Each morning in Portage la Prairie, a diminutive diesel coughed to life. Emerging from a tree-lined grove in the 2x4-framed, green-fenced former CP station garden, it crossed Third Street NE to the yard paralleling the CP Carberry Sub. Grabbing a cut of cars, it was REV-STOP-KICK, REV-STOP-KICK until the cut was switched out. Tying onto a wooden end-cupola van, our little train pulled out of the yard and wandered west to the Campbell's Soup plant located northwest of town, off CP's Minnedosa Sub, at 500 15th Street NW.
Working the yard in 1982 (above) as a westbound grain train behind CP 5760-5609 pulled in, setting out two reefers. I had first happened upon S-3 6569 in June, 1976 (L.C. Gagnon photo):
September 24, 1986, the unit was interchanged to CN in October en route to scrapping in Contrecoeur, Quebec. On June 13, 1982 a westbound coal empties train behind 5792-5533 cross Third Street NE, passing that shady station garden to drop off 6599 after 6569 had been lifted the day before, likely for maintenance in Winnipeg:
Before 1976, CP's switcher in Portage was 6513 now stuffed and mounted in Brandon, and before that a 1957-built DTC (Diesel Torque Converter). DTC's were the last locomotives built by the Canadian Locomotive Company in Kingston. These little pullers weighed in at 44 tons, thus obviating the then-need for a firemen while in light yard service. Though this was before my time, it would have been neat to see this mighty mouse's siderods spin! Ken Goslett's undated photo from Bill Linley's Morning Sun Books CP Western Lines volume, showing Campbell's water tower behind the script-lettered van:
Besides Campbell's Soup. the Portage switcher tended industries west of the station: UGG and MPE elevators, Cominco Elephant and Engro fertilizer dealerships, and the small storage yard north of the main line. East of the station, there was the team track/ramp, CN interchange, and McCallister Pea and Seed.
Here's a history of the Campbell's plant, from the Manitoba Historical Society:
In January 1957, Manitoba premier Douglas L. Campbell announced that the US-based Campbell Soup Company Limited would build a soup manufacturing plant on the west end of Portage la Prairie to supplement its existing plant at Toronto. Construction of the 125,000-square-foot plant, designed by the Winnipeg architectural firm of Green Blankstein Russell and Associates, began in June 1958. It consisted of five one-storey brick buildings, four of which were used for manufacturing, and a separate one-storey brick building for administrative offices, employee cafeteria, executive dining room, and staff changing rooms.
A railway spur to the plant allowed up to five boxcars at a time to be loaded from its warehouse, and a tower on site provided water for the facility. Completed in mid-1960 at a cost of some $5 million, the plant became fully operational by the Fall of 1960, opening officially on 4 October 1960. It employed 170 people to take large quantities of peas, corn, potatoes, celery, onions, mushrooms, parsley, barley, poultry, and beef to produce 17 of the company’s 21 varieties of soup, as well as frozen food products, macaroni and spaghetti.
In its first decade of operation, the facility was expanded with a freezer-warehouse in 1964, a mushroom-growing farm in 1966, and a product warehouse in 1968. By the latter year, the plant was making 30 varieties of soup, using 90,000 tons of raw materials annually.
In August 1989, the company announced that the plant would close in December 1990, after 30 years of continuous operation, and transfer its production to a much larger plant near Toronto, Ontario. Today, parts of the huge former factory are used for storage by local businesses and private persons, and part is a factory for building materials. The administrative office building is abandoned and overgrown.
Phil Mason kindly shared two photos of CP switchers at Portage, near their home across from the station:
CP 21 with Procor tank car on May 24, 1972 (above) and CP 6609 in 1983 (below) with CP station/Portage water tower visible at right:
In June 1982, an eastbound 129-car freight behind CP 5918-5552 meets a westbound extra behind 5778-8618. In the yard with insulated car CN 286527 (not visible in this photo) are Portage's end-cupola van and script-letter Controlled Temperature refrigerator car:
Most commonly seen heading for Campbell's in the morning and afternoon, here are some of the short consists from 1976, mostly CP and CN 40-foot/50-ton and 50-foot/70-ton insulated boxcars. A major distribution centre for western Canada, Campbell's loaded CP and CN cars, with the latter interchanged to CN in the Portage yard:
- July 5: CN 291287 canned goods to Saskatoon
- July 5 1522 WB: 6569-CN 286144-CP 165292-NAHX 166513-CP 437179
- July 5 1615 EB: 6569-CN 291694-CN 286166-CP 166086-CP 166581-CN 291267-CP 437179
- July 6 1522 WB: 6569-CP 165055-CP 165190-CN 291635-CN 286523-CP 437179
In summer 1986, SW900 6719 had taken over for 6569, switching grain cars in the yard (above) and departing with van 437182 black-lined for disposition, in tow for Campbell's (below):
CN 86-foot hi-cube boxcars likely brought in canstock to Campbell's. A westbound train of grain empties approaches as CP ore cars fill the small storage yard. I had the opportunity to tour the plant in 1978. Free soup! Campbell's was incorporated in Canada in 1930, the Portage plant opened in 1961, before closing in 1991 as distribution patterns changed. Though a typical grocery store contains 17,850 different items, a typical Canadian household still contains eight cans of Campbell's soup.
Brian Schuff photographed SW900's 6714 and 6719 across from the CP station. Brian recalls 6569 having a hot-start electrical plug-in as opposed to the more common oil-fuelled watchman heater, as well as a provincial psychiatric facility in Portage's north end that received shipments of coal for heating, that had been switched by CP.
In June, 1988 former Brandon switcher (1983-1986) SW900 6714 was approaching Campbell's:
The SW900's were in turn dealt away by CP after 1990, with 6714 toiling at IPSCO in Regina, Sask.
6719 sans multimark:
Since the last SW's were swept out of town, a CP Geep living behind a chainlink fence enclosure in the yard emerge to switch Portage's large industries west of town: Can-Oat and Simplot as well as the McCain plant, while hauling a windows-welded-over Angus van rider platform. Here's CP 3106 safely ensconced (Manny Jacob photograph) and well-weathered:
There's more on Portage switchers, potently posted in this postscript.
Just finished listening to former CNN national security analyst Peter L. Bergen's book Manhunt which tells the story of the years-long hunt for Osama. This recording would have been better if read by the author, yet tells a ripping good yarn about the back-burnered yet eventually successful operation.
Best story from the book? Obama chiding a top military official for not packing a measuring tape to ensure it was six-foot-four Osama's body. You crashed a sixty million-dollar helicopter in the compound and you couldn't spend $1.99 on a tape measure?? The official was later presented with a gold-painted tape measure mounted on a wall plaque for his oversight.
On a Yahoogroup I belong to, today someone asked the following question..."Does anyone still buy horn-hook couplers or does everyone just throw them out?" Dude, some of us still use them on our layouts. Watch for an upcoming post on this very productive and prolific black plastic paradigm. To me, McHenry is a prototype McDonald's chocolate bar, and Kadees refer to boxes of Kraft dinner.