July
08
Posted on 08-07-2008
Filed Under (Calgary 1960s) by Broken Rail

Featherstone's Store

When I left the CPR, I had to move from where I had room and board. I moved into an apartment and boarded with a woman and her three children. The place was pretty oLd and was in the back of the building on the left-hand side shown in the picture. Featherstone’s General store was on the coroner, and Ogden’s first post office was located in the middle building. The building we lived in was originally a movie theater from what I have read. The photo was from the book “The Ogden Whistle” a History of the districts of Ogden, Lynnwood, and Millican Estates. Cable’s General store was located across the street on the right-hand side of the picture, and had already been torn down when this picture was taken in 1976. I lived here during the winter of 1967 and 1968, and boy was it cold sleeping in the back bedroom, which was poorly insulated, and in the mornings there would be frost on the walls. In the spring I moved a block north of here to a house owned by Wes and Mary Davis, who own the riding Academy located behind the Ogden shops. It was a good place for room and board, and I stayed with them for a year and a half. I remember in the winter of 1968-1969, I was home during the day and Mary was notified that their horses had escaped and were running around in the Ogden Shops property. So off we went down into the Ogden Shops yard to round up these horses, it was a very cold day, and the snow was quite deep. We eventually got all the horses back into their acreage. And were happy to take a rest, one of the Ogden Shops employees invited us into his little greenhouse over by the No.2. Coach shop. He had the kettle on, and made us a nice pot of tea.

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Talking about soil pipe, there is a plant in Calgary that manufactures it. It was called Anthes Imperial pipe plant, and was located north of the Ogden Shops yard. Its name now is Canron. In this picture, you can see on the left side supports for the crane they have there. The CPR has a spur that runs up between the crane supports, and gondolas full of scrap cast iron were spotted there. The crane has a magnet that would pick up the scrap iron and stockpile it till needed. The scrap iron was then fed into a furnace and melted; it would then be poured into molds for cast-iron soil pipe and fittings. At the time I started at the Ogden Shops. They were paying $5 an hour to work here good money but dirty work, and it was a dead end job with no future.

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July
06

Rigid Cast-Iron Soil Pipe Cutter

The first job I worked on for A.R. Wright Plumbing and Heating was a two-story 16 suite apartment building that was to be built at 19th St and 35 Ave. SW. The location was an empty lot, and we had to rough in the cast iron soil pipe for the toilets and sink drains. It was really cold that November and the ground was so frozen that we had difficulty digging trenches for the soil pipe, so we brought in a jackhammer to break up the frozen earth. We followed the guidelines from the blueprints provided us by Wright’s mechanical draftsman, and laid out and measured the 4 inch hubed cast-iron soil pipe for each of the eight apartment suites on the ground floor. The cast-iron soil pipe came in eight foot lengths, and to cut it into smaller lengths we had a special tool called a soil pipe cutter made by Rigid Tools, who supplies many of the tools used in plumbing, pipefitting, and gas fitting trades. The soil pipe cutter had a 3-foot handle and a chain with circular cutting wheels, it was looped around the soil pipe and pulled tight, then the chain end was fastened to the handle by two pins then engaged in a slot in the handle. By pumping the handle, up-and-down the chain would tighten and the cutting wheels would dig into the surface of the soil pipe until enough pressure was exerted to cause the soil pipe to break off evenly where the cutting wheels scored the pipe. There was a main trunk line running down the middle where the apartments hallway would be to the outside, where it tied in to the city’s sewer main. There was eight inlets four on each side of the main trunk that went in to the individual suites, at the end of these branches would be elbows and Y fittings to service the toilets and sink drains from the bathroom and kitchen. There would be cast-iron elbows that were joined together to form a 90° turn upwards for the toilet, and another one that ran up to the second floor, and to the roof for the purpose of venting the system. To fasten two lengths of soil pipe together the 4 inch end of the pipe or elbow was pushed into the base of the hub, then oakum a fibrous material made of hemp was packed in all-around the hub with a yarning iron, a tool that looks like a spatula with an offset handle that could pack the oakum tightly into the hub with the help of a ball pein hammer. Enough oakum was packed in the joint till there was about one half an inch room left at the top of the hub. We used a propane fueled stove to melt lead in a cast-iron pail, the lead came in 25 pound ingots that were poured in four 5 pound circular portions that were joined together, and a 5 pound oval handle to carry the lead with. With a hammer and a cold chisel the 5-pound pieces were cut into segments that were placed in the cast-iron melting pot to melt. A cast-iron ladle was then used to pour the molten lead into the hub of the joints to make them rigid. Horizontal joints were easy to pour, but any joint vertical or at an angle required a running rope to do the job. A running rope was a length of rope made with asbestos above 20 inches long with a metal cap on each end to keep it from fraying, it also had a spring-loaded clamp on a short length of chain attached to one end of the rope. The rope was wrapped around the top of the hub, and the two ends were clamped together, this left a small triangular shaped opening to pour the molten lead into. The rope was taken off and then the joint was caulked with two special irons for this purpose, the inside caulking was like at an offset chisel with a curved blunt end that was pushed against the soil pipe on the inside of the joint, and a hammer was used to pack the lead down into the joint, another caulking iron in the outside one was used to caulk the joint at the inside of the hub. The lead did not seal the joint; it was the oakum that expanded when it was a contract with water from the sewage.

We spent a good three weeks finishing the ground-floor rough in of the plumbing. It had to be inspected by the City of Calgary’s plumbing inspector, and approved before they could pour the concrete floor over it. The plumbing inspector lived in the Altadore district is name was Harry Ager; I had worked with his brother Vic Ager, who was the senior tinsmith at Ogden shops. Harry was a very conscientious inspector, and nothing got by him, he took a look at the plumbing rough in we had finished and laughed, he said it would all have to be redone, because there were no backwater valves. A backwater valve prevents flooding of the apartments on the ground floor if the city sewer backs up, and there was a good chance of this happening as 35th Ave was a low point in the geography of the district. If you think yarning, pouring and caulking oakum and lead soil pipe joints is a lot of work, try disassembling one. To do this you have a small narrow chisel you use to pick the lead out of the joint. This was an expensive mistake made by the mechanical draftsman at Wright’s and delayed the job at least two weeks.

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July
06

During the layoff I was hanging around with a friend Keith Graham who was a pipefitter apprentice at the CPR with two years in, he wanted to get an apprenticeship the outside. we went to inquire at some plumbing shops the first one we visited was A.R. Wright Plumbing and Heating an old established Calgary firm. I sat out in the front office while Keith went into Mr. Art Wright’s office for his interview he came out pleased with the results they going to give him one year for his two years at the CPR. Mr. Wringht saw me sitting there and asked Keith if I was looking for a job. He said if I wanted a job I was hired so this is how I started my career as a plumber gasfitter pipefitter apprentice.

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