Posted on 04-09-2011
Filed Under (Alberta 1970s, CPR) by Broken Rail

After enjoying 13 days rest, after that gruelling month of January on the Grain Train in Saskatchewan, I booked back on and waited for my turn to come up and on Tuesday, February 12, 1974 I was ordered to deadhead to Calgary to man a new assignment the Zone 2 Brooks Wayfreight. Arriving early in the afternoon I stayed at my parents home in district of South Calgary, and was called at 06:00 for 08:00 as the head end brakeman for this assignment, after a quick breakfast I walk three blocks and caught the South Calgary trolley bus that ran down 14th St. to the Beltline district to downtown Calgary where I got off at 1st St., West and 8th Avenue in front of the Hudson Bay Co. store, crossed the street and besides The of Bank of Montréal  transferred to the East Calgary diesel bus that took me down 9th Ave., Southeast through the Inglewood district in Southeast Calgary to the bus loop that was a few blocks from the Alyth General Yard Office where walked over to meet the crew, and check the bulletins and my pocket watch. The conductor was John Mandzies, and the tail end brakeman was Charlie Mock, who I had worked with in November on the Burstall Wayfreight. I picked up my portable radio and did a check to see if it was functioning okay, found out what track in the yard our train was in, and made my way over to the Alyth Diesel Shops to meet the locomotive engineer, and bring the power over to the head end of the train. At the booking out room in the diesel shops I met the engineer George Brassard, our locomotives were still inside the building and we waited 15 minutes before they were outside and ready on the departure track they were 8654, and 8836 facing back-to-back. I did my usual duties checking to see we had all our supplies, a flagging kit, a broom and shovel for sweeping and shovelling snow out of switches, spare air hoses, and wrench. George did his preparatory inspection of the locomotives walking around to make sure the other locomotive was properly supplied, and the walkabout the outside to check the running gear, and make sure the sanders were working okay, one wasn’t so he called the diesel shop where on the locomotive radio, and some shop staff came out to remedy the situation. After about 20 minutes we were ready to go, I walked back to the trailing locomotive got up on the point, checking my radio again with George to see we were communicating okay, and instructed him to back up, using hand signals to take us off the shop track onto N-14, line the switch and we proceeded toward the east end of the yard, reaching the East End of N-14 I communicated by radio to the Pulldown Supervisor for instructions, and the route to our train that was over in track V-2. He said it was okay to come out and line ourselves down N-14 lead along the tower and crossover to the Old Ogden lead and back onto our train, with this accomplished I radioed the Car Department Planner and asked for permission to couple onto our train, he instructed me that he would send a carman to take down the blue flag protection and that we could couple on and cut in the air. Using hand signals I directed George back lighting switches along the way until we were lined up for V-2, and seeing the carman dropping the blue flag, signalled George to back up five car lengths to a coupling, making a stretch to be sure we were tied on, I called the CD Planner and told them we were on our train, I then proceeded to take off the hand brakes on the first eight cars of the train, walking back an additional four car lengths to make sure there was no other brakes, I then returned to the locomotive were we waited for our conductor. John arrived by crew bus, a company owned van operated by a CPR clerk 24 hours a day to convey train crews around Calgary terminal, and brought us our train orders, and switch lists, after carefully reading over the train orders, we compared our railway grade watches, we discussed the switching we had 105 grain empties to be spotted along the line, and five empty sulphur tank cars to be set off at Shephard for the Zone 3 Wayfreight. We were running as an Extra East, so I put up the white flags on the front nose of the locomotive cab, and George put on the white classification lights from this control stand. The carman called and said that he had 75 pounds pressure on the caboose, and that it was okay to set the air brakes for our No. 1 brake test, the two carmen walked the train and checked to see that all the air brakes had applied, when this was finished, they radioed us to release the brakes, the CD Planner then called us and said we were okay to depart with 110 cars and no bad orders. I then called the Pulldown Supervisor and told them we were ready to depart eastward out of the V-2, he instructed us to line ourselves towards P-2, we called the operator at 12th St. Tower and he said he would cross us over from P-2 to the mainline on P-1, we called Charlie on the caboose, and he said he was all ready to go. John got off to watch our train go by, and I lined the switches towards P-2, and George started the train slowly, the dwarf signal on the Bonnybrook Bridge turned from red to green indicating slow clear, meaning we can proceed at a speed of 15 miles an hour until the caboose cleared the crossover switch on the bridge, Charlie radioed us that it was about 15 cars until we picked up John, when he was aboard we increased our speed until Charlie told us we were clear of the crossover by then we could see the signal at Ogden was clear and George opened the throttle and got us up to track speed of 55 mph.

Leaving Ogden Mile 171.1 we were now leaving the interlocking territory of the yard, and entering CTC (Centralized Traffic Control) that we would be running on until we reached Gleichen Mile 124.8 A. distance of 46.3 miles, we received an approach signal the intermediate west of Shepherd took the siding there stopping at the East End, a westbound freight went by our train, and we got a signal out of the East End I pulled down 10 cars cut off the cars, and spotted 5 of the grain box cars at the two Alberta Wheat Pool elevator’s 3 at A-3 and 2 at A-1, I then set the five empty sulphur tank cars over to the second siding, coupled on to our train and waited for another signal to proceed eastward, to our next stop Mile 158.8 at Indus  to set off 5 more grain empties, there was no siding at Indus and just two elevators one privately owned by a farmer, and the other an Alberta Wheat Pool, George pulled up the main, I bailed the locomotive at about 8 miles an hour, told him to stop after five cars had gone by, closed the angle cock on our cut of cars, pulled the pin and told him to go ahead 10 cars to the switch, I ran across the backtrack, and unlocked the derail, told George to stop and walked up and lined the main track switch for the elevator track, jumped on the ladder on the leading car, told George to back up 40 cars to a spot, giving him car lengths as we proceeded backwards at about 12 to 15 mph, as we approached the elevator George who was watching me from the locomotive slowed down enough so I could bail off and gave him five car lengths to spot, the cars ran eastward and when the fifth one had gone by I stopped George when the elevator spot was in the middle of the doorway of the first box car. I quickly climbed the ladder and tied a handbrake on the first box car, close the angle cock on the locomotive’s, uncoupled and told George to proceed to the mainline, once clear of the mainline switch, I relined it and back George up five cars to a coupling, when we tied on, I got a stretch and coupled in the air, and cut across to place the derail on and lock it, by the time I returned to the lead locomotive the air had charged up and we left for our next set off at Mile 152.5 Dalemead, there we received an approach signal to take the siding which we did and let an eastbound freight go by us, the elevator track was conveniently located at the East End of the siding, I cut off 8 box cars, and when George got a signal out of the siding we pulled down and back into the elevator track to spot the two Alberta Wheat Pool Elevators, giving them 4 and 4 to load, coupled back onto the train and waited for a signal to proceed eastward, next stop was Mile 144.6 Carseland that had just an elevator track where we peeled off a dozen cars for the three elevators, two Alberta Wheat Pool, and one United Grain Growers. with that work furnished we proceeded eastward and entered the siding at Mile 139.0 Strangmuir where we were meeting a westbound, the old Alberta Wheat Pool elevator painted in mineral red was located halfway down the siding, so we were able to clear the mainline, and cut off 4 cars spot him up before the westbound arrived, and we were ready to go east again to Mile 124.8 Gleichen here we held the mainline and spotted 12 cars, the CTC siding at Gleichen was on the south side of the mainline, and on the north side was the Strathmore Subdivision, second siding, and elevator track. So to get there I had to line the mainline switch, second siding switch, and backtrack switch then take off the derail, a footnote here about the colourful elevators most prairie grain elevator companies painted their elevators mineral brown like the CPR boxcars, until the late 1960s, when one company decided that bright colors would promote their corporate image better. Pioneer Grain painted their elevators bright orange with yellow roofs, Alberta Wheat Pool, used green and black roofs and United Grain Growers used a stylish blue logo on white with black roofs.

At Gleichen there was a station and operator on duty 24 hours, the train order board was at 45° and the light was yellow indicating that we had to get train orders in order to proceed eastward into ABS (Automatic Block System) territory where we would be working under train order, timetable authority which was a little more complex than the ease of working CTC. It was 11:30 so we had sufficient time to head over to Mile 116.7 Cluny to take the siding for westbound passenger train No.1 The Canadian where we waited in the clear until he passed by, once again we were fortunate that the three Alberta Wheat Pool elevators were located on the east end of the siding and we spotted them up with 9 empties. Next up was Mile 105.8 Crowfoot siding where we stopped short, and cut off 6 cars and spotted them at the elevator track on the west end of the siding, we then back down to our train and proceeded eastward to our next stop at Mile 97.6 Bassano where we arrived at 13:06 here there was a large yard on the south side of the main track consisting of the following tracks from the mainline No. 1 Storage, No. 1 Passing track, No. 2 Passing track, Track 7, Track 8 a stub track accessible from the West End, Track 9, Track 10, North Shop Track, South Shop Track, and a Wye on the West End of the yard, North of the mainline was the Bassano Subdivision main track, Construction Track, and Elevator track, on the east side of the station were House 1, and House 2, Team 1 and Team 2 tracks, west of the station on the north side was a junction switch for the Irricana Subdivision, totally yard capacity 434 cars, we contacted the operator and he told us to leave our train in the No 1 Storage, we  stopped for a one-hour lunch break, on returning from lunch we went to do some switching in the yard where we set off 30 empty boxcars into track 7, these were for spotting on the Irricana Subdivision, and did some other switching chores given to us from the operator we then waited until 15:42 when No. 965 a second class freight went by us westbound, we were then able to cross over to the north side of the yard to spot the two elevators, with 6 empties, 3 each for the two Alberta Wheat Pool elevators, this chore involved pulling out our train of 14 cars onto them south end of the mainline, backup our train and leave our caboose and 8 empties, going ahead and lining up for the elevator track, that involved crossing over the Bassano Subdivision, construction track, and into the elevator track, with this done we tied back onto our train and proceeded eastward to Mile 66.8 Brooks arriving at 16:55, oilfield development and research around Brooks had created a lot of industrial growth in the town during the 1970s, and new trackage was installed to serve Alberta Tube & Pipe a plant, manufacturing pipe and structural steel for the oil patch industries, there was also a couple of agricultural distributors of frozen produce that needed servicing, along with Bowslope Shippers a busy stock loading company that shipped lots of livestock, this was the reason this new way freight assignment was put on to service these new customers promptly and efficiently. The yard at Brooks had its station on the north side, to the west of it was a spur for the Imperial Oil agent, and east of it was a storage track, and elevator track, with the stock loading racks on the east end, along with a lead that ran up to one of the produce processing plants that produced peas, on the south side of the mainline was the siding with the tube spur lead that ran up a hill to the pipe plant and other industries, on arrival we ran our engines in towards the storage track, and dropped our caboose and empty grain boxes down the main, working in yard limits we could do our work freely, just keeping in touch with the operator by radio who gave us the progress of the next second class freight No. 949 that was due at Brooks around 18:10, through freight trains that set off gondolas of steel for the tube spur in the storage track, we took them up the hill and did the switch setting up the empties, and spotting the loads in the plant, by the time we got back No. 949 was on his way by westward, and we were free to use the mainline again, as the next eastbound train No. 952 wasn’t due at Brooks until 19:45 by this time we had put our empty gondolas away in the storage, and we finished spotting up to two Alberta wheat Pool elevators with the 8 empty boxcars tieing up for the day at 19:30, we then went to town for supper in the Newall Hotel, and had time for a couple of beverages before bedtime.

George stayed in the hotel, and we headed back to our caboose, that was spotted on the west end of the backtrack far enough away from the noise of our idling locomotives. Our caboose was a more modern one then the wooden coal burning ones that we used on the branch line’s in Saskatchewan, although similar in appearance, this can was built of steel with better insulation, and had the diesel generator that supplied electric power for the caboose markers, interior lighting, a refrigerator, and electric stove, along with a chemical toilet. A little noisy with a generator, but after we had made up our beds on the fold-down bunks, it did not take long to fall asleep after such a busy day, around 03:30 I was woken by the sound of No 945 as they set of cars for us in the storage track for the tube spur in the morning, it’s a little harder to get a good night’s sleep with freight trains rumbling through 20 yards from your bedroom all through the night, but with time one gets used to it. We were up at 05:45 went into town for breakfast at the hotel, and went back to work with no trains due we were able to work freely in the yard, we picked up a loaded gondolas of steel for the tube spur and went up the hill to switch out the empties they had unloaded, and spotted the loads, coming back to the mainline we left the empties of the hill secured with air and a handbrake, returned to the west end of the storage track, and picked up the other empty gondolas we left there last night, we then coupled them on to the other empties on the hill, and ran our locomotive out to the mainline, Charlie then bled off the air, and rode the cars were the handbrake was applied, I opened the main tracks switch, and gave Charlie a hand signal that all is clear, he released a handbrake and the dozen gondolas rolled out onto the mainline, while I protected the highway crossing and stopped any oncoming traffic. With the cars on the mainline we coupled on and pulled them down to the East End of the storage track and left them there for a eastbound freight to pick up to take them back eastward to the steel mills in Ontario for reloading. When we were finished our switching we were ready to go westward at 08:14 we went into the station asked the operator for our orders, which he was just finishing putting together, we read our orders, one was our running order Form “G”, it read Eng. 8836 run extra Brooks to Bassano, a Form “W” All regular trains due at Brooks before 08:305 Tuesday, February 14th have arrived and left except for No. 96. Form “K” No. 96 due to leave Gleichen 05:05 Tuesday, February 14 is annulled Gleichen to Medicine Hat. Along with the usual slow orders advising us of track conditions, this was always we needed proceed the only train we were concerned with was No. 947 a hot shot that was due through Brooks 10:05, and we had lots of time to keep out of his way. I put up the white flags indicating that we were running as an extra, and with 7 cars of loaded grain, and our caboose we proceeded westward arriving at Bassano at 09:15 we took the siding to the West End of the yard where we kicked our caboose down the lead and put the grain into Track 8, and assembled our train for our trip up the Irricana Subdivision, we switched out some LPG tank cars we needed from track nine and attached them to the caboose, we than grabbed the 30 empty grain cars we have placed into Track 7 yesterday afternoon, we did a brake test, and called the operator asking for permission to back down the mainline from the West and to get our orders and proceed westward on the Irricana Subdivision, he gave us permission and we went out the West End of the yard, and backed down the mainline to the station we had lots of time as the operator told us that No. 947 was running one hour and 30 minutes late out of the Medicine Hat. We picked up our orders including a Form “H” are running order that read Eng. 8836 work extra ten fifteen 10:15 until eighteen thirty 18:30 between Bassano and Standard, along with our slow orders were ready to leave, we proceeded westward 20 car lengths to the Irricana Subdivision junction switch, I lined the switch gave George the go-ahead and we pulled down and Charlie restored the mainline switch and we proceeded on our trip, the subdivision speed limit was 20 miles an hour, our first up was the elevator track at Mile 13.4 Makepeace where we spotted three empty grain boxes at the Alberta Wheat Pool Elevator, and sojourned onward to our next destination Mile 21.2 Hussar where we spotted 14 cars at the elevator row of Alberta Wheat Pool, Pioneer, and United Grain Growers, we then went to Mile 29.2 Chancellor here there was a loading track for the LPG we spotted three empty tanks, and pulled out 3 loads, we pulled up further west and spotted 3 empties at the Alberta Wheat Pool elevator, we then reached Mile 36.1 Standard our turnaround point, it was now 12:30 and we stopped for lunch walking up the hill to the local hotel that had a great restaurant that served home-cooked meals, when this was done we fold-down our train to the West End of the yard and spotted our remaining 10 grain empties in the elevator track, pulling the loads first and setting them to the siding along with our loads of LPG, we then turned our engines on the wye, assembled our train and proceeded east stopping at Chancellor, Hussar, and Makepeace lifting loads of grain and arrived at Bassano at 16:15, No. 965 was already out of Bassano, and the operator gave us permission to enter the main line we went to the East End of the and backed our train doing some switching and blocking our loaded cars together, leaving eastbound traffic of LPG, and Thunder Bay Lakehead grain loads in the east and of Track 7, we set our caboose on westbound traffic into a clear track and ran around through the siding to the west of the yard, we then picked up our caboose and train pulled them up to the west end, set our caboose to the lead and doubled on westbound traffic over to the loads we have left in Track 8, with our train assembled we made a quick brake test and backed our train down the siding to the station, to get our train orders to go west, with our clearance, and orders we departed Bassano at 17:45, we lifted westbound traffic at Crowfoot, Cluny, Gleichen, Carseland, Dalemead, and Indus, arriving at Alyth at 20:00.

Illustrations top to bottom:
1.) South Calgary No 7 trolley bus at 30 3rd Ave. SW. 2.) Calgary Transit System diesel bus like the one used on the East Calgary route. 3.) Departing Shepard eastward looking back at Alberta Wheat Pool elevators 4.4a) Elevator tracks at Indus Alberta Wheat Pool elevator, and privately owned elevator in the second view. 5.) Elevator track looking west Dalemead, Alberta Wheat Pool elevators. 6.) Elevators at Gleichen, Strathmore Subdivision on the left side. 7.) Departing Gleichen. 8.) Two views of the grain elevators and elevator track at Cluny. 9.9a) Elevators and elevator track at Crowfoot. 10.) Bassano station, yard tracks, and elevators. 11.) Arriving at Brooks showing station and elevators. 12.) A model of the first-generation steel cabooses, notice the steel roof without running boards, and no ladders to climb on top, also the electric marker lamps. 13.13a) Where we tied up in the Brooks elevator track, and another view of the Brooks Alberta Wheat Pool Elevator, Note the two loading spouts, one is mounted higher on the second elevator to accommodate loading the newer grain hopper cars that were coming out at that time.

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