Post date : September 5, 2014

A Grueling Voyage Through the Coast Mountains on The Super Continental


February 1972… I had been called for the baggageman’s job on Number two. It was a short call, meaning that number two was due out of Vancouver in just over an hour when I got the call, and it was a 40 minute drive from my home to the station at Main and Terminal on a good day. The crew office begged me to take the call, as they had gone through the entire spareboard and couldn’t get anyone to take the call. I suppose the fact that it had been snowing for several hours might have had some bearing on the reluctance of spare board men to accept the call. When it snows two inches in Vancouver, motorists behave as if there was four feet of the white stuff on the ground!

Equally daunting was the fact that when a brakeman took a call for number two, he could expect to be away for two days or more. The train crews ran from Vancouver to Blue River, nearly 400 miles of mostly dangerous mountain and canyon territory.


Bruce Harvey collection….Photographer unknown

That assignment ran over three subdivisions where the speed averaged about 35 miles per hour. Running time averaged over 12 hours one way…., on the summer schedule! This trip was likely going to be somewhat longer than that.

The heavy snow would add another dimension to the difficulty that a crew would encounter on the road…that of snow and rock slides. Avalanches were quite common in the Fraser and Thompson canyons at this time of year, and a late snowfall such as this would almost certainly ensure that we would be hitting several of them.

Bruce Harvey Collection….Photographer Unknown

I took the call, explaining that I would get there as soon as I possibly could, but would most likely be a bit late. They promised that they would advise the conductor.

We left Vancouver a bit late due to heavy snow. The train was loaded to near capacity and everyone seemed to be in good spirits. The baggage car was loaded to the roof with baggage, mail and express so I was going to be kept busy for most of the 12 or more hours that we’d be aboard.

After climbing out of ‘the cut’, the train entered Great Northern’s double track main line where Frank could ‘let the shaft out’, getting No. 2 up to speed.

I could hear the whistle sounding for each of the road crossings, felt them as the passed beneath the baggage car.

I loved this job!

The train entered a broad S-curve, whistle blowing for Boundary Road….

A Vancouver police car had been dispatched to the scene and a tow truck had been summoned to remove a 1966 Chevrolet that was stuck in deep snow between the north and south tracks of the Great Northern main track near Vancouver. The tracks cross four lanes of Boundary Road which separates the city of Vancouver from the city of Burnaby. The Chevy had tried to make a U turn over what looked like a wide-open space. In fact, it was actually the railroad tracks, now covered with snow.

The tow truck dispatcher advised the police that due to the heavy snow that blanketed the entire city, there would likely be a three hour wait before a tow truck could get there. Not wanting to wait for the truck to arrive, the officer decided to take matters into his own hands. He ordered the four occupants out of the car and tied one end of heavy rope to the police cruisers bumper and the other end to the Chevy.

The police car, with red lights flashing was trying to pull the car off the median with a rope tied between the two cars.

The Super Continental, with engine 6511 in the lead, was running downgrade as it emerged from the S-curve beneath the twin spans of the Trans Canada Highway. Engineer Snyder pushed the bell valve lever over, activating the roof-mounted bell, and at the same time, he pulled on the whistle cord. Blowing whistle signal 14L for the four lanes divided Boundary Road, he spotted the flashing emergency lights and the two cars which were engaged in a futile struggle with each other. Snyder grabbed the automatic brake valve handle and threw it right across the quadrant into the “big hole”, putting the engine and train brakes into emergency. A few seconds later, the Chevy disappeared from view and the engines’ drawbar slammed into the side of the Chevy at fifty miles per hour.

Hearing the train whistle, the officer leaped out of the squad car and, running around the end of his cruiser, he raised his arm, holding his hand up gesturing to the train with all the authority he could muster.

The impact caused the rope to part, but not before ripping one end of the squad cars’ bumper from the frame. The officer leaped aside, slipped on the wet snow and fell to the ground as the engine carried on down the track. As the train slowed and stopped, I watched from the open baggage car door as the officer, slipping and stumbling, got to his feet. Grabbing his hat out of the snow and jamming it on his head, he went to the rear end of his cruiser. Lifting the shredded rope from the ground, he examined the bent bumper on the back of the cruiser.

While the fireman checked the steam and air connections at the front of the engine, Frank climbed down from the engine and stepped into knee-deep snow to make his way back to the crossing. When he got to the scene of the collision, the police officer issued a citation to Frank for failing to stop when the officer held up his hand ordering Frank to immediately stop the train.

Frank laughed at the officer’s ridiculous protestations advising him to serve the ticket to CN’s Superintendent of Transportation in the depot on Terminal Avenue.

The conductor and head end brakeman came into the baggage car along with Engineman Snyder, the police officer and the four young occupants of the Chevy. The officer, making a supreme effort to calm himself, asked it the train could be moved off the crossing, or if it could be separated (cut) to allow traffic to move. The fireman then came into the baggage car and told us that the steam line had been damaged and was now jammed under the pilot. We couldn’t move the train until help arrived from Vancouver Diesel Shop to clear the damaged steam line.

At that time, a Vancouver tow truck arrived.

After a short consultation with the police officer, the driver got back into the cab of his truck … and drove away! The officer went to his cruiser and made a call on his police radio; then he came to the train to tell us that, because the car had been on the Vancouver side of “Boundary” Road when the police had called for a tow truck, a Vancouver tow truck answered the call. However, the impact with Number 2 caused the car to be thrown across the boundary into Burnaby, so the driver refused to hook onto the Chevy … it was a union agreement thing. We learned that a new call had to be made to a Burnaby towing company in order to get the car moved to an impound yard.

Within a half hour, CN’s shop staff arrived with the necessary tools to remedy the problem with the steam line; a tow Burnaby tow truck arrived and moved the remnants of the car away from the side of the train. Meanwhile, CN had dispatched two carmen from the Vancouver Car Department to inspect the train. After a thorough examination, we were cleared to depart.

I closed the big sliding door as Frank whistled off and released the brakes and began notching up the throttle. The train moved quietly away from the scene as snow flakes began to fall once more. I lifted another scoop of coal from the metal bin beside my desk and tossed it into the cast iron stove nearby.

Part two to follow in my next post.

Posted By : Author   At : 12:00 am

no comment

Post date : June 5, 2014

Time Passes While We Watch

Watches and railroading go hand in hand…, if you’ll forgive that clever little pun.

Having been raised in a railroad home, in a railroad town, in a railroad country…, I have many vivid memories of railroad timepieces. As a young lad, I would often drop in at the yardmaster’s office while I was either on my way to the ‘Swinging Bridge’ over the Vermillion river at Capreol for some swimmin’ and fishin’. With my fishing rod and a can of worms which I had caught the night before on the lawn beside the CNR station, I’d quietly let myself into the booking-in room, or the waiting room and take up a position where I could watch the activity behind the glass that separated those outer rooms from either the yardmaster’s office, or the operator’s office.

yardmaster office
In the yardmaster’s office, there seemed to be a lot of activity. The yardmaster, the clerk, the car-checker, all appeared to be quite busy and in fear of not getting all their work done before the end of their shift. They were too busy to notice me as I edged closer to the opening that allowed me to see more. There were several typewriters, at least one on every desk and half of them were noisily clacking away, creating lists, records, crew sheets, train consists and yard reports.

In stark contrast to this circus of activity, the operator’s office, on the other side of, and separated from the yardmaster’s office was an oasis of peace and serenity. At least that is the memory I have of it. Everything about it was different from the busier hub of railroad activity ‘over there.’ Even the smell of the air in the outer rooms…, the yard office vs. the waiting room. They were both unique, both very “railroad”, but different from one another. Cigarette smoke and decades-old bulletin books in one, and old varnish and the smell of stale steam heat in the other.

operator office

The sounds were different too. From the operator’s office, I listened to the telegraph repeater running on with its ‘clack, clack……., click, clack, click’. The operator’s chair would creak as he pulled himself closer to the desk in front of him and reached for the ‘key’ to respond to the magical, mystical message that no one but himself understood.

And behind it all, there was the steady, soothing sound of the Standard Railway Clock, that most indispensable piece of railway equipment which every railroader whose boots stepped onto the right of way had to consult before he could begin his day’s work. The railroad ran on the timetable and the timepieces that all railroaders who had anything at all to do with the movement of trains must carry at all times. And every man had to compare his watch with the station clock, adjusting it, or marking on the train register the number of seconds his watch was out of sinc with that station clock, as in 3 sec fast, or 7 sec slow, etc. Only then did all the members of a crew compare their watches with each other. Then the work could begin.

My father carried one, a beautiful, gold pocket watch that he treated as if were made of delicate egg shell. It was attached to his gold watch chain which had a gold clasp at the end. When he was dressed for work, his boots laced snug, his striped overall doubled over at the cuff and tied about his upper ankles with shoe laces to keep coal dust, cinders and the cold from getting at his lower legs while he was working in the open air cabs of early steam engines; when he had buttoned his shirt up to the last button under his chin, and wrapped his paisley scarf about his neck, he pulled on his wool cap.

oak wall phone

Then, he reached for his watch and chain that stood on the little table in the hall, just below the oak cased telephone that hung there by the front door. It wasn’t a ‘dial up’ type phone. You simply lifted the ice-cream cone shaped ear piece from the black cradle on the side of the oak box and a young woman’s voice said “Operator…, number please.” You could give her the number, if you knew it, or simply say, “Hi Gladys, can you connect me with Stechyn’s Lumber Yard?” She would say “One moment, Please”, and be gone.

The watch, he would gently slip into the watch pocket that was designed and sewn into the front of the overalls, just about at the center of the wearer’s chest. The clasp would then be clipped onto a spare button hole place nearby for the purpose.

He was now ready to go and, picking up his metal lunch box, would head off toward the station, walking proudly as he passed each home along the way. This is the way it was.

Then, in June of 1964, I passed my rule exams and practical training and booked on the brakeman’s spareboard. When I arrived at the station to take my place on the crew of train number four to Ottawa on that sunny, warm June day, I went into the station to compare my watch with the station clock, which was set using the National Time Signal, and was often checked with the clock kept in the dispatcher’s offices, nearby.

But my watch comparison ceremony wasn’t what I had dreamed of, having watched railroaders check their pocket watches since my earliest memories. No…., CN had decided a few months before I hired on that all new ‘hires’ would not be allowed to use the old standard pocket watches, but must convert to new, “approved” wrist watches! The Bulova Accutron and the Universal Geneve were the only two choices.


universal geneve rr

The Accutron emitted a high pitched whine, 24-7 and the Geneva couldn’t keep time with a turtle! Only those who had already been qualified to work using a pocket watch could continue to use them. The beautiful, gold pocket watches were gone for me. I would never be able to re-enact that age-old tradition of reaching down, and finding the gold chain slung between the clasp and the gold watch and, gently lifting my treasure from my pocket, let it slide effortlessly into the palm of my hand where it would lay, softly ticking it’s warm song of our mutual love of railroading, and giving me the exact time of day.

I quickly and surepticiously pulled my sleeve up, only just far enough to expose the face of that pitiful, stainless piece of foreign hardware, which I then compared to the time showing on the face of the faithful old station clock, hung on the wall above the operator’s desk. I was humiliated.

Regulator station clock

Keeping my feelings to myself, I carried on through the first weeks of summer until I found myself on a work train, replacing timber culverts with steel ones on the Ruel sub, west of Capreol. One day, while helping to steady a long steel culvert as it was being unloaded from a flat car to the ground, the back of my wrist struck a piece of chain, breaking the crystal, of glass on the face of my watch. I was almost glad to see it smashed.

When the crew finally tied up in Capreol after a couple of wonderful weeks online, I went straight to the local CNR watch inspector/jeweler with my damaged watch. After he had given it the once-over, he declared it destroyed and I was faced with buying a new one. However, he didn’t have any spares, and would have to order one in for me. He would sell me an Accutron, he said, but they had all be re-called because they would occasionally suffer a ‘runaway’, either gaining or losing an hour or three in the space of fifteen seconds!

I’d have to accept a ‘loaner’. It was a beautiful Hamilton 992B, a gold pocket watch on a leather strap with a steel clasp. PERFECT!


As the days, and the spare trips rolled by, summer rolled by too and I was facing a nine or ten month layoff as the senior men came back from their summer vacations and the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence river froze up for the winter months, slowing freight traffic to pre-war levels.

When the Labour Day weekend arrived, I was given my layoff notice and a clearance that would allow me to look for work anywhere on my seniority district between Toronto and Hornepayne.

There’s another story that could be told about the time between my last trip at Capreol, Ontario and my first trip at Jasper, Alberta, but in order to keep with the ‘watch’ theme, we’ll just step off the westbound ‘Super Continental’ at Jasper on a very cold pre-dawn morning in mid December, 1965.

I checked my wrist watch, a used Universal Geneve that I had picked up from a young railroader in Capreol who had resigned to continue his education. But, I also had the Hamilton, which had been offered to me by the CNR watchmaker when CN officials told him not to ‘loan’ it to any railroaders. Rather, he was forced to buy a few extra wrist watches, leaving him with a couple of pocket watches that he opted to dispose of by selling them off at very reasonable prices to anyone who wanted one. Since I still had one of his loaners in my pocket when CN made that announcement, I gave him some cash and kept the watch.

Jasper, the dividing line between the Prairie Region and the Mountain Region of CN’s massive railway; all trains moving west of the west switch were governed by the dispatching offices and CN officials in Kamloops or Vancouver, and east of the west switch was the domain of the dispatching offices and management hierarchy in Edmonton.

Also, the west switch, for railway purposes was on the line that separated Mountain Standard Time from Pacific Standard Time. In practical terms, you could be standing in the parking lot, west of the station admiring the beautiful lines of the CNR Mountain Class 4-8-2 steam locomotive on static display at 1500 (3:00 pm) and walk a hundred yards westward until you had passed the west switch, and it was suddenly 1400, or 2:00 pm.

OK…., so what? Well, I quickly learned that when one is awakened from a sound sleep by the CNR Call Boy, an employee who was assigned to go around to the home of any railroader who didn’t have a telephone, and there were still many…, I was one of those. The Call Boy would wake the employee and give him his customary two-hour call, saying something like…., “Bruce Harvey, you’re called for a drag west out of the yard for 0330.” “It’s a bit of a short call,” he said. “I had to call the other brakeman too, and he lives at the other end of town.”

He would only then leave once you had assured him that you understood the call and were sufficiently awake that you would not go back to bed in a sleepy stupor.

Well, this time zone thing was a bit of a learning curve for me because every time I had to check my watch for the time of a First Class train at the next station where an inferior train (my train) must clear, I had to double check that I had done the math properly, to accommodate for the fact that the time west of Jasper was one hour behind that east of the west switch at Jasper. Crews running east of Jasper didn’t have to concern themselves about that for a number of reasons…, one being that they were working in only one time zone, and moreover, the Edson sub was controlled by Centralized Traffic Control and the dispatcher looked after all the meets between trains.

West of Jasper was all ‘dark territory’ and all crews had to be extremely alert at all times, checking their timetables, checking their watches and conferring with each other on the movement of their trains relative to that of other trains on the subdivisions. It was very exciting work, and I loved it.

OK…, so what could go wrong? Well, I took the call for 0330 and stumbled into the kitchen to put the coffee pot on. Then into the shower. While I was hopping on one foot, trying to force the other one into the leg of my jeans, I caught a glimpse of the clock on the stove.

The clock read 0310!!!!! What? That meant that I was already on duty! He had given me a very short call, and I was already late for work. I turned off the electric burner under the coffee pot and went to my meager pantry where I pulled out two cans of sardines and the last remains of a loaf of now-stale white bread. I shoved this into my ‘grip’ while I frantically finished dressing myself for a long trip on the Albreda Sub. I would be damned hungry on arrival at Blue River, but at least the Beanery would be open where I could get a meal within fifteen minutes of getting off my train. I was already planning what I would order that the girls could put down on the counter in front of me in the shortest possible time.

As I hurried along the street through the darkness, was grateful that we were called ‘out of the yard’, which meant that even though I was late, the conductor could cover the delay as long as I was able to get the engine off the shop track and onto the train without mishap.

Emerging from the faint glow of the street lights, I pushed open the back door of the train crew’s booking in room…, to find it empty. There was no one there except me…, and Harry Lyseko, the operator who looked up at me and said…., “My, but you’re early, aren’t you?” I looked at my watch, then I looked at the clock on the wall above Harry’s head. Then, it dawned on me. I had been called on “West Time”, and the clock on my stove was on “East Time.”

I thought about going back to my apartment to make that pot of coffee and scramble up some bacon and eggs, but it was now only 20 minutes before the rest of the crew would begin to wander in. I was resolved to do something about this, but what?

Harry waited until the entire crew had assembled before offering me up as the morning sacrifice. When the laughing had died down, one by one, they all pulled out their pocket watches and showed me the faces on their cherished timepieces. Each one had TWO hour hands. One was a polished, blue-black hand that came with the watch, and the other was bright red, and had been installed there by the CNR watch inspector in Jasper.

992 w2 hour hands

When we eventually returned home, I made my way downtown to visit the watch inspector. I presented him with my wrist watch and when he saw it he said he couldn’t put an extra hand on “those damned things!” “It’d be different if you had a turnip (pocket watch),” he said. I pulled my Hamilton out of the watch pocket in my jeans and handed it to him. While he removed the crystal and plucked the hands from my Hamilton, he told me that he wouldn’t accept responsibility if I got caught using that pocket watch on the job.

You see, every Standard Railway Grade Watch must be accompanied by a “Watch Inspection Card” that has the corresponding watch number written and registered on the card. It was one of those things, along with current timetable, rule book and medical card that some railway officers would ask occasionally ask to see if they happened to run into you on the job.

So, thereafter…, I wore my wrist watch and carried my Hamilton, seldom looking at the wrist watch, but always checking the ‘turnip’ first.

Do I still have my beautiful Hamilton? Sadly, no. The watch, along with my father’s gold watch chain and my grandfather’s gold fob all disappeared from our home during a real estate showing when we were asked by the realtor to leave the house while he conducted an “open house”. I miss it. We made wonderful memories together.

Posted By : Author   At : 12:00 am

no comment

Post date : May 9, 2014

SD40-2’s On Ice

In the last episode, we took an uncontrolled ride down the controlling grade on CN’s Lumby sub. The train, heavily loaded with forest products including lumber, plywood veneer, wood chips and poles got away from me and, at times reached more than twice the allowable speed limit. Right at the bottom of the hill was an old wooden trestle that had been downgraded to ten miles per hour. We approached it doing upwards of fifty miles per hour and…. well, we made it and stopped without rolling over into the valley below, or causing any personal injuries.

However, there was considerable damage to the braking apparatus under all of the locomotives and that had to be fixed up enough to get them to the nearest facility, which was in Kamloops where they could be fully repaired and put back into service.

Naturally, they had an envelope full of demerits they wanted to give to somebody and I was the logical choice; I had, after all, been in control of the train. At least until I was no longer in control of it.

In an apparent effort to build an iron-clad case against me and not jeopardise the employment records of the other members of the crew, CN’s local manager called upon one of the Engine Service Brakemen (ESB) assigned to the terminal to make a round trip on the Lumby Switcher to observe my performance and report back to the supervisor/manager.

So, the next day I arrived at the yard office to find my conductor and brakeman ‘booking in’ while the car checker was printing up a list of the cars that were to be spotted at the various industries on the Lumby sub. As well, there would be cars already on spot that would have to be pulled and brought down to Vernon for furtherance to Kamloops and beyond.

Don would spend a half hour or so on the phone with the shipping clerks at each of the industries on the hill, and from those discussions, he would decide which cars would be taken with us, leaving some in storage near the Lumby Jct. switch where there were four tracks used by both CN and CP crews to hold out traffic.

Through the partly opened door to the manager’s office at the far end of the hallway, I could see “Bob”, the ESB I mentioned earlier, casually slumped in a chair and deep in conversation with the manager. This wasn’t unusual. Bob could quite often be found in close proximity to the manager and in fact, seemed to exercise considerable influence in the decision making process and operation of the Okanagan Division. I took the brakeman with me and we went to check out the locomotive consist that we would use for the day.

Once settled in, brake tests completed and cab swept out, I called the office to tell the conductor we were ready to go. Within a few minutes, he opened the front door of the SD40-2 and stepped into the cab. The look on his face told me that something wasn’t quite right. He pursed his lips and began whatever he was going to say with…, “Well…, ” and he said it with a bit of a western drawl. Don had a large repertoire of interesting, sometimes poignant, and always full-of-meaning sayings that he used at the most opportune times. Sometimes serious, sometimes humorous, but always to the point. I liked working with Don.

On this day, he finished his opening sentence with…, “it looks like were going to have company today.”

“Oh” I said. “Who’s coming with us, and why?”

“Well….,” he said. “I don’t know the ‘why’, but the ‘who’ is Bob,” the local engineer, ESB I spoke of earlier.

I knew by the look on his face that he knew much more than he was going to tell me. He had a rather simple philosophy about almost everything, and it was obvious he was applying one of his favourites on this day. “In any given situation, there’s two ways to handle it…” he would say. There’s “Lever A” and “Lever B”. This situation called for “Lever B” (Leave ‘er be) and I would find out the “why”soon enough.

At that point, Bob stepped into the cab and the brakeman, Eddy got up and gave him his seat.

“What are you doing here today, Bob”, I asked?

“Uh, the boss asked me to tag along to, uhhh, have a look at the subdivision and, er…, well, to see if, uh, well, how the track is, and, uh…..”. He trailed off to catch his breath.

“You mean, you’re here to check me out…”, I said.

“Yeah”, he said.

I asked him if he was here in an ‘official’ capacity, but he said “No”, he wasn’t. I thought about asking him to leave the cab, as he had no pass or other authority to be on board my engine. But then, I thought…., if he gets hurt while riding with us, that will bring the wrath of the Worker’s Compensation Board of BC down on the neck of the manager that I held in such high regard. I kept my mouth shut, neither giving him my permission to stay, nor asking him to leave.

We spent an hour switching, picking up and setting out cars in Vernon and at Lumby Jct. where both CN and CPR interchanged cars with each other. Once our train was all together and the SBU attached to the rear car, we had a brake test, checked our paper work one more time and left for our day on the Lumby sub.

The first nine miles was all uphill, and we were pulling empty boxes, bulkhead flats and chip cars for two lumber mills; cars of sand and soda ash for the glass plant, and gondolas and flats for another industry that shipped raw poles for hydro installations and log house building. We would get rid of most of those cars on the way out, and some on the way back. All in all, we never stopped for a break, or slowed down for any reason. We had to be back into Vernon in time to add all the traffic we brought in to the cars that the Kelowna switcher brought to Vernon. The Armstrong switcher would leave their cars in the first CPR siding south of Vernon, at Larkin. The ‘north’ would pick those up before tackling the hill from Armstrong to Monte Lake that evening.

The weather had been particularly cold and the snow, once it began falling in November seemed never to stop. City streets were clogged with the stuff. Both railways, CN and CPR did not have snow removal equipment in the Okanagan, so we simply pushed it around with the engines and swept and shoveled to find and move the switches.

Eventually, we left Lavington, after switching the lumber mill and the glass plant and we headed for the Riverside Lumber mill, just a couple of miles west of the town of Lumby. There, we would slow down to check the doors on the boxcars spotted at the ‘studs’ track, then look at the chips being loaded in the tail of the studs track. Beyond that, the conductor and brakeman would drop off to clean a facing point switch so that we could arrange to ‘drop’ our train on the two mile downgrade that led to ‘end of track’ in Lumby.

After leaving the glass plant, I let the train roll down a gently curving downgrade that ran for about a half mile, then straight across a meadow. The speed of the train had settled out about 30 mph (speed limit 25), but I knew that when we began to climb out of that hollow, the speed would drop and the engine would pass the “Cautionary Limit” sign at less than 15 mph and would continue to drop to less than 10 as we passed the loading platform of the studs track.

As the engine passed the studs track switch, the conductor and brakeman were getting ready to check out the boxcar numbers, door seals, handbrakes, etc. Bob was keeping up an excited banter with the brakeman about not much in particular and I was watching the track ahead for the large rubber tired forklift that was often found foul of the main track in that area despite the fact that I always blew the whistle, rang the bell and ran with full headlights and ditch lights. That forklift driver had nine lives, I’m sure.

The track took a slight turn towards the right as we ran beside the loading platform and I took a minimum brake to warm up the shoes in case I needed them in a hurry.

Before the brake valve exhaust had stopped hissing in the cab, I “plugged it”, putting the train into emergency! All conversation ceased immediately and all eyes were looking forward, then at me. It seemed that I was the only one in the cab who could see that there was a potentially dangerous situation developing right in front of the engine, and we were about to tangle with it.

It seems that the mill, in an effort to find a way to get rid of the vast amount of snow that had been accumulating during that particularly heavy winter season, decided to use that forklift to scoop up snow from the parking lot, the chip loaders, the access roadways, and the concrete railcar loading ramps…, and pile it next to the beehive burner. The burner gave off an inordinate amount of heat which melted the snow and…., voila…, there it was – gone! Well, it was almost gone.

As we know, water takes several forms, it doesn’t just ‘go away.’ In this case, the snow turned to water and flowed toward the loading ramp, over the edge and onto the studs spur. It didn’t stop there either. No…, it flowed onto the mainline where it froze in an ice sheet about ten inches thick.

With the train brakes set in ’emergency’ and the engine softly idling, we rode up onto the ice and, the front truck turned slightly, directing the engine into the page wire fence that outlined the cattle rancher’s property and the boundary with CN’s right of way. And that’s where we stopped our forward movement.

Addressing the brakeman, I said… “Eddy, tie a hand brake on ‘er please.” “I think we’ll leaver her here for the day and go home by taxi.”

Then, looking at Bob, I asked him how he planned to write this up in his report. “Do you think the boss’ll find a way to blame this on me?” I asked him.

He dug a cell phone out of his jacket pocket and called the boss to tell him what had happened. There was a silence on the other end of the line that was audible.

During the night… (The Kamloops shop staff didn’t like having to come to Vernon in the dark, or in the winter, and this was both of those.) a truck arrived with something called a ‘Hoesh’, and by morning, they had the SD40-2 back on the rails.

Also the next day, I paid a visit to the boss in his office, but he didn’t seem to want to talk about my ‘ice capades’ the day before, so I left, knowing that I was still doing a good job.

Posted By : Author   At : 12:00 am

no comment