Posted on 28-01-2012
Filed Under (Alberta 1970s, CPR) by Broken Rail

About April I remember a particular trip that was different from our usual tours of duty. The company’s officials were out making an inspection of the Langdon Subdivision, to do this they had a specially modified four-wheel-drive Chevy suburban SUV that could travel on both the highways, and the railway. This vehicle was called a Hi-rail track inspection van, and was numbered M-101, it had ordinary tires for driving on the highway, and hydraulically controlled 12 inch diameter track wheels for traveling on the railway, the vehicle could be driven on the highway up to any railway crossing and parked parallel to the rails, and with the hydraulics it would be lifted up to travel on the railway, the steering wheel was locked, and the power train of the vehicle transferred its power through idler pulleys that connected the rubber tires to small track wheels that would propel the Hi-rail at speeds up to 50 Miles per hour being a suburban type of vehicle there was lots of room for four people, and their luggage in the back.

We usually owned the railway once we left the mainline of the Brooks Subdivision at Shepard, and we ran as a Work Extra that allowed us to move in both directions, as long as we followed the set schedule of the assignment Monday and Wednesday from Shepard to Wimborne, Tuesday and Thursday from Wimborne to East Coulee, and Wednesday and Saturday East Coulee to Shepard, with side trips down the Irricana subdivision as necessary. Now with the M-101 in the picture on this Monday, we had more than two trains operating, so we had to have a different set of orders clearing us as an Extra North 8836 on the Langdon subdivision, with orders to take the siding at Acme to meet Extra South M-101, they were coming from East Coulee that afternoon. We did all our regular work up to Acme and pulled our train into the siding, we went over and had lunch and returned waiting for the arrival of the Extra South M-101, of course they all had to be on our toes, as these were company officials and could stop and question us to see that we had our proper documentation such as rules qualification cards up to date, along with our railway watch inspection cards, and look for any other infraction of, the rules.

Our Superintendent from Medicine Hat was William R. Flett, a stern disciplinarian and not known for civility, he would be accompanied by the Master Mechanic, who would share the driving of the Hi-rail vehicle, along with the Divisional Engineer who would inspect the track conditions, and the Roadmaster who was responsible for all the section forces on the subdivisions. Our conductor Fred Foulston was a little nervous, in light of the fact that he had just got his rights back to work as a conductor after being demoted for rules violations many years ago by Bill Flett. We were waiting in the caboose, and the head end crew were on the locomotive awaiting there were arrival so we could proceed northward to Wimborne, we waited for over an hour but there was no sign of them. Finally the hotel manager came over from town and told Fred that he was supposed to phone the CPR dispatcher’s office in Calgary, Fred returned and got all our train orders, and returned to the hotel to take new ones from the dispatcher over the telephone. Evidently what had happened was that the hi-rail vehicle was coming around the sharp curve on the Wye at Cosway 2 miles north of us, when they left the rails and crashed into a ditch along the right-of-way, fortunately nobody was badly injured, and they had called for taxis to take them back to their head quarters. So with all our old orders annulled, and new ones for us to operate as a work extra we were able to proceed, going past Cosway we could see the hi-rail vehicle laying on its side in the muddy ditch, a tow truck was on hand to pull it out. So I never got a chance to meet Mr. Flett, which was fine with me.

When I worked at Ogden¬† locomotive repair shop in 1966, I remember seeing out on the scrap dock¬† an old 12 cylinder Cadillac hi railtrack inspection vehicle from 1930′s, it was painted in Tuscan red, with the Canadian Pacific shield on the doors, and have a heavy frame made of 8 inch I-beams, with large 30 inch drivers. I wondered how fast they could get this hi rail inspection vehicle going.


1.) Hi rail Chevy suburban track inspection vehicle

2.) CPR hi rail track inspection vehicle later model numbered SK 101 (SK for Saskatchewan)

3.) CPR 1929 Packard M 600 hi rail inspection vehicle, notice turntable mechanism underneath.

4.) Another CPR 1930s M 820 hi rail inspection car, this is the one I might have seen at Ogden in 1966.

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