The Assiniboia Hotel, Medicine Hat, my room was on the second floor in the middle, facing N. Railway St. and the Medicine Hat CPR yard
Assiniboia Hotel Medicine Hat
Finding accommodations in Medicine Hat in the winter of 1973 was not easy, there was a boom going on at the time with lots of construction projects building fertilizer, and petrochemical plants in the area, due to the availability of large natural gas resources. The city of Medicine Hat sat physically on top of a huge gas field, the author Rudyard Kipling had visited Medicine Hat in the early 20th century and named it “The city with hell for its basement”. This utility owned by the city was available at reasonable prices that encouraged industrial development. I checked the local newspaper for a rental apartments available, there wasn’t very much, I checked out one listing in a tenement on 4th Street that was owned by the local hardware store owner Harry Veiner who store was across 3rd Street three doors up from my hotel. Harry was a real character and local legend, at one time he was the mayor of Medicine Hat, anyways I talked to him about this rental apartment he had for rent, he said come with me and I will show it to you, we walked over one block to the southwest corner of 4th street, where there was a rundown three-story redbrick building, we went in the front door and he opened the door to the suite on the main floor, I wasn’t very impressed at the squalor inside, all the paint was peeling off of the walls, and ceilings, and it smelled pretty bad. He told me he wanted $400 a month for rent, and that he would even throw in a couple of gallons of paint for free, I decided to stay in the hotel, and look around some more when I had a chance.

The Medicine Hat Spareboard covers both road and yard assignments in the terminal, the usual procedure was after working a road trip you would be subject to work a yard if needed, before making another road trip. Seeing that it was the weekend, and the spare board moves very quickly I booked a little rest, and was called out that evening as a helper on a 23:00 yard with Foreman Richard Ressler. I had my two hour call so it gave me lots of time to go down to the restaurant in the basement of the Assiniboia Hotel for something to eat before I went to work, I also ordered a sandwich to take out for my lunch. It was only a 10 minute walk from the hotel to the CPR station where the yard crews worked out of. Outside of the hotel across the intersection of South Railway Street there was a concrete lined pedestrian underpass that had ramps on both sides that went underneath the railway yard emerging on North Railway Street two blocks west of the station. It was well lit and kept fairly clean, but there was always a strong smell of urine, probably from the derelicts and the patrons traveling between the hotel beer parlors that were on both sides of the tracks.
Medicine Hat Station
Photo of the East End of Medicine Hat’s CPR station, showing entrance to yardmen’s lunchroom.
Working in the yard in Medicine Hat was quite a difference from Calgary where we would have 45 minutes coffee breaks, one hour for lunch, and go home anywhere from 1 to 2 hours early when the work was all completed. In Medicine Hat we went out in switched from 23:00 until 01:00 and took 15 minutes for our coffee break in the yardmen’s lunchroom located on the main floor at the east end of the station, we then switched on until 04:00 and had a 20 minute lunch break, went out and switched again until about 06:30 getting off about half an hour early. We moved a lot of cars in that eight hour shift, but it gave me a good education on the layout of the yard, and some of the industrial spurs, such as the Ogilvy Flour Mills.
Medicine Hat Turntable
We had one box car of freight for a warehouse that had a placard on it that said “Unload From This Side Only” as it was the wrong side for the warehouse we had to turn the car, there was no turning wye in the yard at Medicine Hat, the nearest one was 3 miles away out of yard limits at Cousins, so we had to take the car over by the diesel shop and turn it with the turntable they use for locomotives, we placed the car onto the turntable with our yard engine, applied a handbrake and moved the locomotive on to the lead, and turned the turntable one revolution using a built-in air compressor that turned the gearing that moves the turntable around in its pit, we coupled back onto the car and took it over to spot it at the warehouse. After the shift was completed I once again I booked short rest hoping to get out again that evening for a road trip, which I did. On Sunday, November 11th Remembrance Day I was called to deadhead to Swift Current on Passenger Train No. 2 to work a vacancy Monday morning on the Zone 2 Burstall Wayfreight, as I was to be gone all week I checked out of my room, and left my suitcase in storage with the desk clerk until my return.

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