Posted on 20-04-2010
Filed Under (Calgary 1970s, CPR, Many Jobs and Trades) by Broken Rail

CPR's Industrial Yard Office Calgary
My next student trip was on the 15:30 South Industrial, this assignment worked out of the Industrial Yard Office or (IYO) located on 9th Ave. & 7th Street, Southeast just West of the Elbow River bridge, and across the avenue from the site of Fort Calgary where the settlement of Calgary had its beginnings in 1875. The blue metal building in the picture is where the yard master, and industrial clerk’s had their office, along with a lunchroom, washroom, and lockers for the yard crews. There was an old wooden sectionmens tool house on the other side of the IYO that served as a lunchroom, and locker room for the locomotive engineers, the two tracks visible in the foreground are the eastbound and westbound mainlines that run up to the Calgary passenger depot that is just underneath the tower that is visible on the left-hand side of the picture. The tracks visible on the other side of the IYO are “I” yard, and “G” yard tracks.


I signed the register in the lunch room and met the crew, the Yard forman was John McLaughlin, and there was one helper, the engineer had a student this day, his name was Bob Clements, the shop track was located across from the IYO, and the engineer said that we would be using the first engine the 6716. CPR diesel locomotive 6716 was out-shopped by General Motors as a SW9 on March 15, 1955 it is a Class DS-9a that stands for Diesel Switcher-900 horsepower, and the “a” and shows it came from the first group of the class that was manufactured.

Alongside shop track is a yard caboose track, so our first move was to dig out our assigned caboose, and kick it down the “F” yard lead past “F-4″ track. In the Railway lexicon “kick” is a switching term, where you have a hold of a string of cars (cabooses in this case) and you give the locomotive engineer a kick signal my hand, or verbally by radio, the engineer will then open the throttle fully and the cars will speed up rapidly, the Yard Foreman will then pull the uncoupling lever behind the caboose, and give the engineer a stop signal, the caboose will separate from the string and the helper will ride it down the lead and secure it with a handbrake when it has gone far enough.

A little explanation how the Industrial Yard works there are 7 day assignments, 4 afternoons, and 4 on nights, and except for 2 on days and afternoons that switch the passenger trains most of the jobs service customers in Calgary industrial areas. On day shift there is a 630 Tramp that services the warehouses and industries located along the South mainline that are designated as “H” lead, there is a 730 North and a South Industrial that service the Mayland Heights industrial park in northeast Calgary on “M” lead, and Manchester area in southeast Calgary looking after “J-a, b, c, and d” leads. There are 2 jobs that start at 900 a.m. one is called the Government and looks after the Pillsbury flour mill, Canada Malting plant, Alberta Distillers, IKO Industries, and the Canadian Government Elevators located along the mainline beside the Alyth yard in the Southeast district of Bonniebrook on “Q” lead. The other job is called the 900 South and it services the other warehouses on “J” lead, the last job on day shift is the 1000 East Calgary its territory includes the Calgary Brewery, and Maple Leaf Mills and other “L” lead customers along the North mainline out of Calgary, this job also services the low “M” lead switch numbers from 32 down. On the afternoon shift there is a 1500 Industrial assignment that switches the express lead and brings transfers from Alyth to the IYO and switches them out it also takes a large transfer of empties called the preference from the IYO to Alyth, and a 1530 North Industrial that services Mayland Heights, the 1530 South Industrial that services the Cominco (Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company) fertilizer plant located at the far end of “J” lead. On the midnight shift there is a 2300 North Industrial that services Johnson’s Terminals a freight forwarding company located at “M-10″ at Mayland Heights, a 2330 South Industrial that services the grocery warehouse of McDonald’s Consolidated at “J-40″ a 2345 Tramp that services in Calgary’s original warehouse district along the alleys located between 9th and 10th Ave. on “B” and “BZ” leads, there is also one 2359 Tramp assignment that does transfer work.

There are eight tracks in “F” yard F-1 is used to store cars for the low “M” lead spurs under 32, “L” lead, and “Q” yard, F-2 is used for preference overflow, F-3 for preference (preference cars are the empties that have been unloaded, and the loads from the industrial territories), F-4 Cominco cars, F-5 for yarding transfers, F-6 empty boxcars to be cleaned, F-7 “B” alley, F-8 upgrade track, where cars are cleaned and repaired by the car department for loading. On the other side of the mainline in front of IYO is the four tracks of “I” Yard I-1 is for straight “J” lead cars, I-2 is for Ja, Jb, Jc, and Jd cars, I-3 is for M cars 32 and up, I-4 is for H cars. past I yard are “G” yard tracks these are stub tracks, some lead to the remaining CPR freight sheds, they number in odd numbers from G-1 to G-25, G-1 and G-3 are used for Johnson’s Terminals cars. G-5 to G-9 are used to hold cars in government bond. the other tracks are used for storage.

Back to our assignment, we put the other cabooses back to the caboose track, and line our engine up for track F-4 and from there we switch out the cars we need for today’s work, we end up with 6 empty fertilizer hoppers, and 3 tank cars for loading liquid nitrogen. The air hoses between the cars are connected, and a Carmen gives us a brake test. We are now ready to leave the IYO, so we call the operator at 12th Street Tower and ask him for a lineup from the east end of F yard to the Manchester lead, we get a signal and proceed eastward to Alyth

CPR Industrial

Below is a view of the West End of Alyth yard that I took from the Blackfoot trail overpass in 1974, you can see the caboose of a southbound train leaving the yard, the cinder brick building to the left of the telephone pole is 12 St. Tower, to the left side of the train is the Burns Packing Plant, that was owned by Sen. Patrick Burns who made his fortune providing beef to the CPR during its construction. The IYO is out of view about three quarters of a mile past the Tower. Our small train would pull down to about where the caboose is with the locomotive leading, the operator at 12th St. would then give us a signal and we would take the same route and he would cross us over to the Manchester Lead that is located alongside of the South mainline when we had cleared the public crossing at 11th St. we would take a coffee break at the Shamrock Café located across the street. After coffee we would shove down southward on the Manchester lead to 42nd Ave. here the lead diverges from the South mainline and heads in an eastward direction and crosses Blackfoot Trail, it then turns south again and crosses underneath Glenmore Trail, until we get to Heritage Drive where the Cominco plant is located on the south side.
12th Street Tower 1974

Heritage drive at this time was nothing but an oil road that wound down from Blackfoot Trail in front of the plant, the plant site is now occupied by Deerfoot Meadows shopping center, there was also a CNR lead that ended here, this track was built before World War I and was supposed to continue on to Lethbridge to tap into their coal resources, but this plan was scuttled when the Canadian National found rich coal reserves at Nordegg in western central Alberta. The Cominco plant was built during World War II, for the war effort, and in peacetime made Ammonium Nitrate fertilizers, and liquefied Anhydrous Ammonia. The plant site was secured with fencing all around it, and there was a pair of gates and a security guard house at the entrance. We stopped our caboose clear of the crossing, and remove a derail off of the track, this is a safety precaution to protect the plant in case a car gets away from above on the hill.


Derail sign

Views showing a Derail from both sides, in the locked position, unlocking, unlocked with lock off, being lifted off, and in the off position, lastly a DERAIL warning sign.
A derail is a cast-iron hinged device that is spiked into the railway ties alongside the rail, it is laid across the top of the rail, and secured with a switch padlock, and if a car gets away and it’s wheels hit the derail it will cause them to lift up and derail them onto the ground alongside the railway track.

Our Yard Foreman John goes to the security guards house and signs a register showing the time of our arrival, in the meantime we set our caboose over to an adjacent track, as no open flames are allowed in the plant, and our caboose is equipped with a stove. We shove our hopper cars over the crossing and down a lead along the east side of the plant, we have three empty tank cars for loading liquefied Anhydrous Ammonia next to our engine we line ourselves for a lead that runs westward and curves around the west side of the plant where there is a loading rack and scale house for weighing these cars, there are four cars that have been loaded previously, we couple onto them and weigh them. The weigh scale is mounted underneath the tracks on a floating platform that can be locked and unlocked from the scale house, to weigh a car for two sets of wheels or placed upon the scale, and the car is weighed, then the car that was weighed is shoved by and the second car is waiting this procedure repeated for the third and fourth cars, we than spot up the three empties on the loading rack, and pull our loads down the lead and leave them by the guard house. We than run around to the south end of our empty fertilizer hoppers and pull them down to the south end of the plant were we spot them up for loading, and pull out three loads that are listed as lifts, we shove them northward alongside plant and run around them returning to our caboose for our lunch break. After lunch we couple onto our loaded fertilizer hoppers, and double over to our tank loads of Ammonia. John registers us out at the guard house, and we couple onto our caboose, replace the derail, and we then attack the Hill up out of the plant, we have a good engine and make it up the hill quite easily, on occasions when there is too many loads and you stall on the Hill there is a doubling spur at the top, and in that case would cut off half of the cars securing them with hand brakes plus the air brakes, and take the first portion up the hill and set them over into the doubling spur, and return to pick up the balance pulling them up and reassembling the train.

We run down the Manchester lead calling the operator at 12th St. Tower and asking him for a lineup into the yard at Alyth. John calls the Train Yard Coordinator by radio and tells him that we have 7 loads, he tells John that there is room on the West End V-5 and to place the cars into there. The operator at 12th St. has lined down towards P yard lead we pull our cars down to V yard lead and stop just before V-5 switch, we close off the brake pipe angle cock behind the locomotive, and open up the conductors valve on the caboose this puts the air brakes on our train into emergency we than manually bleed the air off of the cars to release the air brakes. We then do a maneuver called a “drop” in which we use gravity to place our cars into the West end of V-5. The physical characteristics of the yard is that it slopes from the West to the East end so cars will roll quite easily towards the east end. We disconnect the caboose and secure it on the lead with a handbrake, we then get the engineer to pull our cars ahead slowly, we can get him to give us a little bit of slack and we uncouple the cars, the engineer then pulls ahead quickly down the lead, the switch for V-5 is lined and the cars that are picking up speed roll into V-5 one of the crewmembers rides the movement and controls the speed of the cars with a handbrake to make sure they do not couple of too hard in V-5. With this done we couple back on to our caboose and we call 12th Street Tower for a line up from Victor yard to the east end of F yard we get a signal up the mainline on P-1 and we shove westwards up over the crossing on 8th Street, and over the Elbow River bridge into F yard where we kick our caboose into the caboose track, and line our locomotive for the shop track and call it a day.

My first Hamilton dail
I was talking to the locomotive engineer trainee Bob Clements on the job, and in conversation he asked me if I had a railway approved watch. I told him no, he said he knew a watch inspector who had a pocket watch for sale for $50. I always had an allergy from wearing jewelry, rings, chains, and wristwatches where the metal touched my skin would break out in a rash. At that time, Lee jeans had good-sized watch pockets and $50 sounded better than $175 for a railway approved wristwatch. That was quite a bit of money to put out at that time, as it has been quite a while since I had received a paycheck. I went and saw the watch inspector his name was Mike Biber, and he worked out of Classic Jewelers in Chinook Centre, he sold me a Hamilton 992 for the $50. It was in a very worn gold filled case and ran nicely, it had a 12 hour dial but Mike said he would change to a 24 hour dial for me later. I paid for the watch, and he issued me a CPR watch inspection card,
My first Hamilton case
Here is a picture of the case back, it is well-worn from years of being carried, the brass shows through the gold filling, railway pocket watches are lever set so you have to unscrew the front face and pull out a small lever under the dial with your fingernail in order to move the hands to set the watch to the right position, this was a safety feature for railway approved pocket watchs, so the time could not be change inadvertently.
My first Hamilton dial2
This view shows the dial with me face screwed off and you can see the groove filed into the case rim between the one o’clock and two o’clock position on the dial and the setting lever sticking out the crown on top can now be turned to set the time, when the lever is restored to its normal position under the dial the crown can then be turned to wind up the mainspring to power the watch.
This takes about 30 to 40 turns, and when the watch is fully wound it will run about 40 hours. So if you wind it once a day it should never run down.
My first Hamilton movement
Here is a picture of the movement it is marked Hamilton Watch Co. Lancaster Pa. 21 Jewels, 992, Double Roller, Adjusted 5 Positions 1632591 (this is the serial number and the pocket watch was manufactured between 1922-1923) Made in USA, so it was over 50 years old when I bought it. The two large nickel plated wheels on the top are for winding the mainspring, the shiny wheel in the center is made of gold, and you can see the jewel’s on the top plate in gold settings, the large wheel under the center wheel is the balance wheel that is the heart of the watch, and it regulates its time with a back-and-forth motion the whiplash spring on top of the wheel is for adjusting the watch to make it run fast or slow you can see a scale engraved in the plate above the balance wheel with its pointer in the middle, and a regulating screw you can move the pointer to the left to make it run slow and to the right to make it run fast, this is all done by a certified CPR watch inspector.
My first Hamilton case trademark
This view shows the inside of the pocket watches case back, it is marked FORTUNE with a winged wheel emblem underneath, and 10K GOLD FILLED CASE MADE IN CANADA A.W.C.Co. 3938977 there are also many other numbers scratched on to the back, these are numbers made by the CPR watch inspector every time the watch was taken in for cleaning or repairs, which was usually every 18 months. The watch was made by the American Watch Case Company of Toronto, Ontario

This watch has a very interesting history, it took me 15 years to find out, and I will share it with everyone in a future post. I have now finished all my student trips and was marked up on the Yardmens Spareboard June 18, 1973.

(1) Comment   


Jay V. on 15 May, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

It’s very neat to hear in detail how operations in this yard worked at one time. It’s sad to see the IYO all boarded up and the storage tracks removed…

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