July
10
Posted on 10-07-2012
Filed Under (Alberta 1970s, CPR) by Broken Rail

Throughout the 1920s Canadian National and Canadian Pacific added to their prairie branch line network, the federal government approved extensions for both railways, and as suggested by Sir Henry Thornton CNR president the CPR did negotiate running rights over sections of one another’s lines. With the construction of the joint track between Rosedale on the CNR and Trefoil both railways gained access to the coal reserves East of Drumheller. The Trefoil-Rosemary section of this line was built by the CPR and serviced land in the CPR’s central and east irrigation districts. The CNR never worked East of East Coulee

The Rosemary Subdivision ran from Rosemary Mile 0, where there was a junction with the Bassano Subdivision, to East Coulee Mile 53.6 going through Matzwin, Mile 4.8, where there was a wye to service the Gem spur that ran 4.94 miles to service the community and its grain elevators, Verger, Mile 11.7, a siding Control Mile 20.0 that had a mail drop of when the mixed trains used to carry the mail for the community of Hutton, there was also a gravel pit that was used for track ballast, and there was a bridge that crossed the Red Deer River, Bullpound Mile 25.1, had a water tank to service steam engines, Finnegan Mile 30.5, Trefoil Mile 36.7, Dorothy Mile 45.6. My CPR timetable from 1974 shows that the speed limit was 15 mph, with a 5 mph permanent slow orders between Mileages 47.0-48.0 and 17.6-17.9, this due unstable banks and chances of mudslides, and that Trains must not operate between mileage, 17.9 and mileage 29.8, so at that time service on the Rosemary sub was limited to servicing the Gem spur from Rosemary, and Finnegan from East Coulee. Eastward trains out of East Coulee were restricted to daylight operation, and to one unit operation between mileage 29.8 and 53.3. During the 1930s up till the 1950s when coal was replaced by more convenient natural gas for domestic heating, there were many coal mines in the Drumheller Valley, at East Coulee the CPR had built a large yard with the capacity to hold 400 cars, there were eight tracks directionally South of the mainline, and the scale track was adjacent to the mainline on the North side, along with seven storage tracks, The scale track gave the yard, the ability to service weigh, and ship the coal from the mines in the area, coal traffic ran in both directions southbound on the Langdon subdivision through Drumheller down through Langdon and West on the Strathmore subdivision through to Calgary. East traffic ran on the Rosemary subdivision to the junction with the Bassano subdivision, then East to the Empress subdivision, and down to the mainline to Swift Current and eastward through Moose Jaw. Retired conductor Jim McKinnon told me that when he hired on in 1945 he worked out of Empress, Alberta and one of his first trips was from Empress to East Coulee to drop off coal empties for loading at the mines, and to pick up a train load of coal of about 40 cars to take back to Empress, there was usually a train each day running eastward, and before winter set in it was not uncommon to see two trains daily, a lot of the elevator tracks along the subdivision had coal sheds, and agents to distribute the coal for domestic heating in these communities.

I made six trips on the CPR Rosemary Subdivision during 1974, we were called to make Finnegan turns to service the Alberta Wheat Pool elevators at Dorothy, and Finnegan, all these trips were short flips going 23.1 miles in each direction, looking at my CPR trip ticket books for 1974-75 shows the following trips:
May 24 Unit 8411 from 15:00 to 20:40 131 miles five hours and 40 min. total time on duty. Conductor Jim McKinnon, Locomotive Engineer Grant Cunningham
May 31 Unit PNC 123 from 15:00 to 21:20 136 miles, six hours and 20 min. total time on duty. Conductor Jim McKinnon, Locomotive Engineer Grant Cunningham
October 29 Unit 8815 from 14:30 to 21:10 124 miles, six hours and 40 min. total time on duty. Conductor Fred Foulston, Locomotive Engineer Stan McPhedran
November 5 Unit 8822 from 14:50 to 20:35 113 miles, five hours and 45 min. total time on duty. Conductor Fred Foulston Locomotive Engineer Stan McPhedran
And 1975:
Januaray 24 Unit 8833 from 14:00 to 22:20 145 miles, eight hours and 20 min. total time on duty. Conductor Jim McKinnon
February 14 8776 from 14:25 to 21:30 131 miles seven hours and 5 min. total time on duty. Conductor Ron Gauvrau.

I remember stopping at Dorothy after we had finished switching out the elevators, and going over to the general store there, it was very old, with two gas pumps with glass cylinders that the gas was pumped into for filling cars, they were sitting there derelict, the store was run by two old brothers, and who knows what they had stored away in the back rooms. At Finnegan were we turned there was of ferry service that ran across the Red Deer River.

Illustrations:

1.) CPR operating timetable 1973-74 Rosemary Subdivision.
2.) Map of Western Railway lines showing East Coulee to Rosemary circa 1973
3.) East Coulee yard looking geographically West from a hill above the station, I took this picture in the summer of 1975, the yard was full of storage cars waiting disposition for repairs, or scrapping. The mainline runs down the middle, there is a back lead running alongside the little section house for servicing the Atlas mine across the Red Deer river, next to it the ladder track for the eight tracks on the South side of the yard, to the left-hand side of the main track was the scale track, and seven other storage tracks,
4.) East Coulee looking East at Red Deer river, and the countryside where the Rosemary sub ran through
5.) East Coulee station, and yard, mainline in front of station with silver diamond shaped whistle post sign, and silver marker showing the beginning of the Rosemary subdivision. the East Coulee station at the time was all boarded up, and no staff were working there. The CPR had put it up for sale, and a section Foreman from Nacmine Willy Hermann had put a bid of $10 for it, he planned on salvaging all the lumber on this well-built structure. Fortunately, his bid was rescinded, and a local rancher moved the building West of the town, and restored it into a nice ranch house.
6.) Turntable behind East Coulee station, we used this when we had one unit operation, as there was no wye at East Coulee, we would center our locomotive on the turntable deck, until it was perfectly balanced, then we would hook up locomotives train line to an air hose that operated the turntable by a set of geared wheels that traveled on top of a rail the circled the inside rim of the turntable pit, the gears were driven by a modified air pump from a scrapped steam locomotive. in the winter, when the turntable pit filled with snow, the sectionmen would have to be called out to shovel out the snow. Also visible is the bridge tenders shanty on the wooden trestle that crossed the Red Deer River to the Atlas Coal Mine.
7.) Trip to Finnegan May 31, 1974 looking South at cattle, and trees along the Red Deer river.
8.) Alberta Wheat Pool Elevators at Dorothy, Alberta
9.) Alberta Wheat Pool Elevators at Finnegan, Alberta
10.) Return trip going West on Rosemary subdivision.
11.) Rosemary subdivision going West between mile 47 and 48, were there was a permanent 5 mile an hour slower due to slides coming off the embankments on the North side of the track, stray cattle wandering along the right away.
12.) Rosemary subdivision running along Red Deer river approaching East Coulee.
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July
06
Posted on 06-07-2012
Filed Under (Alberta 1970s, CPR) by Broken Rail

The CPR Strathmore subdivision originally part of the Brooks subdivision on the mainline from Gleichen west to Shepard, a distance of 45.2 miles. In the 1900′s track was built south and westward through the communities of Bartstow, Strangmuir, Carseland, Dalemead, and Indus this route was opened in July 1914, and is now the mainline, and part of the Brooks subdivision. This track is 2 miles shorter than the Strathmore subdivision, and was used for eastbound trains, while westbound trains use the Strathmore subdivision creating double track between Shepard and Gleichen, communities on the Strathmore subdivision west of Gleichen were Stobart, Namaka, Strathmore, Cheadle, Langdon (junction with the Langdon subdivision.) and Bennett. On July 28, 1883 6.38 miles of track were laid and it remained as the unchallenged record for the whole transcontinental project, this took place West of Strathmore through Cheadle. The Langdon and Shepard Company the St. Paul, Minnesota contractors who build the line from Winnipeg had finished their contract when the rail reached Calgary 840 miles west of Winnipeg, in their honor the CPR President Cornelius Van Horne named the siding’s 18, and 19 east of Calgary Langdon, and Shepard. When I worked through freight on the Brooks subdivision in the winter of 1973 the elevators and track at Stobart were long gone, and CTC (Centralized Traffic Control.) had installed between Ogden and Gleichen around 1965, and the Strathmore subdivision became a secondary branch line, there was an engineering problem with sinkholes between Stobart and Namaka so it was closed to through traffic, and Stobart was serviced out of Gleichen, and the rest of the subdivision from Langdon.

Strathmore was originally located 4.7 miles East of on the West shore of Eagle Lake it was moved westward on the track to its present location in 1904, and became an important experimental farm for the CPR for growing crops on the prairies, to encourage settlers, and help them get started. As the land was arid the CPR did extensive irrigation projects East of Calgary to Strathmore taking water from the Bow River and irrigating the farmland this was called the Western Irrigation District, another larger project was developed South of Bassano on Bow River were a large dam was built and became a part of the Eastern Irrigation District that extended 40 miles East through the communities of Brooks, and Tilley and the farms to the North and South of these communities. Eagle Lake, which froze over in winter was used by the CPR and hundreds of tons of ice were cut from the lake each winter, stored in ice houses and covered with sawdust, and straw for use for refrigeration in the summer for perishable agriculture products being shipped by the railways, and for passenger equipment refrigeration. The CPR Strathmore subdivision crossed the lake on the southern end, in 1948 serious flooding caused damage to the railway right-of-way so the CPR built a control structure and a drainage ditch from Eagle Lake to Namaka Lake to lower the water level of Eagle Lake to prevent future flooding, a berm that the railway right-of-way ran on still exists, there was also a small bridge that was taken out when the track was abandoned in 1982. My conductor Fred Foulston said that after the line was closed between Stobart and Namaka train crews would often park their caboose on the railway bridge and do some fishing, there are lots of sport fish Walleye, Yellow Perch, and Northern Pike in the lake.

Looking through my time books, I see we made four trips on the Strathmore Subdivision. The first on July 2, 1974 on the way to Wimborne, a turn out of Alyth on August 21, 1974 and another on September 18, 1974 the last trip was on April 2, 1975 at 08:15 we were called to make a Namaka turn on the Strathmore Subdivision, Fred Foulston was the conductor, Jim McKinnon the tail end brakeman, I was the head end brakeman, and Stan McPhredan was a locomotive engineer we had the following power they had scraped up at the Alyth diesel shop 8671 PNC-166 4093, the outgoing power with the 8671 on the point wasn’t to bad, it was having the 4093 a MontrĂ©al Locomotive Works Alco FPA-2 CPR DFA-16e (Diesel Freight “A” unit 1600 hp sub series “e” built November 30, 1953 as a trailing unit was the kicker, while designed for freight and passenger service they were not very good on wayfreight assignments and road switchers that involves lots of movements where you have to ride on the point of the locomotive consist when switching elevator and industrial tracks, while road switchers had platforms, and footboards on each end of the locomotive to ride on quite comfortably, “A” units were equipped with grab irons on side ladders and stirrups like a boxcar to ride on which got to be pretty tiresome by the end of the day. We were off duty at 13:50 making 145 miles for the five hours 35 min. it took to make the round trip.

Illustrations:

1.) CPR Employees Timetable of Strathmore Subdivision April 28, 1963
2.) CPR Employees Timetable October 1973 Map of Brooks and Strathmore subdivisions
3.) CPR track construction 1883 from Omer Lavallee’s book Van Horne’s Road.
4.) Grain elevators at Stobart, Alberta photo from Unifarm Collection.
5.) CPR diesel locomotive 4094 photo by Paul Condonly 1970
6.) Grain elevators at Namaka, Alberta photo from Unifarm Collection.
7.) Grain elevators at Strathmore, Alberta 1972 photo by Dick Clark
8.) Grain elevators at Cheadle, Alberta photo from Unifarm Collection
9.) Alberta topographic map showing Eagle Lake and railway right-of-way berm on bottom.
10.) Map of Railways Western lines showing Strathmore, and Brooks subdivision
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