Posted on 19-07-2010
Filed Under (Calgary 1970s, CPR, Many Jobs and Trades) by Broken Rail

On November 7, 1973 I packed my personal possessions in a suitcase, and a back pack and got a ride from a friend down to the Calgary CPR passenger station in the basement of Palliser Square. CPR passenger train No.2 The Canadian was scheduled to arrive from Field, British Columbia at 14:35 and after a change of locomotives and engine crew was to depart Calgary at 15:10 and arrive at Medicine Hat at 18:00. I planed on deadheading to the “Hat” on this train, I arrived at the station about 14:00 so I had some time to kill waiting until the train was boarded with passengers, I went to the souvenir shop station looking for something to read on my trip, in the paperback book rack I found an autobiography by Jack Kerouac titled “The Lonesome Traveler” perusing the index I saw a Chapter called “October on the Railroad Earth” that talked about his adventures working as a brakeman on the Southern Pacific in the 1950s out of San Francisco, it was a good read, and I used it partially for naming this website Railwayearth.

Incoming No.2 arrived on time, and I went and talked to the conductor Charlie Patton, and said that I would like to deadhead to Medicine Hat as I was transferring down there to work, he asks me if I have a letter from the Chief Dispatcher to allow me to ride on the train. I told them I did not, and it was the first time I was aware that I needed one, he grumbled about it, but said that would be okay for me to come along without it, and that he would straighten it out at the yard office in Medicine Hat. I stored my luggage, and found an empty seat on a day coach, and we left Calgary station on time, and arrive on schedule at Medicine Hat. I checked in with the crew clerk, and was marked up on the Medicine Hat trainmans spare board, there were about 30 men working their board that covered both road and yard service in the terminal, I was about 20 times out. I got the Calling Bureau’s phone number and told the clerk I would let them know where I would be staying when I found lodging. There were a number of old red brick hotels located within walking distance of the Medicine Hat station on North Railway Street there was the Corona, and the Cecil, there also a lot of secondhand stores and shops on this side of the city, on South Railway Street and the corner of 3rd Street there was the Assiniboia, and further up the street was the Royal, and also there were a lot more buildings from the downtown commercial part of the city so there was more amenities. I decided to check out the Assiniboia is it looked a little bit more modern, and had a good cafeteria in the basement, the rooms were reasonably priced and I got a room on the second floor overlooking South Railway Street and the West end of the Medicine Hat Yards. To get to South Railway Street from the CPR station you had to walk a block west to a pedestrian tunnel that went underneath the railway tracks, it had ramps on each side to access it and was illuminated at night by overhead lamps, kind of creepy with the strong smell of urine from lazy transients who would stop to relieve themselves during the night. The ramp came out onto South Railway Street at the pedestrian crossing lights on 3rd street were I could cross over to the hotel, so it was a short walk to work at the railway station and I could get there in 10 min.

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