Posted on 19-06-2010
Filed Under (Calgary 1970s, CPR, Many Jobs and Trades) by Broken Rail

CPR switch key

CPR switch lock

CPR switch lock opened

During my training I was given a copy of the Uniform Code of Operating Rules, CPR Form CS-44, the current CPR Timetable, and I had acquired a Railway Approved Pocket watch, I had to buy rain gear for working outside in inclement weather, and gloves or mittens (older switchmen preferred mitts, for the safety factor, if you get your hand caught up in a coupler it’s easier free your hand from a mitt then a glove) Now that I was qualified, and marked up on the spare board, I was provided with some tools of the trade, I received a brass CPR switch key, that would unlock switches, trackside phones, signal boxes, electric switch locks, and any other devices on the Canadian Pacific Railway that were locked with a CPR switch lock that I have shown pictures of. These were made by the Roberts Morris Co. and are marked CPR, and a “S” for Switch on the left-hand side, here is a CPR switch lock they were coated with zinc to help prevent corrosion, the mechanism is protected from snow and ice by the hinged keeper embossed CPR and the key pushed against the notch on the right-hand side will pivot the keeper over for inserting the key as shown in the second illustration. The chain is attached to the switch stand or other fixture to prevent the lock from being misplaced when it unsecured. In the 1990s the Canadian Pacific Railway and other North American carriers changed all their switch locks to high-security ones, these locks have a safety feature built-in that you cannot remove your switch key until the lock is secured in the locked position.

CPR Electric switch lamp

Electric switch lamp top

Electric switch lamp top inside

Electric switch lamp battery

Electric switch lamp in off position

Electric switch lamp on1

The CPR did provide me with an Electric switch lantern made by Adlake (formerly known as Adams end West Lake of Chicago, Illinois that have been manufacturing railway appliances since 1857) it is a model No. 31-F these lanterns are used at night time to pass signals between crew members on the ground, and the locomotive engineer. The lantern has a yellow plastic coated handle that folds up underneath for storage, and is carried by hand, or in the crux of your arm when boarding and riding on equipment, there is a three position light switch on the front, the middle position is off, to the left lights up the lightbulb on the left-hand side, and the same for the right side position. The next view shows the top of the lantern unscrewed, and underneath the lid is a storage space for an extra lightbulb. The lantern is powered by a 6 Volt Eveready dry cell battery, these are provided by the company, and usually last about 3 to 6 months months depending if you do a lot of night work or not. The bottom view of the lantern shows at the two lightbulbs in the off position one is recessed with a flashlight type of reflector that is handy for reading car numbers on rolling stock at night, the other lightbulb is used for signaling, but in case of failure is easy to revert to the other light in emergencies.
The last view shows the lantern with the right-hand side lightbulb illuminated. Locomotives have a front and back, the way the engineer seated looking forward is the front of the locomotive, and when he looks backwards that is the rear of the locomotive. There are signals used by day and night to convey information to the engineer, by daylight hand signals are used, and by night lantern signals apply. Some of the lantern signals used are by raising your arm up and down vertically means to go ahead, a circular motion of the arm means to back up, and by moving your arm horizontally means to stop, a half circle motion in an arc signal see engineer that you are going in between the cars to cut in the air brakes, there are many other signals too many to go into now.

On June 19, 1973 my telephone rang at 21:00, it was the CPR Calling Bureau crew clerk giving me a two-hour call for the 23:00 Government yard assignment C-308 starting at Alyth’s General Yard Office, and that my yard forman would be Clarence Doherty. This two-hour window gave me ample time to prepare my lunch, and drive down Alyth, I was still riding my 10 speed bicycle and it took me about 45 minutes to get there from my apartment in Ogden. I signed the Yardmen’s register, read and signed the bulletins in the bulletin book, and wrote in my initials and name plus my employee number P 467383 on the yardmens trip ticket book that the Yard Forman or had started for this evenings shift. The company’s payroll department would later provide me with a rubber stamp with my name and my employee number on it. I had compared my Hamilton pocket watch with the Seth Thomas No. 17 Regulator in the train order operator’s office down the hall, and it was 12 seconds fast, which was acceptable. The West End Yardmaster came down from the fifth floor of the control tower and brought three copies of our first switch list, one for the Yard forman, and one for each of the helpers (Yardmen) on the assignment. We read over our lists, and discussed our plan of action. The Yard Forman Clarence, and the other Yardman Jerry were regularly assigned to this job, so me being the spare man would work as the engine follower, and the other helper would be the long fieldman. Our locomotive was on the shop track located beside the Classification yard, we proceeded to the shop track where our locomotive engineer Jim was ready to go after making his inspection of our unit to make sure everything mechanical was in proper working order. Clarence our Yard Forman used the locomotives Yard radio to call the Train Yard Coordinator for permission to leave the shop track, and go into track C-48, in order for us to cross over into N-Yard lead. From the control tower the TYC provides protection on his panel to prevent any cars from the hump from entering C-48 and avoid any possibility of a side swipe while we momentarily went into the track on our way to N-Yard, with this protection provided he gave us verbal permission to foul C-48. We made this quick move and go up to the West End of N-Yard to do our work. When our locomotive was clear of the crossover switch I lined the switch, and gave the engineer a backup signal with my lantern as I walked up to the hand throw switch at the West End of the crossover with the switch lined I checked the switch next to it to make sure we were lined for N-Yard, and not in the other direction that leafs to the tunnel lead under the hump, when our locomotive was clear of the West End crossover switch I signaled the engineer to stop, and I restored the hand throw switch to its normal position, I jumped on to the footboard of the locomotive and gave the engineer a backup signal. We then proceeded westward up lead from N-Yard that starts at N-1 to track N-7 this is called little N-Yard as the tracks are much shorter with car holding capacity between 25 and 40 cars, from there we went through a clear track in W-Yard. W-Yard consists of three tracks W-1 to W-3 that are used for storing cars, W-2 is usually left clear for access to the larger N-Yard tracks N-8, 10, 11, 12, and 13. There is no N-9 as this is a roadway used by the car department and other company vehicles to move from the West End to the East End of the yard.

All the track switches in little N-Yard, and W-Yard are hand controlled Racor switches with the exception of the one switch on the West End crossover out of C-48 that is an older style switch that has to be lined by hand for each direction of movement over it. The Racor switches are more modern and have a mechanism built inside them that allows locomotives and cars to run through the points if they are lined against you, if you were to do this with one of the older style hand throw switches, the eye bolt in the bottom of the switch stand would be broken and would have to be repaired by the section men (track maintainers) before it could be used again. The switches on the West End N-Yard from N-8 to N-13 are called YM-B3 dual control power switches, they are motorized electric switches that are controlled by the 12 St. E. Tower Operator, they can also be taken off power and operated by hand when road and yard crews have to make multiple switches on trains. Our first move on our list is to go to the piggyback trailer ramp’s on the north side of N-Yard, we call the operator at 12th St. E. for a lineup, the switches are equipped with color light indicators that show the route they are lined for green for the straightaway and yellow for a diverging route we visually observed that all the switch’s are green and we proceed westward above what is called the “Bull switch” that divides the West End of N-Yard the switch target turns yellow and we are now lined towards N-13, 14, and the fast track that runs alongside the Alyth Diesel Shops from here we have access to the seven tracks where the piggyback trailers are loaded and unloaded. We are listed to pull R-2, and R-5 these tracks are loaded with piggyback trailers for destinations east of Calgary to Winnipeg, and Toronto. We check to make sure there are no blue flags on the track, these are put up by the employees load and unload the piggyback trailers onto the flat cars for their protection while working on this equipment. When their work is finished they remove the blue flag, this lets us know that it is okay to move the flat cars that the piggyback trailers are loaded onto. I couple our locomotive onto R-2 there are eight cars in the track, I start removing the hand brakes on each car, while Jerry walks up the wooden platform alongside the cars to the stop block of the ramp where the cars are coupled to. With all the hand brakes released Jerry uncouples the cars from the end platform, and signal’s the locomotive engineer with his lantern to go ahead. I jump off at the switch for R-5, as the flat cars pull by me I signal the engineer with my lantern to stop when the last flat car is passed the switch, I line the switch towards R-5, and give the engineer a backup signal, and car length signals until we couple onto track R-5, I start removing the hand brakes, and Jerry is at the stop block and signals the engineer to pull ahead and uncouple the flat cars, with this done, we walk up to our locomotive and get on. With the 15 cars we have a hold of we proceed eastward down through N-14 a track that is almost left clear for movements between the East End and the West End of the yard, Clarence radios the Pulldown Supervisor and asks him where he wants the 15 trailers for the East, he gives us a clear track N-3 to place them into, and a route to use at the East End of the yard to avoid conflict with other yard movements that are going on at that time. We back the cars into N-3 and secure them with 5 hand brakes, and go back to N-14 and proceed back to the West End of N-Yard, we call the operator at 12 St Tower and ask him to line us around the North wye to the Cushing lead, he gives us a lineup and a signal and we park our engine and go for our coffee break at the Blackfoot truckstop located about two blocks away.

Alyth Overpass and Diesel Shops

Here Is a view taken west of the Alyth overpass on Blackfoot Trail looking towards the CPR diesel shops, and the ramps where auto carriers, and piggyback trailers are loaded and unloaded. There were two tracks for unloading automobiles, and seven tracks for loading and unloading piggyback trailers or Trailers on Flat Cars (TOFC)

CPR automobile carrier car

CPR bi-level automobile car

Here are a couple of views of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s automobile carrier cars, the first picture shows a trilevel that can carry up to 15 automobiles

The second picture shows a bi-level carrier, these cars are used are used more for loading larger vehicles such as trucks, and vans.

CPR piggyback trailer unloading

CPR Spanner cover 1963

CPR TOFC Winnipeg

I will talk of little about CPRs piggyback trailer operations, Canadian Pacific was an intermodal pioneer, the 1950s saw the railways everywhere in North America seeking to stem declining freight traffic that had been lost to trucks. To do this, they offered truck companies fast freight
trains, often dedicated solely to handling only highway trailers on modified flat cars do. It was officially designated as TOFC, for Trailer On Flat Car, or usually referred to as Piggyback or just “Pigs” The conventional end-ramp method of loading and unloading piggyback trailers known as “circus loading” as shown in the photos I have provided, from the CPR employee magazine called “The Spanner” In the first view you can see one track that has been unloaded and the aluminum end platforms folded down for unloading. the other view shows wooden platforms and lighting alongside the trailers. The last picture shows 2 45 foot trailers loaded on a single TOFC.

After coffee we returned to the West End of N-Yard, where the yardmaster met us and gave us our next switch lists, Train #902 was due into Calgary from the West in about 20 minutes, and was yarding in track N-11, as soon as the train stopped we were to couple on and set off a cut of piggyback trailers that were destined for Calgary. We situate our yard engine on the lead east of N-11 switch and wait for #902 to yard, we can see his headlight from 8th Street S.E. The locomotive’s from #902 start in to the track, and Jerry watches his list as the cars rolls by, when he sees the car number he is looking for he runs alongside the train and jumps onto the car ladder to be in position when the train stops. We wait on the West End until the caboose clears the lead, 12th St. restores N-11 switch we move westward and then he lines us on top of the train, I signal our engineer to go eastward with my lantern, and couple on to the caboose that has stopped about 15 car lengths from the west end of the track, I make a coupling, and signal the engineer with a half horizontal circle from my lantern that I am going to go between the locomotive and the caboose to couple up the air hoses and cut in the air brakes. The two rubber hoses (also called hosebags) from the locomotive and caboose have glad hands, and by flexing the end’s of the hoses they can be connected together, with this done I open the closed angle cock on the caboose, and slowly open the angle cock on the locomotive, to pump up the air brakes from the locomotive’s compressor. Jerry is in possession down the track about 40 car lengths, and hears the air coming through, he has closed the angle cock where the cut is to be made, and he has pulled the couplers pin, and signals with his lantern to backup. The engineer calls 12th Street telling him that we will be coming out of N-11 with 40 cars to make a set off, 12th St. lines us up straight away for N-Yard running lead, we start westward and Clarence jumps off at the bull switch and lines us for N-14 where we will be setting our cars off to, I ride further up N-Yard practice where there is a dogleg in track, and I will be in position to relay signals with my lantern from Jerry. When our movement has cleared the bull switch Jerry signals us to stop, which I relay to the engineer, Jerry jumps on the point of the movement and signals us to go forward while he rides the point of the movement down into N-14, Clarence stays by the bull switch to relay signals, I ride with the engine until we are at the bull switch and Jerry signals us to stop when all the cars we want are in N-14 he makes the cut, and we couple the remaining cars back onto the train in N-11 I cut off the caboose and set it over to W-3, where there are a couple more cabooses sitting, and we go westward to the bull switch and go eastward towards N-14 and line the switch for the Fast track that runs adjacent to N-14 towards the Alyth diesel shops there is a crossover switch that takes this back to N-14, and east of the cut of 15 piggyback trailers that we have set off from #902 we couple on and bleed off the air brakes and pull eastward making a cut behind 7 cars as our list shows us that it is a trailer with mail for the post office and must be offloaded first. We shove the 7 cars R-5 that we had cleared out earlier Jerry rides the point of the movement and couples on to the end block of the track, he signals the engineer to pull ahead gently to make sure the cars are coupled to the end block with a proper coupling he signals the engineer to push in the slack between the cars and I start from the engine tieing on hand brakes, which Jerry starts doing from his end. It is important that the cars are bunched together and secured so the staff who unloads trailers can set down the fold-down platforms between each car before they start unloading. We grab the other eight trailers and spot them into R-2, we return to W-3 couple onto the cabooses then shove them down to a track in little N Yard and go to the General Yard Office for our lunch break.

After lunch the yardmaster brings us another switch list, we have to cross through the tunnel under the Hump and set the cabooses towards the caboose tracks in Y yard, and wait for the Carman to remove the blue flag that protects them, we then set the cabooses into a track for servicing and switch out a couple of freshly serviced cabooses for some outgoing trains that are built in P-Yard with this task done, we have one other move to set a bad order car from a train in V-Yard, bad order cars are set over to V-9.
West End One Spot Car Repair Shop
Between the caboose servicing tracks in Y-Yard and V-9 stands a modern car repair shop with three ftracks, it is called the “One Spot” Yard crews working the east end fill the three tracks X-1 to X-3 outside the east doors of the shop with bad order cars from V-9, there is a steel cable on pullys that runs beneath the tracks from outside the east and of the shop to the outside of the west end of the building, attached to this cable is a retractable “rabbit” that lifts up and grabs the axle between the cars wheels and pulls it into the shop for repairs, when the repairs are finished the “rabbit” is used to move the car outside the doors on the west end, when the four tracks on the west end are full a yard crew will be called to pull the tracks and set them over into a track on the west end of the yard for the hump. Besides this modern shop there is a couple of tracks in the yard called “rip tracks” (rip standing for repair in place) when a string of cars are spotted for repair in a rip track each car has to be disconnected with a 6 foot gap between the cars, this makes it easier for the carmen to work around them, as some of these cars have defective hand brakes, small pieces of scrap wood are placed underneath the wheels to keep the cars from rolling away. With this chore done we head back through the tunnel put the engine back onto the shop track and head for home. It’s been a long night, and I have learned a lot, I check with the Calling Bureau and check to see where my turn is on the spare board, and the requirements for the afternoon and night shifts, it’s busy so I book 6 hours rest, hoping to get called out for the afternoon shift.

I finally found a couple of good pictures that I took of the CPR intermodal trailer ramps at Alyth yard. In the first photo on the left you can see Hump Lead 2, and next to it is N-yard running lead, then Ramp-1,2,3, and 4. Ramp 1 is full of unloaded flat cars, Ramp 2 and 3 are both full of loaded piggyback trailers.

In the second photo, you can see Ramp-5 running off Ramp-4, it looks empty. To the right of it, you can see the wooden stairs and sidewalk that run between Ramp-5 and Ramp-6, which has trailers spotted in it. And the switches into Ramp-7 and 8 are visible in the foreground to the right-hand side of the picture.

Alyth Piggyback Ramps 1 to 4

Alyth piggyback ramps 1 to 8

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