Posted on 20-11-2010
Filed Under (Alberta Saskatchewan 1970s, CPR, Many Jobs and Trades) by Broken Rail

Business picked up in January, I got out on January 2 on a trip west on 2nd No. 901 with conductor SH Humphries we returned the same day on No. 902, making 371 miles, that is why the sparemen in Medicine Hat preferred trips on the main line, if the spare board was busy, and if you booked short rest, 10 trips like that being quick flips working less than 20 hours is well worth it, you could make your mileage quota for the month in two weeks, and have two weeks off.

On January 7th I was called for 1st No. 965 at 14:30 with conductor Eddie (Mumbles) Gargett, and tail end trainman Keith McKee we had a good trip to Alyth, and it looked like we could be called for an Empress Turn which we were on January 8, the locomotive engineer off of the engineers spareboard was Vince Griffiths, a good-natured engineer who I had worked with many times when I was in the yard. On an Empress Turn you work 76 miles east to Bassano where there is a large yard that holds 635 cars, from there the Bassano Subdivision runs 118 miles to Empress on the Alberta Saskatchewan border. There are many country elevators along this line, and at Princess, Alberta mile 76.7 there are two storage tracks where crude oil is loaded into tank cars for refining at the Gulf Refinery in Calgary. We were ordered for 02:00, our train was in little N-yard, and consisted of 40 empty tank cars for loading at Princess, we had our brake test and left Alyth at 03:25 we arrive at Bassano at 05:05, there we switched the yard digging out about 70 grain empties for spotting at the elevators along the way. We departed Bassano at 07:00, at least it was daylight, and we spotted our empties at Rosemary, Duchess, setting off tank cars at Princess, and spotting the elevators at Iddesleigh, Jenner, Bindloss, and Empress, the track at that time was in very poor condition, there were many miles of slow orders with speed’s of 10 miles an hour, and by the way the track rode you wouldn’t dare go any faster so the running time was about 10 hours so along with all the switching we did not arrive until after 19:00. We had about six hours rest, and started back to Alyth at 01:00 January 9th along the way we had to pick up all the loaded grain from the elevator tracks, and switch the loads of crude oil out of Princess and spot the empty tanks for loading, we arrived back at Bassano at 13:00 we switched the loaded grain into the yard at Bassano as per instructions from the operator, we then got our train orders and proceeded westward taking the loaded tank cars of crude oil into Alyth arriving at 17:00.
CPR map Calgary to Empress
Map showing CPR lines from Calgary (Alyth) to Empress on the Saskatchewan border.

We were called out of Alyth on January 10th at 04:00 for 1st 954 departing at 05:30, we had a pretty uneventful trip until we were approaching Brooks, Alberta at mile 66.8 the operator there called us on the radio and told us that the dispatcher wanted us to stop our train clear of any railway crossings, and cut off our power and go over to Brooks to assist the Brooks Wayfreight who were derailed there, Keith came up to the head end, and the conductor Ed went back flagging to protect the rear end of our train, it was 08:00 when we got to Brooks
Photobucket A view of Brooks showing the station and elevator track, with eastbound passenger train No. 2 “The Canadian” stopping to pick up passengers, and meeting a westbound freight train. We found the Wayfreight who were starting their day and coming out of the elevator track, forgot to take the derail off, and the front wheels of their engine was sitting on the railway ties. They had a full crew with locomotive engineer Russ McGloan, locomotive fireman Orval Klein, conductor John Mandzie, head end trainman Mike Showers, and tail end trainman Al McGunigal, but nobody noticed the derail when they radioed the engine to come ahead out of the elevator track to do some switching. All locomotives are equipped with cast iron re-railing devices, they are quite heavy and are hinged under the running boards on the sides of the locomotive, there were a bunch of sectionmen there to assist us, and the re-railers were spiked to the ties with track spikes. We were then able to couple on to the Wayfreight’s, power and by slowly backing up the wheels climbed up onto the re-railers and onto the track. This chore took us about 4 hours by the time we got going again so we were able to claim another 50 miles for work train service enroute we arrived at Medicine Hat at 14:00 we were gone three days but had made 937 miles.

I got out the next day January 11 dead heading by freight on No. 965 to Alyth with Conductor Stan McClellan working home the next day on train No. 944, out again on January 13 with Conductor Beans Deharnais going east on No. 902 and returning the same day on No. 965. I went east again on January 14 with conductor Ray Burns on No. 940 we were called out of Swift Current at 00:01 for 2nd No. 949 that was a drag (slow freight with lots of work along the line) I remember that night very well, it had been bitterly cold, but Chinook had blown in from the west, and the temperature had risen from about -20°F to 35°F with the warm winds, we got across the road quickly but all the work was at Dunmore 6 miles east of Medicine Hat, there was a large yard here as it was a junction with the Taber Subdivision a busy line that ran west to Lethbridge, Alberta, here we had about five hours switching to do, it was a cheap way for the Medicine Hat yard master to have a train switched out, and traffic they needed from Dunmore brought into Medicine Hat without having to send a road switcher up to do it. The yard had 10 tracks, Ray told me to line up for the Crow Main so we could switch on our train without using the mainline and siding, this way we were lined for the Taber Subdivision and our train could work in yard limits, and this would give us access to the yard in Dunmore that had a back lead for access to the ladder track lead for the storage tracks that were numbered 1 to 10 from the Crow main, these tracks had lengths averaging 3100 feet, so the yard have the capacity of holding 620 cars. The yard had hand throw switches all equipped with oil burning lanterns, this was the only place I had ever seen so equipped. It was quite a sight that night switching cars, with the Chinook winds blowing and the snow melting, being able to see the way switches were lined green for the lead, and yellow for a diverging route into one of the yard tracks, when we finished switching we called the yard master in Medicine Hat for a track to yard our train into and were off duty at 08:30. Picture of Dunmore yard in the daylight looking eastward toward Swift current with CPR station on the left next to the mainline, then the siding, and the engine lined towards the Crow main, with the yard tracks to the right.
Dunmore yard

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On Monday, November 19, 1973 we started another week on the Burstall, the week went the same as week one, the only difference being that the weather was much colder, down around -30°F with a high wind chill factor, we were getting a lot of brand-new LPG cars for McNeill, and I remember the rubber hose’s between the cars for the air brakes were frozen so solid we had to use fusses (track flares) from the caboose to thaw out the rubber enough without burning it so we could connect the cars together. One other interesting thing I saw was at Gascoigne the next station north of Burstall, the grain elevator was closed down, and they were moving it to another location on the country roads, of course they waited until the ground was good and frozen before making an attempt to do this monumental feat. Country elevators stand about 100 feet high, so to move one they have to use hydraulic jacks to lift the structure off its foundation, it is then skidded over onto a platform with numerous heavy duty rubber tires on axles to distribute the massive weight, they have to have linemen from the municipality to accompany them and take down power lines temporarily as the move progresses. I’ve seen a lot of big equipment traveling by road before, but to see a country elevator traveling that way is a site to behold. On our return Friday I got my suitcase from the Assiniboia Hotel and made my move into my new digs on Ross Street, it was sure nice to have some privacy. On Monday, November 26, 1973 I worked my last week on the Burstall Wayfreight making a total of 3441 miles which averages out to 1147 miles per week that was pretty good pay at Wayfreight rates that was slightly higher than what you make on through freight. We were allowed to make 3800 miles per month; my cut-off date for the month was on the 12th, for November I made 3726 miles, 74 short of my monthly quota.

December was kind of slow on the spare board but I did manage to make 2926 miles for the month. On December 2 I was called for 07:00 and I worked my first trip west on the Brooks Subdivision I was called for a “Hospital Train” a name used by the railway to describe a train carrying in its consist all bad order cars going for repairs in Calgary, so it got that name because all the disabled cars were called cripples. Many of the cars had air brakes that were inoperative, so large rubber hoses one 500 feet long was wired along the outside of 10 cars were used so that the brakes on the cars that did work could be used. I remember the conductor Elmer McCredie, and engineer Adam Lees, they were not too happy getting called for this train as it had a speed restriction of 30 miles an hour, as track speed on the Brooks Subdivision was 55 miles an hour for freight. So this increased the 3 hours and 20 minutes running time to 5 hours and 45 minutes. We made it over the road, running as the Extra 8519 West according to my time book, we returned to Medicine Hat the same day getting called for No. 902 out of Alyth, the Brooks Subdivision was a little different from the Maple Creek Subdivision whereas the latter was all ABS territory from Swift Current to Dunmore, but the Brooks Subdivision ran 121 miles of ABS from Medicine Hat to Gleichen, and the remaining 50 miles to Ogden mile 171.1 was all CTC (Centralized Traffic Control). So running east from Alyth we ran as an Extra East, but at Gleichen where there was an operator, we picked up our train orders and were to run as 2nd No. 952 from there to Medicine Hat, our train order read “Engs 5695, 4700, and 5523 run as First Second and Third No. 952 from Gleichen to Medicine Hat” we had CPR 4700 leading, so when trains were run as sections, the first and second section were required to put up on the front of the locomotive green flags, in addition to green electric classification lights that were mounted on the front of every CPR locomotive, the idea of running trains and sections was when there was lots of traffic a train would be run this way, trains of the first two sections would carry the green markers and by whistle signal and radio communication notify the crews of opposing trains they met along the subdivision that they were sections, so a train meeting No. 952 would have to wait until the last section who would carry no green markers had passed them before they could proceed. The 4700 locomotives were built at Montréal Locomotive Works in Québec and were rated at 3600 hp, and were the highest powered units on the system. I got out on a 23:00 yard on December 5, and was not called until December 9 for a deadhead by taxi to Swift Current for a quick trip going home on hotshot No. 901. Got out again on December 13 going west with hotshot No. 901 with conductor Elmer Neimen returning the next day late in the afternoon on No. 98, I went to the Alyth Diesel Shops to take the power to the train there I met the locomotive engineer George Galambos, who remarked when he saw me with my long hair, and beard that my mother must have mated with a buffalo, I kept my mouth shut and thought to myself this could be a long trip, we left the yard at 19:00, the trip was uneventful until we left Cassils, that is when alarm bells went off in our lead locomotive signifying there were problems with our trailing units, George told me to come over to the engineers side of the cab and to sit in his seat, and he would go back and check to see what the problem was, he told me not to touch any of the controls, but to blow the whistle, and to ring the bell if we approached any railway crossings, so there I sat going down the track at 55 miles an hour, it was in an experience I would not soon forget, after a few minutes the bells stopped ringing, and George came back to the cab and took over. I laid around Medicine Hat for another week till I got out on December 21 when I was called for an Extra West (a potash drag) with conductor Elmer Neiman, when I saw Elmer at the booking out room at the station, he asked me what I did to George last trip, I asked him what he meant, he said that George ended up in the hospital having a gall bladder attack, I guess that’s why he was so miserable to me. The following day we deadheaded to Medicine Hat. On December 23, I deadheaded home on the caboose of No. 902 with conductor Clary Barton, and trainman Bob Rudolph for the Christmas holidays on December 23, I remember the weather was quite mild with a Chinook that had blown in, I had my backpack and bailed off of the caboose near Ogden at the CNR trestle west of the gates at Ogden Shops, it was about 20:00 and such a nice night I decided to walk home to my parents house in South Calgary, I climbed up the embankment of the CNR trestle, this bridge was built by the Canadian Northern Railway when they entered Calgary around 1912 on their line from Edmonton the terminus was at 18th Ave. and 1st Street SW. I walked along the right-of-way over another large trestle that spanned the Bow River and followed the track down along side of the Canadian Government Elevators through Bonniebrook where it headed westward by the Dominion Bridge Company and came out along the south side of the Calgary Stampede Grounds, from here I continued on the streets through Elbow Park, and Mount Royal to South Calgary where I enjoyed the holidays at home with my family. I wasn’t called out again until December 31, New Year’s Eve as the tail end trainman with conductor E.J. (Beans) Desharnais on hotshot No. 902 returning on No. 965, this was my first experience working the tail end on the main line, and was interesting to say the least. I got lots of instruction from Beans on working with train orders on the main line, we would sit up and the cupola of the caboose and he would fire questions at me, about our train and wherever should we go next for the next opposing train, I would have to run down to the desk get out my timetable, and refer to the train orders to give him an answer, after a few mistakes I was beginning to get the hang of it.

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Posted on 13-11-2010
Filed Under (Alberta Saskatchewan 1970s, CPR, Many Jobs and Trades) by Broken Rail

The alarm rang at 4 AM this Friday morning; we wanted to get a good early start, as it was to be a short day so we could get home for the weekend. After breakfast we went down to McNeill and gave them a final switch for the week, assembled the loads of brought them up to Burstall we marshalled our train and proceeded northward to Leader, when we arrived the operator have orders ready and departed for Swift Current at 10:00 cleared as an Extra South we arrived about 13:20 at Swift Current. We called the operator and ask him for yarding instructions, he gave us permission to cross over into the yard from Java, and gave us a track to yard in, we yarded our train, I secured the head end with sufficient hand brakes, cut off or power and ran around our train through a clear track in the yard, tied on to the caboose, and we put it away to the caboose track for the weekend. With this done we were off duty at 14:10. Harold had his truck and drove home to Lethbridge, the rest of us would deadhead home to Medicine Hat, and in Charlie’s case to Calgary on a freight. With a little luck we could catch No. 949 that was scheduled to leave South Current 13:05, if he was running a little late and would be back in Medicine Hat about 17:00, otherwise we would have to wait for No. 901 that was scheduled for 19:05 which would get us home around 2215. Unfortunately No. 949 had already been hard, so we had to cool our heels at the bunkhouse and wait for No. 901, who was running on schedule
.Map of Burstall & Empress Subdivisions

A map from 1924 showing Saskatchewan Wheat Pool elevators from Fox Valley to Leader on the Burstall Subdivision, and from Empress towards Swift Current on the Empress Subdivision, visible on the bottom are elevators on the Maple Creek Subdivision west of Swift Current some of the other big elevator companies were Pioneer, United Grain Growers, and Parrish & Heimbecker

During the week working the head end with Pat Hay, I got to know him pretty well; he was big in stature, and soft-spoken, with a good sense of humour. He carried a portable transistor radio with him and loved to listen to Art Linkletter’s “Kids Say the Darndest Things” he used to get a real chuckle out of that program. Pat had hired on with the CPR on December 15, 1947 in Medicine Hat in the shops as a wiper, he was promoted to the firemen’s seniority list on October 18, 1948 he had worked out of Empress in the 1950s when it was a busy terminal, otherwise most of his career he worked out of Medicine Hat. In conversation I mentioned my problem finding living accommodations in Medicine Hat; he asked me if I was a partier, which I replied no. In that case he said that he had a basement suite in his house that was seven blocks north of the CPR station, and if I wanted to look at it he invited me over Sunday afternoon for supper, and a chance to see what I thought of it. We arrived back in Medicine Hat and I checked back into my room in the Assiniboia Hotel and took it easy on Saturday, relaxing after all the long hours we worked through the week at Burstall, on Sunday afternoon I walked over to Pats place at 1104 Ross St. it was a nice framed house on the corner of the street in a quiet older residential district. He invited me in and I met his wife Bertha, a nice lady who was from Ogden her maiden name being Featherstone, a family that owned the general store there that I lived near back in 1967. We enjoyed a supper of roast duck, Pat was quite an avid bird hunter, along with some of his homemade wine, and this was a lot better than eating out of the restaurant in the hotel I lived in. After supper he showed me the suite downstairs in the basement, it was nice with the bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom with a shower, and also had a washing machine and dryer, as far as a telephone there was one that you could receive your calls from the CPR, but you could not phone out, this was okay with me as I had nobody to phone anyways. He asked me what I thought, I said I would be interested and asked him the price he said $30, and I thought to myself $30 a week what a bargain and I readily accepted, offering him $120 for the first month, to which he replied no, no the rent is $30 a month, what a bargain. I couldn’t have found anything better, I could walk to work in 10 minutes, and was close to downtown for shopping, and there were a couple of corner grocery stores within a couple of blocks. So Sunday evening I checked out of the Assiniboina Hotel for the last time, I got them to hold my suitcase until I return from Burstall next Friday when I would make my move.

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The alarm went off at 05:00 and it was the start of another busy day, after breakfast we gathered up some of our LPG empties and went back down to McNeill to give them another full switch repeating much that we did Tuesday morning, then we went back to Burstall switch out the empty potash hoppers, along with one empty boxcar that we needed for the Ingebright Lake spur at Fox Valley, we had a quick coffee break and departed southbound to Fox Valley arriving at 12:45 we stopped for a lunch break, Charlie had made us sandwiches, some soup, and a salad. Then Harold and I uncoupled our empty potash hoppers from the caboose, and left Charlie to cook our supper, we arrived at Ingebright Lake at 13:30 once again the winter winds had drifted in all track switches, so we had a lot of shovelling and sweeping to do to clean out the siding switch, and crossovers. The layout at Ingebright Lake’s potash plant was configured like this for main line ran up to a Bag Loading warehouse that had room for seven box cars, beside the warehouse was the Bulk Loading track where the hoppers would go above the Bulk Loading track was a 24 car capacity Hi Line that the empty potash hoppers could be spotted, and the loaders could move them to the loadout using gravity, when loaded they could run them down a 24 car siding located adjacent to the main line. When we arrived we would pull our empties out the mainline, and use a crossover located below the loadout and tie on to the loaded hoppers that had been run down below the loadout, first checking for blue flags, we would then shove all loads down through the siding and out on to the main line, we would then tie it on to our empties and shove the empty hoppers up past the loadout on to the Hi Line, the boxcar was than spotted at the Bag Loading warehouse, we would then go down the main and pull our loads back up into the siding, and run around them, then head back to Fox Valley, were we turned our units on the Wye put train together and retired to the caboose for another one on Charlie’s home-cooked meals, we then returned to Burstall put our train away, gave McNeill another switch, and called it a night around 22:30.

CPR Burstall Subdivision from Time Table No. 81, April 29, 1973
Burstall Subdivision 1973

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After another short night in bed we were up at 06:00 on Wednesday, Harold cooked us breakfast, and it was back down to the McNeill spur to give the plant another switch, pulling the loads, and spotting the empties. With this work done it this time to assemble our train for a trip to Leader, to run to Leader we once again referred to our Burstall Subdivision Footnotes that states “Engine arriving Burstall on No. 71 must retain all train orders and may assume schedule of No. 73 of the following day and leave Burstall without the clearance”. At Burstall there is an elevator track with the capacity of 2886 feet, we’re not concerned with any work there, as this is looked after by the grain train that runs through the night to service the elevators at all the small communities along the subdivision. We do have a siding that holds 2038 feet that works out to about 40 50 foot cars; we store our extra empty potash hoppers, along with the 10 loads that we brought over last night. We take five loads of potash and attach them to our caboose and shove down past the wye switch at McNeill and go to the Plant to start assembling all the loads of propane and butane we have switched out since Monday, it totals up to 80 cars, 78 loads, and a couple of bad order empties that have to go to Calgary for repairs. With the 85 cars assembled we pull up to Burstall and lift the remaining 5 loads of potash from the siding on the head end. This is a marshalling precaution, as the CS 44 rulebook says, loaded cars of LPG must not be handled in a train within five cars of the locomotive consist, or a occupied caboose. We complete our brake test, and train inspection and take a coffee break before departing for Leader. Our train with 80 LPG tank cars that are 65 feet long and 10 50 foot hoppers of potash is 5700 feet in length. In the meantime the grain train or a crew from the Maple Creek freight pool would be called out of Swift Current for a Leader turn Wednesday morning, and would run under the schedule of forth class No. 75 Westward. They would bring us a trainload of much-needed LPG empties, and other potash hoppers for Ingebright Lake; they would take our train of loaded LPG, and potash back to Swift Current. We would arrive at Leader before the turn would show up, and working in yard limits we would have time to put our train away into the two siding tracks in the yard there they held 3000, and 2600 feet and would hold most of our train, any that didn’t fit we would put towards the elevator track on the East end. We would turn our power leaving the caboose on the North leg of the Wye and have our lunch while we waited for the turn from Swift Current to arrive. When No. 75 arrived at Leader we would get them to stop short of the South leg of the Wye cut streets off their power and run westward up the main, I would line South Wye and bring our power ahead and couple onto No. 75′s train, and cut in the air, when we had sufficient air on the tail end the crew would let us know and we would pull the train southward on Burstall Subdivision, as we got the tail end closer to the South Wye switch, the tail end crew on the Leader turn would cut off their own caboose on the fly, and our tail end crew would tell us when to stop and we would couple up to our caboose, do a Number 2 brake test (seeing that the air brakes on the caboose apply and release okay, and we proceed back to burst all using our train orders and assuming the schedule of No. 70 with new train orders we had received from the operator at Leader. With us out of their way the Leader turn would take their caboose and tie it on to West end of the No. 1 siding, they would then run their power down to the East end and double over from the elevator track to the No. 2 siding, and double to the rest of their train, do their brake test, get their orders and precede back to Swift Current running as an Extra East.

We arrived back at Burstall about 17:00 we spent about an hour switching out our train setting out the empty potash hoppers into the siding, and getting the LPG cars lined up for the next spot at McNeill, we had our supper break, then went down to give McNeill another full spot of empties and tied up for the evening around 22:00. 16 hours on duty another long day.

Some photos, one showing a loaded Canpotex potash hopper these are like the ones we spotted at the Ingebright Lake spur south of Fox Valley, the others show some LPG tank cars for loading butane and propane, the one view shows a LPG spotted at a small loading spur.
Loaded potash hopper
LPG tank car
LPG tank cars being loaded

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Posted on 07-11-2010
Filed Under (Alberta Saskatchewan 1970s, CPR, Many Jobs and Trades) by Broken Rail

After a short night in bed the alarm rang at 05:00, time to get up for breakfast and get back to work at 06:00, seeing that there was no bunkhouse attendant to call us we went on pay an hour earlier for doing this, by a mutual local agreement with the company. After washing up I went to the caboose where Conductor Harold Heglund was busy cooking us breakfast of ham and eggs, toast and coffee, for which he charged us two dollars. Harold hired on in Lethbridge, Alberta during the war in 1941, he usually worked out of there in the summer on a sugar beet switcher, but in the winter he preferred to work at Burstall, the advantage of having every night in bed, and weekends at home. After a good hearty breakfast, and the second cup of coffee it was time to get back to our duties, our first move was to get the locomotives off of the shop track where they had sat idling all night, the CPR at the time never shutdown their diesel locomotives, fuel was cheap, and the locomotives were water-cooled and would freeze up pretty quickly if the engine shut down. With the crew on board we ran back down the McNeill Spur, where the loading crew at the Empress plant had been busy during the evening loading 24 LPG cars, going down the main track at McNeill we checked out the list that was in the bill box fastened to the gate at the entrance to the plant, it said that all cars were loaded and ready to be pulled, and the 24 cars in McNeill Track 1 were okay to spot.

A word about CPR Bill boxes, at every elevator track, loading spur, and plant across the system there is a bright yellow bill box mounted on a wooden post, or attached to a station, or entrance to a plant. They are made of galvanized sheet-metal, and I remember making them at the CPR’s Ogden Shops, and were probably manufactured at other major repair facilities such as Weston Shops in Winnipeg, and Angus Shops in Montréal. Their dimensions were 18 inches wide, 10 inches high, and 10 inches in depth, they had a sloped top, and the lid was hinged at the back, and on the front was a staple and hasp for securing it with a standard CPR switch lock. On the right-hand side there was a shielded slot like a mailbox so paperwork could be placed into the box, and be protected from the elements of rain and snow. Every car loaded by a shipper would have a waybill, and for special dangerous commodities like propane, there were emergency response forms. These were collected by the train conductor and would accompany the train to any stopping point along the system, and the documents would be kept in the Yard office, until forwarded along with the car to its next destination.

With the gates opened, we lined ourselves up behind the locomotives for McNeill Track 2, once again we took off the derails, and checked that the blue flags to protect the loaders were down.
Blue flag
Blue Flags and Blue Flag protection, any workman on railway equipment, whether it be railway employees from the diesel shops, Carmen who repair rolling stock on tracks, and loaders, warehouseman, and shippers can protect themselves from any railway employee from unintentionally coupling onto, or moving railway equipment with Blue Flag protection, only the workers doing such work can put up a blue flag, and only the class of worker can remove them, so there is no confusion, if more than one type of worker is repairing or loading equipment, each will put up their own protection. On tracks the blue flag is usually clamped to the rail on both ends of the track to be protected, on a loading spur just in front of the cars being loaded, in addition to the flag a blue light is used at night. on locomotives the blue flag is attached to the window on the operator side, or sometimes mounted on the control stand by using these devices accidents are prevented.

We coupled onto the cars in the North loading rack need couplings were required, cut in the air brakes, removed the handbrakes, and doubled over to the South loading rack coupled it together and pulled 24 loads of LPG into McNeill Track 2 where we secured them with sufficient hand brakes, uncoupled and tied onto the 24 empties in McNeill Track 1 that we had left there last night, Charlie lined us up and we shoved the empty LPG’s to the South loading rack for spotting, these loading tracks have metal stairs that go up to a scaffolded structure that supports a cat walk for the workers to access the tops of the LPG tank cars where there are valves for loading. The scaffolding also supports the pipes that transfer the liquefied Propane and Butane from the plant. The LPG cars are mostly a standard length, they have a tare weight (empty) of 35 tons, and gross weight (loaded) of 135 tons, so they hold 100 tons of product. Along the catwalk there are handrails, with chains across, and a hinged platform that is supported by cables, and can be moved up and down onto the top of the tank car at the loading stations, so it is necessary to make sure the top loading valve lines up with these platforms, most of them do line up, but some the tank car must be uncoupled from the other ones for a proper spot. After we have finished spotting we lock the gates, and return to Burstall for a coffee break, and to get our potash empties for our trip down the Burstall Subdivision to Fox Valley and the Ingebright Lake Spur. In our CPR operating timetable under Burstall Footnotes it states “Engine arriving at Burstall on No. 70 (which we did on Monday) must retain all train orders and may assume schedule of No.72 of the following day and leave Burstall without a clearance. No. 72 was a Fourth Class scheduled to leave Burstall on Tuesdays, and Thursdays departing at 06:01 and arriving at Fox Valley 08:00. After going through the grain farming community of Hilda, Pivot, where there was a 6.8 mile spur to the town of Schuler in Alberta, and the towns of Horsham, Richmound, and Linacre we arrived at Fox Valley mile 69.5 About 13:00 and went over to the local Chinese restaurant for some lunch, it was a interesting old family restaurant, and in the front showcase was a Red Fox stuffed and mounted, along with a ring-necked pheasant. During lunch our plans for the afternoon, we agreed to all chip in $20 and give it to Charlie for him to buy groceries to feed us lunch and supper for the remainder of the week. We then left Charlie and the caboose in Fox Valley where he went to do the grocery shopping, and cook up supper, while Harold and I went down to switch the potash plant at Ingebright Lake, we cut off our 10 potash empties and proceeded the 11.37 miles down the plant at the track speed of 15 miles an hour, with slow orders, and snowdrifts to plow through it us about one hour to get there. We checked our list at the bill box, and we did the required switching bringing out about 8 loads, and one bad order empty that was unfit for loading. The switching took us over two hours, there had been a lot of drifting snow here over the weekend and all the track switches were drifted in and had to be cleaned out.
CPR switch broom & shovel
CPR switch broom plastic bristles
CPR switch broom ice pick
CPR switch broom brand 1980
CPR shovel handle brand
In the wintertime on the CPR section forces set up on a stand a shovel and special track broom at every switch across the system in Canada, they were all marked CPR this was done so they could be identified in case of theft, the shovel handle is marked “Garant” the manufacturer and “CPR” in red paint, the switch broom handle is branded in the wood “CPR 80″ for 1980 the year it was placed in service. They were attached to a metal stand with a hook on one end to hang the shovel on, and a short piece of pipe welded horizontally on the other end that holds the switch broom handle. The shovel is used for shoveling out large accumulations of snow, and the broom made of course plastic straws with a metal point on the other end. The broom is used to sweep the snow out between the switch points, and the bars of the switch mechanism located between the ties, the other end is used as an ice pick to breakout ice that accumulates in the switches mechanism when the snow melts and freezes during weather fluctuations of the Canadian winter. On the main line where there are many electrically remote controlled power switches, they are equipped with propane powered heaters, that are controlled by the Train Dispatcher. These are very helpful especially in mountain territories where there can be very large accumulations of snow.

So we arrived back in Fox Valley about 18:00, turned our units on the Wye so we had the correct unit leaving for our train orders, this required more sweeping of switches, assembled our train and coupled onto the caboose carefully, and went back to caboose for a nice hot home-cooked meal that Charlie had prepared for us during the afternoon. Charlie hired on the CPR in 1949 originally as a passenger trainman, in the mid-1960s when many CPR passenger trains were discontinued in Canada, there was a surplus of passenger trainmen that were furloughed. The company and the union representing the trainmen worked out an agreement where the furloughed passenger trainmen would be dovetailed into the freight conductors and trainmen’s seniority lists with a seniority date of November 3, 1970. Charlie had done wonders, cooking on the cast-iron stove, with its small oven attached to the side. He had cooked a roast, with mashed potatoes, vegetables, a garden salad, and had baked us on apple pie. After finishing this delicious meal, Harold, Pat, and I did the dishes.

CPR 213 VAN cast-iron stove
CPR 213 VAN cast-iron stove top
CPR 213 VAN cast-iron stove front view
CPR 213 VAN oven door
CPR 213 VANI oven door inside
CPR 213 VAN oven compartment

Example of the McClary’s “CPR No. 213 VAN” cast-iron caboose stove that Charlie cooked our supper on. The McClary Manufacturing Company (Ltd.) built these stoves in its manufacturing plant at London, Ontario. These cast-iron stoves burned coal or coal briquettes as shown here that the CPR had made for them by one of the coal mines in Alberta, most of the coal we used was East Coulee bituminous soft lump coal, from the Atlas Mine in the Drumheller Valley. This side view shows you the unique oven compartment attached to the right-hand side of the stove, and also the shovel used for feeding the fire; also notice the iron guard rail on the top of the stove to prevent the kettle or coffee pot from falling off when the caboose was in motion. The top view shows the two plates to cook off of, and the front view of another stove of mine shows from top to bottom the fire box door with its inspection window to check the fire, and adjust the draft, the next cover is opened and a poker can be inserted to break up clinkers that sit on top of the fire grate, the square shaped protrusion sticking through the oval slot is attached to the fire grate and a handle is attached to shake the fire grate so the ashes from the fire will fall into the ash pan that is located inside the drawer at the bottom, there is a sliding baffle on this door that can be opened to create draft for the fire. Here are two views of the cast-iron oven door, it is hinged on the right side, and has a latch and handle on the left, the relief casting shows a caboose on tracks, with a center cupola, smoke coming out the chimney, and “McCLARY VAN” on the side under the windows, (Van was another railway word for caboose). Another view with the oven door open shows the interior with a hot plate on the bottom, and the rear door relief casting of the McCLARY VAN stove. The front door has a Serial No. “VAN ° H468 R”

In order to get back to Burstall we once again referred to the footnotes on our timetable that stated “Engine arriving at Fox Valley on No. 72 must retain all train orders and may assume schedule of No. 71 of the same day and leave Fox Valley without a clearance.” The schedule of No. 71 was a Fourth Class Freight that departed Tuesdays and Thursdays from Fox Valley at 12:01 arriving Burstall at 14:00. With this authority we headed back to Burstall arriving around 21:20. Our work was not finished yet, we had to go back down to McNeill we had one spot of 24 cars that we had left on the west leg of the Wye we coupled onto them and shoved them down into McNeill 3, cut them off and ran through McNeill 1 to tie onto the loads, which we doubled over and pulled back into McNeill 1, tied onto our empties in McNeill 3 and spotted them up returning to Burstall and tieing up at 23:30 after being on duty 17 hours and 30 minutes.

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