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 ironĀ  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   


Massey F. Jones on 10 November, 2014 at 1:04 am #

Nice old photos.
Great stories.

Post a Comment