On January 16th I was called to deadhead on No. 2 to work the next day on the Zone 1 Grain Train assignment, the crew caller told me that the trainman working the job was off for three days to attend his uncle’s funeral. Never believe what a crew caller tells you, it’s usually all lies, which I was to find out soon enough. I arrived at Swift Current went to bed for the evening and was called for 08:00 the conductor was Mars Wolfe, and the locomotive engineer was John Jangula and our lead unit was the 3015, as I said in my last post the weather in Alberta had been fairly mild with the Chinook winds blowing warm air from the Pacific Ocean over the mountains into our province. That was not the case in Saskatchewan where the vengeance of winter went unrelenting, we switched out are assigned caboose, and assembled our train which consisted of about 112 empty grain boxcars and hoppers that we were to take and spot at country elevators along the Empress and Burstall Subdivisions. The CPR at the time were not making very much money for hauling grain to the lakehead East in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and West to the ports in Vancouver, British Columbia, due to the outdated Crowsnest Rate agreement they had made in the 1890s, so their fleet of boxcars for loading grain had deteriorated, the Canadian Government in 1973 started a program where they built and provided the Canadian Railways with brand-new covered hopper cars for the sole purpose of loading grain. The problem with these hopper cars were the day were loaded through hatches in the roof of the car, while boxcars had their doorways sealed off with wooden grain doors and were loaded from the sides, as most country elevators were set up with spouts to load boxcars, they all had to be converted with higher spouts to load the new Canadian Government covered hoppers. So with our train of makes boxcars and covered hoppers we started our journey up the Empress Subdivision, we started spotting the first elevators at Success mile 13.2 there was Saskatchewan Wheat Pool elevator on the east end, two United Grain Growers elevators, then one more Saskatchewan Wheat Pool elevator on the west end they required 12 boxcars, 3 at each elevator, elevator tracks are graded so the boxcars and hoppers will roll downhill. At the east end elevator the cars rolled westward, at the first UGG elevator the cars rolled eastward, the rest of the elevators rolled westward.
National Elevator arrow
National Elevator
Alberta Wheat Pool Arrow
Alberto Week Pool Elevator
I have attached some views of country elevators that have arrows on the railway car loading side, to show the train crews were to spot the empty cars, the loading doors of the first car or hopper are always spotted above the arrow, and this enables the elevator agent to use gravity to roll the cars down as he loads them. At Success the elevator track (also called backtrack) held 33 cars, and the elevators were spaced out so the first elevator on the east end could hold 8 cars on spot, there was room for 12 cars between it and the first UGG elevator, so 8 cars could be loaded and ran down, leaving room for 3 cars to be spotted on the high side of the first UGG elevator that track rolled in the opposite direction, there was room for 3 cars between the 2 UGG elevators, and the last elevator had room for 3 cars. We left 8 empties 2 at each elevator.
Saskatchewan elevators
Here is another view of a typical country community in Saskatchewan showing a CPR siding, and elevator track on the right-hand side of the picture you can see a CPR mainline switch stand with its red target showing when it is lined for the diverging route towards the siding and backtrack, you can see the smaller switch with the green target that is line for the siding that runs adjacent to the main track this one is equipped with a derail that you can see alongside the yellow sign that indicates where it is, by lining the siding switch for the diverging route will take you to the backtrack that is also equipped with a derail, you can see three elevators with their loading spouts raised ready to receive empty cars for loading, the first elevator is a Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, the second a Pioneer painted in its characteristic orange, and the last elevator is a United Grain Growers.

Our next stop was at Pennant mile 22.3 it had two sidings and the 31 car capacity backtrack, there were 3 elevators 2 Pioneer and 1 Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, this situation was a little different than Success where we had a clear backtrack. Here there were 12 cars loaded, and 9 empty cars to spot, so in this case we had to couple all our empties to the loads, making sure that all the spouts from the elevators were in the clear, and that no agent was still loading, with this done we coupled all the loaded cars together and shoved them towards the east end of the backtrack, and would spot the cars on our return trip as we picked up all the loads. Next up Battrum mile 27 with a backtrack and one privately owned elevator marked J. Leverson, some farmers bought abandoned elevators to store their grain in as it was in this case, there was one Saskatchewan Wheat Pool elevator that we had room to spot 4 empties, and shove the 4 loads down clear of the derail for a quick pick up on our return. Cabri mile 34.9 took 9 empties Next was Shackleton mile 42.9 with a backtrack and three UGG elevators that we shoved our 8 empties just clear of the west derail, as the elevator agent had his spout one of the cars he was still loading. Abbey mile 50.7 had 4 Saskatchewan Wheat Pool elevators, where we shoved loads down, and left our empties. Then it was Lancer mile 58.1 with 6 elevators, 3 Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, and 3 Pioneer we left 6 empties there. Portreeve mile 63.9 had 2 Saskatchewan Wheat Pool elevators that we spotted 8 empties, and shoved the loads down for pickup. Lemsford was a repeat of Lancer. Sceptre mile 75.5 had six elevators one Patterson Grain, 3 Pioneers, and 2 Saskatchewan Wheat Pool we left 8 empties there, this required a little bit of switching as the Pioneer elevators were equipped with high loading spouts to accommodate the covered hoppers, so we had to set over 4 boxcars, and go back to our train and set off 4 covered hoppers. Prelate mile 81.7 had 2 Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, 2 Pioneers, and 1 Patterson Grain we set off 12 empty cars. Leader mile 88.2 was a large community and had 2 Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, 3 Patterson Grain Company, and 2 Pioneers, along with Gulf, Imperial, and Shell bulk oil agencies for unloading fuel we switched out 9 empties, we had 4 empties left on our train, we grabbed 40 empties from the siding that we then started down the Burstall Subdivision setting off at the following communities Mendham mile 10.8 8 empties, Burstall mile 24.8 6 empties Hilda mile 38.7 8 empties Horsham mile 50.4 4 empties Richmound 56.8 10 empties, and Fox Valley mile 69.5 12 empties, we turned around and spotted Fox Valley and lifted 10 loads, at Richmound we had to switch out some hoppers for the Pioneer and lifted 12 loads, we spotted and lifted 5 loads from Hilda, 8 loads from Burstall, and 10 loads from Mendham arriving at Leader we put our 45 loads into the siding, and preceded to Empress where we tied up for five hours rest at 04:00 after being on duty 20 hours. We did not stay in our caboose, the station at Empress was empty, and the company had set up for us four beds in what was the old operator’s office. You have to make sure that you put your boots, and belt up high on a chair to keep the mice from chewing on your boot laces and belt. This problem was resolved later when the sectionmen who also used the station found a stray cat that took care of that problem. There was kitchen facilities to cook with, and after our short sleep and a quick breakfast we were on our way back to Leader to start lifting all the grain, and respoting the elevator tracks on the Empress Subdivision, we used the wye at the East End of Empress yard to turn our units in the right direction, the Saskatchewan Alberta border intersected the middle of the Wye so we were in Alberta on the west leg and in Saskatchewan on the east leg, by the time we reached Swift Current we had a pretty heavy train of loaded grain, luckily there were not many grades to cause us to have to double our train, doubling is a railway term that occurs when a train has too much tonnage and stalls, a portion of the train has to be taken to the next siding and set off, the locomotives return for the remaining portion and the train is reassembled at the double over siding, this can be very time-consuming. It was quite late when we arrived, and we were held out of the yard for an hour and a half until some congestion on the mainline had cleared up, by the time we yarded our train was 01:00 a 16 hour day.

(0) Comments    Read More