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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Comments

Zartok-35 on 10 July, 2012 at 9:44 am #

Thankyou for another interesting post! I didn’t know Strathmore had so much history with the railway.
Interesting to hear an ALCo FA made it onto your consist. It seems very rare for such an engine to get that far west, and then onto a road switcher.


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