Saturday, April 4, 2009

CP's Loose Caboose

Heading west in the vestibule aboard VIA No 1 in 1985, we passed a somewhat unique CP van, the "loose caboose" in Niblock siding. CP 437188 was a regular CP van in most respects, but it housed a train order office complete with roof-mounted train order board. Used to control train movements on this double-track mainline, where no other station existed, it could be set out in any siding. The operator was out to give us an inspection as we passed. The location of the loose caboose is given in train order 855:
A few minutes later, we met a resurfacing gang at English River. They were refuelling their tamper, as they worked at tamping new ballast into the roadbed. We then met an eastbound with 3 units behind engine 5992. The gang's 25 boarding cars were in the clear at Martin.
Another mobile train order office was housed in boarding boxcar CP 412592, on the Ignace Sub:

RTCDave shared some of his experiences working as an operator in CP 437188:
"There was no light for inspections, just your lantern and the light from inside the van, which was a Coleman lantern. We used a "lunchbox" radio hooked up to the skate antenna on the roof, to communicate with the dispatcher in Winnipeg. The day guy opened up at around 0500 until noon, and I took over at noon until relieved before by the dispatcher. Usually before dark, as the gangs would return to the bunk cars which were situated across from us. The gang cars had a cook who would also make sure we got fed too. We could also raid the stores cars for supplies: bacon, eggs, bread and coffee. We always had the coffee pot on, and many of the trains would stop to pick up their 19Y orders and a cup of Kam Koffee."
Running extra...
Did you know there's a Track Side liquor store in Medicine Hat, Alberta. If you're ever in Geneseo, Illinois, stop by Trackside Liquors. In Kingston we have a trackside Tim Horton's beside CN's right-of-way fence in Collins Bay, with the following sign taped to the drive-through speaker "In case of train, pull up to the window to place order".
Our recent blog poll showed about 60% of respondents would like to see an occasional modelling post. Maybe my HO scale Winnipeg Terminals will make an appearance soon.


Canadian Train Geek said...

I love this! I had never heard of a travelling train order office. Thanks for posting this.

Eric said...

Hi Steve, I had a clipping from a March/80 Model Railroader, photo submitted by Bryan Martyniuk of Thunder Bay, showing the Loose Caboose. Glad you enjoyed it, as I have your videos of the NB railway scene.

Alex de Léry said...

Thanks for posting! Never heard of this before!

Eric said...

Hi Alex, the Loose Caboose does seem to be a rare operation. This was a pretty remote part of CP's network, so perhaps it's not surprising it's not that widely known. Sounds like an interesting car/operation for anyone modelling that era.
Thanks for your comments,

Manny Jacob said...

Hi Eric, well done on posting this interesting story. Yes, that loose caboose, much like the flyover at mile 91 of the Keewatin sub does seem to be one more oddity from this stretch of line. I believe there was also mention of this in a couple of books, like Bill Coo's Scenic Rail Guide and possibly Patrick Dorin's CPR book from 1969.

Future idea for a writeup: according to Coo's book there was one of those giant axle readers/display boards around mile 90 (can't remember exactly) of the Keewatin sub. I think you had a picture of one of these in one of your earlier stories. Perhaps a brief writeup about the one on the Keewatin sub would be in order here? (I don't have a photo of it and it's obviously long gone.)

Eric said...

Hi Manny, the Loose Caboose is indeed in Coo's Rail Guide to Western Canada, where it's claimed that it's the only roving caboose of its type in North America.

Regarding those the giant CP display detectors, which preceded talking detectors, I have a couple of photos, both from Manitoba and Ontario. Thanks for the suggestion and I'll see what I can do.