I was called out Friday, November 9 to deadhead at 18:00 by passenger on Train No. 2 from Medicine Hat, to Swift Current, Saskatchewan. Deadheading is a method used by the railway for moving train and engine crews between terminals to handle traffic, for example if you only have three train crews at the away from home terminal in Swift Current, and you expect five westbound trains out of there in the next 12 hours, two crews will be deadheaded to cover the traffic. I was called with Conductor Jim Kislanko, and his regular tailend brakeman we arrived about 21:30, and would not be called until 07:00 Saturday, November 10. We decided to go across the street to the local hotel called The Imperial to catch last round, and have a couple of beers before retiring for the evening. Swift Current is an intermediate terminal on the CPR, so no crews work out of there and it is an away from home for crews from Medicine Hat, Alberta 147 miles to the west, and for crews from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan 110 miles to the east. On the south side of the yard across eight tracks from the station was a modern bunkhouse that could accommodate about 40 men, a pathway led to the bunkhouse and cars stored in the yard were always cut by the train crews to keep the pathway clear. There was an attendant who cleaned the rooms, and made the beds with fresh sheets and blankets, a communal kitchen with lockers, washroom facilities and the TV room for entertainment were provided. A blackboard they are on the wall kept track of what rooms were cleaned and available, and who was occupying the rooms being used, you could pick a room and mark your name in chalk, and how long of a call you needed in the morning two hours before the train was the normal, this gave you lots of opportunity to get up have a shower, make breakfast, and prepare a lunch, or if for you preferred you could go to a restaurant in town for your meal during the hours they were open. At 05:00 there was a knock on my door, the bunkhouse attendant would open the door and turn on the light to make sure you were awake, and placed a piece of paper, called a call slip, by the door with the information about the train and crew who were called for it. I was called as the headend brakeman for train #947 for 07:00 it was a run through with locomotive 4521, leading and two other locomotives trailing, the locomotive engineer was Norm Mc Donald, with conductor Kislanko, and his brakeman for the tail end. Let me explain what a run through train is, this type of train comes in to the terminal and the crews change off at the station, and depart, as opposed to being called off of the shop track, in this case the power would come from the shops, and the train would have to be picked up from the yard, and switching would be involved, especially in Swift Current, as there were no yard engines working in the terminal.

Train #947 was a second class fast freight scheduled to run daily as shown in the CPR timetable, it was scheduled to depart Swift Current at 4:55 and arrive at Medicine Hat at 08:35 daily, the schedule for a train in a timetable is only good for a period of 12 hours, so our train today was running two hours and five minutes behind schedule. We arrived at the station 20 minutes before our call time, to read and sign the bulletin book, get our train orders, train manifests, and portable radios from the operator. The train arrived, and we talked to the incoming crew, who told us their trip was uneventful, and the train and locomotives were in good order. I got on to the CPR 4521, and did my preliminary duties checking that we had a proper flagging kit (7 fusees, 8 track torpedoes, and a red flag), extra air brake hoses, yellow wrench for changing air brake hoses, and a white lantern. A shop employee placed a fresh bucket of iced canned water for us. Norm the locomotive engineer checked the form MP-74 that engineers report any mechanical problems.
CPR MLW 4500 locomotive
CPR 4521 was built at the Montréal Locomotive Works and delivered to the CPR January 12, 1970, Class DRF-30d (The DRF stands for Diesel Road Freight and the30 for 3000 Horse Power the small d indicates that it was the fourth in a series of these locomotive that were built). These locomotives had three seats one on the right side or the engineer, one in the middle for the brakeman, and one on the left side or the fireman, as there were not very many firemen left this window seat was taken over by the brakeman, behind the seat was a 1¾ inch pipe with a valve on the end that was painted red, this was an EMERGENCY VALVE that was to be used by the brakeman if he felt that the engineer was incapacitated, or if for some reason the train was out of control. I checked to make sure that this valve was unobstructed. Our train had about 95 cars, and we were about 5400 feet long, Conductor Kislanko positioned him self on the North Side of our train, and the tailend brakeman crossed over to the south side, the engineer radioed the incoming crew on the caboose to let them know we were going to pull the train down, they gave us an okay and we proceeded Westward at a speed of about 5 miles an hour so the tail end crew could give our train a thorough inspection for any defects, about 20 car lengths from the tail and our crew gave us radio communications of how many car lengths we had to pull down to stop. When the caboose stopped, the incoming crew got off, and the engineer released the train brakes, when the brake pipe was fully charged as indicated by a set of gauges in the caboose, the tailend radioed the engineer and told him he had 75 pounds pressure on the caboose, and that it was okay to apply the air brakes for a brake test, with the brakes applied the tailend man got out of the caboose and checked to see that the brake cylinder had set up correctly, he then gave us the okay to release the brakes, with this done successfully and were really to depart Swift Current

There was two track territory running from the West End of a station called Java that was 5.8 miles west of Swift Current and ran eastwards to Moose Jaw, and all movements were governed by signal indication. Our train #947 arrived on the South track (Eastward track). As we were a second-class train traveling in inferior direction, the only trains superior to us were first-class, and second-class traveling eastward. First-class train No.1 was due to depart Swift Current at 07:15 so we would wait for No.1 to arrive and depart after changing crews, and loading and unloading passengers and baggage from the North track (Westward track) that was adjacent to the Swift Current station, from where we were sitting we saw No. 1 arrive, and depart, I crossed over the North track to give No. 1 a pull by inspection, seeing no defects I gave a wave to the tail end of the train showing that everything was okay. At Java there was a junction for the Empress Subdivision that ran northwest to Empress, Alberta and for westward trains there was a crossover, where the South and North tracks merged into a single track ABS (Automatic Block Signal System) train order territory, movements were governed by signal indication through a spring switch that could be trailed through without having to line it manually. The Maple Creek Subdivision footnotes stated “End off two tracks, Java — Spring Switch. Provided the signal indication authorizes, speed of trailing movements through this spring switch must not exceed twenty miles per hour until the leading wheels of movement have passed through the switch after which speed is to be in accordance with that authorized by signal indication” and further said “Trains may leave Java without clearance (train order)” we pulled down to the signal at Java that was displaying red, and waited for No. 1 to clear the next block signal that were spaced about 3 miles apart we then received a green signal allowing us to proceed westward, and we departed Swift Current at 07:30.

Now the only trains we had to be concerned with were the eastbound Second-class trains that were superior to us by direction, according to the timetable they were 902, that according to the train register at Swift Current had departed eastward at its scheduled time of 05:15, the next train was 954 scheduled to arrive at Swift Current at 07:15, checking our train orders we had one that said “No. 954 due to leave Medicine Hat, Saturday November 10th, is annulled between Medicine Hat and Swift Current” the only train we were concerned with was 944 that was scheduled to depart Medicine Hat at 06:35, so we would be meeting him somewhere along the line. The other Second-class trains 940 and 952 were scheduled out of Medicine Hat at 17:50 and 22:35 so they were of no concern to us. As I mentioned we were operating in ABS (Automatic Block Signal System) train order authority territory, this meant there were electric blocks signals to govern our movement by indication, and that trains were scheduled by timetable authority, and their movements controlled by train orders. The Maple Creek Subdivision had 18 sidings on the 145 miles between Swift Current and Medicine Hat they were from east to west Seward, Webb, Antelope, Gull Lake, Carmichael, Tompkins, Sidewood, Piapot, Cardell, Maple Creek, Mackid, Kincorth, Hatton, Cummings, Walsh, Irvine, Pashley, and Dunmore. There train orders signals, and telegraph operators stationed about 45 miles apart at Gull Lake, Maple Creek, and Dunmore, from Dunmore to Medicine Hat there was CTC (Centralized Traffic Control) were trains were operated by signal indication that was controlled by the operator in Medicine Hat

We had lots of horsepower for the tonnage we were handling and with clear (green signals) up ahead it did not take long to get our train up to a speed of 55 miles an hour. This was quite exciting for me my first working trip as a brakeman, rolling across the prairies in this harsh winter weather, sitting in the comfort of the heated locomotive, on a hotshot train with no work to do along the line, this to me was a great way to make a living, at a good rate of pay, and not as routine as the work I did in the yards in Calgary. As we approached sidings the conductor would radio, and the engineer told me to answer the radio, the conductor would say highball Seward which I would reply okay, as we progressed along he would radio me again and say highball Webb, and that you would like to hear from me sometime, being a green brakeman I didn’t quite understand what he was referring to, but would find out when we arrived in Medicine Hat, as Norm was just sitting there being very quiet with a smirk on his face. I knew enough to watch our train from the head end, every time we went around a curve I would look back alongside our train looking for any defects, which was kind of hard with all the blowing snow.
CPR Train Order Semaphore Signal
We approached Gull Lake and looked for the train order signal on the station it was showing caution (yellow indication) and the red board was at a 45° angle which meant we had to slow down our train to pick up train orders from the operator.
CPR Train Order Hoop1
CPR Train Order Hoop2
The procedure for picking up train orders on the move works as follows, the operator has prepared the orders, and has fastened them to a metal clip on a 64 inch wooden stick, that is formed into a 12 inch loop on one end; this is called a train order hoop. He then stands on the station platform alongside the track and raises the hoop to the height of the locomotives window, as the train passes at a speed of about 40 mph a crew member (depending on which side of the main track that the station is located) opens his window and sticks his arm out, aiming his hand for the center of the loop, he then catches the hoop in the crutch of his arm, and pulls the hoop into the cab of the locomotive. He then retrieves the train orders from under the metal clip, and throws the train order hoop back out the window for the operator to retrieve later. The operator then delivers a duplicate set of train orders to the crew on the caboose. One of the first thing I learned about catching a train order hoop is to always wear gloves or mitts, because if you don’t and you miss the hoop at 40 miles an hour you can really hurt your fingers. I hand the train orders over to the engineer for him to read first, they are typed on thin onion skin paper, that are nicknamed “flimsies”, there was a Clearance form in green on top addressed to our train with the numbers the train orders attached, along with the initials of the train dispatcher, and the signature of the operator, there were three train orders in yellow, two of them are slow orders that inform us about track conditions up ahead, the other order is the one that concerns us directly it reads:

“No. 947 Eng. 4521 meet No. 944 Eng. 5561 at Sidewood”

As we are inferior by direction in the timetable, our train will be taking the siding at Sidewood.
Sidewood is about 22 miles west of Gull Lake so we proceed through Carmichael, and Tompkins, approaching Sidewood we see the intermediate signal 3 miles west of the siding switch turn from green to yellow, this shows us that No. 944 is in the vicinity, and that it will be a good meet. Norm applies the brakes and slows our train down as we come up to this east main track switch at Sidewood
we are down to a crawl, I get down on the front step of our locomotive, and from about 10 car lengths from the switch I jump off and start running towards it, at every switch in the winter the section forces place a broom and shovel, as in winter conditions it does not take long for the switch points to get drifted in with snow, with a quick sweep I clean out the switch points, open the switch lock with my key, and pull the switch handle over to the reverse position, placing the open lock hasp back into the keeper of the switch stand. I given Norm a hand signal to go ahead and we proceed through the siding at restricted speed, no faster than 15 miles an hour. Sidewood’s siding like most others on the Maple Creek subdivision has a car capacity of 119 cars, so our train will fit quite easily, as we pull up the tailend crew radios us how many car lengths we have clear the siding, when we get down to five car lengths Norm has slowed our train down to a crawl, the tailend brakeman jumps off the caboose, and restores the mainline switch to normal position, and locks the switch lock. We then pull down to the West end of the siding, I get out and go up to the West mainline switch and position myself on the other side of the track to inspect No. 944 who is coming down the mainline I check his engine number and confirm that it is 5561 so we know that we have met the correct train. There is another reason why I position myself on the other side of the main track switch, there has been cases in the where a brakeman has panicked and lined the switch causing horrifying mishaps by lining an approaching train coming at track speed into the path of the train sitting in the siding. I inspect No. 944′s train as he passes by, and give the crew on the caboose a highball sign showing the all is okay. I then sweep out the switch, and line us from the siding to the mainline, and we proceed westward, from thereon it was a pretty uneventful trip we met a couple of other extra trains that were sitting in sidings, at Maple Creek the train order signal was at green. In the same at Dunmore, approaching Medicine Hat we radio the yard master regarding yarding instructions, he tells us to come down the mainline for a change off at the station we arrive at 11:04. I do a pull by inspection as our train pulls down, and wait in the station for the conductor to finish our paperwork.

I learned a few things on this first trip reading the timetable Special Instructions one thing I noticed was the special instruction.

Special Instruction C — Freight trains will not, unless otherwise provided run more than 40 miles without stopping for a standing train inspection. Such inspection may be performed as follows: Head-end trainman detrain from engine at point half the train’s length from the anticipated stopping point of caboose. He will then give one side of the train pull-by inspection until it stops when he will crossover and walk up the other side of the train to his engine, performing standing inspection. As soon as the train stops the rear-end trainman will walk up one side of the train performing standing inspection to the point where the head-end trainman crossed over. He will then cross over to the other side and give a pull-by inspection to the rear portion of train as it pulls by slowly. Reading further I found;

Special Instruction “C” is amended as follows: Not applicable to 901, 902, 947, 944, 940, 945, 965, and trains handling a complete consist of roller bearing cars. Except when weather or other conditions prevent proper running inspection, other freight trains may run eighty miles without stopping for standing train inspection.

So our train No. 947 was exempt from this special instruction. I should have read a little further as my conductor gave me a little lecture about my radio communications on this trip; he brought my attention to Special Instruction “E”

Special Instruction E — In addition to the requirements of Rule 90a, crews equipped with end to end radios at the front and rear of trains will communicate with each other when approaching and passing stations.

I felt pretty stupid about this, but in a way the engineer was partly responsible, if you read Rule 90A you see the enginemen are supposed to see that trainmen do their work correctly, anyways I learned a lesson, that I would not forget.

Rule 90A. Unless otherwise directed by special instructions, on freight, mixed and work trains in motion between stations, conductors and enginemen will see that trainmen are at the front and rear of trains in position to observe the safe operation of trains and when practicable, exchanging signals when approaching and passing stations. Approaching junctions, railway crossings at grade, drawbridges, and points were trains may be required to stop, were trains are to be met or passed, and at a safe distance before descending heavy grades or at any point where failure of the brakes may be attended with hazard, a trainman must be within convenient access of the emergency valve.

It was a pretty good first trip, I was paid 100 miles for the deadhead, and 157 miles for the trip home on No. 947. We were away for 17 hours.

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