Posted on 17-12-2011
Filed Under (Alberta 1970s, CPR) by Broken Rail

During the first couple of weeks in March we had a lot of snowfall in Alberta, on Wednesday March 20, 1974 the Zone 3 Wayfreight called for 08:45 we had the CPR 8611 leading, with the crew Locomotive Engineer Stan McPhedran, Conductor Mars Wolfe, Head end Brakeman Alan Greenstein, reading over our paperwork at Alyth we were instructed to run to Shepard caboose hop (locomotives and caboose) where there was a snow plow set off in the second siding we were to marshal it on to our train in front of the locomotive and proceed over the Strathmore sub to Irricana where we were to meet the Roadmaster Louis Visochhi and under his instructions go into snowplow service. Mars (nicknamed Mars Bar) was quite a character, when we had the snowplow all set up Mars said that he would ride on the plow over to Irricana, and he figured he’d help of the roadmaster by operating the snowplow over the Strathmore subdivision, as he said it was easy to run one of these pieces of equipment. I rode on the locomotive with Stan and Alan for a good view of the snowdrifts we were about to hit, it didn’t take Stan long to get our speed up to 30 miles an hour and we started hitting some pretty good drifts, we were plowing a lot more than snow as we were seeing wooden boards, and railway crossing planks flying by the windows along with the snow. It was evident that Mars was not as good at running a snowplow as he made out he was, there are signs along the railway right-of-way warning snowplow operators of approaching railway crossings, and switch stands to give them ample time to raise the front points, and close the side wings to avoid running into them, Mars wasn’t fast enough and on a few locations had torn out some railway crossings, and wooden setoff stands the sectionmen used for setting off their speeders. I’m sure the sectionmen would have had a dim view of our conductor’s efforts to help them with the snowdrifts.

We met Louis at Irricana he said we would be running down the Irricana subdivision to Tudor, and tie up in Irricana for the night, it was a calm clear winter day and the plowing went good with not too many major snowdrifts with two locomotives in our consist we had lots of horsepower to get us through, at Nightingale we derailed the front of the snowplow going over a private crossing that had filled in with ice, this was similar to my experience on the Empress Subdivision that I posted earlier when I was riding a on top of a boxcar that derailed from the same conditions. We had lots of sectionmen on board the snowplow and with some hardwood wedges and a bit of coaxing we were successful in getting the plow back on track, and with their picks and shovels they cleaned out the remaining ice between the rails and the crossing planks. At Nightingale we had to set off one of our locomotives, as there was a weight restriction between there and Tudor Past the manual interlocking tower at the Dunshalt we started hitting some pretty big snowdrifts, one was fairly long and deep we got above halfway through when we stalled, with two locomotives this would not have been a problem, but being down to one unit really slowed us down quickly, once again the sectionmen dugout some of the snow, and we were able to back up far enough to take a better run at the drifts after three attempts we were successful in breaking through and continued on to Tudor uneventfully. On March 21 we continued plowing down Langdon subdivision to Entice, and up the Acme subdivision to Wimborne, we made an effort to do some plowing on the Meers spur but the track was too rough so we aborted that attempt and were finished at 12:15, being in snowplow service we were on continuous pay and made 344 miles, for that part of the trip. We went back on duty in wayfreight service at Wimborne 12:15 we had a momentarily delay when our caboose went off the track going over a private crossing filled with ice, but the section forces soon had us back on track and we arrived back at Alyth and were off duty at 19:15.


1.) Picture I took at Nightingale when the snowplow derailed on the ice filled crossing, we are backing up to re-rail the plow, on the left wearing the florescent orange hat is Mars Wolfe our conductor, two of the sectionmen and Roadmaster Louis Visochhi on the right-hand side.
2.) snowplow stuck in drift Section Forman Roman, he and his crew lived in Beiseker in the old CPR roadmaster’s house. He had immigrated to Canada from Romania, and had run and the Berlin Olympics in 1936.
3.) Snowplow with head end brakeman Alan Greenstein to the left, and Roadmaster Louis Visochcci on the right-hand side.
4.) Snowplow CPR 400442 with your author and tail end brakeman.

5.) Section foreman John Lehman from Torrington assists rerailing our caboose at Wimborne

CPR Snowplow on ground at Nightingale

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