave us a single unit that had just come out of Ogden after a total rebuild, they were reluctant to give us this power as it was needed in Winnipeg, so away we went on this nice freshly painted locomotive on its first trip, we went along doing all our normal work assignments, and were switching the elevator track at Torrington 7 miles short of our objective terminal at Wimborne, when the alarm bells started ringing on the locomotive, Stan checked the diesel engine, and found there was no water in the sight glass on the expansion tank in the engine compartment, further examination revealed that the locomotive had no cooling water left, there was a drain valve under the deck of the locomotive that had a wire seal on it to keep it closed, but for some reason it was not closed all the way to keep the water from draining Stan surmised was a plug of ice in the pipe that had stopped it from flowing, but as we worked the engine it had managed to thaw out and slowly drain out all the coolant, so there we were stuck at Torrington, we had to make room for Stan to spend the night in the caboose, and we waited there until diesel shops were able to send a truck up in the morning to fill up the locomotive with water so we can continue our work. On another occasion I remember was coming back from Tudor at nighttime, we had a single locomotive and were running with the long hood forward, I was walking down the running board on the engineer side to get the junction switch off of the South leg of the wye when looking at the horizon I saw a meteor that was blazing across the sky, a huge orange fireball that looked to me as big as the sun, in a moment, it was gone., I walked up and lined the track switch, gave Stan a backup signal and jumped on board as he passed by, when I got into the cab. The first thing I said was did you see when I saw, he confirmed that he did and it was the biggest meteorite he had ever seen.

One day we were making our regular trip later that night from Cosway Junction to Wimborne on the Acme subdivision, and had been a long day, and there was not much work to do, Stan asked me if I would like to run the locomotive, we had our usual consist of two Jeeps, so I said sure, why not, and I came over to the left-hand side of the cab, Stan stood up holding his foot on the dead man’s pedal, to allow me to position myself into the engineer seat, I then put my foot on the dead man’s pedal on the floor of the cab, he gave me some basic instructions on the controls, and the speed to maintain, and went over to my seat on the other side of the cab to put his feet up and relax a bit, coaching me on the characteristics of the road ahead, and where to set the brakes, or increase throttle, this was a great experience for me, and he let me run it quite a few other times, on the condition that if there were switching to do in elevator tracks we would change positions. with the exception of one time on the Brooks sub were the locomotive engineer asked me to set in the engineer seat for a few moments while he went back to fix some alarm on our trailing unit, this was the first time I got to run an engine, and I liked the experience.

I had been working this assignment since February 1974 the first six months as tail end Brakeman, and the rest of the time on the head end working with the Locomotive Engineer. My duties as head end Brakeman required me to report To the General Yard Office at Alyth pickup my portable radio and go to the Alyth Diesel shop to take our power (locomotive’s) to the head end of our train in Victor yard tie on to the train release the hand brakes and work my way back to the caboose CP 434169, where I poured a cup of coffee, and visited with the tail end brakeman Jim McKinnon. I would work my way back to the head end of our train and wait for the Conductor to bring us our train orders and work lists. Fred was there with our orders and lists which I read out, we were cleared as the Work Extra 8627 from Shepard to Wimborne, Wimborne to East Coulee, East Coulee to Shepard, and with orders for a side trip from Irricana to Tudor. I went into the front nose of the locomotive and found two white flags among our other supplies these I put up in the flag holders on the front of the locomotive. These along with the white classification lights showed that we were running as a work extra, the kerosene markers, displaying red to the rear, on the caboose would indicate we were a train. After completing our brake test we left Alyth and proceeded eastward on the CPR’s Brooks subdivision to Shepard, where we lifted some empty tank cars for Wimborne, and spotted some grain empties the Alberta Wheat Pool elevators, we left the main track at the junction switch for the Strathmore subdivision from here on we literally owned the railway as no other trains were authorized on the tracks we were about to travel on. A way freight is an assignment that does all the work along the road it travels it stops at all stations and does the necessary switching as required. In the old days not that long ago in 1967 there was a scheduled Mixed Train that traveled over these subdivisions that did this work, carried passengers, and also carried mail for these small communities. The subdivisions we were about to travel on to the Strathmore, Langdon, Irricana, and Acme were prairie branch lines and their main source of revenue was from grain , along with sulfur from Wimborne and coal from East Coulee. Our train consisted of empty grain boxcars, tank cars for sulfur loading, and hoppers for coal loading. My job on the head end was to get off at each station and cut off the number of empties that were required for each grain elevator in the back track and spot them on the spouts for loading. There were also spots for unloading fertilizer, oil, platforms for farm machinery etc. On top of all this every old siding and yard track were filled with storage cars that were waiting disposition of their fate whether to be repaired or scrapped at East Coulee there was at least 400 cars sitting there in the yard. The towns we stopped at along the way included Shepard, Bennett, Langdon, on the Strathmore Subdivision we then proceeded northward on the Langdon Subdivision going through Dalroy that had an abandoned elevator, over the Interlocking at grade with the CNR at Inverlake and stopping at Keoma and Irricana, where we stopped for lunch, going into town to the local restaurant. We then left most of our train at Irricana and took the grain empties required for Tudor, we passed through Nightingale that was now just a storage track.

On April 17 I was called as the head end brakeman on the Zone 2 wayfreight, with Conductor John Mandzies we had another Alco (MLW) 4209 on the head end, lease locomotives built by the Montréal Locomotive Works were really rough riding on the mainline when you are traveling at speeds of 60 miles an hour, they had lots of lateral movement and would really rock you, at times you think they were going to roll over, there was a joke about them that you could read the numbers on the ends of the boxcars on your train because they rock back and forth so much.

On April 21, I was called for my last trips on the Zone 3 wayfreight with Conductor Jim McKinnon we had the CP 8500 for our head end power. We went to Wimborne, and returned to Alyth the next day, on April 23 we were called for a Sharples turn with the CP 8506 for power, this was my last tour of duty on the Zone 3 wayfreight, on April 27 was the spring change of timetable, and seeing I couldn’t hold these wayfreight as a job anymore, and not feeling like moving back to Medicine Hat, I decided to stay in Calgary and bid in the yard for the summer.

1.) On this side trip to Tudor you can see in the picture way ran into quite a few snow drifts along the way. Stan took this picture when we arrived at Tudor we had to get out of back door of the locomotive cab so I could shovel away the snow from the front in order to have access. Many things have changed since this photograph was taken Fred has passed away, the rest of us are retired, the branch lines have all been torn up, and the locomotive has been rebuilt into a yard engine, which I hear now have been sent to the scrap pile, and replaced by more fuel-efficient locomotives.

(0) Comments   
Posted on 10-07-2012
Filed Under (Alberta 1970s, CPR) by Broken Rail

Throughout the 1920s Canadian National and Canadian Pacific added to their prairie branch line network, the federal government approved extensions for both railways, and as suggested by Sir Henry Thornton CNR president the CPR did negotiate running rights over sections of one another’s lines. With the construction of the joint track between Rosedale on the CNR and Trefoil both railways gained access to the coal reserves East of Drumheller. The Trefoil-Rosemary section of this line was built by the CPR and serviced land in the CPR’s central and east irrigation districts. The CNR never worked East of East Coulee

The Rosemary Subdivision ran from Rosemary Mile 0, where there was a junction with the Bassano Subdivision, to East Coulee Mile 53.6 going through Matzwin, Mile 4.8, where there was a wye to service the Gem spur that ran 4.94 miles to service the community and its grain elevators, Verger, Mile 11.7, a siding Control Mile 20.0 that had a mail drop of when the mixed trains used to carry the mail for the community of Hutton, there was also a gravel pit that was used for track ballast, and there was a bridge that crossed the Red Deer River, Bullpound Mile 25.1, had a water tank to service steam engines, Finnegan Mile 30.5, Trefoil Mile 36.7, Dorothy Mile 45.6. My CPR timetable from 1974 shows that the speed limit was 15 mph, with a 5 mph permanent slow orders between Mileages 47.0-48.0 and 17.6-17.9, this due unstable banks and chances of mudslides, and that Trains must not operate between mileage, 17.9 and mileage 29.8, so at that time service on the Rosemary sub was limited to servicing the Gem spur from Rosemary, and Finnegan from East Coulee. Eastward trains out of East Coulee were restricted to daylight operation, and to one unit operation between mileage 29.8 and 53.3. During the 1930s up till the 1950s when coal was replaced by more convenient natural gas for domestic heating, there were many coal mines in the Drumheller Valley, at East Coulee the CPR had built a large yard with the capacity to hold 400 cars, there were eight tracks directionally South of the mainline, and the scale track was adjacent to the mainline on the North side, along with seven storage tracks, The scale track gave the yard, the ability to service weigh, and ship the coal from the mines in the area, coal traffic ran in both directions southbound on the Langdon subdivision through Drumheller down through Langdon and West on the Strathmore subdivision through to Calgary. East traffic ran on the Rosemary subdivision to the junction with the Bassano subdivision, then East to the Empress subdivision, and down to the mainline to Swift Current and eastward through Moose Jaw. Retired conductor Jim McKinnon told me that when he hired on in 1945 he worked out of Empress, Alberta and one of his first trips was from Empress to East Coulee to drop off coal empties for loading at the mines, and to pick up a train load of coal of about 40 cars to take back to Empress, there was usually a train each day running eastward, and before winter set in it was not uncommon to see two trains daily, a lot of the elevator tracks along the subdivision had coal sheds, and agents to distribute the coal for domestic heating in these communities.

I made six trips on the CPR Rosemary Subdivision during 1974, we were called to make Finnegan turns to service the Alberta Wheat Pool elevators at Dorothy, and Finnegan, all these trips were short flips going 23.1 miles in each direction, looking at my CPR trip ticket books for 1974-75 shows the following trips:
May 24 Unit 8411 from 15:00 to 20:40 131 miles five hours and 40 min. total time on duty. Conductor Jim McKinnon, Locomotive Engineer Grant Cunningham
May 31 Unit PNC 123 from 15:00 to 21:20 136 miles, six hours and 20 min. total time on duty. Conductor Jim McKinnon, Locomotive Engineer Grant Cunningham
October 29 Unit 8815 from 14:30 to 21:10 124 miles, six hours and 40 min. total time on duty. Conductor Fred Foulston, Locomotive Engineer Stan McPhedran
November 5 Unit 8822 from 14:50 to 20:35 113 miles, five hours and 45 min. total time on duty. Conductor Fred Foulston Locomotive Engineer Stan McPhedran
And 1975:
Januaray 24 Unit 8833 from 14:00 to 22:20 145 miles, eight hours and 20 min. total time on duty. Conductor Jim McKinnon
February 14 8776 from 14:25 to 21:30 131 miles seven hours and 5 min. total time on duty. Conductor Ron Gauvrau.

I remember stopping at Dorothy after we had finished switching out the elevators, and going over to the general store there, it was very old, with two gas pumps with glass cylinders that the gas was pumped into for filling cars, they were sitting there derelict, the store was run by two old brothers, and who knows what they had stored away in the back rooms. At Finnegan were we turned there was of ferry service that ran across the Red Deer River.


1.) CPR operating timetable 1973-74 Rosemary Subdivision.
2.) Map of Western Railway lines showing East Coulee to Rosemary circa 1973
3.) East Coulee yard looking geographically West from a hill above the station, I took this picture in the summer of 1975, the yard was full of storage cars waiting disposition for repairs, or scrapping. The mainline runs down the middle, there is a back lead running alongside the little section house for servicing the Atlas mine across the Red Deer river, next to it the ladder track for the eight tracks on the South side of the yard, to the left-hand side of the main track was the scale track, and seven other storage tracks,
4.) East Coulee looking East at Red Deer river, and the countryside where the Rosemary sub ran through
5.) East Coulee station, and yard, mainline in front of station with silver diamond shaped whistle post sign, and silver marker showing the beginning of the Rosemary subdivision. the East Coulee station at the time was all boarded up, and no staff were working there. The CPR had put it up for sale, and a section Foreman from Nacmine Willy Hermann had put a bid of $10 for it, he planned on salvaging all the lumber on this well-built structure. Fortunately, his bid was rescinded, and a local rancher moved the building West of the town, and restored it into a nice ranch house.
6.) Turntable behind East Coulee station, we used this when we had one unit operation, as there was no wye at East Coulee, we would center our locomotive on the turntable deck, until it was perfectly balanced, then we would hook up locomotives train line to an air hose that operated the turntable by a set of geared wheels that traveled on top of a rail the circled the inside rim of the turntable pit, the gears were driven by a modified air pump from a scrapped steam locomotive. in the winter, when the turntable pit filled with snow, the sectionmen would have to be called out to shovel out the snow. Also visible is the bridge tenders shanty on the wooden trestle that crossed the Red Deer River to the Atlas Coal Mine.
7.) Trip to Finnegan May 31, 1974 looking South at cattle, and trees along the Red Deer river.
8.) Alberta Wheat Pool Elevators at Dorothy, Alberta
9.) Alberta Wheat Pool Elevators at Finnegan, Alberta
10.) Return trip going West on Rosemary subdivision.
11.) Rosemary subdivision going West between mile 47 and 48, were there was a permanent 5 mile an hour slower due to slides coming off the embankments on the North side of the track, stray cattle wandering along the right away.
12.) Rosemary subdivision running along Red Deer river approaching East Coulee.
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(1) Comment   
Posted on 06-07-2012
Filed Under (Alberta 1970s, CPR) by Broken Rail

The CPR Strathmore subdivision originally part of the Brooks subdivision on the mainline from Gleichen west to Shepard, a distance of 45.2 miles. In the 1900′s track was built south and westward through the communities of Bartstow, Strangmuir, Carseland, Dalemead, and Indus this route was opened in July 1914, and is now the mainline, and part of the Brooks subdivision. This track is 2 miles shorter than the Strathmore subdivision, and was used for eastbound trains, while westbound trains use the Strathmore subdivision creating double track between Shepard and Gleichen, communities on the Strathmore subdivision west of Gleichen were Stobart, Namaka, Strathmore, Cheadle, Langdon (junction with the Langdon subdivision.) and Bennett. On July 28, 1883 6.38 miles of track were laid and it remained as the unchallenged record for the whole transcontinental project, this took place West of Strathmore through Cheadle. The Langdon and Shepard Company the St. Paul, Minnesota contractors who build the line from Winnipeg had finished their contract when the rail reached Calgary 840 miles west of Winnipeg, in their honor the CPR President Cornelius Van Horne named the siding’s 18, and 19 east of Calgary Langdon, and Shepard. When I worked through freight on the Brooks subdivision in the winter of 1973 the elevators and track at Stobart were long gone, and CTC (Centralized Traffic Control.) had installed between Ogden and Gleichen around 1965, and the Strathmore subdivision became a secondary branch line, there was an engineering problem with sinkholes between Stobart and Namaka so it was closed to through traffic, and Stobart was serviced out of Gleichen, and the rest of the subdivision from Langdon.

Strathmore was originally located 4.7 miles East of on the West shore of Eagle Lake it was moved westward on the track to its present location in 1904, and became an important experimental farm for the CPR for growing crops on the prairies, to encourage settlers, and help them get started. As the land was arid the CPR did extensive irrigation projects East of Calgary to Strathmore taking water from the Bow River and irrigating the farmland this was called the Western Irrigation District, another larger project was developed South of Bassano on Bow River were a large dam was built and became a part of the Eastern Irrigation District that extended 40 miles East through the communities of Brooks, and Tilley and the farms to the North and South of these communities. Eagle Lake, which froze over in winter was used by the CPR and hundreds of tons of ice were cut from the lake each winter, stored in ice houses and covered with sawdust, and straw for use for refrigeration in the summer for perishable agriculture products being shipped by the railways, and for passenger equipment refrigeration. The CPR Strathmore subdivision crossed the lake on the southern end, in 1948 serious flooding caused damage to the railway right-of-way so the CPR built a control structure and a drainage ditch from Eagle Lake to Namaka Lake to lower the water level of Eagle Lake to prevent future flooding, a berm that the railway right-of-way ran on still exists, there was also a small bridge that was taken out when the track was abandoned in 1982. My conductor Fred Foulston said that after the line was closed between Stobart and Namaka train crews would often park their caboose on the railway bridge and do some fishing, there are lots of sport fish Walleye, Yellow Perch, and Northern Pike in the lake.

Looking through my time books, I see we made four trips on the Strathmore Subdivision. The first on July 2, 1974 on the way to Wimborne, a turn out of Alyth on August 21, 1974 and another on September 18, 1974 the last trip was on April 2, 1975 at 08:15 we were called to make a Namaka turn on the Strathmore Subdivision, Fred Foulston was the conductor, Jim McKinnon the tail end brakeman, I was the head end brakeman, and Stan McPhredan was a locomotive engineer we had the following power they had scraped up at the Alyth diesel shop 8671 PNC-166 4093, the outgoing power with the 8671 on the point wasn’t to bad, it was having the 4093 a Montréal Locomotive Works Alco FPA-2 CPR DFA-16e (Diesel Freight “A” unit 1600 hp sub series “e” built November 30, 1953 as a trailing unit was the kicker, while designed for freight and passenger service they were not very good on wayfreight assignments and road switchers that involves lots of movements where you have to ride on the point of the locomotive consist when switching elevator and industrial tracks, while road switchers had platforms, and footboards on each end of the locomotive to ride on quite comfortably, “A” units were equipped with grab irons on side ladders and stirrups like a boxcar to ride on which got to be pretty tiresome by the end of the day. We were off duty at 13:50 making 145 miles for the five hours 35 min. it took to make the round trip.


1.) CPR Employees Timetable of Strathmore Subdivision April 28, 1963
2.) CPR Employees Timetable October 1973 Map of Brooks and Strathmore subdivisions
3.) CPR track construction 1883 from Omer Lavallee’s book Van Horne’s Road.
4.) Grain elevators at Stobart, Alberta photo from Unifarm Collection.
5.) CPR diesel locomotive 4094 photo by Paul Condonly 1970
6.) Grain elevators at Namaka, Alberta photo from Unifarm Collection.
7.) Grain elevators at Strathmore, Alberta 1972 photo by Dick Clark
8.) Grain elevators at Cheadle, Alberta photo from Unifarm Collection
9.) Alberta topographic map showing Eagle Lake and railway right-of-way berm on bottom.
10.) Map of Railways Western lines showing Strathmore, and Brooks subdivision
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We were doing your regular switching at the Shell Sulfur Plant at Wimborne Alberta June 27, 1974 we have left Alyth that morning  with the CP 8641 called for 08:00 The crew was Fred Foulston, Conductor, Grant Cunningham, Locomotive Engineer, Head End Brakeman, Len Edwards, and Larry Buchan Tail End Brakeman. The usual procedure on arriving at Wimborne was to set the empty grain boxcars over to the elevator track, and leave the caboose in the siding spotted close to the engineer’s bunkhouse, the typical wooden structure used by sectionmen for accommodations out of town, these structures had a bedroom on one end with, one bed for the engineer, and one bed for the firemen. They had oil heaters, a kitchen area with water supplied, a table to eat off of, and a telephone for the conductor to contact car control at Medicine Hat, and the Train Dispatcher at Calgary when tieing up in the evening. A local woman in the town would provide fresh bedding each trip, and do general housekeeping in the bunkhouse. Once we had set off our caboose we would proceed with our empty sulfur loading tanks up the Meers Spur 2.72 miles to the Shell Oil Co. gas plant to switch the facility. There was a 30 car length run around track situated South of the plant that we would pull all our empties up into, and cut them off in the clear, putting the cars into emergency braking, by opening the ankle cock, opening it fully on tell all the air had evacuated, the ankle cock on the North end next to the engine was then closed, and a handbrake secured as a safety precaution against any unintentional movement, with the locomotive cut off, we would proceed northwards and line our self out of the run around on the North end, the track them preceded straight northward to the tank loading track, and to the left there was a North spur, that curved around a large pile of sulfur and used for loading bulk sulfur, which they were doing at this time, the track was used primarily for storage of extra cars, and No. Bills (loaded tank cars awaiting shipping information). We brought our engine up to the locked gates in front of the plant where are switch lists and loading bills were waiting for us in the locked yellow CPR bill box attached to the front gate. The instructions were pretty straightforward, we had brought eight empty tank cars from Wimborne, the four-inch by 10 inch blue paper list had a header;
Canadian Pacific (in script) CSC 10 (form number)
CUSTOMER Service CENTRE (Service in script), SHEET 1

There were four columns with 20 spaces.


Tk Track UTLX 63113 L N/B N. SPUR
Tk Track UTLX 60358 L              LIFT.
Tk Track CGTX 12322 L          LIFT
Tk Track UTLX 60709 L                LIFT.
Tk Track CGTX 15014 L    N/B N. SPUR
Tk Track CGTX 13224 L  LIFT
Tk Track UTCX 63112 L             LIFT.

So we coupled onto the loads that have been run down south of the loading rack, there was about a dozen cars to the north that held about 25 cars, we removed and brakes, and cut in the air hoses, and the air and stopped short of the North Spur, but was located just north of the run around track, and set the two No Bill cars over, we then lined our self for the straightaway on the run around and pulled our loads down cutting them off on the south end of the run around, and making sure the diverting switch into the run around was restored to normal before bringing the locomotive southward, we then tied on to the empties in the run around and went situated on the point of the movement, where northward out of the run around track up to the loading track where we tried on to the remaining empties, and shoved are six empties back to a spot, with this finished we run back down through the run around track closing the gates unlocking them, restoring the switches to normal, and picked up our five loads of the straightaway of the run around track and preceded southwards to Wimborne.

We had only one locomotive working this trip, and it was starting to act up on us electrically, as we went along, trying to pull the five loads the electrical contactors in the control panels would drop out and the locomotive would quit loading, Grant took a look at the electrical contactors, and figured that if we held them in manually using a wooden broomstick from a corn broom we had in the cab of the locomotive to keep it clean, we should be able to make it back to Wimborne, these contactors are in a high-voltage cabinet that generate up to 600 Volts, so one has to be a very careful doing this, Conductor Fred grabbed the broom and held the contactor shut as we moved along, but finally they overloaded in the locomotive came to a stop with flash over’s of brilliant sparks, and electrical smoke filling up the cab, this locomotive was toasted, and we grabbed our bags and walked a mile and a half back to the caboose and bunkhouse in Wimborne. There we tied up for the night, advising the Chief Train Dispatcher that our locomotive disabled, and we needed new power to continue our tour of duty. So we had a good night sleep and woke up to a beautiful summer morning, and ate a leisurely breakfast, Conductor Fred phoned the dispatchers office to find out what the plan was, evidently they were short of crews and power and we would not see any relief until at least 20:00 that evening, so we spent the day leisurely, there was a great fishing hole in the bush just southwest of the wye the head end brakeman Len and Grant went fishing to catch some for lunch, I just hung around the caboose, doing some cleaning up, that included taking apart and thoroughly cleaning our caboose markers finally around 20:31 the relief train showed up. The crew was locomotive engineer Ted Washbrook and conductor Al Muiren, Brakemen Art Ressler, and Jerry Bray they had brought us a newer DRS-2000 CP 3002  along with a SW-1200 CP 8125 series, that had used in the yard many years now. This was to take them back home, and they figured they would return caboose hop, the chief dispatcher had other ideas about that and instructed them to run ahead of us taking the loads of sulfur from Wimborne along with our dead locomotive, they weren’t too happy about this, and with a lot of grumbling did what they were told to do. We had followed them out of town at about: 21:30, and had a fairly long night ahead of us running down to East Coulee, and spotting the elevators along the way. One funny thing I do remember was that old CP 8125 then had not seen any hard road service service in many years, and it’s exhaust stacks were plugged up with an accumulation of soot, and carbon when forced to work so hard pulling these loads sulfur across the Acme Subdivision lots of sparks had flew and started spot fires all along the right-of-way, we branched off on the Langdon subdivision eastward at Cosway tieing up at East Coulee at 04:25, we made six hours layaway pay when we were delayed from our regular start time at Wimborne that paid as an extra 75 miles.


Electrical control panel from an EMD CPR 1200SW 8100 series locomotive, the electrical contactors are the three slots on the left-hand bottom of the picture, and are the same as our unit at Wimborne, this is where Fred held them closed with a broomstick when our locomotive had its meltdown on the Meers spur near Wimborne in the summer of 1974.

CP 3002 taken by Mark Forseille at Port Cocquitlam B.C. In 2006 looking freshly painted in its new Canadian Pacific livery 32 years after our trip with her.

CP 8125 taken by C. Prution at Kamloops, B.C. on June 27, 1975, one year to the day we made our trip to Wimborne wearing the CP Rail livery that the locomotives were painted in at that time.
You can see how hot these engines ran by the burnt paint on the top of the exhaust stacks.

CP 8641 photo taken by John Leming at Slocan City, B.C. on March 31, 1977 this GP9 was built by GMD in February 1957, it looks freshly painted in the CP Rail livery, and it’s quite possible that it had total rebuild after we fried the electrical system at Wimborne in June 1974

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Posted on 27-04-2012
Filed Under (Alberta 1970s, CPR) by Broken Rail

Medicine Hat, Alberta April 15th, 1974
FJ Dickinson Calgary
Car Control Alyth
Conductor Handling Zone Three Wayfreight Ex Alyth Date
Leave Alyth With All Traffic to Go Spot the Shorthauls as Directed by CSC Alyth
Including the Bulldozer for Wimborne

Make Sure This Cars on Spot at Shepard
1CP 249813B 3522 Shepard 7450 9513 #TAIWOOPRLLBR #0411
6CP 249813 Make Sure This Cars on Spot Just West of A03

Lift The Following Cars at Shepard

1CP 360710H 8025 Beiseker 7525 7325 #DIVENGI BALAST
1CP 360785H 8025 Beiseker 7525 7325 #DIVENGI BALAST
6CP 360785, 360710 To Be Unloaded Mileage 30.9 Langdon Sub.
1CP 110986B 0522 Sharples 7519 5002 #ALBWEPOPPRDRS
6CP 110986 Spot at AWP A 01
1CP 301864F 5228 Drumhell 7511 8580N #DrumhelCOLBR
2UP      17157H 27 WIMBORNE 7540 9088S #MOBILOILETY
2UP     16824H 26 WIMBORNE 7540 9088S #MOBILOILETY
2UP     16054H 26 WIMBORNE 7540 9088S #MOBILOILETY
2UP     17594 H 26 WIMBORNE 7540 9088S #MOBILOILETY
2UP     18160 H 26 WIMBORNE 7540 9088S #MOBILOILETY
2UP     16878 H 26 WIMBORNE 7540 9088S #MOBILOILETY
2UP     18803 H 26 WIMBORNE 7540 9088S #MOBILOILETY
2UP     18016 H 26 WIMBORNE 7540 9088S #MOBILOILETY
2 UP    18893 H 27 WIMBORNE 7540 9088S #MOBILOILETY
2 UP    18564 H 27 WIMBORNE 7540 9088S #MOBILOILETY
2 UP    17326 H 27 WIMBORNE 7540 9088S #MOBILOILETY

Here is our work assignment list from FJ Dickinson, Chief Dispatcher, and CPR Car Control Alyth on Monday April 15, 1974, it has all the usual instructions, and one interesting note about making sure we do not leave Alyth without the bulldozer for Wimborne, what that was all about I didn’t know, but would find out soon enough. There was a note about a car to spot at Shepard:

1CP 249813B 3522 Shepard 7450 9513 #TAIWOOPRLLBR #0411
The computer language shows us that 1CP 249813B is a load, if it was an empty 2 would proceed CP then we have the car number and the B which stands for boxcar 3522 is a consignment number to Shepard whose station number is 7450, the 9513 is the station where the car was shipped from probably in British Columbia and is consigned to #TAIWOOPRLBR#0411 which is abbreviated Tai Wood Preservers Lumber a plant that processed Cedar lumber, and shingles.
6CP 249813 Make Sure This Cars on Spot Just West of A03
This Line is called a 6 card and has additional information about the car, in this case instructions on where the car is to be spotted A03 is In Alberta Wheat Pool elevator on the West End of the backtrack at Shepard so the car would be placed just to the west of the elevator.
1CP 360710H 8025 Beiseker 7525 7325 #DIVENGI BALAST
1CP 360785H 8025 Beiseker 7525 7325 #DIVENGI BALAST
6CP 360785, 360710 To Be Unloaded Mileage 30.9 Langdon Sub.
Next we have two loads to lift for Beiseker the H shows us that it is a hopper car consigned to the #DIVENGI BALAST the stands for the Divisional Engineer Ballast, and the 6 card indicates that the two loads of ballast are to be unloaded at mileage 30.9 of the Langdon Subdivision that is located 1/2 mile south of Beiseker
1CP 110986B 0522 Sharples 7519 5002 #ALBWEPOPPRDRS
6CP 110986 Spot at AWP A 01
There was one loaded CPR boxcar consigned to Sharples the consignee #ALBWEPOPPRDRS which stands for Alberta Wheat Pool Grain Doors, the CPR provided all the elevator companies with boxcars of lumber, and cardboard steel band reinforced sheeting to cooper the doorways of boxcars so they could be loaded with grain. The 6 card says that the car is to be placed on spot at AWP (Alberta Wheat Pool Elevator) A 01
The remainder of our lift at Shepard was for 1 flatcar of lumber for Drumheller, 5 empty tank cars for sulfur loading loading at Wimborne, and 11 empty Union Pacific hoppers for bulk sulfur loading at Wimborne, those empty hoppers brought back memories, Alberta with its vast petrochemical industry ships lots of bulk sulfur by rail through British Columbia to the Western seaports around Vancouver, British Columbia has stringent shipping regulations were all sulfur must be prilled a process that granulates it into a pelletized, or crumbled form that cuts down on the amount of dust you end up with when sulfur is just crushed and shipped that way. There was a substantial stockpile of bulk sulfur at the Wimborne plant, and to cut down on expenses a proposal was drafted to ship bulk sulfur from Wimborne down through southern Alberta to the US border in Union Pacific hopper cars, they were then routed through the United States to Portland and this would circumvent the rules BC had about prilling bulk sulfur. So that spring they started the program as a test project with an order for about three train loads, to see the feasibility of the operation. I remember handling some of this traffic on the wayfreight, and riding back in the caboose was not a very desirable place to be, lots of sulfur dust blew off the tops of these open top hoppers, and are old caboose was very drafty the sulfur dust would get in through the window frames, and door jams, everything smelled like sulfur, and when riding in the cupola I had to wear goggles otherwise the dust would get in your eyes and burn like sulfuric acid, the track itself that spring was in very poor condition, and running this heavy traffic didn’t help, there were other freight crews bringing up train loads of empty hoppers, but the weight one loaded caused a couple of derailments, with the company not wanting to commit any money into maintaining the track, as you can see we had 2 carloads of ballast to fill in some bad spots South of Beiseker, which was kind of the Band-Aid approach that didn’t amount to much. After running about two trains the program was quietly terminated, and we went back to just handling tank carloads of liquid sulfur from the plant.

Finally at the end of the day I found out what the bulldozer was for, evidently over the weekend the plant loaders had ran some loaded cars down from the tank loading spur using the handbrakes to control their speed, evidently it didn’t work too good as they smashed two or three loads into some stationary ones, that resulted in a derailment with one tank flipped over on its side loaded with 100 tons of liquid sulfur, the solution to the problem was quite simple they unloaded the bulldozer from the flatcar up at the plant, and used it to dig a big ditch in the ground alongside the derailed car, open up the valves and let the 100 tons of liquid sulfur flow into the ditch, re-rail the car, and cover-up the ditch with dirt, a variation of the old shoot, shovel, and shut up theory.

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In May 2004 we had to make a move at Nacmine going westbound, there was an empty flatcar on the east end of the storage siding, that we had to pick up next to the caboose. Rather than pull out all 30 cars from storage to set one car over, we decided to make a “drop” or running switch from the east end of the siding on to the caboose sitting on the mainline, this move usually involves three people, but we thought we could do it with two, as Fred was over in the Nacmine Hotel phoning car control in Medicine Hat, for information on cars for us to lift along the line. To do the “drop” correctly you usually have one man at the switch lead East of the storage siding, one man on the running board of the diesel locomotive to uncouple the car, and the third man riding the handbrake to control coupling speed onto the caboose. So we thought we could do the quick move with two men, Len Edwards the head end brakeman, was down at the switch where he had tested it to see that it was operating all right. I was on the footboard of the locomotive, I gave the engineer the go-ahead signal, that got us moving about 6 or 7 miles an hour, I then gave him a nod of my head to indicate I wanted some slack action so I could pull the operating lever and disconnect from the flatcar, Len had switch lined for the diverging route and the locomotive sped ahead to clear the adjacent track, Len restored the switch to normal position so the flatcar could run towards the stationary caboose, I then tried to catch the tail end of the empty flatcar, but unfortunately it was going too fast for me, flat cars are one of the hardest pieces of equipment to get onto when they are moving, there is only a stirrup for your feet, and a grab iron  that is level with the deck of the flat car that I missed getting on to operate the handbrake, the outcome was that the flatcar crashed into the caboose going about 8 miles an hour, some of our breakfast dishes had fallen on the floor but fortunately did not break, as they were made from melamine, water from our storage containers had splashed all over the floor, but the worst casualty was Fred’s favourite porcelain coffee cup, it was sitting on the floor in little pieces, and I was now back in Fred’s bad book.

About a week later we were leaving Wimborne southbound for our trip back to Calgary, we had a hold of about 12 loads of grain, and six tank cars loaded with liquid sulfur. I was busy doing the breakfast dishes, when the head end phoned us to let us know that there was a car about six cars from the caboose that was smoking, this would either be a handbrake not taken off, or possibly a hotbox were the axle journal overheats, and has to be attended to by putting in a new journal lubricating pad, and adding Galena grease a special blend made for the CPR for overheated bearings. Anyways, Fred walked up the six car lengths to check out the situation, and corrected it by releasing a hand brake that was applied and we had missed putting the train together. Fred came back to the caboose and started in on me, giving me a lengthy tirade about how lazy and incompetent a brakeman I was, and if I did smarten up he’d have me kicked off his crew. He said that I should’ve dropped everything I was doing and walk up with him to help attend to the disabled car, I listened to his lecture all the way to Acme, where we took a break for lunch, after lunch he had settled down a bit, and was giving me the silent treatment. We did our lift at Beiseker, and proceeded to the next town of Irricana, or we had 30 empty covered Hopper cars in storage, and we were instructed to lift them all so they could go to the fertilizer plant at West Carseland for loading, we were also told to put one car next to the caboose as it had brand-new wheelsets, and had to right next to the caboose where we could observe it. So we pulled our train of 40 cars right down and I cut off the caboose on the mainline, pulling by the South siding switch, and walking back to line the backtrack switch, and remove the derail. I cut the air in, and released the handbrakes on the south end, and radioed the engineer to pull ahead when the air had pumped off, as the cars were going by me. I was checking my list for the car number that was supposed to go next to the caboose, I soon realized the car we are looking for was five from the tail end of the cut, and we had run foul of the main track by about three car lengths, realizing this I told the engineer to stop and backup towards the backtrack, so I could cut off the car for the caboose, which I did. I then returned the movement and tied onto the backtrack, and told the engineer to pull ahead again, than all hell broke loose, Len the head end man was looking back from the east side and started to see cars derailing, and told the engineer to stop. What had evidently happened was that Fred out stumbling around, and writing down car numbers, had inadvertently placed the derail back into the derailing position, I was unaware of this, and learned that you can back over a derail safely, but soon as you go ahead the derail will do its job and start derailing cars going over it. There wasn’t much ballast in this old elevator track, it was mostly coal cinders from the steam era, so the cars although empty they sank quite deeply into the ballast. There was nothing that we can do about it today, so we left the cars as they were, and would get the Alyth Car Department to assist us in re-railing lease cars the next day on our trip outward from Alyth.

The next day, Thursday we were ordered out of Alyth for 08:00, and our work message said that the Alyth Car Department would meet us at Irricana to help re-rail the derailed hopper cars. We arrived at 11:00, the carmen had arrived earlier with their rush repair pickup truck, loaded up with tools and blocks and wedges of hardwood, and were busy digging around the first derailed car to prepare it for getting it back onto the rails, we stopped our train South of the main track switch and cut off running our locomotive up to the switch, after lining the switch towards the derailed cars, we pulled up closer to talk to the carmen, they said they were just about ready to re-rail the first car, every locomotive on the CPR is equipped with a 7/8 inch wrecking cable that’s about 16 feet long, with a loop braided on each end, and with slid able cast-iron hooks on the cable itself, they are for handling cars with broken draft gears, when needed to set a disabled car over, they are located inside the hatchway covering the diesel engine, all locomotives are a little equipped with cast-iron re-railer’s, they are painted bright yellow, and they are quite heavy, weighing about 140 pounds, they are suspended underneath the running boards on each side of the locomotive. They are moved to the rail near the car and are spiked to the railway ties and the car could be pulled onto them for rerailing it. In this case the carmen was well-equipped, and seeing that the cars were empty we did not have to use them.


1.) Porcelain Coffee Cup similar to the one belonging to Fred Foulston that I broke at Nacmine, Alberta

2.) Irricana grain elevators CNR to the left, and the CPR to the right, the CNR ran parallel to us on the East side on their Three Hills Subdivision until we were about 3 miles from Beiseker where the CNR went over topof us, and continued on northward on the West side of Beiseker. Irricana and Beiseker where the only two stations served by both the CPR, and CNR on these Alberta branch lines that I can recall.

3.) View from South switch Irricana looking North on our arrival our locomotives on the mainline storage box cars in the siding and the two derailed cars on the right line towards the elevator track.
4.) Derailed covered fertilizer hoppers, carmen with yellow helmet working around cars, their rush repair truck visible to the right, it is well-equipped with all the tools and materials necessary for this job. storage boxcars in the siding, and grain elevator visible above the roof of the CPR Carmen’s repair truck.

5.) Derailed covered hoppers, with Conductor Fred Foulston evaluating the situation, our train cut off on the mainline South of the main track switch. at least the weather was nice that summer day, and helped to get the work done faster than if it had been raining.
6.) Derailed CPR 380043 covered hopper, and other derailed hopper looking eastward. Under the cars member CP 380043 which were all covered hoppers on the CPR fleet, and were used primarily for moving bulk commodities like fertilizer, cement, steel filings, and other weather sensitive products. you can see the cars reporting marks that show it’s Capacity 158,000 Pounds or 79 Tons Load Limit shows the same, Light Weight shows 52,000 Pounds or 26 Tons these hoppers had circular portals on the roof for loading, and geared gates on the bottom that could be opened to facilitate unloading.

7.) View of derailed covered hopper cars taken from mainline looking Southeast, tail end brakeman Larry Buchan standing beside first hopper.
8.) View looking Southeast at derailed covered hoppers, our locomotives are on the mainline and our train is visible further South.

9.) Head end brakeman Len Edwards with blue cap helps the two carmen wearing yellow hard hats hook up the wrecking cable between the front coupler of the locomotive, and the coupler on the first derailed covered hopper.

10.) CPR Work Extra 8693 with locomotive engineer Stan McPhredan starting to slowly back up our locomotive to get the first set of derailed wheels back onto the track, the usual procedure would be to uncouple the two cars, re-rail the first car and set it over out of the way, then re-rail the second car. This procedure took about 45 min., and we were on our way to Wimborne

11.) CPR Work Extra at Wimborne, Alberta. Locomotive Engineer Stan McPhredan, and Head end brakeman Len Edwards.

(1) Comment   
Posted on 13-04-2012
Filed Under (Alberta 1970s, CPR, Many Jobs and Trades) by Broken Rail

In the spring of 1974 CPR had a chronic shortage power to run their trains, so they leased units from the Precision National Corporation I notice looking through my trip ticket books on March 23, 1974 we had PNC 114 for power on a Sharples turn. Next appearance was May 1, 1974 Zone 3 Wayfreight we had PNC 116 for power going from Alyth to Wimborne returning to Alyth the next day, and again on May 15, 1974 working a Sharples turn. On May 22, 1974 we had PNC 111 for power on a Sharples turn. And on May 29, 1974 we had PNC 111 and PNC 114 on a Carbon turn. On May 30, 1974 we had PNC 123 from Alyth to Tudor to Wimborne. On May 31, 1974 we ran from Wimborne to East Coulee and made a Finnegan turn returning to Alyth on June 1, 1974. These units were painted dark green with yellow lettering and PNC on the engine hatch, some of them had a painted logo under the cab’s windows a machinist’s micrometer and draftsman’s T-square, and the cab interiors were painted a horrible dark green that made a real depressing working environment in my opinion. These locomotives had seen better days, and Precision National Corporation, a company based out of Chicago had put them together from locomotives discarded from the other big carriers in the United States, some changes to the paint schemes were made, and the number boards on the units were changed to PNC, and the number. They were not very reliable always breaking down on the road, I remember on one occasion coming back from East Coulee to Alyth when one of these units started acting up from low water alarms, they leaked so much water, in order to keep going with the tonnage we were handling we had to get some 5 gallon pails from the caboose and a length of rope and get buckets of water from Kneehill Creek and pour it into the locomotives in order to keep moving. Here I was working this Turkey trail with track speed only good for 15 mile an hour, living in a caboose built around 1910 with a cast-iron coal stove for heating, and cooking, and an ice box to keep your food in. To add insult to injury, I would look over to the CNR running up and down their secondary, branch line with modern cabooses powered by electric generators, and fuel oil heaters, and refrigerators, lots of high horsepower locomotives to run their trains with, and decent track with speed limits of 45 mph, sometimes I wondered if I was working for the right company. Of course, that is the difference between a privately owned stock traded company of the CPR where they really knew how to sweat its assets. And the CNR that was crown corporation, a ward of federal government subsidies that kept it going since its incorporation after World War I.


1.) PNC 172 locomotive in 1974.

2.) PNC 1011 logo with “P” made from machinist’s micrometer, and draftsman’s square.

3.) CPR Langdon Sub running along Kneehill Creek, our source for water.

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