Alberta Phoenix Pipe & Tube Plant photo by Walter Kot

I worked that winter learning the plan sifter trade, that summer I was scheduled to work on the roll floor when the other Miller’s were on holidays.  Unfortunately in April of 1970 I became disabled with another boat of rheumatoid arthritis so I ended up off sick.  When I returned to work I was told to return to my job in the warehouse, and then I was then laid off for no reason.  I figured they did not want me around with my health problems. I went on unemployment insurance and took a year off.  The  two-helper jobs on the flour delivery truck were abolished as a cost-cutting measure.  I knew the owner Dennis R. (Barney) Giles quite well, and he hired me to be the swamper on the city flour delivery truck in the fall of 1971.  The warehouse had finally joined the 20th century, and had purchased a secondhand Clark Fork lift, two electric pallet jack stackers, a single electric pallet jack stacker, half a dozen hydraulic pallet jacks, and finally thousands of pallets.  The first ones they purchased were made from 3/8 of an inch plywood, onto these they loaded 30-100 hundred weights of flour, they were stacked and layers of four, which were interlocked seven high, and two bags were stood up right in the hole in the middle of pallets.  The pallets did not work to long as the sheer weight of 3000 pounds caused to break down.  They next tried 3/4″ plywood, which worked satisfactory.  To load the city truck for Westons Bakeries only required eight pallets of flour for a total of 250 bags.  The flour truck was left spotted on door one of the warehouse, and I was assigned to come in at 6 a.m. to load the truck for its 7 a.m. departure.  I have never driven a Forklift before, but seeing there was nobody around the warehouse between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. it didn’t take me long to learn how to run the machine.  The main thing I had to watch out for were the sprinkler pipes, if I ever hit one of those we wouldn’t have a real mess.  I remember on one occasion I was placing a pallet of flour on the trailer, I had gone over the aluminum dock board into trailer when it started to roll away on the downgrade from the warehouse across Bonnybrook Road fortunately there was no traffic coming, and I had the sense to drop the pallet to the floor of the trailer this anchored the forklift until the tractor and trailer came to a safe stop.  The driver had forgotten to set the air brakes on the rig.  I worked that job the fall of 1971 and the spring of 1972.

In the spring of 1972 I had an opportunity to get a really good paying job at the Alberta Phoenix Pipe and Tube Co. they have acquired a large order for 36 inch sub arc welded natural gas line pipe, the pipe was manufactured by taking flat rectangular sheets of steel rolling them through a steel pipe mill, and welding the seam. I placed an application for employment and was hired to work in the yard filling it with the finished product lengths of pipe that were 36 inches in diameter and 48 feet long.  These were loaded onto railway flat cars, and gondolas the pipe was loaded three across on saddles which were 12 feet beams of lumber 10″ x 10″ they were notched out in the yard using a large band saw that cut contours for the pipe to rest in they were stacked four high and were strapped together using Signode  steel banding that were tightened with air power tools that tightened the straps and steel clips were crimped onto the banding so they would not slip.  One of my other jobs was working as the helper on the Track Mobile a small diesel driven locomotive that had the ability to run on railway tracks, and with hydraulic rubber tires it could be operated on the road.  My job with it was to bring incoming flat cars of steel into the mill for unloading to start its journey through the mill to be made into pipe.  These cars were usually loaded with 12 to 14 sheets of flat steel, when the cars were unloaded we took them over the loading tracks where they could be prepared for loading pipe.  We worked long hours on this job there were two shifts in the yard one started that 6 a.m. till 6 p.m., the other shift started at 6 p.m. and work till 6 a.m., seven days a week so there was a lot of overtime to be made.  I enjoyed working out in the yard, where the air was fresher.  Not like inside the mill where there was lots of airborne pollution.  The mill workers were scheduled to work 3 eight-hour shifts, seven days a week.  There were opportunities to make pretty good money in the different crafts the sub-arc welder’s made a good paycheck.  But like all good things they come to an end the order was finished in November 1972 and I was once again unemployed.  Though I had saved enough money to tide me through the winter.

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Posted on 29-10-2008
Filed Under (Calgary 1970s, Flour Mills, Many Jobs and Trades) by Broken Rail

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Renown Flour Mill Circa 1951

In the Fall of 1969 through the Spring of 1970 I decided to take a promotion and learn the trade of Flour Milling, this gave me a raise in pay to $2.71 an hour. On the first Monday in September I reported for the day shift at 8 a.m and rode the Humphrey man lift up to the ninth floor of the mill where I was to learn the trade of Sifter Operator. To operate the flour mill there were 4 men on the 3 shifts from 08:00 to 16:00 — 16:00 to 24:00 — and 24:00 to 08:00. There was Shift Supervisor, who was a Journeyman Miller, a Miller who operated the milling rolls on the fourth floor of the regarding that something update for the program the mill, a Sifter Operator whose duties I will explain later, and a Screen room Operator who prepared and supplied the wheat to be ground into flour. On day shift there are also two sweepers who were qualified to work all positions in the miil, on day shift they would look after housekeeping, and look after light repair work repairing sifter, and purifier screens, and were used to relieve men on shift who are off sick. My duties as a sifter operator involved the following.

On the ninth floor I had a worktable that was 2′ x 6′ On the surface and stood about 48 inches high and was made from a hardwood salvaged from the warehouse floors that were torn up in the 1940s due to flour beetle infestation, this is where I could place my lunch pail. I would then read the written report from my previous shift operator, and would write my own report from my shift. In today’s case that did not apply as the mill had been shut down over the weekend. And was to be started from a dead stop. We were only operating “B” Mil this week, as there is no orders for export flour. Well starting up a flour mill is quite a procedure to observe. The Screen Room Operator has arrived half an hour earlier and has the wheat ready for milling. On the ninth floor the Milling Superintendent and Shift Supervisor stand beside the Scale chute that has two wooden doors that they open and observe the wheat coming from the screen room when the scale bucket starts to fill, there is also a timer to set the speed o the scale the Milling Superintendent pushes a doorbell three times this rings simultaneously on all floors of the Mill as a warning for all the employees to be at their stations, and be clear of the machinery, it also rings in the electrical room on the other side of the mill on the fourth floor, this is the signal for the electrician to start the massive 500 hp electric motor that is recessed off down off of the fifth floor where it run the line shafts, underneath the rolls that grind the wheat on the fourth floor, the motor has multiple grooved pulley and has eight belts called ropes that run all machinery on the upper floors, there is open space above the motor that connects the ropes to intermediate pulleys above the 7th floor that connect to more ropes that drive the elevator legs on the 10th floor and in the machinery on the 9th floor of the mill.

All the machinery has to be checked at startup to make sure they are all operating okay. On the ninth floor I have two enormous plan sifters, picture a wooden box 8 feet high, 6 feet wide, and 12 feet long suspended 1 foot off the floor by bamboo canes. The sifter operates by a gyroscopic transmission mounted on top that keeps the box oscillating inside the sifter box it is divided into 16 compartments, 8 on each side of these compartments that are divided into two levels and are filled with dozens of steel and silk sifter trays of all different gauges for the flour to sift through as it is reduced by the mill rolls from wheat to flour. On the bottom of each compartment there are four outlets that are connected to spout’s that go through the floor. They are connected with nylon sifter socks, they are tubular sleeves with a stitching down the length and elastic cuffs on each end to connect to the spouting on the floor, and the outlet on the bottom of the sifter. On The ninth floor there are also five belt driven feeders that the grain can be checked each time it goes through the break rolls which are course and fluted to break down the flour from the bran and shorts of the wheat kernel. After checking all my machinery on the ninth floor, I continued my inspection.

I then take the Humphrey man lift to the 10th floor, remembering to get off before the safety switch trips and turns the lift off to save me from going over the top. While walking eastward I learned a valuable lesson there was a sprinkler pipe painted with black and yellow stripes as a warning, it was about the height of my forehead, the first tour of duty on midnights I remember waking up on the floor I had walked into this pipe and wearing only my cotton cap knocked myself out, I laid on the floor for about 10 min. before I recovered. The machinery on this floor consists of the elevator heads that distribute the flour being processed from the rolls on the third floor. There are a half a dozen machines called Detachers and they are a belt driven impact centrifuges machines used to purify flour, I check all these machines and take the East staircase down to the eighth floor where I have eight more sifters to check out, there are also three large bins 12 feet in diameter that are used to store bran and shorts a byproduct of the milling that is used for cattle feed. A lot of this product is blown into feed cars, or packed into bags for shipping by boxcar. It is important to watch these bins because if they get too full the mill would have to be shut down. On afternoon and midnight shifts it was my duty to watch these cars being filled with feed, from the scale upstairs on the fifth floor you can tell when the feed car was half loaded, you then had to go down to the main floor and out onto the front loading platform, climb up a ladder on the car being loaded, and turn the spout 180° to start filling the other end of the boxcar with feed. We also had a straight pipe that fed through the box cars to fill a trailer with feed. I remember coming to work one morning and seeing a big pile of feed laying on the ground in front of the box cars. The midnight sifter operator had put in the straight pipe to load the trailer, as the box cars were all full, little did he know that they owner of the trailer had taken it away for maintenance. So the feed blew out onto the ground for eight hours creating quite a pile that had to be shoveled up into bags and brought up into the mill and dumped back into the feed bin on the eighth floor.

I next work my way down to the sixth floor, stopping to visit the Screen Room Operator in the elevator side on the seventh floor. There is not much on the seventh floor just a lot of spout’s that distribute the flour from the sifters on the eighth floor to the purifiers on the sixth floor, there are about 16 of these belt driven machines. There are also some of the break rolls for “A” mill, located on the northeast corner of the floor . On six the purifiers are checked they are rectangular boxes about 8 feet long and 4 feet wide and stand about 5 feet high, they are made from hardwood with glass window doors on each side that slope in an a 45° angle,they are hinged on the bottom and have handles on the top, so they can be opened for inspection, on the top there is a air pipe that creates a vacuum to pull lighter particles off of the screens on the bottom of the purifier, were there are screens of silk that are vibrating from the machinery’s driving mechanism, the heavier particles go through the screens. At lease three times a week the screens are cleaned with a bristle brush. The sixth floor is also the tail end of the mill and there are five-gallon pails of tailings, it acts as another diagnostic tool, and if there are too much tailings that would indicate that there could be a problem with the milling process. This is where the vitamins, bleach, and maturing agents are added to the flour, through feeders, I have to check that they are all full and top them up, from the large cardboard drums full of the required agents. My next task is to go to the fourth floor where the Miller is working on the rolls, on this floor there are 16 steel bins that the flour goes into. I have a small tin can about the size of a can of Copenhagen snuff, that I use to take a sample of the finished flour. I do this on the half hour and the Miller does the same on the hour. I then go back to the ninth floor where I have on my bench a little oven heated by a light bulb. I have canisters of all our different floors that we manufacture, and these are my standards. I have a bunch of hardwood sticks one quarter of an inch thick, 2 inches wide, and 8 inches long. I have a tool called a slick it is made of stainless steel and looks like a putty knife I use this tool to take a sample of the standard place it on the front of the hardwood stick and shape it like a pyramid behind the standard I place some of my sample and feather it against the standard. I then dip the stick into water and place it in the oven to dry. I mark the time on the stick with a pencil. When the stick is dry you can compare the standard with the sample and see if there is an anything wrong with the milling process.

If there is a problem the sample will be different from the standard, it could be speckled with bits of shorts, another way to diagnose a problem is to check the tailings coming off the mill on the sixth floor and look for excessive articles than normal. This is reported to the supervisor and the detective work begins to try to find the root of the problem which is usually a hole in one of the sifter screens. Through a process of elimination the leaky screen can be found, there are little wooden inspection drawers under each sifter sock by checking the stream of flour coming out of the sifter, to fix the problem the screen has to be changed out while the mail is still running, this is quite an exercise in coordination, there are wooden doors on the top and bottom quadrant’s of the sifter boxes, they are fastened with two brass round knobs, in order to loosen them you use a pair of pliers, you have to remember that the sifter is oscillating back and forth, and in and out while you attempt to get your pliers to grip the brass fasteners. Once this is accomplished and the door is removed you are looking at 24 sifter trays that are rock ‘n rolling and flour is pouring out onto the mill floor. Here once again with great coordination you start to pull out the sifter trays one by one and checked them for leaks, eventually you find the one that will have a hole in its silkscreen, a new screen is installed, and the sifter door reapplied, and we are back in business making pure flour in less than 20 minutes. The damage screen is repaired in-house by the day shift, they have a bench with a glue pot of hide glue, the part of the sifter tray which is divided into quadrants with an internal lattice work of wooden ribs. The hole in the silk is cut out with scissors and a new piece of sifter silk is skillfully cut and glued into place and the tray is ready to be returning to service when required.

Other problems one would have to be on the outlook for were belts fallen off some of your line driven machinery, to reinstall them you carried an oval shaped piece of 1/8″ thick leather the size of your palm with a leather strap that held it to the back of your hand you would take the belt that was hanging from the line shaft place it on the rotating pulley and place the belt against the stationary pulley of the machinery and with the leather in your palm put pressure against the belt and with a circular motion the belt will climb onto the pulley and the machine will be back in service again. This could be a dangerous procedure on some of the bigger machinery like the rolls, and many Miller’s have lost fingertips doing this. There would also be chokes this is where flour would start backing out of the spotting and we would have wires to feed in to the spouting to clear the obstruction from, this you had to be careful doing at some time the spouting fed into an augur and would tear the wire out of your hands. One of the worst problems we would face would be a broken elevator leg. The elevator legs ran from the third floor of the mill up to the 10th floor, they consisted of two enclosed wooden chutes about 12 x 16 inches that were spaced out 3 feet apart and ran parallel to each other from the third floor to the 10th floor. They were connected together on the third floor by a cast metal casting that was semicircular inside and had a large pulley 3 feet in diameter, there was a similar casting on the 10th floor with the exception that it its pulley mounted inside connected to the line drive. Inside these elevator legs ran a rubberized woven canvas belt about 12 inches wide and riveted to it were metal buckets in about 12 inch intervals, their purpose was to scoop up and transfer product that came off of the mill rolls on the fourth floor and transfer it up to the 10th floor where it would be distributed into the sifter’s and other machinery below. There were about 36 of these elevator legs that ran from one end of the mill floor to the other. At times one of the belts on these conveyors would break, this would create a big problem and the mill would have to be shut down. You have to figure the length of these belts running through several floors of machinery twice would work out to about 140 feet in length, when the belt broke it would fall off the driving pulley on the 10th floor and fall into the legs on each side. There were access doors to the front elevator leg on the fifth floor it was open and we were able to access the broken conveyor belt. It was pulled out of the legs and laid out on the mill floor. The next step was to splice the belt together, we had a special splicing machine and the two broken ends of the conveyor belt were clamped down, another tool of the trade was a sharp jackknife which we would use to cut the jagged edges of the belt parallel to each other, we then used a lacing machine to install belt fasteners to each end of the broken belt. These fasteners were made of steel teeth made of wire and were spaced out about 1/8 of a inch apart they were round on one end the correct diameter of the belt being spliced, they had two arms that radiated out at a 45° angle for about 1 inch there they were bent at a 90° angle and had a razor-sharp extension about a half an inch long. The lacing machine would be loaded with the fastener of the correct length and it would clamp the fastener to the end of the belt the sharp extensions would pierce the belt along its length on both sides and the ends that stuck out were hammered over this lab a round loop extending across the width of the belt on each end. A 1 inch manila rope was placed over the driving pulley on the 10th floor and lowered down the back lay around the bottom pulley on the third floor which had an opening on the bottom, the next step was to feed the elevator belt down the front elevator leg on the fifth floor down to the third floor first taking the precaution of clamping the one end of the elevator belt to the front elevator leg to prevent it from falling down as the other end of the elevator belt was being lowered to the third floor where it was all laid out on the floor. The rope was attached to the end of the of the elevator belt that was lowered down from the fifth floor. Now was the hard part we brought all the warehouse men on shift up to the fifth floor and with our crew of three men we would have to pull the elevator belt from the third floor up the back leg of the elevator and over-the-top pulley and back down to the opening on the fifth floor. This took a lot of brute strength, there was one man stationed on the third floor to make sure the belt and buckets fed into the black elevator leg okay. After pulling the elevator belt up through seven floors and over-the-top of the drive pulley, it got a little easier to bring the elevator belt down to the opening on the fifth floor, once this was done the elevator belt was clamped to the outside front of the elevator later on five close enough to the other end that had been clamped so the splice could be finished, the two ends with the Staples lakes to them were interlocked together and through the hole formed a piece of round catgut about 5/16 of an inch in diameter that to the width of the elevator bell was driven between the lacing staples and the clamps holding the elevator belt were released, the repair was now finished, the covers were all reinstalled, and we were ready to start the flour mill up again. The electrician had been called in, and all the help at hand was used to start the mill again. This was no easy feat not like the dry start on Monday mornings, the male in this situation were shut down under full load, but we usually did not run into too many problems getting the mill back into production again. Downtime was probably about two hours, so not too serious on a 24 hour operation.

As you can see from the picture at the top of the page we had a great view of the CPR’s Alyth train yard from the upper floors of the flour mill.  One day John Oliver and I were looking out at the yard from a ninth floor window.  The CPR at that time were rebuilding and expanding the facility.  We could see switchmen riding cars down into yard tracks and securing them with hand brakes, there were also switchmen standing at track switches and lining them for the tracks that the cars were rolling down. John who had worked at the mill since the 1940s told me that the switchmen riding the cars were hump riders and the yard tracks they were working in was a gravity classification yard, the switchmen who were lining switches were called switch tenders, and cars coming into the yard were sorted out for outgoing destinations and new trains would be built from the cars in these tracks.  In the distance you could see bulldozers and machinery building a brand-new railyard, with a five-story control tower, compressor station,are operated switches, and pneumatic control devices alongside the tracks.  John told me that when the new yard was completed it would be a computer controlled classification yard, and the hump rider, and switch tender jobs would be eliminated.


1.) Elevator bucket.
2.) Elevator buckets on conveyor belting, description from 1929 Gustin-Bacon catalog.
3.) Belt fastened with Clipper hooks and Rawhide catgut pin.
4.) Clipper hooks lacing and rawhide catgut fasteners from 1929 Gustin-Bacon catalog.
5.) Clipper No.3 Belt lacing machine from 1929 Gustin-Bacon catalog.


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Posted on 26-10-2008
Filed Under (Calgary 1960s, Flour Mills, Many Jobs and Trades) by Broken Rail

One of the better warehouse jobs was working on the flour truck that delivered to the local bakeries in the city of Calgary. DR (Dennis) Giles owned the truck and trailer, and two warehousemen accompanied the driver to unload the deliveries. One big contract was Weston Bakeries, that was located in a brick building near the Calgary Stampede Grounds they would require seven deliveries. A week six loads of white flour, and one load of whole-wheat flour. The loads were stacks of 100 pound paper sacks that were wheeled into the trailer and dumped three a cross for a total of 18 bags to a row (to make a dump of flour a wheeler was stacked one bag vertical and five bags alternatively moved though many horizontal, it was done this way so the flour could be moved again by sliding the tip of the wheeler under the vertical bag and pulling back on the horizontal bags the flour could be moved again without re-stacking), this was done 14 times for a total of 252 bags, the order required 250 bags, the extra two bags were in case of breakage. We drove down to the bakery in the morning after loading the truck, usually stopping along the way for breakfast at either the Cardinal Grill, or the Shamrock Café. When we arrived at the bakery the truck was backed up to an unloading door with a metal chute that ran down into the basement, a hardwood wooden plank 2 feet wide was positioned on the edge of the trailer to connect with the metal chute to the basement. Two of us would go down into the basement, and the driver would send the bags down the chute to us In the basement. The metal chute, flattened out, and the bags that were about 32 inches long, could be turned and stacked on wooden pallets provided by the bakery. We would put eight layers of the three that were interlocked, and one bag on top to make 25 bags to a pallet. We repeated this 10 times, and the truck would be unloaded. When each pallet was loaded, one of us moved to would take the load away with a pallet jack and store it in rows down in the basement that was used for flour storage only, while the other would keep loading a new pallet.

When we returned to the mill after unloading Weston’s flour, there would be other orders to be loaded and delivered to other bakeries around the city. They would usually take about 50 bags of flour, cake, and doughnut mixes that packed in 50 pound bags, some of the bakeries we delivered to were the City, Italian Supermarket, Sweet Home, Dad’s Cookies, Mrs. Willman’s, Sam’s Bakery, the Grand Café, Bowness Bakery, Four-Star Lakeview, Honeyboy’s and McDonald’s Consolidated who is the warehouse for Safeway’s. Safeways ordered 50 pound bags of Safeway Bread Flour that we packaged for them, and once a month we would deliver an order there usually early Friday morning, there would be dozens of trucks lined up to be unloaded, and to get the receiver to unload the pallets that we stacked their flour on took a little bribery. One of us would get his car keys and take a bag of flour and put it in his trunk. Then we were prioritized for unloading, and were out of there in less than two hours. This was approved, and saved us a lot of time in waiting to be unloaded. I remember delivering to the Grand Café it was in a back alley behind the Greyhound depot. We had to back the truck in from 1st St West to the receiving door, where there was a freight elevator that we placed the bags in and send them to the basement to unload. They ordered 50-hundred weights, and we had to carry these by hand through a narrow doorway and stack the bags in a pile that ended up 2 feet over our heads, this is where learning how to balance a bag on your shoulders really paid off, you could pick up a bag from the floor and stand it vertically on your shoulder and with that advantage throw a bag upon the top of the pile.

It was are great job getting away from the drudgery of working on the warehouse floor, and the chance to get out into the fresh air in the summer. I remember one summer day on a Friday we had a load for Sam’s Bakery, the driver was a frail looking older man named Harold, who we nick named “Popeye” we finished on loading the bakery was located west of the Marda Theatre in an old Dominion Supermarket we had finished and the other warehousemen Brad Snow and I were looking forward to a weekend off, anyways Popeye drove the truck over the Glenmore Trail Causeway, where he ran out of gas, boy were we upset, he coasted op over the Causeway and we have a green traffic light and started coasting downhill towards Elbow Drive where we once again had the traffic light in our favor, and were able to coast to a gas pump at the service station that was located at that intersection, the gas jockey ran out anticipating a big sale, Popeye said $10 please, and we were on our way home. Sometimes, we had to pick up loads for the warehouse, we would go to Maple Leaf Males over by the Calgary Brewery and pickup bags of oatmeal for distribution, Maple Leaf was Calgary’s oldest flour mill, and it’s warehouse was not heated, a cold place to work in the winter compared to our mill that was steam heated . We would also pick up trailer loads of empty paper bags for backing flour into, these bags were stored in the warehouse’s basement and hoisted up to the third floor packing machines when required In the warehouse we wore overalls they were comfortable in the summer, and added insulation in the winter, the packers and millers wore whites (white shirts and pants) as they worked inside all the time. These were changed every week and provided by a service called Canadian Linen, we also all wore black peaked hat’s (like painters caps) that were supplied by Bonar and Bemis our bag manufacturer, and were very comfortable to wear. These were the days before safety boots, glasses, and hard hats.

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Posted on 11-07-2008
Filed Under (Calgary 1960s, Flour Mills, Many Jobs and Trades) by Broken Rail

The Export side of flour mill with Westbound passenger train “The Canadian”

We also loaded a lot of export flour for Ceylon these were 50 kg jute bags that were provided by the Canadian government for food aid, we loaded 900 bags per boxcar 60 to a row 6 rows of each end of the boxcar and 3 across the middle, there were two of us in the boxcar and we loaded just about three boxcars in an eight hour shift the bags came into the boxcars from the packing room on the second floor of the flour mill via a conveyor belts and down a wooden chute the bags fell down on to our shoulders and you learned to balance the bags upright as the rows in each end were about eight feet high so you had to throw the bags over your head to finish each row, one side effect of carrying these bags against your neck was that at the end of your shift you would have a redneck, and purple ear from the ink that was stenciled on the bags. In order to keep up with the packing machine both men had to move constantly until the first three rows in the car were finished, after that one man could keep up and the other man could take a break which included sealing loaded cars and getting the next car prepared for loading. To prepare a car for loading the floor would be swept and paper from a 7-foot roll of paper would be glued to the wooden walls of the boxcar, and a smaller role of paper was used to cover the floor. The loading platform held six cars on spot when the cars were all loaded, we would have to pull the flour track down to spot up some more empties, to do this I would have to go into the basement of the elevator unloading track and start an enormous electric motor that powered the winch. Backup on ground level, the packer, is helper, and my helper were in position we would pick up the hook end of the 7/8 inch cable and the four of us would pull the cable out 200 feet and hook it on to the under frame of the boxcar, I would then operate the winch by two steel levers, one that would engage the motor with a drum of the winch, and the other lever was like a clutch that would start the cable pulling, I was protected by a steel shield in case the cable ever snapped, the cars were pulled far enough till we had another four cars on spot. While this job was outdoors I always preferred it to working indoors on the packing machines, that job while physically easier it involved two men the senior man was the head packer and one helper the packing machine operated like this the helper had a table beside him with bales of jute sacks he would take a sack off of the table and pull it over a 16 inch tube and step on a foot pedal that clamped the bag to the tube and started an auger that filled the sack with flour. When it was full. It would travel horizontally on a rubber belt conveyor towards the packer where it would stop and lift up on a built-in scale that would weigh it and a dribble of flour from a spout would top up the bag until it was the right weight, it would then travel down the belt to the next station, where the packer would sew the top of the bag shut. The bag would then travel to the end of the conveyor, where it would drop down a chute that would take it to the boxcar.

I remember one funny incident working day shift loading export with a warehouseman named Bill, the flour mill with all the grain and flour dust and its explosive nature had a strict no smoking policy.  They only places smoking was allowed was on the second floor lunchroom, and outside of the building on the loading docks.  There was no smoking allowed in the boxcar’s we loaded, but this rule was often abused, anyways  the day I was working with big Bill he was enjoying a cigarette while loading bags when our shipper Pete a non-smoker came into the boxcar, checking out on how everything was going.  The car was half loaded and he remarked to us do you smell smoke to which I replied no, Bill answered the same, Pete sniffed the air a couple of times shook his head and left the car.  Once he had walked back into the mill, Bill started jumping around and wailing like a mad man he had put his lit cigarette into the back pocket of his overalls where it smoldered away, he must of had a tough time sitting down for a couple of weeks.

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The Mill and Dust Room

The dust room, the first summer I hired on there was a few days that the mill was shut down or maintenance. So there were all kinds of jobs to do cleaning up the place, one job, I remember in particular. Three of us warehousemen were told to go to the ninth floor of the flourmill there was a Humphrey elevator that we rode up there. A Humphrey elevator is a conveyor belt that runs from the second floor of the mill up to the 10th floor, and there were 3 foot holes cut through the hardwood floors, and the belt ran through them, and there were steps attached to the belt every 16 feet, these steps were about 1′ x 18″ and were angled with a hinged pivot that would flop over when the belt went over the pulley on the 10th floor, there were also handholds bolted to the conveyor belt at about chest level on both sides of the step. On the second floor, where the belt pulley was mounted, there was a wooden platform with two steps that you climbed up on and waited for the next handle and step to go by. You would then grab handhold and jump on the step, but came up, this would take you up through the eighth floors of machinery, and when you wanted to get off you just had to step backwards on the floor you wanted to get off at. To go down you went to the other side and catch a step going downwards. There was also a safety rope that ran up and down on both sides, and by pulling it the belt would stop in case of an emergency; there was also a safety switch if you forgot to get off on the top floor. Anyways back to my story about the dust room on the left side of the mill building, there are few windows as part of the mill was used by the elevator to clean grain going into the mill, above the third and fourth windows you can see two small windows with ventilators above them, this was the dust room, where all the dust from cleaning the grain went. To get out there, you had to climb a steel ladder from the ninth floor and open up a trap door to get in there. It was dark in there, with only 4 to 3 feet of clearance the dust accumulated was about 6 inches deep and have the properties of a liquid when you try to shovel it up. Our job was to go up there and fill old paper flour sacks with this dust and carry it down the steel ladder to be disposed of. I remember an old farmer used to pick up the dust and mix it with feed for his cattle. It wasn’t a very pleasant job, and I can remember, years later, someone had the brilliant idea of jack hammering a hole through the cement floor and run a spout down to the ninth floor, where the bags could be loaded and all you had to do was to sweep the dust towards the spout. Years later, a pellet mill was installed, and this material was used in the mixture for making pellets. Not much went to waste in the mill, including the dust.

Humphrey Manlift

The dust room

Confessions of a Pillsbury Doughboy

We had to load a boxcar with mixed bags of domestic flour one day out on the rear export loading dock.  This was on the concrete platform with an elevated conveyor belt that ran the length of the warehouse.  There were wooden chutes that ran from the second floor of the warehouse down to the conveyor belt at the back of the building there a metal cutoff placed at an angle that would direct the flour bag in the direction in the conveyor belt was traveling, and another cut off would send the bag down the wooden chute and into the doorway of the boxcar being loaded. Their was three of us in the car, me, a new young school kid, who had just hired on to make some money for the summer, and Jerry a draft dodger from the United States, who had a great sense of humor. There were three warehouseman upstairs with two wheeled carts that were bringing in the flour over and sending it down the chute. We started out with 20 pound bags which were loaded criss cross on the wheeler about eight high these came at a steady pace until we had 500 loaded in each end of the car and then they stopped.  The kid asked Jerry why did they stop, to which Jerry replied oh they have just gone to get the 50-pound bags.  Well sure enough the next bags were 50-pound bags of donut and cake mixes we loaded about 400 bags of these product’s than they stopped. The kid again asked Jerry why did they stop, to which Jerry replied that they had gone for the 100-pound bags of flour and once again Jerry was right, and 100-pound bags of flour started coming down the chute we were working pretty hard now and after we had loaded about 200 had been loaded in the car they stopped once again. The kid said to Jerry, what is happening now, to which Jerry replied with a straight face, that they have gone to get the 200-pound bags. The kid walked out of the car and was never seen again.
One day we had a boxcar of domestic flour to load everything we needed was on the first floor of the warehouse.  The boxcar we were supposed to use was on the back loading dock, so we put in the dock plate (a steel plate that bridged the loading dock and the doorway of the boxcar swept the floor lined the walls and the floor with cardboard and with our two wheeled carts loaded the car with bags of flour, that were on the shipping order. We were finished and covered the load with paper and were ready to close the door, when Pete the Shipper showed up to take a look at the load.  He looked at the roof of the older boxcar and noticed two small boards had broken away and were hanging down he said the car was not fit for shipping, and said we would have to take all of flour out and reload it in a boxcar on the front loading dock.

Although we were located in the industrial districtof Bonnybrook there was a restaurant located across from the flour milll on Portland Street, it was run by Mr. Fernie, and was a handy place to go for a bowl of soup and lunch on Day shift, or a coffee and a piece of pie on our coffee break on afternoon shift.  There were also many residential houses in Bonnybrook for the families of the men that workat the CPR, Canadian Government Elevators, Canada Malting Limited, and Pillsbury.  Across the street from the mill on Bonnybrook Road was a house with a family business called the Dorash Confectionary a small grocery store where you could go to get a pop, chocolate bar, bag of chips, or cigarettes. Mr. Dorash passed away in 1969 and the grocery store was closed.

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Feed, Domestic Flour, and Truck Receiving and Shipping side of mill

At the front of the mill you can see boxcars for loading feed on the left-hand side of the picture, Pillsbury had four tracks that came off of the CPR’s main line. They where on Q lead and were numbered Q9d a feed loading track you see in the foreground, the second track is Q9c which ran along the front loading platform and was used for loading feed and domestic flour, the third track Q9b is behind the mill and ran along the back loading platform It was used for loading export, domestic and bulk flour. Q9a was used for unloading grain cars that was stored in the elevator bins seen to the left of the flourmill. Most of the feed was loaded in bulk and cars had to be coopered, this involved installing the cars with wooden grain doors that were nailed in place over the two doorways from the inside, at that time the CPR started using corrugated cardboard doors with straps of hole punched steel, spaced out every 6 inches, they were nailed in place on both sides of the car door opening, and two 1-inch planks were nailed to the bottom of the doorway, and one plank at the top. I remember there was an aluminum ladder that looped on both ends this was hooked over the grain doors from inside and while straddling the grain door the ladder would be pulled out and hooked on the outside to get out of the car after was finished. The cars were spotted with a windlass equipped with an electric motor, and a 2-inch nylon rope with a steel hook on one end. This we would attach to the under frame of the boxcar with a few little raps of the rope on the moving spool of the windlass we could position the cars on spot for loading. A curved sheet metal spout would be fastened to the top of the grain door and pointed to one end of the car would be loaded with 40 tons of feed, there was a scale up on the fifth floor of the mill that would show how many hundred weights when the scale showed 20 tons loaded the spout would be turned towards the other end of the car to complete loading. There was also a trailer that would be loaded with 15 tons of shorts, it would be backed up against the boxcar in Q9a and a straight pipe would be run through the boxcars doorways and into the trailer, I remember one evening, one of the loaders put the pipe through the boxcar doorways and started loading feed, they only problem was that the trailer was not there, it had not come back from unloading and in the morning there was a 15 ton pile of shorts laying on the ground. We would also get orders for bags of bran and shorts they were usually packed and 50 pound paper sacks. But sometimes we would get orders for 100 pound jute bags of bran, they were really awkward to load and would get jammed up in the conveyors coming down from the third-floor, where the feed packers were located.

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Renown Flour Mills 1947

From what I was told a cooperative of farmers started out construction of Alberta Flour Mills Ltd.. Information from the Glenbow Archives shows that in 1915, George Lane, serving as a stockholder and member of the board of directors. Despite a vigorous financial and public campaign and the injection of large loans from the stockholders Lane and William Pierce.

From the Calgary Herald 1917.

Alberta Flour Mills Ltd.

Board of Directors.

J.E.A. MacLeod, Wm Pearce, George Lane, Seabury K. Pearce

Alex Ingraham, Thos. I. Clark, Edward E. Stevens

The Officers and the Management:

J.E.A. MacLeod, Calgary—————————————President

Wm. Pearce, Calgary———————————– Vice-President

Seabury K. Pearce, Calgary——————–Secretary-Treasurer

Edward E. Stevens, formally of Minneapolis–General Manager.

Alex Ingraham, formerly of Minneapolis———-Milling Engineer

Thos. L. Clark, formerly of Minneapolis—Superintendent Miller



Fiscal Agents:

The Western Agencies & Development Co. Ltd..

Lougheed Block, Calgary, Alberta

the Western Agencies & Development Co. Ltd., offers for subscription.

25,000 shares of the Capital Stock of Alberta Flour Mills Limited.

The State of Kansas, raised in 1915 —95,708,000 bushels of wheat,

and manufactured 69,610,749 into flour.

The States of Minnesota, North and South Dakota raised in 1915 –

285,420,000 bushels of wheat, and manufactured 148,241,920 into flour.

The Province of Alberta raised in 1915 approximately 100,000,000

bushels of wheat, and manufactured around 9,000,000 into flour.

Calgary has as great, and in many cases greater, advantages for

the milling of wheat, then either Kansas City or Minneapolis.

Here is your opportunity to become connected with a milling.

Enterprise founded on the right principles—to get in on the ground floor the

steady and large dividends paid by the milling companies of Canada,

tell the value of the investment; the present listed value of the stocks of the

large milling companies in Canada, tells the value of the security.

From The Northwestern Miller November 7, 1923;

The Calgary (Alta) Herald stated recently that it had received information to the effect that the plant of the Alberta Flour Mills, LTD, East Calgary, was to be completed and that the work would probably be started next spring. The report adds that local representatives of the company, while refusing to make any comment, had not denied that negotiations were underway for financing the project. It is reported that from $4,000,000 to $6,000,000 will be involved in the undertaking.

It is believed in western flour and grain circles that the establishment of the Panama Canal route for the transportation of flour from the prairies and the possibilities of the flour markets in Japan and China, account in part for the revival of negotiations to complete this large plant. The foundations and part of the heavy construction were accomplished several years ago, but owing to war and other conditions the work was discontinued.

Alberta Flour Mills Ltd. sold its assets to Spillers Ltd. of England in 1925. Spiller’s mothballed the operation during the 1930s, and it served as a warehouse for the military during World War II. In 1946 new management bought the mill and it became Renown Mills Ltd. “B” Mill was installed with the capacity of milling 3000 hundredweights of domestic flower in 24-hours. The original “A” Mill was used for overseas export orders and had a capacity of 7000 hundredweights per 24 hours. In 1952 the last acquisition during Philip Pillsbury’s tenure as chief executive officer consisted of two Canadian milling concerns — Renown Mills Limited at Calgary, Alberta, and Copeland Flour Mills Limited at Midland, Ontario, and the mills became Pillsbury Canada Ltd. and A total of 10,000 hundredweight a day when both mills were running. In 1952 Pillsbury Mills of Minneapolis, Minnesota purchased the mill, and it became Pillsbury Canada Ltd.

There were about 15 warehousemen working day shift when I started, there was also 4 packers they ran the machines that packed flour into jute bags for export, and paper bags for domestic orders. The warehouse to me looked like it hadn’t changed much since 1930, the first two floors of the brick part of the mill was warehouse space, and flour was stacked on the rough concrete floor, it originally had hardwood floors, but they were torn up due to flour beetle infestation. The bags were stacked 10 layers high everywhere you looked, the domestic flour was packed in 100-pound paper bags, and the Packer ran his machine from the third floor. It would come down a chute and go through a bag flattener to a table elbows height, where we would load up on our two wheel cart with seven bags of flour, and wheel it over to where the flour was being stacked. There would be a warehousemen there whose job was to help you unload your wheeler. The bags were stacked in threes starting on the floor we would place to bags, side-by-side, and one bag at the end of the other two on the next level we would do the opposite so the bags would be interlocked. Depending on the distance from the table to where we were stacking bags in the warehouse there would be three or four of us in constant motion to keep up with the Packer. We would do this, from 8 o’clock till 10 o’clock in the morning and have a 15 minute coffee break then worked till 12 noon and take a half an hour lunch break worked till 2 p.m. then a 15 minute break, and worked till 4 p.m. when the next shift started.

If we were finished on the second floor the table would be folded down and a chute put in connecting to the first floor to a conveyor belt that would send the bags down to a shoulder height table where we would load up our wheelers, or if close enough 2 of us would carry the bags on our shoulder and pile up the flour. The advantage of the shoulder height table was that you learned how to carry 100-pound bag upright and using the muscles in your shoulder you could propel the bag 2 feet over your head, which was the height of 10 layers of bags. The flour could also be routed out to the front-loading dock, where you see the boxcars in my picture. They would come off on other conveyor belt into the box car were two men would load it 6 rows in each end and 3 rows across the doorway, at 60 bags to a row 900 hundredweights would be loaded in each car. You have to understand that, while some crews would be stacking the new flour on the warehouse floor, other crews would be loading and unloading trucks and box cars at the back loading dock of the mill. Every bag in the warehouse was handled at least two times before it reached its destination. The work was very physical, and I understood what Pete said about me not being able to handle the work, this made me all the more determined to carry on. The first month was the worst, but after that I started getting into good shape. More to come later.

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Posted on 09-07-2008
Filed Under (Flour Mills, Many Jobs and Trades) by Broken Rail

Pillsbury Canada Ltd.

I remember quite well a beautiful July summer day, me and my best friend, Jimmy had gone down to the Calgary Brewery and picked up a couple of cases of cold beer. We were on our way back to the Ogden to enjoy our refreshments down at the beaver dam, when Jimmy asked me how I was making out finding a new job.  I told him above getting turned down at the CPR’s Alyth Shops, as we were driving down Portland Street  Jimmy suggested that I try the Pillsbury flour mill on Bonnybrook Road.  I remarked that I was not in the mood to look for work at the moment, to which he replied.  If I didn’t try.  I wouldn’t get no beer.  So, reluctantly, I went into the building’s main office and asked if they were hiring, I was redirected to the shipping office and told ask for Pete Luft, I went into the warehouse that was a beehive of activity 100 pound bags of flour piled on the floor’s 10 high, and warehousemen scurrying with two wheeled carts loaded up with flour bags, loading trucks and boxcars, and stockpiling flour into the bays of the warehouse.  I talked to Pete and he sized me up, saying that I could have a job, but he didn’t think I could handle it physically.  I said I was willing to give it a try.  To which he replied that you start right now, I was thinking about the cold beer in the car, and told him I would like to, but I had a doctors appointment that afternoon.  He said okay, and asked me to come in at eight o’clock the next morning.  So Jimmy and I went out and drank all the beer that afternoon, and I went home to rest up for my new job in the morning.  That morning I woke up with a hangover, and caught the Ogden bus that would take me to Bonnybrook to start my new career as a warehouseman with Pillsbury Canada Ltd. at 4002.  Bonnybrook Road.  The mill was one of two that Pillsbury owned in Canada, there was a smaller one in Midland, Ontario and this monster that could pump out 10,000 hundred weights of flour in 24 hours.  The mill was non-union not like its counterparts in the United States.  I was to be paid $1.80 an hour as a warehouse man, or as what I was to learn being a human fork lift.

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Posted on 15-04-1953
Filed Under (Calgary 1950s, CPR, Flour Mills) by Broken Rail

My father took this picture in 1953 at the railway crossing at grade in front of the Robin Hood flour mills. I am standing in the middle with my two older sisters Helen and Betty,. Behind me there is a lot going on the CPR’s West End coach engine is switching out some passenger cars. This picture was taken before the city of Calgary built the 4th St. subway to alleviate this downtown traffic bottleneck. The Robin Hood mills are now long gone along with the CPR’s passenger trains. CPRs new corporate headquarters are now located in Gulf Canada Square that is located on the left-hand side of this picture. Little did I know at the time the significance of this picture would have on my future when I grew older.

On December 13th, 1878 in the parish of Fraserburgh, in the County of Aberdeen Scotland, my grandmother Hermine Keller who was of German descent, and was born in Brussels, Belgium in 1876, her father Charles had moved the family to Belgium as he didn’t want his sons conscripted in any wars. There he prospered owning a large hotel and dining room. My grandmother was working as a nanny in Scotland where she met my grandfather. They were married in Scotland on April 18, 1905. Frederick worked as a City Hall clerk in Elgin, where there was not much of a chance to prosper. My grandmother Hermine asked her parents that in lieu of her inheritance, would they pay for steamship passage, and train tickets across Canada in order to start a new life in a new world. They agreed and my grandfather left Elgin in the spring of 1911, my grandmother Hermine, my uncle Fred, and my father were to follow after visiting her family in Brussels. My grandfather Frederick rode the CPR across Canada and planed to go to Vancouver, he stopped overnight in Calgary and its new sandstone City Hall had just opened, and they needed clerks, so the family settled in Calgary. My grandfather Frederick started as an accountant, and was appointed as the Assistant City Treasurer in 1915, and when the City Treasurer passed away in 1925 he was appointed to that office. He remained in that position until 1940 when he passed away at age 62.

My mother Vivian Eve Brabant was born in Lebret, Saskatchewan in October 1912 my Grandfather Alexandre was born on February 1, 1870 in Saskatchewan although at that time it was just part of the Northwest Territories not becoming a province until 1905 like Alberta. My grandmother Philomene Alice Fisher was born on July 5, 1878 in Manitoba she married my grandfather in Lebret on February 5, 1898. Her father George Fisher was a fur trapper from Prairie du Chien Wisconsin at the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers born July 25, 1830. As settlers came west my great-grandfather moved to Canada and settled in Manitoba at the Red River Settlement at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers in the Red River Valley after the War of 1812 the Hudson’s Bay Company gave Lord Selkirk a grant of 116,000 acres to bring Scottish settlers to. The Métis opposed the settlers because they feared losing their lands, since they were squatters and held no legal title. Many Métis were working as fur traders, this included my Great-grandfather George Fisher, with both the North West Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company. Métis the word stems from the French moite or “half” describe a people who stem from the French and Scottish fur traders and voyageurs of the fur trade days that married Indian women. The Canadian Government gave the Métis script to every father, wife, and children the choice of 220 acres of land away from the Red River Settlement, or $220. My great-grandfather moved the family to wear Saskatchewan is, he founded the community of Willow Bunch, and opened for trading outposts at Fort Qu Applle and Batoche. I have my Métis card.

Update CPR’s headquarters are now located in Ogden on the site
of the closed railway repair shops.

My name is Larry Buchan, I was born in Calgary at the Holy Cross Hospital in April 1949, I have two older sisters Helen and Betty born in 1941, and in 1942, and one younger sister Kathy born in 1956. My father Herman Noble Buchan was born in Nairn, Scotland in November 1908, he had an older brother Frederick born in 1907. My grandfather Frederick Stewart Buchan was born in

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