November
15

On Monday, November 19, 1973 we started another week on the Burstall, the week went the same as week one, the only difference being that the weather was much colder, down around -30°F with a high wind chill factor, we were getting a lot of brand-new LPG cars for McNeill, and I remember the rubber hose’s between the cars for the air brakes were frozen so solid we had to use fusses (track flares) from the caboose to thaw out the rubber enough without burning it so we could connect the cars together. One other interesting thing I saw was at Gascoigne the next station north of Burstall, the grain elevator was closed down, and they were moving it to another location on the country roads, of course they waited until the ground was good and frozen before making an attempt to do this monumental feat. Country elevators stand about 100 feet high, so to move one they have to use hydraulic jacks to lift the structure off its foundation, it is then skidded over onto a platform with numerous heavy duty rubber tires on axles to distribute the massive weight, they have to have linemen from the municipality to accompany them and take down power lines temporarily as the move progresses. I’ve seen a lot of big equipment traveling by road before, but to see a country elevator traveling that way is a site to behold. On our return Friday I got my suitcase from the Assiniboia Hotel and made my move into my new digs on Ross Street, it was sure nice to have some privacy. On Monday, November 26, 1973 I worked my last week on the Burstall Wayfreight making a total of 3441 miles which averages out to 1147 miles per week that was pretty good pay at Wayfreight rates that was slightly higher than what you make on through freight. We were allowed to make 3800 miles per month; my cut-off date for the month was on the 12th, for November I made 3726 miles, 74 short of my monthly quota.

December was kind of slow on the spare board but I did manage to make 2926 miles for the month. On December 2 I was called for 07:00 and I worked my first trip west on the Brooks Subdivision I was called for a “Hospital Train” a name used by the railway to describe a train carrying in its consist all bad order cars going for repairs in Calgary, so it got that name because all the disabled cars were called cripples. Many of the cars had air brakes that were inoperative, so large rubber hoses one 500 feet long was wired along the outside of 10 cars were used so that the brakes on the cars that did work could be used. I remember the conductor Elmer McCredie, and engineer Adam Lees, they were not too happy getting called for this train as it had a speed restriction of 30 miles an hour, as track speed on the Brooks Subdivision was 55 miles an hour for freight. So this increased the 3 hours and 20 minutes running time to 5 hours and 45 minutes. We made it over the road, running as the Extra 8519 West according to my time book, we returned to Medicine Hat the same day getting called for No. 902 out of Alyth, the Brooks Subdivision was a little different from the Maple Creek Subdivision whereas the latter was all ABS territory from Swift Current to Dunmore, but the Brooks Subdivision ran 121 miles of ABS from Medicine Hat to Gleichen, and the remaining 50 miles to Ogden mile 171.1 was all CTC (Centralized Traffic Control). So running east from Alyth we ran as an Extra East, but at Gleichen where there was an operator, we picked up our train orders and were to run as 2nd No. 952 from there to Medicine Hat, our train order read “Engs 5695, 4700, and 5523 run as First Second and Third No. 952 from Gleichen to Medicine Hat” we had CPR 4700 leading, so when trains were run as sections, the first and second section were required to put up on the front of the locomotive green flags, in addition to green electric classification lights that were mounted on the front of every CPR locomotive, the idea of running trains and sections was when there was lots of traffic a train would be run this way, trains of the first two sections would carry the green markers and by whistle signal and radio communication notify the crews of opposing trains they met along the subdivision that they were sections, so a train meeting No. 952 would have to wait until the last section who would carry no green markers had passed them before they could proceed. The 4700 locomotives were built at Montréal Locomotive Works in Québec and were rated at 3600 hp, and were the highest powered units on the system. I got out on a 23:00 yard on December 5, and was not called until December 9 for a deadhead by taxi to Swift Current for a quick trip going home on hotshot No. 901. Got out again on December 13 going west with hotshot No. 901 with conductor Elmer Neimen returning the next day late in the afternoon on No. 98, I went to the Alyth Diesel Shops to take the power to the train there I met the locomotive engineer George Galambos, who remarked when he saw me with my long hair, and beard that my mother must have mated with a buffalo, I kept my mouth shut and thought to myself this could be a long trip, we left the yard at 19:00, the trip was uneventful until we left Cassils, that is when alarm bells went off in our lead locomotive signifying there were problems with our trailing units, George told me to come over to the engineers side of the cab and to sit in his seat, and he would go back and check to see what the problem was, he told me not to touch any of the controls, but to blow the whistle, and to ring the bell if we approached any railway crossings, so there I sat going down the track at 55 miles an hour, it was in an experience I would not soon forget, after a few minutes the bells stopped ringing, and George came back to the cab and took over. I laid around Medicine Hat for another week till I got out on December 21 when I was called for an Extra West (a potash drag) with conductor Elmer Neiman, when I saw Elmer at the booking out room at the station, he asked me what I did to George last trip, I asked him what he meant, he said that George ended up in the hospital having a gall bladder attack, I guess that’s why he was so miserable to me. The following day we deadheaded to Medicine Hat. On December 23, I deadheaded home on the caboose of No. 902 with conductor Clary Barton, and trainman Bob Rudolph for the Christmas holidays on December 23, I remember the weather was quite mild with a Chinook that had blown in, I had my backpack and bailed off of the caboose near Ogden at the CNR trestle west of the gates at Ogden Shops, it was about 20:00 and such a nice night I decided to walk home to my parents house in South Calgary, I climbed up the embankment of the CNR trestle, this bridge was built by the Canadian Northern Railway when they entered Calgary around 1912 on their line from Edmonton the terminus was at 18th Ave. and 1st Street SW. I walked along the right-of-way over another large trestle that spanned the Bow River and followed the track down along side of the Canadian Government Elevators through Bonniebrook where it headed westward by the Dominion Bridge Company and came out along the south side of the Calgary Stampede Grounds, from here I continued on the streets through Elbow Park, and Mount Royal to South Calgary where I enjoyed the holidays at home with my family. I wasn’t called out again until December 31, New Year’s Eve as the tail end trainman with conductor E.J. (Beans) Desharnais on hotshot No. 902 returning on No. 965, this was my first experience working the tail end on the main line, and was interesting to say the least. I got lots of instruction from Beans on working with train orders on the main line, we would sit up and the cupola of the caboose and he would fire questions at me, about our train and wherever should we go next for the next opposing train, I would have to run down to the desk get out my timetable, and refer to the train orders to give him an answer, after a few mistakes I was beginning to get the hang of it.

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