July
19
Posted on 19-07-2010
Filed Under (Calgary 1970s, CPR, Many Jobs and Trades) by Broken Rail

On November 7, 1973 I packed my personal possessions in a suitcase, and a back pack and got a ride from a friend down to the Calgary CPR passenger station in the basement of Palliser Square. CPR passenger train No.2 The Canadian was scheduled to arrive from Field, British Columbia at 14:35 and after a change of locomotives and engine crew was to depart Calgary at 15:10 and arrive at Medicine Hat at 18:00. I planed on deadheading to the “Hat” on this train, I arrived at the station about 14:00 so I had some time to kill waiting until the train was boarded with passengers, I went to the souvenir shop station looking for something to read on my trip, in the paperback book rack I found an autobiography by Jack Kerouac titled “The Lonesome Traveler” perusing the index I saw a Chapter called “October on the Railroad Earth” that talked about his adventures working as a brakeman on the Southern Pacific in the 1950s out of San Francisco, it was a good read, and I used it partially for naming this website Railwayearth.

Incoming No.2 arrived on time, and I went and talked to the conductor Charlie Patton, and said that I would like to deadhead to Medicine Hat as I was transferring down there to work, he asks me if I have a letter from the Chief Dispatcher to allow me to ride on the train. I told them I did not, and it was the first time I was aware that I needed one, he grumbled about it, but said that would be okay for me to come along without it, and that he would straighten it out at the yard office in Medicine Hat. I stored my luggage, and found an empty seat on a day coach, and we left Calgary station on time, and arrive on schedule at Medicine Hat. I checked in with the crew clerk, and was marked up on the Medicine Hat trainmans spare board, there were about 30 men working their board that covered both road and yard service in the terminal, I was about 20 times out. I got the Calling Bureau’s phone number and told the clerk I would let them know where I would be staying when I found lodging. There were a number of old red brick hotels located within walking distance of the Medicine Hat station on North Railway Street there was the Corona, and the Cecil, there also a lot of secondhand stores and shops on this side of the city, on South Railway Street and the corner of 3rd Street there was the Assiniboia, and further up the street was the Royal, and also there were a lot more buildings from the downtown commercial part of the city so there was more amenities. I decided to check out the Assiniboia is it looked a little bit more modern, and had a good cafeteria in the basement, the rooms were reasonably priced and I got a room on the second floor overlooking South Railway Street and the West end of the Medicine Hat Yards. To get to South Railway Street from the CPR station you had to walk a block west to a pedestrian tunnel that went underneath the railway tracks, it had ramps on each side to access it and was illuminated at night by overhead lamps, kind of creepy with the strong smell of urine from lazy transients who would stop to relieve themselves during the night. The ramp came out onto South Railway Street at the pedestrian crossing lights on 3rd street were I could cross over to the hotel, so it was a short walk to work at the railway station and I could get there in 10 min.

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July
19
Posted on 19-07-2010
Filed Under (Calgary 1970s, CPR) by Broken Rail

The month of August was a time of famine working the spare board I worked for 2300 Government August 4, a 1500 Extra on August 5, the 2130 Pulldown on August 8, and the 1430 Pulldown on August 12 when the strike on the CPR became a national walkout and I was laid off. Not one to let the grass grow underneath my feet, a friend of mine told me of a place that was hiring and I went there and placed a job application. I was hired by Western Electrical Contractors that had their office on the NW corner 10th Ave. and 4th Street Southwest, I was hired to work in their warehouse three doors west, where they ran an outlet called Saveon Electrical were they sold electric supplies to the public. My job in the warehouse was to drive their delivery truck to and from building projects where their electicians were working and deliver materials to the jobsites, and to pick up leftover material when the jobs were finished. When not doing that I worked in the warehouse cleaning up, and stocking incoming materials, I used to take my lunch breaks on the back loading dock that faced the CPR tracks running west of Calgary, and wished I was working on trains arriving and departing. On September 9, 1973 I was called back to work and placed on the No. 8 Relief a swing job for the Pusher assignments, after four days I was bumped and went to a vacancy on the No.11 Relief that worked afternoon shifts at the Industrial Yard Office I worked this assignment for about a week when I was bumped back to the spare board for the rest of the month, and October which was a busy month where I got in 18 shifts plus 2 at over time. One of the more memorable shifts was working the 1600 A Tramp with a yard foreman named Paul, and his helper named Larry (the wiener), I got a real laugh out of the two of them trying to figure out how to explain to the General Yard Master Harold McAfee how on an earlier shift that week they had managed to put all the piggyback trailers destined for Winnipeg on an outgoing train for Vancouver, and the Vancouver piggyback traffic on an east bound headed for Toronto.

I was still riding my 10 speed bicycle from home to work, riding up and down Ogden Road I would see trains arriving and departing for the East. I lost my drivers license at the end of September for six months, and the thought of riding my bicycle in the winter did not appeal to me, I knew I did not have enough seniority to hold road assignments of the Calgary, but from what I heard I could hold the trainman’s spare board out of Medicine Hat, Alberta. All assignments in the Alberta District went up for bid every six months at the change of timetable on the last Sunday of April, and October so I placed a bid for Medicine Hat, the change of card bids came out in the middle of October, but the company said I could not go because I did not have six months experience, I appealed this to my local chairman Peter Lens of the United Transportation Union Local 1884, he in turn took my appeal to the UTU General Chairman Philip Burke who made a ruling that I should be allowed to transfer effective November 7, 1973.

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July
03
Posted on 03-07-2010
Filed Under (Calgary 1970s, CPR) by Broken Rail

Devised by Railroad Superintended George R. Brown in 1886 was then an innovative system of merits and demerits for railroad employees of the Fall Brook Railway in New York, it was adopted buy many leading North American railways. The system adopted by the Canadian Pacific Railway worked like this, employees were given merit marks usually in the 3-5 range for going the extra distance in helping in the day-to-day operations of the railway for example a conductor and brakeman may receive 3 merits each for their vigalence in observing an unsafe operating condition such as a broken rail and reporting it to the maintenance of way employees for repair before a more serious derailment could occur. On the other hand the railway was quite generous with demerits that were given out in the 10 to 30 range for rules infractions, and the accumulation of 60 demerits would result in dismissal. With good behavior over one year demerits would be reduced by 10, so an employee with 30 demerits on his record could clear it in three years. Some employees were members of the 59 club, the company did not want to dismiss them, but they were walking on thin ice, and were very nervous in the service. The railway slang term for demerits is “Brownies” which is very appropriate.

I received my first 10 Brownies on July 28, 1973 the Form 104 reads as follows;

CANADIAN PACIFIC RAILWAY COMPANY
CALGARY, August 3, 1973. No. AC 319

Mr. BUCHAN, Larry Stuart, Yardman
care of General Yardmaster ALYTH

Dear Sir:

Please be informed that your record has been debited with Ten (10) demerit marks for “sleeping while on duty, violation General Notice, paragraph #4, U.C.O.R., Alyth July 28th., 1973.

Signed by A.E. Fulton Assistant Superintendent
for Superintendent Calgary Division

At the time of this incident I was working the 23:00 Bleeder assignment, and was on my days of rest Thursday and Friday, on the Friday evening I had been out to the local beer parlor having a few socials with some friends, I returned home early that evening of July 27, and the telephone rang at 21:00 it was the Calling Bureau asking me if I wanted to work some overtime on my regular assignment as there were no spare man available, I agreed and went to work at 23:00. I telephoned the Train Yard Coordinator and he gave me two tracks to bleed off V-5 and V-6 as he was going to use the 23:59 Hump assignment to bring these tracks to the Hump. As I have lots of time to do this I laid down on one of the benches in the lunchroom and fell asleep, not waking up until 3 AM in the morning of July 28, some of the other crews were sitting around playing cards during their lunch break, they told me that Mr. Fulton wanted to see me in the General Yardmasters Office. I went down the hall and Mr. Fulton was sitting at the desk in the GYM’s office, he was not too pleased to see me, and asked me to explain what I was doing sleeping on duty, and as a result causing a one-hour delay on the Hump when the 23:59 assignment went to pull tracks V-5 & V-6 and found air on all the cars that they had to bleed off before they could move the tracks. I made some lame excuse about being tired, and Mr. Fulton pulled me out of service pending an investigation. At the time the Company and Unions were fighting over contract negotiations, which had failed, and the serious of rotating strikes were starting across the country and Calgary walked out that morning and the picket lines went up at 7 AM for three days, with the shortage of men the summer I was reinstated on August 3 and received my 10 demerits.Demerits August 3, 1973

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July
03
Posted on 03-07-2010
Filed Under (Calgary 1970s, CPR) by Broken Rail

It was a busy time of year for the spare board, if you worked hard and did not book too much rest you could get enough shifts and get paid overtime when called out. I was able to get in 10 shifts in 11 days working the following assignments 2300 Government, 2300 Pulldown, 1400 Pulldown, 1500 Hump, 700 “N” Yard GYO, 1500 Pulldown, 2230 Tramp GYO, 2300 Government #12 Relief, 1400 Industrial, 1115 Extra, extra engines were called out off the spare board, and a Yard Foreman was usually taken from another assignment using a helper who had his Yard Foreman’s ticket, or from a qualified Yard Foreman on days off who wanted some overtime, in this case the Foreman was Bill Graham working overtime, the locomotive engineer came from the engineers spare board, on this particular extra we were sent out on a Sunday to do some switching at Ogden Shops, it was interesting going back and switching the Yard tracks their after leaving in 1967 when I was laid off, it gave me a new perspective to the Yard at Ogden that was called T-Yard with its dozens of tracks stored with cars and locomotives awaiting repair, or for scrapping, and many boxcars used for storage of materials for the Stores Department, these were the tracks we were concerned with that day. As I had mentioned in an earlier thread when I worked at Ogden, there was a yardmaster and an regular assignment who did the switching there from Monday to Friday, but change was in the winds, that summer the yardmaster and yard assignment were abolished, and from that time forward all the switching to be done inside the Ogden complex would be looked after by car department personnel who are trained to operate track mobiles like the one I worked as a helper with when I was employed by the Phoenix pipe plant in the summer of 1972. The only movement by the CPR yard from Alyth was a once a day transfer from Monday to Friday, cars and locomotives to be repaired were brought out every afternoon, to get permission to enter the Yard at Ogden a supervisor was phoned from a box located at the switch to enter Ogden Shops, after the supervisor had advised all his personnel operating the track mobiles to stop switching, the supervisor unlocked an electric switch lock at the switch and the yard assignment was allowed to enter the Yard and pull the transfer into a designated track, come out of the track and run around through a clear track to the east end of the Ogden yard and couple onto a track full of repaired locomotives and rolling stock to take back to Alyth.

July was a very busy month by then there was so many vacancies due to holidays, and more men were hired for the spare board that was placed on an assignment the #12 Relief on July 15, that means I can hold the job as a regular assignment with two days off, I was bumped off this assignment on July 21, bumped means that I was displaced by another Yardman who had more seniority, I then went on a vacancy on the 2300 Bleeder job on July 22, I held this assignment until July 28.

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