On Monday January 21, 1974 we begin next tour of duty with conductor Hurlburt we went north once again spotting elevators on the Empress Subdivision, he booked off after that day and was relieved by conductor Jerry Metcalf whose nickname was “Psycho” how he got that name I was soon to find out, we did our usual work running to Fox Valley and Empress spotting grain empties, and gathering up the loads of grain and taking them back to Swift Current I remember one morning about 04:00 we were spotting empties at Richmond, Saskatchewan as we had nothing out of Fox Valley we were turning at Richmond placing our caboose on the South end of the elevator track tying on the grain loads on that end, we ran around with the light engines coupling on to some empties we had left on the north end of the backtrack, I walked down to the point and began coupling up the loads at each elevator to gather them together with caboose when everything was all together we would pull northward and set the loads and caboose over to the main line, and returned to the elevator track with the empties to spot them up for loading that day, in the process of coupling up the loads that were scattered in groups of three and four between the elevators, you would make a coupling and stretch it out to see if they were altogether, and couple on to the next group, this works all well and fine but sometimes there are problems, as the elevator agents who load the grain cars load each one individually and roll them down the track by gravity they are uncoupled and sometimes they do not couple of together when a coupler does not align properly and the knuckles box together, as I coupled onto the last group of cars two of the loads started rolling towards the group that were tied on to the caboose and made a bit of a high-speed coupling I remedied the situation tying on to the last car where the knuckles were boxed, with the cars altogether I finished coupling the air hoses and cut in the air. I then climbed up out of the darkness onto the caboose. I opened the door and will never forget the look of hate on Jerry’s face, there he was standing by the caboose stove wearing his red plaid shirt, and suspenders, puffing on his pipe, laying face down in the sheet metal tray beneath the caboose stove, that was full of cigarette butts, and ashes was Jerry’s plate of freshly made steak, potatoes and eggs, anyways he really took a strip of me.

Jerry booked off on January 23, and was relieved by conductor Jim Kislanko, a new engineer Norm MacDonald and brakeman Sid Shock, he was junior to me in seniority, but I preferred working on the head end so he rode the caboose with Jim, we had lead engine 8801 and on our second day of the trip we were preparing to leave Leader returning to Swift Current to drop off loaded grain and spot the elevator’s with empties, the operator at Leader gave us our orders, one of them read “due to snow conditions, all elevator tracks on the Empress Subdivision are to be plowed out with light engines before any empties are to be spotted, due to ice accumulation in private crossings on these elevator tracks”, Sid rode on the head end with me which was the usual custom when spotting and pulling loads from elevator tracks, as it saves a lot of walking from the caboose, Jim rode on the tail end, and warned us about the order. We proceeded along the way stopping at each town cutting off the engines and running up and down the elevator track before we went in with the empties, it was time-consuming but everything was going as planned doing the work at Prelate, Sceptre, Lemsford, Portreed, Lancer when we reach Abbey we looked at the elevator track, and agreed on the engine that there was not much snowfall, and decided to take a shortcut and just go in with the empties, we had six of them for two elevators, I was riding on the running board on roof of the lead car giving radio instructions to the engineer, Sid was riding back about three cars preparing to tie down the handbrake when the first elevator was spotted. As we approached the first elevator I could see a little bit of snow accumulated over the crossing planks of the first farm truck crossing we were moving about seven or 8 miles an hour when the wheels hit the crossing we were suddenly lifted up and I was riding on top of the car towards the field behind the elevator, I quickly radioed the engineer to come to a stop but the damage was already done, two empty box cars had derailed, but fortunately for me none had fallen over. We were evaluating the situation when Jim came up, and dressed us down for not going in with the engines, fortunately for us by pulling ahead very slowly the cars rerailed themselves and we were able to set them back to the main line and go in with the engines and plow out the ice and snow that had accumulated. We finished the towns of Shackleton, Cabri, Battrum, Pennant, and Success stopping and plowing each track with the engines, tying up in Swift Current for a nights rest. Sid had booked off.

On Saturday, January 26 we were called for 7:00 with Barry Plant as the relief brakeman, once again I was the senior man but let Barry ride the caboose with Jim, not wanting to hear any more lectures on our goof up yesterday. The list we received for working the trip was overwhelming, not only did we have to do our usual grain elevator spotting, we had additional work to do the potash plant at Grant Spur, and work that the Burstall Wayfreight couldn’t finish at Ingebright Lake, and McNeil, the weather was bad again with lots of snow and drifting. We set out of Swift Current, doing some elevator work at Success, Pennant, and Battrum stopping our train at Mileage 31.1 where the Grant Spur left the mainline, the snow was blowing and drifting, and Conductor Kislanko made the decision to ride on the engines to go down to the plant to do the switching he got the engineer to pull the caboose up to the junction switch, and left Barry on the caboose to protect the tail end movement, and we cut off our two engines to back down to the plant that was 5.2 miles away. There was not too much to do just pull out a couple of loads of potash and spot to empties that were at the plant, Jim and I rode the trailing unit, and radioed to the engineer at track conditions behind him as we progressed we started hitting larger snowdrifts, about halfway to our destination I saw one of the biggest snowdrifts I had seen it must have been 300 feet long, Jim radioed Norm to open up the throttle full as we were going to hit this enormous snowdrift, and boy did the snow ever fly, we made it about half way when one of the engines quit and the alarm belts started to ring, we lost our momentum and stalled about three quarters of the way through the drift, there we were dead in the water, we were able to get the one engine started again so at least we had heat in both locomotives, you could walk off the running boards of the locomotives and step right onto the snow on each side and it was hard packed. Our radios were not powerful enough in strength to reach the operator at Swift Current, we could reach Barry on the caboose but that was of no help to us as he was miles away from any town. Jim was a tough old bird, and made the decision to walk the 2 1/2 miles to the plant to phone for assistance this was at about 12:00, Norm and I sat on our lead locomotive and waited, after about two hours Jim was back riding on a front-end loader from the plant that came to our assistance there was a level crossing just in front of the remaining drift. He proceeded to start scooping up the snowdrift and backing up and dumping it in a ditch and slowly but surely he was able to reach our trailing locomotive, in the meantime a gang of section men had arrived with shovels to assist us, one engine was stuck really bad, the section men shovelled out the snow between the two locomotives, and we were able to get one free so they could get in and shovelled more snow out finally after about four hours we were free and able to get back to our train on the mainline, because of the bad weather the powers to be told Jim not to bother with any other work just set our cars and proceed back to Swift Current where we arrived about 21:00

On arriving at Swift Current I booked my miles after being out there for ten days not three days that the crew caller told me. On Sunday, January 27, 1974 I deadheaded back to Medicine Hat on the passenger train, and rested for a couple of days, seeing that I had made so many miles I would be off until midnight Sunday, February 10, so I made a trip home to Calgary to visit friends and family.

(0) Comments    Read More   
Post a Comment
Name:
Email:
Website:
Comments: