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.

(1) Comment   

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.

(0) Comments   

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.

(0) Comments   

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.

(0) Comments   
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.

(1) Comment   
Posted on 08-07-2008
Filed Under (Calgary 1960s, CPR, Many Jobs and Trades) by Broken Rail

Photo of Alyth Shops by Walter Kot

In late June 1968, I decided to try to get a job as a laborer at the CPR’s Alyth Shops. They were located on the Eastside of the Alyth Overpass across from the stockyards. I went to the office of the Laborers Foreman Max Tims, I told him that I had worked at Ogden and gave him my employee number; he said he would hire me, but he needed a birth certificate. I didn’t have one to show, so I went downtown to the Bowlin Building where the Provincial Government had their offices, I applied for a new birth certificate, which would have to be sent down from Vital Statistics in Edmonton. The clerk said he could expedite my order and have it down in Calgary the next day, so the next day I picked up my new birth certificate. I went down to Alyth to see Max, I showed him my new birth certificate, but he said he could not hire me and could give me no explanation why. I figured it must have had something to do with the time I was off sick and paid by Sun Life in 1966. Anyways, that was it for the CPR, I would have to find employment elsewhere.

(0) Comments   

Firestone Warehouse at Mayland Heights

When I was finished, the Crossfield job I was sent to another workplace to help a journeyman test a sprinkler system that had been installed in a cinderblock warehouse that had been built in the Mayland Industrial Park above Barlow Trail which was service by the CPR. It was a new warehouse with a recycled roof, which was taken off of a Scott National produce warehouse that had been located downtown. And the whole sprinkler system from that building was being recycled too. Originally the plan was to leave the sprinkler system branches with the roof sections, but when they lifted the first action off of the roof of the old warehouse it fell breaking all the sprinkler pipes. So all the branch lines were taken out of the roof sections and stored at Trotter and Morton’s yard for a couple years till the new warehouse was finished and the roof reinstalled. When we arrived at the new warehouse in the roof was in place, and all the branch lines were tied in to the sprinkler main, and our job was to do a hydrostatic test and fix any leaks, it sounded simple enough and we figured we would be done in a week. To do the test we had to pressurize the system to 225 pounds, city water pressure was about 60 pounds, well; we turned on the water from the city line. And I tell you, it looked like we had rainstorm inside the building there was 628 sprinkler heads and every one was leaking, plus many other fittings. Storing these branch lines in the yard for two years didn’t help the situation, sprinkler fittings are made cast-iron, and crack easily under the punishment they received left in the outdoors for that period of time.

The warehouse was empty, and it had a 1-ton truck with scaffolding mounted on its flatbed, so it was quite easy to drive around and change all a sprinkler heads, we did this and tried our test again. We got up to 80 pounds, and the leaks started showing at the fittings. So we drove the truck around and started changing out all of the fittings that were leaking, this took more time than the sprinkler heads, which you could do with a crescent wrench and Teflon tape to seal them. The branch lines, started out with 2 inch pipe, and went down to 1/2-inch if my memory serves me correct. So we would start from the smallest diameter and worked back to where the branch tied into the sprinkler main dozens of fittings we would change out and try our test again. 95 pounds pressure, and more leaks we had been on this job over 3 weeks now and had a long, long way to go. On some of the bigger pipe that was 5 inches in diameter we had to use a compound leverage wrench that was called the “Super Six” it was a 60 inch pipe wrench that had two hinges with holes near its head, and a chain vice that was wrapped around the fitting and had a pivot that the hole in the wrench head was attached to, this gave you a lot of extra leverage to tighten pipe in to these big fittings. The warehouse was being built for the Firestone Tire Company plant to store tires in, and that’s what they started to do. Our truck was taken away and tires were stored on the floor 10 feet high. This made the job, a real challenge we had to use a stepladder to get on top of the stacks of tires, and lay planks across them and use extension ladders to climb up to the leaks with our pipe wrenches and replace fittings. We persevered and got the pressure up to 180 pounds, then I was taken off the job and sent back to A.R. Wrights this was in June 1968. I was sent to work on a small steel business that was being built in Manchester District when this was done I was laid-off. That was always the problem in the construction trades its either feast or famine, I had learned a lot of useful skills that would help me out later in life, and had saved enough to tide me over for a while. It was July, and I figured it was time to have a holiday.

Rigid Super Six Compound Leverage Pipe Wrench

(1) Comment   

When our work at Palliser Square was finished, I went to work with a journeyman and one other apprentice. We were to install a new heating system and the Bank of Commerce at Crossfield, Alberta, a small rural community 25 miles north of Calgary. We drove out every day in a pickup truck from the shop. The Bank building was a two story red brick structure on the corner of Railway Street. The bank already had a hot water heating system, with old cast-iron radiators, and an old low-pressure gas-fired boiler in the basement. We were to install a new boiler and baseboard radiant heaters on the first two floors, but before we did this the old system had to be disconnected and removed. The cast-iron radiators were heavy, but we managed to drag them down the back stairs from the second floor, and out the back door from the main level. The old boiler in the basement was another challenge, as it had been assembled in sections many years ago, and weighed about 800 pounds. The solution to this was to use sledgehammers and break the boiler up into small manageable pieces, seeing that it was all going to the scrap yard. After we had finished stripping out the old system, we started installing the new boiler and copper piping up to the two floors, where radiant baseboard heaters were installed. They were links of copper pipe about 1 inch in diameter, with aluminum fins, 5 inch square, spaced out about 1/4″ along the length of pipe, and were covered with a metal shrouding with louvers to let out heat. We also installed zone valves and several thermostats around the building, so heat could be regulated to the users preference in the different offices. I remember we used to go for our coffee breaks and a small Chinese restaurant called the PDQ we didn’t know what that stood for, but figured it must be the service that was Pretty Damn Quick. Ha Ha Ha. Well, this job was a nice change of scenery, it was springtime, and the weather was nice that spring of 1968.

(0) Comments   

When we finished the job at the pipe plant I went and work on a couple of small jobs on new buildings that were being constructed near our shop on MacLeod Trail. One was across the trail, and was called the Oriental Gardens a fancy new restaurant that had a little wooden bridge that crossed over water in a pond full of fish at its entrance. We were working outside and had a ditch, excavated around the building, where we installed weeping tile. Now weeping tile is made from clay and comes in 18-inch lengths with a bore diameter of 6 inches. The tiles were butted up against each other on a slight incline in the ditch towards the storm sewer. Their purpose was to drain water away from a building that would otherwise be susceptible to flooding without it. The next job I remembered working on was a Volkswagen dealership called Pados a block north of our shop. This involved installing soil pipe, and copper piping for the washrooms, and drains for the shop floor. After this I went and worked with one of the rural plumbers who looked after farmers wells and plumbing. Work was getting a little slow at Wright’s so I ended up working in the shop here, I restocked bins with pipe fittings that were returned from jobsites, when the work was finished. One other job I had was whenever a plumber changed a hot water heater. I would go there with a pickup truck, and the two of us would haul out the old hot water heater, and when I had a truckload, I would take them to the city dump. I remember one apartment building where the hot water heater was installed in a pit, it was a big hot water heater, and we had to put ropes underneath it and hoist it straight up out of the pit it took four of us to do this job. One other job I remember was going downtown to the Main Branch of the Bank of Montréal they had a pneumatic delivery system for sending messages and data around the bank Wright’s had the contract for maintaining the system and a journeyman was sent over with an apprentice to do this work. I was once sent over to a restaurant called the Gasthaus, It had a grease trap in its kitchen, and this was a cubic steel box a yard in dimension. All the drains from the kitchens sinks went through this box, and any grease from the dishwashing one end up in it. My job was to unfasten the top of this box and clean out all the accumulated grease that had filled it. This was a pretty gross job, I had to break up this block of fat with a steel pole and shovel out all this rancid grease, that didn’t smell very good. It was jobs like this that made me think that pipefitting would be a better trade than plumbing. At this time, a company called Trotter and Morton was doing most of the work projects in the city of Calgary. So most of the apprentices, including me, who worked in shops that had no work were sent over to work for them.

Trotter and Morton had their shop on Forge Road, and they had just finished pouring the Husky Tower in downtown Calgary on 9th Ave and Center St. where the old CPR station used to be. A four-story Parkade was to be built behind the structure, and I was sent to this work site on the corner of 10th Ave and 1st St West. The first job we had to do was reroute the steam and water lines from the boiler room on 10th Ave to a tunnel that connected to the CPR’s Palliser Hotel on 9th Ave. The boilers in the powerhouse on 10th Ave were very old, the oldest I had ever seen, they were to be taken out of service and a modern Cleaver Brooks packaged boiler was to be installed on the second floor of the Parkade to replace them. The old powerhouse supplied steam heat for the hotel and a laundry that was on 10th Ave. The steam line was 8-inch pipe that was welded together and ran through a ditch dug on 10th Ave, and the 5-inch waterline was to follow the same route to tie them into the tunnel that ran into the Palliser Hotel. The laundry was obsolete and was being torn down. The first job I had was to take lengths of old 5 inch water pipe and cut them off clean with a set of pipe cutters, and ream out any burrs on the inside diameter. We then had to cut a groove into the pipe about 1 inch from the end to be used with a Victaulic Coupling to join the lengths of pipe together. The Victaulic Coupling was a two piece casting that would fit into the grooves on each end of the pipes when two nuts and bolts were tightened to join the two castings together. In the middle of this was a rubber gasket that would seal the two ends of pipe to prevent it from leaking. To cut these grooves, we had a large mechanical groover that was run with a power motor and a drive shaft. The teeth on the groover were about half an inch wide, and we cut the groove about 1/8 of an inch deep. The Parkade itself was being built over the CPR’s four Depot tracks. It was winter, and in order to pour cement the forms were all shrouded in plastic sheeting, and gas heaters were installed to keep the forms heated. My job was to run gas line to the heaters and light them, there was a three-inch gas line set up temporarily on cross bars made of two by sixes that ran the length of the Parkade. There were gas cock’s at 30 foot intervals where I would run the gas from, I would run a 1 inch gas line straight up 40 feet to the shrouding where the cement was to be poured next. I would climb up a ladder to the forms made of 2 by 10′s with the plastic shrouding stapled on underneath here I would put a reducing tee fitting on the 1 inch gas line, reducing it to 3/4″, and run 3/4″ gas pipe along the 2 x 10′s to where the gas heaters were in position. I would then run the 3/4″ gas pipe up to the heater and would then use a reducing elbow to run 1/2″ gas pipe and shut off cock into the heater, which I would then light and test my work for leaks. This would be done with a sense of smell and matches, if there was a bad leak you would smell it otherwise I would light a match and run it around each joint I had made, if there was a leak a small blue flame would appear I would then have to shut off the gas and change fittings or pipe, where necessary. To join these fittings, together I would apply pipe dope (a mixture of powdered lead in linseed oil) to the threads with a brush, and the fittings and pipe were joined together and tightened using to pipe wrenches one to hold the fitting, and the other to tighten the pipe into the fitting. Yes, it was quite an experience to crawl around on this 2 x 10′s looking down to the ground through the plastic, and suddenly a train would run underneath heading west to the mountains, or going east to the yard at Alyth. Another ritual, we observed daily was the arrival and departure of passenger trains that still carried mail, the city of Calgary’s post office was located on the corner of 9th West of the CPR’s Palliser Hotel at the back of the post office was a spur for spotting cars of mail, and daily a postman would drive his tractor and a baggage cart with mail from a ramp on the platform behind the post office down the platform in the Depot to where the passenger trains would arrive. Here he would wait till the incoming train had stopped and he would be in position besides the baggage car, that also carried the mail, here he would exchange his out going mail with the incoming mail for Calgary and would proceed back to the post office with the new mail for sorting.

Photo of Palliser Square Parade looking West from 1St St. E.  Note steam rising from package boiler on the left-hand side of roof.

(0) Comments   

Alberta Phoenix Pipe and Tube

In the last posting I talked about the cast-iron soil pipe plant located north of Ogden Shops, here I’ve attached a picture of a pipe plant located south of Ogden Shops. When I first came to Ogden. It was called The Big Inch pipe plant, and sat idle for a lack of business; I think the largest pipe they made was around 12 inch. The long steel roof building you see on the left was the entire plant. Its name was changed to Alberta, Phoenix, Pipe and Tube and in 1968. The steel roof building on the right was added, along with equipment to do sub arc welding with this equipment in the mill could now manufacture 36-inch pipe. Wright’s sent me to this jobsite in the winter, and it was a great place to work being all enclosed from the elements outside, and being only a short walk from where I lived. There was lots of work, running airlines for the carriages that would move the rolled pipe to the welding machines that were located on the north end of this new structure. There is a washroom for the employees that was built inside this large structure, and I remember running copper pipe to a hot water heater that was located on the roof of the structure. On the left-hand side of this aerial view you can see some houses in Ogden, and in between the houses and the plant is the CPR’s mainline to Medicine Hat. This picture was taken in the 1980s, when the plant was bought out by Prudential Pipe & Steel so all you can see in the yard to the left and to the right of the plant is small diameter pipe and steel that they now manufacture. To the north of this picture out of view is a rendering plant that used really stink in the summer when I worked at Ogden Shops, and there was a liquid air plant that manufactured nitrogen, oxygen, helium, and other rare gases. The only other business located in the huge acreage behind Ogden Shops was a Riding Academy.

(0) Comments    Read More