Posted on 07-11-2010
Filed Under (Alberta Saskatchewan 1970s, CPR, Many Jobs and Trades) by Broken Rail

After a short night in bed the alarm rang at 05:00, time to get up for breakfast and get back to work at 06:00, seeing that there was no bunkhouse attendant to call us we went on pay an hour earlier for doing this, by a mutual local agreement with the company. After washing up I went to the caboose where Conductor Harold Heglund was busy cooking us breakfast of ham and eggs, toast and coffee, for which he charged us two dollars. Harold hired on in Lethbridge, Alberta during the war in 1941, he usually worked out of there in the summer on a sugar beet switcher, but in the winter he preferred to work at Burstall, the advantage of having every night in bed, and weekends at home. After a good hearty breakfast, and the second cup of coffee it was time to get back to our duties, our first move was to get the locomotives off of the shop track where they had sat idling all night, the CPR at the time never shutdown their diesel locomotives, fuel was cheap, and the locomotives were water-cooled and would freeze up pretty quickly if the engine shut down. With the crew on board we ran back down the McNeill Spur, where the loading crew at the Empress plant had been busy during the evening loading 24 LPG cars, going down the main track at McNeill we checked out the list that was in the bill box fastened to the gate at the entrance to the plant, it said that all cars were loaded and ready to be pulled, and the 24 cars in McNeill Track 1 were okay to spot.

A word about CPR Bill boxes, at every elevator track, loading spur, and plant across the system there is a bright yellow bill box mounted on a wooden post, or attached to a station, or entrance to a plant. They are made of galvanized sheet-metal, and I remember making them at the CPR’s Ogden Shops, and were probably manufactured at other major repair facilities such as Weston Shops in Winnipeg, and Angus Shops in Montréal. Their dimensions were 18 inches wide, 10 inches high, and 10 inches in depth, they had a sloped top, and the lid was hinged at the back, and on the front was a staple and hasp for securing it with a standard CPR switch lock. On the right-hand side there was a shielded slot like a mailbox so paperwork could be placed into the box, and be protected from the elements of rain and snow. Every car loaded by a shipper would have a waybill, and for special dangerous commodities like propane, there were emergency response forms. These were collected by the train conductor and would accompany the train to any stopping point along the system, and the documents would be kept in the Yard office, until forwarded along with the car to its next destination.

With the gates opened, we lined ourselves up behind the locomotives for McNeill Track 2, once again we took off the derails, and checked that the blue flags to protect the loaders were down.
Blue flag
Blue Flags and Blue Flag protection, any workman on railway equipment, whether it be railway employees from the diesel shops, Carmen who repair rolling stock on tracks, and loaders, warehouseman, and shippers can protect themselves from any railway employee from unintentionally coupling onto, or moving railway equipment with Blue Flag protection, only the workers doing such work can put up a blue flag, and only the class of worker can remove them, so there is no confusion, if more than one type of worker is repairing or loading equipment, each will put up their own protection. On tracks the blue flag is usually clamped to the rail on both ends of the track to be protected, on a loading spur just in front of the cars being loaded, in addition to the flag a blue light is used at night. on locomotives the blue flag is attached to the window on the operator side, or sometimes mounted on the control stand by using these devices accidents are prevented.

We coupled onto the cars in the North loading rack need couplings were required, cut in the air brakes, removed the handbrakes, and doubled over to the South loading rack coupled it together and pulled 24 loads of LPG into McNeill Track 2 where we secured them with sufficient hand brakes, uncoupled and tied onto the 24 empties in McNeill Track 1 that we had left there last night, Charlie lined us up and we shoved the empty LPG’s to the South loading rack for spotting, these loading tracks have metal stairs that go up to a scaffolded structure that supports a cat walk for the workers to access the tops of the LPG tank cars where there are valves for loading. The scaffolding also supports the pipes that transfer the liquefied Propane and Butane from the plant. The LPG cars are mostly a standard length, they have a tare weight (empty) of 35 tons, and gross weight (loaded) of 135 tons, so they hold 100 tons of product. Along the catwalk there are handrails, with chains across, and a hinged platform that is supported by cables, and can be moved up and down onto the top of the tank car at the loading stations, so it is necessary to make sure the top loading valve lines up with these platforms, most of them do line up, but some the tank car must be uncoupled from the other ones for a proper spot. After we have finished spotting we lock the gates, and return to Burstall for a coffee break, and to get our potash empties for our trip down the Burstall Subdivision to Fox Valley and the Ingebright Lake Spur. In our CPR operating timetable under Burstall Footnotes it states “Engine arriving at Burstall on No. 70 (which we did on Monday) must retain all train orders and may assume schedule of No.72 of the following day and leave Burstall without a clearance. No. 72 was a Fourth Class scheduled to leave Burstall on Tuesdays, and Thursdays departing at 06:01 and arriving at Fox Valley 08:00. After going through the grain farming community of Hilda, Pivot, where there was a 6.8 mile spur to the town of Schuler in Alberta, and the towns of Horsham, Richmound, and Linacre we arrived at Fox Valley mile 69.5 About 13:00 and went over to the local Chinese restaurant for some lunch, it was a interesting old family restaurant, and in the front showcase was a Red Fox stuffed and mounted, along with a ring-necked pheasant. During lunch our plans for the afternoon, we agreed to all chip in $20 and give it to Charlie for him to buy groceries to feed us lunch and supper for the remainder of the week. We then left Charlie and the caboose in Fox Valley where he went to do the grocery shopping, and cook up supper, while Harold and I went down to switch the potash plant at Ingebright Lake, we cut off our 10 potash empties and proceeded the 11.37 miles down the plant at the track speed of 15 miles an hour, with slow orders, and snowdrifts to plow through it us about one hour to get there. We checked our list at the bill box, and we did the required switching bringing out about 8 loads, and one bad order empty that was unfit for loading. The switching took us over two hours, there had been a lot of drifting snow here over the weekend and all the track switches were drifted in and had to be cleaned out.
CPR switch broom & shovel
CPR switch broom plastic bristles
CPR switch broom ice pick
CPR switch broom brand 1980
CPR shovel handle brand
In the wintertime on the CPR section forces set up on a stand a shovel and special track broom at every switch across the system in Canada, they were all marked CPR this was done so they could be identified in case of theft, the shovel handle is marked “Garant” the manufacturer and “CPR” in red paint, the switch broom handle is branded in the wood “CPR 80″ for 1980 the year it was placed in service. They were attached to a metal stand with a hook on one end to hang the shovel on, and a short piece of pipe welded horizontally on the other end that holds the switch broom handle. The shovel is used for shoveling out large accumulations of snow, and the broom made of course plastic straws with a metal point on the other end. The broom is used to sweep the snow out between the switch points, and the bars of the switch mechanism located between the ties, the other end is used as an ice pick to breakout ice that accumulates in the switches mechanism when the snow melts and freezes during weather fluctuations of the Canadian winter. On the main line where there are many electrically remote controlled power switches, they are equipped with propane powered heaters, that are controlled by the Train Dispatcher. These are very helpful especially in mountain territories where there can be very large accumulations of snow.

So we arrived back in Fox Valley about 18:00, turned our units on the Wye so we had the correct unit leaving for our train orders, this required more sweeping of switches, assembled our train and coupled onto the caboose carefully, and went back to caboose for a nice hot home-cooked meal that Charlie had prepared for us during the afternoon. Charlie hired on the CPR in 1949 originally as a passenger trainman, in the mid-1960s when many CPR passenger trains were discontinued in Canada, there was a surplus of passenger trainmen that were furloughed. The company and the union representing the trainmen worked out an agreement where the furloughed passenger trainmen would be dovetailed into the freight conductors and trainmen’s seniority lists with a seniority date of November 3, 1970. Charlie had done wonders, cooking on the cast-iron stove, with its small oven attached to the side. He had cooked a roast, with mashed potatoes, vegetables, a garden salad, and had baked us on apple pie. After finishing this delicious meal, Harold, Pat, and I did the dishes.

CPR 213 VAN cast-iron stove
CPR 213 VAN cast-iron stove top
CPR 213 VAN cast-iron stove front view
CPR 213 VAN oven door
CPR 213 VANI oven door inside
CPR 213 VAN oven compartment

Example of the McClary’s “CPR No. 213 VAN” cast-iron caboose stove that Charlie cooked our supper on. The McClary Manufacturing Company (Ltd.) built these stoves in its manufacturing plant at London, Ontario. These cast-iron stoves burned coal or coal briquettes as shown here that the CPR had made for them by one of the coal mines in Alberta, most of the coal we used was East Coulee bituminous soft lump coal, from the Atlas Mine in the Drumheller Valley. This side view shows you the unique oven compartment attached to the right-hand side of the stove, and also the shovel used for feeding the fire; also notice the iron guard rail on the top of the stove to prevent the kettle or coffee pot from falling off when the caboose was in motion. The top view shows the two plates to cook off of, and the front view of another stove of mine shows from top to bottom the fire box door with its inspection window to check the fire, and adjust the draft, the next cover is opened and a poker can be inserted to break up clinkers that sit on top of the fire grate, the square shaped protrusion sticking through the oval slot is attached to the fire grate and a handle is attached to shake the fire grate so the ashes from the fire will fall into the ash pan that is located inside the drawer at the bottom, there is a sliding baffle on this door that can be opened to create draft for the fire. Here are two views of the cast-iron oven door, it is hinged on the right side, and has a latch and handle on the left, the relief casting shows a caboose on tracks, with a center cupola, smoke coming out the chimney, and “McCLARY VAN” on the side under the windows, (Van was another railway word for caboose). Another view with the oven door open shows the interior with a hot plate on the bottom, and the rear door relief casting of the McCLARY VAN stove. The front door has a Serial No. “VAN ° H468 R”

In order to get back to Burstall we once again referred to the footnotes on our timetable that stated “Engine arriving at Fox Valley on No. 72 must retain all train orders and may assume schedule of No. 71 of the same day and leave Fox Valley without a clearance.” The schedule of No. 71 was a Fourth Class Freight that departed Tuesdays and Thursdays from Fox Valley at 12:01 arriving Burstall at 14:00. With this authority we headed back to Burstall arriving around 21:20. Our work was not finished yet, we had to go back down to McNeill we had one spot of 24 cars that we had left on the west leg of the Wye we coupled onto them and shoved them down into McNeill 3, cut them off and ran through McNeill 1 to tie onto the loads, which we doubled over and pulled back into McNeill 1, tied onto our empties in McNeill 3 and spotted them up returning to Burstall and tieing up at 23:30 after being on duty 17 hours and 30 minutes.

(7) Comments   


Tom on 11 September, 2011 at 8:25 pm #

Hello Broken Rail: Thanks for the great article. I have a few CPR McClary Caboose stoves but have questions about when the various models (eg: 31 vs 213)were in service.
Thanks: Tom (CPR Caboose 437216)

Jack Thorpe on 8 March, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

Thank you great read i have just commissoned mike strong of canadian antique stoves to restore a Mc Clary #213 potbelly for me.I have a question if you please was the oven on the side an extra option.thanks in advance.Jack

Tony felton on 19 December, 2014 at 7:18 am #

We still make these brooms.

dennis curtis on 1 June, 2015 at 10:06 pm #

I own cp van 213 caboose stove,,what is it worth,,

thanks I would think 3 grand ,,lets talk


Broken Rail on 5 June, 2015 at 4:16 pm #

Did you buy it from Ian Matheson? I remember he was trying to sell it to me many years ago.I bought my caboose and snowplow stoves for $1500. Does your Stove Have both cast-iron oven doors, many stoves were missing one door as they were painted and made into wall hangings.

Brian garrett on 5 September, 2015 at 6:42 pm #

I have recently purchased a mint condition Van 33 stove at an auction. I am very excited about it but am wondering how I can find out the history of it or what it’s worth?

Broken Rail on 19 September, 2015 at 11:08 am #

I saw in McClary cast-iron stove on Kijiji Alberta for $650, it didn’t have the oven on the back.

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