Posted on 08-06-2008
Filed Under (Calgary 1960s, CPR, Many Jobs and Trades) by Broken Rail

Photo by Walter Kot

I have attached a picture of the Powerhouse that was taken in 1961; it shows the sheet metal pipe coming from the Planning Mill to feed shavings to the boilers. We worked in the Powerhouse doing maintenance; one job I remember was running an exhaust pipe from one of the compressors out the east wall of the compressor room. One day, our foreman Ed came up to me and my Journeyman Bob, and one other Apprentice named Rod. He took us outside of the tin shop, through the doors located at the middle of the north side of the shop. On the ground, beside the doors, was a sheet of metal door on the ground that opened up and there was a steel ladder that took us down to a tunnel. This tunnel ran underneath the Locomotive Shop to the south side, and northward to the Powerhouse it was 7 feet high and about 5 feet across. The tunnel contained an 8-inch steam pipe, a 5-inch water supply line, and a 3-inch airline from the compressors. The streamline was insulated with asbestos, and wrapped in cotton fabric. Our work assignment was to strip off all the old installation and renew it with new installation. We were given little masks made of plastic with renewable filters, and using a saw we cut through the old installation, and with a utility knife we cut through the cotton jacket around the installation. To renew the installation, we had boxes of new asbestos insulation that was profiled in the half circular sections to fit around the 8-inch steam pipe. We secured the installation with metal bands, and then wrapped the outside of the installation with cotton fabric that was glued and whitewashed. The first day we stripped and re-insulated about 30 feet of pipe. Our foreman, Ed came down the next day to see how we were progressing, he was quite surprised and did not expect us to have so much work done. So we took what he said, as a sign to slow down, which we did. We would wrap a few feet of pipe in the morning, and the rest of the day we relaxed. We had plywood boards that we set on top of the water line that ran about 18 inches off of the ground on the other side of the tunnel, there was a small concrete ledge that ran along the wall, so it made a perfect place to lie down. We also occupied our time by playing cards, reading books, or just sitting there shooting the breeze. We would come up for our half an hour lunch break, and told all our coworkers how hot and miserable. It was working down there. At the rate we went, the job took us three months to complete, this is the time that our foreman had been allotted to finish the assignment. The one thing I did notice on my mask at the end of the day, there were lots of small crystals of asbestos on the filter. That was over 40 years ago, and I am no worse for wear, my lungs are in great shape. There was one story we heard about the tunnel in the early years after the shop was built, there was an exit where we worked, but there was no way to get out on the south end by the electricians shop. They say there were workmen down there at that time. When the steam line burst, and there was no way for them to escape, when they were found after the steam was shut off they were cooked like chickens, so the legend goes.

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