We were doing your regular switching at the Shell Sulfur Plant at Wimborne Alberta June 27, 1974 we have left Alyth that morning  with the CP 8641 called for 08:00 The crew was Fred Foulston, Conductor, Grant Cunningham, Locomotive Engineer, Head End Brakeman, Len Edwards, and Larry Buchan Tail End Brakeman. The usual procedure on arriving at Wimborne was to set the empty grain boxcars over to the elevator track, and leave the caboose in the siding spotted close to the engineer’s bunkhouse, the typical wooden structure used by sectionmen for accommodations out of town, these structures had a bedroom on one end with, one bed for the engineer, and one bed for the firemen. They had oil heaters, a kitchen area with water supplied, a table to eat off of, and a telephone for the conductor to contact car control at Medicine Hat, and the Train Dispatcher at Calgary when tieing up in the evening. A local woman in the town would provide fresh bedding each trip, and do general housekeeping in the bunkhouse. Once we had set off our caboose we would proceed with our empty sulfur loading tanks up the Meers Spur 2.72 miles to the Shell Oil Co. gas plant to switch the facility. There was a 30 car length run around track situated South of the plant that we would pull all our empties up into, and cut them off in the clear, putting the cars into emergency braking, by opening the ankle cock, opening it fully on tell all the air had evacuated, the ankle cock on the North end next to the engine was then closed, and a handbrake secured as a safety precaution against any unintentional movement, with the locomotive cut off, we would proceed northwards and line our self out of the run around on the North end, the track them preceded straight northward to the tank loading track, and to the left there was a North spur, that curved around a large pile of sulfur and used for loading bulk sulfur, which they were doing at this time, the track was used primarily for storage of extra cars, and No. Bills (loaded tank cars awaiting shipping information). We brought our engine up to the locked gates in front of the plant where are switch lists and loading bills were waiting for us in the locked yellow CPR bill box attached to the front gate. The instructions were pretty straightforward, we had brought eight empty tank cars from Wimborne, the four-inch by 10 inch blue paper list had a header;
Canadian Pacific (in script) CSC 10 (form number)
CUSTOMER Service CENTRE (Service in script), SHEET 1

There were four columns with 20 spaces.


Tk Track UTLX 63113 L N/B N. SPUR
Tk Track UTLX 60358 L              LIFT.
Tk Track CGTX 12322 L          LIFT
Tk Track UTLX 60709 L                LIFT.
Tk Track CGTX 15014 L    N/B N. SPUR
Tk Track CGTX 13224 L  LIFT
Tk Track UTCX 63112 L             LIFT.

So we coupled onto the loads that have been run down south of the loading rack, there was about a dozen cars to the north that held about 25 cars, we removed and brakes, and cut in the air hoses, and the air and stopped short of the North Spur, but was located just north of the run around track, and set the two No Bill cars over, we then lined our self for the straightaway on the run around and pulled our loads down cutting them off on the south end of the run around, and making sure the diverting switch into the run around was restored to normal before bringing the locomotive southward, we then tied on to the empties in the run around and went situated on the point of the movement, where northward out of the run around track up to the loading track where we tried on to the remaining empties, and shoved are six empties back to a spot, with this finished we run back down through the run around track closing the gates unlocking them, restoring the switches to normal, and picked up our five loads of the straightaway of the run around track and preceded southwards to Wimborne.

We had only one locomotive working this trip, and it was starting to act up on us electrically, as we went along, trying to pull the five loads the electrical contactors in the control panels would drop out and the locomotive would quit loading, Grant took a look at the electrical contactors, and figured that if we held them in manually using a wooden broomstick from a corn broom we had in the cab of the locomotive to keep it clean, we should be able to make it back to Wimborne, these contactors are in a high-voltage cabinet that generate up to 600 Volts, so one has to be a very careful doing this, Conductor Fred grabbed the broom and held the contactor shut as we moved along, but finally they overloaded in the locomotive came to a stop with flash over’s of brilliant sparks, and electrical smoke filling up the cab, this locomotive was toasted, and we grabbed our bags and walked a mile and a half back to the caboose and bunkhouse in Wimborne. There we tied up for the night, advising the Chief Train Dispatcher that our locomotive disabled, and we needed new power to continue our tour of duty. So we had a good night sleep and woke up to a beautiful summer morning, and ate a leisurely breakfast, Conductor Fred phoned the dispatchers office to find out what the plan was, evidently they were short of crews and power and we would not see any relief until at least 20:00 that evening, so we spent the day leisurely, there was a great fishing hole in the bush just southwest of the wye the head end brakeman Len and Grant went fishing to catch some for lunch, I just hung around the caboose, doing some cleaning up, that included taking apart and thoroughly cleaning our caboose markers finally around 20:31 the relief train showed up. The crew was locomotive engineer Ted Washbrook and conductor Al Muiren, Brakemen Art Ressler, and Jerry Bray they had brought us a newer DRS-2000 CP 3002  along with a SW-1200 CP 8125 series, that had used in the yard many years now. This was to take them back home, and they figured they would return caboose hop, the chief dispatcher had other ideas about that and instructed them to run ahead of us taking the loads of sulfur from Wimborne along with our dead locomotive, they weren’t too happy about this, and with a lot of grumbling did what they were told to do. We had followed them out of town at about: 21:30, and had a fairly long night ahead of us running down to East Coulee, and spotting the elevators along the way. One funny thing I do remember was that old CP 8125 then had not seen any hard road service service in many years, and it’s exhaust stacks were plugged up with an accumulation of soot, and carbon when forced to work so hard pulling these loads sulfur across the Acme Subdivision lots of sparks had flew and started spot fires all along the right-of-way, we branched off on the Langdon subdivision eastward at Cosway tieing up at East Coulee at 04:25, we made six hours layaway pay when we were delayed from our regular start time at Wimborne that paid as an extra 75 miles.


Electrical control panel from an EMD CPR 1200SW 8100 series locomotive, the electrical contactors are the three slots on the left-hand bottom of the picture, and are the same as our unit at Wimborne, this is where Fred held them closed with a broomstick when our locomotive had its meltdown on the Meers spur near Wimborne in the summer of 1974.

CP 3002 taken by Mark Forseille at Port Cocquitlam B.C. In 2006 looking freshly painted in its new Canadian Pacific livery 32 years after our trip with her.

CP 8125 taken by C. Prution at Kamloops, B.C. on June 27, 1975, one year to the day we made our trip to Wimborne wearing the CP Rail livery that the locomotives were painted in at that time.
You can see how hot these engines ran by the burnt paint on the top of the exhaust stacks.

CP 8641 photo taken by John Leming at Slocan City, B.C. on March 31, 1977 this GP9 was built by GMD in February 1957, it looks freshly painted in the CP Rail livery, and it’s quite possible that it had total rebuild after we fried the electrical system at Wimborne in June 1974

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Posted on 27-04-2012
Filed Under (Alberta 1970s, CPR) by Broken Rail

Medicine Hat, Alberta April 15th, 1974
FJ Dickinson Calgary
Car Control Alyth
Conductor Handling Zone Three Wayfreight Ex Alyth Date
Leave Alyth With All Traffic to Go Spot the Shorthauls as Directed by CSC Alyth
Including the Bulldozer for Wimborne

Make Sure This Cars on Spot at Shepard
1CP 249813B 3522 Shepard 7450 9513 #TAIWOOPRLLBR #0411
6CP 249813 Make Sure This Cars on Spot Just West of A03

Lift The Following Cars at Shepard

1CP 360710H 8025 Beiseker 7525 7325 #DIVENGI BALAST
1CP 360785H 8025 Beiseker 7525 7325 #DIVENGI BALAST
6CP 360785, 360710 To Be Unloaded Mileage 30.9 Langdon Sub.
1CP 110986B 0522 Sharples 7519 5002 #ALBWEPOPPRDRS
6CP 110986 Spot at AWP A 01
1CP 301864F 5228 Drumhell 7511 8580N #DrumhelCOLBR
2UP      17157H 27 WIMBORNE 7540 9088S #MOBILOILETY
2UP     16824H 26 WIMBORNE 7540 9088S #MOBILOILETY
2UP     16054H 26 WIMBORNE 7540 9088S #MOBILOILETY
2UP     17594 H 26 WIMBORNE 7540 9088S #MOBILOILETY
2UP     18160 H 26 WIMBORNE 7540 9088S #MOBILOILETY
2UP     16878 H 26 WIMBORNE 7540 9088S #MOBILOILETY
2UP     18803 H 26 WIMBORNE 7540 9088S #MOBILOILETY
2UP     18016 H 26 WIMBORNE 7540 9088S #MOBILOILETY
2 UP    18893 H 27 WIMBORNE 7540 9088S #MOBILOILETY
2 UP    18564 H 27 WIMBORNE 7540 9088S #MOBILOILETY
2 UP    17326 H 27 WIMBORNE 7540 9088S #MOBILOILETY

Here is our work assignment list from FJ Dickinson, Chief Dispatcher, and CPR Car Control Alyth on Monday April 15, 1974, it has all the usual instructions, and one interesting note about making sure we do not leave Alyth without the bulldozer for Wimborne, what that was all about I didn’t know, but would find out soon enough. There was a note about a car to spot at Shepard:

1CP 249813B 3522 Shepard 7450 9513 #TAIWOOPRLLBR #0411
The computer language shows us that 1CP 249813B is a load, if it was an empty 2 would proceed CP then we have the car number and the B which stands for boxcar 3522 is a consignment number to Shepard whose station number is 7450, the 9513 is the station where the car was shipped from probably in British Columbia and is consigned to #TAIWOOPRLBR#0411 which is abbreviated Tai Wood Preservers Lumber a plant that processed Cedar lumber, and shingles.
6CP 249813 Make Sure This Cars on Spot Just West of A03
This Line is called a 6 card and has additional information about the car, in this case instructions on where the car is to be spotted A03 is In Alberta Wheat Pool elevator on the West End of the backtrack at Shepard so the car would be placed just to the west of the elevator.
1CP 360710H 8025 Beiseker 7525 7325 #DIVENGI BALAST
1CP 360785H 8025 Beiseker 7525 7325 #DIVENGI BALAST
6CP 360785, 360710 To Be Unloaded Mileage 30.9 Langdon Sub.
Next we have two loads to lift for Beiseker the H shows us that it is a hopper car consigned to the #DIVENGI BALAST the stands for the Divisional Engineer Ballast, and the 6 card indicates that the two loads of ballast are to be unloaded at mileage 30.9 of the Langdon Subdivision that is located 1/2 mile south of Beiseker
1CP 110986B 0522 Sharples 7519 5002 #ALBWEPOPPRDRS
6CP 110986 Spot at AWP A 01
There was one loaded CPR boxcar consigned to Sharples the consignee #ALBWEPOPPRDRS which stands for Alberta Wheat Pool Grain Doors, the CPR provided all the elevator companies with boxcars of lumber, and cardboard steel band reinforced sheeting to cooper the doorways of boxcars so they could be loaded with grain. The 6 card says that the car is to be placed on spot at AWP (Alberta Wheat Pool Elevator) A 01
The remainder of our lift at Shepard was for 1 flatcar of lumber for Drumheller, 5 empty tank cars for sulfur loading loading at Wimborne, and 11 empty Union Pacific hoppers for bulk sulfur loading at Wimborne, those empty hoppers brought back memories, Alberta with its vast petrochemical industry ships lots of bulk sulfur by rail through British Columbia to the Western seaports around Vancouver, British Columbia has stringent shipping regulations were all sulfur must be prilled a process that granulates it into a pelletized, or crumbled form that cuts down on the amount of dust you end up with when sulfur is just crushed and shipped that way. There was a substantial stockpile of bulk sulfur at the Wimborne plant, and to cut down on expenses a proposal was drafted to ship bulk sulfur from Wimborne down through southern Alberta to the US border in Union Pacific hopper cars, they were then routed through the United States to Portland and this would circumvent the rules BC had about prilling bulk sulfur. So that spring they started the program as a test project with an order for about three train loads, to see the feasibility of the operation. I remember handling some of this traffic on the wayfreight, and riding back in the caboose was not a very desirable place to be, lots of sulfur dust blew off the tops of these open top hoppers, and are old caboose was very drafty the sulfur dust would get in through the window frames, and door jams, everything smelled like sulfur, and when riding in the cupola I had to wear goggles otherwise the dust would get in your eyes and burn like sulfuric acid, the track itself that spring was in very poor condition, and running this heavy traffic didn’t help, there were other freight crews bringing up train loads of empty hoppers, but the weight one loaded caused a couple of derailments, with the company not wanting to commit any money into maintaining the track, as you can see we had 2 carloads of ballast to fill in some bad spots South of Beiseker, which was kind of the Band-Aid approach that didn’t amount to much. After running about two trains the program was quietly terminated, and we went back to just handling tank carloads of liquid sulfur from the plant.

Finally at the end of the day I found out what the bulldozer was for, evidently over the weekend the plant loaders had ran some loaded cars down from the tank loading spur using the handbrakes to control their speed, evidently it didn’t work too good as they smashed two or three loads into some stationary ones, that resulted in a derailment with one tank flipped over on its side loaded with 100 tons of liquid sulfur, the solution to the problem was quite simple they unloaded the bulldozer from the flatcar up at the plant, and used it to dig a big ditch in the ground alongside the derailed car, open up the valves and let the 100 tons of liquid sulfur flow into the ditch, re-rail the car, and cover-up the ditch with dirt, a variation of the old shoot, shovel, and shut up theory.

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In May 2004 we had to make a move at Nacmine going westbound, there was an empty flatcar on the east end of the storage siding, that we had to pick up next to the caboose. Rather than pull out all 30 cars from storage to set one car over, we decided to make a “drop” or running switch from the east end of the siding on to the caboose sitting on the mainline, this move usually involves three people, but we thought we could do it with two, as Fred was over in the Nacmine Hotel phoning car control in Medicine Hat, for information on cars for us to lift along the line. To do the “drop” correctly you usually have one man at the switch lead East of the storage siding, one man on the running board of the diesel locomotive to uncouple the car, and the third man riding the handbrake to control coupling speed onto the caboose. So we thought we could do the quick move with two men, Len Edwards the head end brakeman, was down at the switch where he had tested it to see that it was operating all right. I was on the footboard of the locomotive, I gave the engineer the go-ahead signal, that got us moving about 6 or 7 miles an hour, I then gave him a nod of my head to indicate I wanted some slack action so I could pull the operating lever and disconnect from the flatcar, Len had switch lined for the diverging route and the locomotive sped ahead to clear the adjacent track, Len restored the switch to normal position so the flatcar could run towards the stationary caboose, I then tried to catch the tail end of the empty flatcar, but unfortunately it was going too fast for me, flat cars are one of the hardest pieces of equipment to get onto when they are moving, there is only a stirrup for your feet, and a grab iron  that is level with the deck of the flat car that I missed getting on to operate the handbrake, the outcome was that the flatcar crashed into the caboose going about 8 miles an hour, some of our breakfast dishes had fallen on the floor but fortunately did not break, as they were made from melamine, water from our storage containers had splashed all over the floor, but the worst casualty was Fred’s favourite porcelain coffee cup, it was sitting on the floor in little pieces, and I was now back in Fred’s bad book.

About a week later we were leaving Wimborne southbound for our trip back to Calgary, we had a hold of about 12 loads of grain, and six tank cars loaded with liquid sulfur. I was busy doing the breakfast dishes, when the head end phoned us to let us know that there was a car about six cars from the caboose that was smoking, this would either be a handbrake not taken off, or possibly a hotbox were the axle journal overheats, and has to be attended to by putting in a new journal lubricating pad, and adding Galena grease a special blend made for the CPR for overheated bearings. Anyways, Fred walked up the six car lengths to check out the situation, and corrected it by releasing a hand brake that was applied and we had missed putting the train together. Fred came back to the caboose and started in on me, giving me a lengthy tirade about how lazy and incompetent a brakeman I was, and if I did smarten up he’d have me kicked off his crew. He said that I should’ve dropped everything I was doing and walk up with him to help attend to the disabled car, I listened to his lecture all the way to Acme, where we took a break for lunch, after lunch he had settled down a bit, and was giving me the silent treatment. We did our lift at Beiseker, and proceeded to the next town of Irricana, or we had 30 empty covered Hopper cars in storage, and we were instructed to lift them all so they could go to the fertilizer plant at West Carseland for loading, we were also told to put one car next to the caboose as it had brand-new wheelsets, and had to right next to the caboose where we could observe it. So we pulled our train of 40 cars right down and I cut off the caboose on the mainline, pulling by the South siding switch, and walking back to line the backtrack switch, and remove the derail. I cut the air in, and released the handbrakes on the south end, and radioed the engineer to pull ahead when the air had pumped off, as the cars were going by me. I was checking my list for the car number that was supposed to go next to the caboose, I soon realized the car we are looking for was five from the tail end of the cut, and we had run foul of the main track by about three car lengths, realizing this I told the engineer to stop and backup towards the backtrack, so I could cut off the car for the caboose, which I did. I then returned the movement and tied onto the backtrack, and told the engineer to pull ahead again, than all hell broke loose, Len the head end man was looking back from the east side and started to see cars derailing, and told the engineer to stop. What had evidently happened was that Fred out stumbling around, and writing down car numbers, had inadvertently placed the derail back into the derailing position, I was unaware of this, and learned that you can back over a derail safely, but soon as you go ahead the derail will do its job and start derailing cars going over it. There wasn’t much ballast in this old elevator track, it was mostly coal cinders from the steam era, so the cars although empty they sank quite deeply into the ballast. There was nothing that we can do about it today, so we left the cars as they were, and would get the Alyth Car Department to assist us in re-railing lease cars the next day on our trip outward from Alyth.

The next day, Thursday we were ordered out of Alyth for 08:00, and our work message said that the Alyth Car Department would meet us at Irricana to help re-rail the derailed hopper cars. We arrived at 11:00, the carmen had arrived earlier with their rush repair pickup truck, loaded up with tools and blocks and wedges of hardwood, and were busy digging around the first derailed car to prepare it for getting it back onto the rails, we stopped our train South of the main track switch and cut off running our locomotive up to the switch, after lining the switch towards the derailed cars, we pulled up closer to talk to the carmen, they said they were just about ready to re-rail the first car, every locomotive on the CPR is equipped with a 7/8 inch wrecking cable that’s about 16 feet long, with a loop braided on each end, and with slid able cast-iron hooks on the cable itself, they are for handling cars with broken draft gears, when needed to set a disabled car over, they are located inside the hatchway covering the diesel engine, all locomotives are a little equipped with cast-iron re-railer’s, they are painted bright yellow, and they are quite heavy, weighing about 140 pounds, they are suspended underneath the running boards on each side of the locomotive. They are moved to the rail near the car and are spiked to the railway ties and the car could be pulled onto them for rerailing it. In this case the carmen was well-equipped, and seeing that the cars were empty we did not have to use them.


1.) Porcelain Coffee Cup similar to the one belonging to Fred Foulston that I broke at Nacmine, Alberta

2.) Irricana grain elevators CNR to the left, and the CPR to the right, the CNR ran parallel to us on the East side on their Three Hills Subdivision until we were about 3 miles from Beiseker where the CNR went over topof us, and continued on northward on the West side of Beiseker. Irricana and Beiseker where the only two stations served by both the CPR, and CNR on these Alberta branch lines that I can recall.

3.) View from South switch Irricana looking North on our arrival our locomotives on the mainline storage box cars in the siding and the two derailed cars on the right line towards the elevator track.
4.) Derailed covered fertilizer hoppers, carmen with yellow helmet working around cars, their rush repair truck visible to the right, it is well-equipped with all the tools and materials necessary for this job. storage boxcars in the siding, and grain elevator visible above the roof of the CPR Carmen’s repair truck.

5.) Derailed covered hoppers, with Conductor Fred Foulston evaluating the situation, our train cut off on the mainline South of the main track switch. at least the weather was nice that summer day, and helped to get the work done faster than if it had been raining.
6.) Derailed CPR 380043 covered hopper, and other derailed hopper looking eastward. Under the cars member CP 380043 which were all covered hoppers on the CPR fleet, and were used primarily for moving bulk commodities like fertilizer, cement, steel filings, and other weather sensitive products. you can see the cars reporting marks that show it’s Capacity 158,000 Pounds or 79 Tons Load Limit shows the same, Light Weight shows 52,000 Pounds or 26 Tons these hoppers had circular portals on the roof for loading, and geared gates on the bottom that could be opened to facilitate unloading.

7.) View of derailed covered hopper cars taken from mainline looking Southeast, tail end brakeman Larry Buchan standing beside first hopper.
8.) View looking Southeast at derailed covered hoppers, our locomotives are on the mainline and our train is visible further South.

9.) Head end brakeman Len Edwards with blue cap helps the two carmen wearing yellow hard hats hook up the wrecking cable between the front coupler of the locomotive, and the coupler on the first derailed covered hopper.

10.) CPR Work Extra 8693 with locomotive engineer Stan McPhredan starting to slowly back up our locomotive to get the first set of derailed wheels back onto the track, the usual procedure would be to uncouple the two cars, re-rail the first car and set it over out of the way, then re-rail the second car. This procedure took about 45 min., and we were on our way to Wimborne

11.) CPR Work Extra at Wimborne, Alberta. Locomotive Engineer Stan McPhredan, and Head end brakeman Len Edwards.

(1) Comment   
Posted on 13-04-2012
Filed Under (Alberta 1970s, CPR, Many Jobs and Trades) by Broken Rail

In the spring of 1974 CPR had a chronic shortage power to run their trains, so they leased units from the Precision National Corporation I notice looking through my trip ticket books on March 23, 1974 we had PNC 114 for power on a Sharples turn. Next appearance was May 1, 1974 Zone 3 Wayfreight we had PNC 116 for power going from Alyth to Wimborne returning to Alyth the next day, and again on May 15, 1974 working a Sharples turn. On May 22, 1974 we had PNC 111 for power on a Sharples turn. And on May 29, 1974 we had PNC 111 and PNC 114 on a Carbon turn. On May 30, 1974 we had PNC 123 from Alyth to Tudor to Wimborne. On May 31, 1974 we ran from Wimborne to East Coulee and made a Finnegan turn returning to Alyth on June 1, 1974. These units were painted dark green with yellow lettering and PNC on the engine hatch, some of them had a painted logo under the cab’s windows a machinist’s micrometer and draftsman’s T-square, and the cab interiors were painted a horrible dark green that made a real depressing working environment in my opinion. These locomotives had seen better days, and Precision National Corporation, a company based out of Chicago had put them together from locomotives discarded from the other big carriers in the United States, some changes to the paint schemes were made, and the number boards on the units were changed to PNC, and the number. They were not very reliable always breaking down on the road, I remember on one occasion coming back from East Coulee to Alyth when one of these units started acting up from low water alarms, they leaked so much water, in order to keep going with the tonnage we were handling we had to get some 5 gallon pails from the caboose and a length of rope and get buckets of water from Kneehill Creek and pour it into the locomotives in order to keep moving. Here I was working this Turkey trail with track speed only good for 15 mile an hour, living in a caboose built around 1910 with a cast-iron coal stove for heating, and cooking, and an ice box to keep your food in. To add insult to injury, I would look over to the CNR running up and down their secondary, branch line with modern cabooses powered by electric generators, and fuel oil heaters, and refrigerators, lots of high horsepower locomotives to run their trains with, and decent track with speed limits of 45 mph, sometimes I wondered if I was working for the right company. Of course, that is the difference between a privately owned stock traded company of the CPR where they really knew how to sweat its assets. And the CNR that was crown corporation, a ward of federal government subsidies that kept it going since its incorporation after World War I.


1.) PNC 172 locomotive in 1974.

2.) PNC 1011 logo with “P” made from machinist’s micrometer, and draftsman’s square.

3.) CPR Langdon Sub running along Kneehill Creek, our source for water.

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