Posted on 20-11-2010
Filed Under (Alberta Saskatchewan 1970s, CPR, Many Jobs and Trades) by Broken Rail

Business picked up in January, I got out on January 2 on a trip west on 2nd No. 901 with conductor SH Humphries we returned the same day on No. 902, making 371 miles, that is why the sparemen in Medicine Hat preferred trips on the main line, if the spare board was busy, and if you booked short rest, 10 trips like that being quick flips working less than 20 hours is well worth it, you could make your mileage quota for the month in two weeks, and have two weeks off.

On January 7th I was called for 1st No. 965 at 14:30 with conductor Eddie (Mumbles) Gargett, and tail end trainman Keith McKee we had a good trip to Alyth, and it looked like we could be called for an Empress Turn which we were on January 8, the locomotive engineer off of the engineers spareboard was Vince Griffiths, a good-natured engineer who I had worked with many times when I was in the yard. On an Empress Turn you work 76 miles east to Bassano where there is a large yard that holds 635 cars, from there the Bassano Subdivision runs 118 miles to Empress on the Alberta Saskatchewan border. There are many country elevators along this line, and at Princess, Alberta mile 76.7 there are two storage tracks where crude oil is loaded into tank cars for refining at the Gulf Refinery in Calgary. We were ordered for 02:00, our train was in little N-yard, and consisted of 40 empty tank cars for loading at Princess, we had our brake test and left Alyth at 03:25 we arrive at Bassano at 05:05, there we switched the yard digging out about 70 grain empties for spotting at the elevators along the way. We departed Bassano at 07:00, at least it was daylight, and we spotted our empties at Rosemary, Duchess, setting off tank cars at Princess, and spotting the elevators at Iddesleigh, Jenner, Bindloss, and Empress, the track at that time was in very poor condition, there were many miles of slow orders with speed’s of 10 miles an hour, and by the way the track rode you wouldn’t dare go any faster so the running time was about 10 hours so along with all the switching we did not arrive until after 19:00. We had about six hours rest, and started back to Alyth at 01:00 January 9th along the way we had to pick up all the loaded grain from the elevator tracks, and switch the loads of crude oil out of Princess and spot the empty tanks for loading, we arrived back at Bassano at 13:00 we switched the loaded grain into the yard at Bassano as per instructions from the operator, we then got our train orders and proceeded westward taking the loaded tank cars of crude oil into Alyth arriving at 17:00.
CPR map Calgary to Empress
Map showing CPR lines from Calgary (Alyth) to Empress on the Saskatchewan border.

We were called out of Alyth on January 10th at 04:00 for 1st 954 departing at 05:30, we had a pretty uneventful trip until we were approaching Brooks, Alberta at mile 66.8 the operator there called us on the radio and told us that the dispatcher wanted us to stop our train clear of any railway crossings, and cut off our power and go over to Brooks to assist the Brooks Wayfreight who were derailed there, Keith came up to the head end, and the conductor Ed went back flagging to protect the rear end of our train, it was 08:00 when we got to Brooks
Photobucket A view of Brooks showing the station and elevator track, with eastbound passenger train No. 2 “The Canadian” stopping to pick up passengers, and meeting a westbound freight train. We found the Wayfreight who were starting their day and coming out of the elevator track, forgot to take the derail off, and the front wheels of their engine was sitting on the railway ties. They had a full crew with locomotive engineer Russ McGloan, locomotive fireman Orval Klein, conductor John Mandzie, head end trainman Mike Showers, and tail end trainman Al McGunigal, but nobody noticed the derail when they radioed the engine to come ahead out of the elevator track to do some switching. All locomotives are equipped with cast iron re-railing devices, they are quite heavy and are hinged under the running boards on the sides of the locomotive, there were a bunch of sectionmen there to assist us, and the re-railers were spiked to the ties with track spikes. We were then able to couple on to the Wayfreight’s, power and by slowly backing up the wheels climbed up onto the re-railers and onto the track. This chore took us about 4 hours by the time we got going again so we were able to claim another 50 miles for work train service enroute we arrived at Medicine Hat at 14:00 we were gone three days but had made 937 miles.

I got out the next day January 11 dead heading by freight on No. 965 to Alyth with Conductor Stan McClellan working home the next day on train No. 944, out again on January 13 with Conductor Beans Deharnais going east on No. 902 and returning the same day on No. 965. I went east again on January 14 with conductor Ray Burns on No. 940 we were called out of Swift Current at 00:01 for 2nd No. 949 that was a drag (slow freight with lots of work along the line) I remember that night very well, it had been bitterly cold, but Chinook had blown in from the west, and the temperature had risen from about -20°F to 35°F with the warm winds, we got across the road quickly but all the work was at Dunmore 6 miles east of Medicine Hat, there was a large yard here as it was a junction with the Taber Subdivision a busy line that ran west to Lethbridge, Alberta, here we had about five hours switching to do, it was a cheap way for the Medicine Hat yard master to have a train switched out, and traffic they needed from Dunmore brought into Medicine Hat without having to send a road switcher up to do it. The yard had 10 tracks, Ray told me to line up for the Crow Main so we could switch on our train without using the mainline and siding, this way we were lined for the Taber Subdivision and our train could work in yard limits, and this would give us access to the yard in Dunmore that had a back lead for access to the ladder track lead for the storage tracks that were numbered 1 to 10 from the Crow main, these tracks had lengths averaging 3100 feet, so the yard have the capacity of holding 620 cars. The yard had hand throw switches all equipped with oil burning lanterns, this was the only place I had ever seen so equipped. It was quite a sight that night switching cars, with the Chinook winds blowing and the snow melting, being able to see the way switches were lined green for the lead, and yellow for a diverging route into one of the yard tracks, when we finished switching we called the yard master in Medicine Hat for a track to yard our train into and were off duty at 08:30. Picture of Dunmore yard in the daylight looking eastward toward Swift current with CPR station on the left next to the mainline, then the siding, and the engine lined towards the Crow main, with the yard tracks to the right.
Dunmore yard

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