Posted on 10-04-2010
Filed Under (Calgary 1970s, CPR, Many Jobs and Trades) by Broken Rail

The next assignment I was called for was the 07:00 Pulldown this job had a four man crew; Locomotive engineer, Yard Foreman, and two Yardmen and started at the Pulldown tower that was located at the east end of Alyth yard, on day shift there were four assignments that started from this location a 06:30 Pulldown, the 06:30 Pusher, our assignment, and a 08:00 Pulldown, the Pulldown assignments work strictly on the east end of the yard building outgoing trains from the classification yard tracks, and switching incoming and outgoing trains, that included switching out bad order cars, and cabooses.

CPR Pulldown Tower
Here is an aerial photograph of the East End of Alyth yard showing the three-story Pulldown tower in the center foreground, to the left of the roadway running down the center are the locomotive shop tracks, and Victor yard, to the right-hand side of the roadway are the Classification yard tracks starting with C-1 nearest the road and ending at C-48. The four tracks behind the tower are interchange tracks with the Canadian National Railways track closest to the Bow river is their main line, which was formerly part of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway until after World War I, the large tanks visible in the distance on the right-hand side are part of the Gulf Oil refinery.

I book in at the yardmen’s lunchroom of the main floor of the Pulldown tower and meet my crew. The Pulldown supervisor comes the from his office located on the third floor, he provides us with switch lists for our assignment, and portable radios with fresh batteries. The two yardmen on this job are called the engine follower, and the longfield man, I am assigned to work with Eric Nordvil (nicknamed Whitey because of his white hair) he is the longfield man. We read over our lists, and check that are radios are communicating correctly calling our locomotive engineer who is on the shop track, with the two locomotives we will be using today the 8102, and the 8411. Our list instructs us to tie up tracks C-5,C-23, and C-35 assembled them together and set them over to track V-3.
CPR 8411 & Pulldown tower
The engine follower goes out to bring our locomotives to the class yard, view from the cab of the 8102 showing the 8411 coupled on behind.  CPR diesel locomotive 8411 was out-shopped by General Motors as a Model GP7a on March 29, 1952 it is a Class DRS-15c that stands for Diesel Road Switcher-1500 horsepower, and the “c” shows it came from the third order of the class that was manufactured. The Pulldown tower is visible above the roof of the 8411.
CPR 8100
The 8100′s series locomotives were preferred for use as the lead engines on the locomotive consists used in the pulldown area because of their cabs better visibility. CPR diesel locomotive 8100 was out-shopped by General Motors as a Model SW 1200 on June 13, 1958 it is a Class DRS-12a that stands for Diesel Road Switcher-1200 horsepower, and the “a” shows it is the first order of the class that was manufactured.

Eric and I start down the lead of the classificationyard lining up tracks switches to route our locomotives toward C-35 the first track we will work on, we arrive at the east end of C-35 and walked alongside the cars checking that the numbers correspond with the ones on our lists, if we find an extra car we contact the Pulldown supervisor for instructions what to do, in some cases the car will be okay to go, if not we will have to set it over to an adjacent track. As we walk along we check that the cars are coupled together, in some cases there are gaps between the cars where they did not couple correctly, we find a car behind six where the knuckles on the couplers have boxed together, to explain this I have added some photos of couplers and boxcars to explain some of the terminology.
E coupler

Photo of standard E coupler for freight equipment, comes available with top lift, or with articulated rotary locklift that is under slung. In this view you can see the knuckle of the coupler in the closed position, when cars are properly coupled the other cars nuckle would be locked inside behind this knuckle shown. When knuckles are “boxed” they are both in the closed position and would be like two fists butted up against each other. The shank of the coupler or drawbar is connected to the cars frame or center sill by a steel key that is locked to the frame of the car with a Cotter pin

F coupler
Standard Type F Interlocking Coupler has two completely interlocking aligning wings which prevent vertical slip-overs when two Type F Couplers are mated. These wings also prevent a pull-out from dropping to the track; in addition, a shelf insures the same safeguard against a conventional coupler dropping to the track when mated to a Type F Coupler.

CPR boxcar
View of older boxcar showing coupler end, this is a top lift coupler, you can see the pin lifting mechanism on top of the coupler with its operating lever running under the ladder on the left-hand side of the car. This car is equipped with a stem winding handbrake that is operated by climbing up the ladder and training the horizontal brake wheel in a clockwise direction this tightens a chain mechanism that is attached to the rod extending down alongside the boxcar ladder, the chain is connected to a lever mechanism that will tighten the brake shoes against the wheels on this end of the boxcar. To the right side of the coupler you can see an angle cock with a rubber hose extending down, this is for connecting up the air brakes on the cars.

GTW boxcar end
Photo of newer boxcar this car is equipped with an under slung uncoupling lever its handle is visible under the car frame and above the wheels. It also has an Ajax hand brake, patented 1942, with its vertical hand wheel that has a ratchet mechanism behind it and steel rod that runs down to a chain linkage that’s connected to the brake shoes on this end of the car that you can see on the left side of the coupler, also visible is the end of the running board to the right of the handbrake wheel.

GTW boxcar top view
Top view of boxcar showing running board they ran on top of the cars so yardmen could go from car to car to apply or remove handbrakes without having to climb up and down each individual car.on older cars the running boards were made of wood, and were quite treacherous in winter conditions when they were covered with ice. The newer cars like the one in this photo were made of steel and had better surfaces that were corrugated.

Eric and I continue up the track, we radio the engine follower and tell him that there is a boxed knuckle behind six cars which he will attend to when the couples on. We find another car about 12 back that has not coupled we opened the knuckle on the east end of the car and walked up tracks further where we find another joint to be made about 20 deep. The engine follower has coupled on and made the joint behind six, we tell him that there is another joint behind 12 he gets the engineer to back up slowly to couple up the gap, when the cars connect we get the engineer to stretch out the string of cars and they are altogether up to where we are 20 deep, we make the coupling and see that all 24 cars that are on our list are there, and we tell the engine follower to pull the cars down to the east end of the track, and that we will meet him over in C-23. We cut across to the west end and tie this track up, and do the same in C-5 We are now ready to double our tracks together, we contact the Pulldown Supervisor for a route to use out of the class yard.

East of the Pulldown tower the yard narrows down to four tracks that cross over a bridge on the Bow River, these leads from the tower are called the New Ogden, Old Ogden, P-2, and P-1 which is the main line east of Calgary. In this view on the left-hand side you can see one rail from P-1 and a crossover to P-2 next to the by the bridge abutments is the Old Ogden lead, the New Ogden that was built in 1971 is on the other side of the bridge abutment. The Pulldown Supervisor tells us to use the Old Ogden, our yard foreman is up ahead lining us up for this route. We pull the 30 cars from C-5 down to the class yard lead switch, we then backup the cars towards C-23 and couple on, we then pull the 25 cars out of that track and double them over to track C-35, we now have a hold of 80 cars which we pulldown to the west side of the bridge and stop, the yard foreman has lined us up for V-3 it is a clear track and long enough to hold the 80 cars we have a hold of. We notify that he is all lined up for V-3 and that it is a clear track and that he is okay to back up. The physical characteristics of Alyth yard is that it slopes eastward towards the Bow River, so in order to shove 80 loaded cars up into track V-3 we need all the horsepower from our locomotives to accomplish this, once the first car starts into V-3 we tell the engineer and he opens up the throttle full keep the cars moving, this can reach speeds of 15 miles an hour. The long tracks in P,V, and N yards are equipped with shove lights, the tracks on the West end are wired with electronic sensors built into the track and are connected to a signal light mounted on the ground at the east end of each track that will extinguish the light when cars occupy it. So Eric and I stand by the shove light watching its indication as the train goes by us, as the locomotives and the east end cars come off the bridge the yard foreman, and engine follower jump onto the first eight cars nearest to the locomotives, and start securing handbrake’s. In the meantime the west end of our movement is getting close, and the shove light goes out, we instruct the engineer to stop what he does, we then ask him to pull eastward slowly until the shove light goes on, and we get him to stop. When the yard foreman and engine follower have finished tieing down the handbrakes, they get the locomotives pull ahead and make sure that the track is six year, and the cars remain stationary. With that our work is done and we go to the pulldown tower for a coffee break. After coffee we do another list, have our lunch break, and do one more list before it is time to go home.

The next assignment I was called for was the 10:30 Imperial Oil, this assignment started from the lunch room of the General Yard Office where I signed the register and met the crew, and we received our lists from the West end yardmaster, we then crossed over to the east end of the Alyth diesel shops, where our locomotive engineer and engine were waiting for us. We then went down to the East End of the Classification Yard to get empty tank cars out of one of the C yard tracks, with our cars assembled we called the Pulldown Supervisor saying that we were ready to go over to the Imperial Oil Refinery. To get to the refinery we had to crossover the Bow River bridge on P-1 and line ourselves into their plant by a switch on the Eastside of the bridge. We spent the remainder of our day in the refinery switching out loads of gasoline, diesel fuel, and other petroleum products, and spotting empty cars on their loading racks. With this done we called the Pulldown Supervisor for a route into back into the yard and a track to put our loads into.CPR Bonniebrook Bridge
Here is a photo I took in autumn 1980, it has a good view of the CPR Bonniebrook bridge over the Bow River, in the foreground is the CPR irrigation canal, the locomotives are a Pulldown consist pulling some cars from the class yard the New Ogden lead, to the left side on the bridge you can see the Old Ogden lead, P-2, and P-1 the mainline. By the time this picture was taken the Imperial Oil Refinery had closed down, you can see the red brick administration building on the left hand side of the picture, the track accessing the plant has been torn out. It used to run behind the red section house near the bridge, and across Ogden Road this side of the Silver bridge

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