Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Company Photographer Returns

You might recall that the Company Photographer paid Trackside Treasure a visit back in February. He's set up his tripod in a variety of trackside locations and captioned some more classic-era railway publicity photos for your enjoyment!

This last photo is like a movie with an alternate ending.  I couldn't decide, so see which one you like better!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Memories of East Tower and Portage

Glenn Carlson, former mayor of Portage la Prairie, Manitoba recorded his life experiences, including his time with CN at Portage, in a book entitled From the Dirty Thirties to the Mayor's Chair.  With Glenn's agreement, I've included some excerpts from his book in this post, accompanied by pictures I took at locations he mentions in Portage plus a couple from Glenn's book.  Here are some of Glenn's memories...

The back lanes were surfaced with cinders [Portage 1940], the ashes and clinkers from the railway steam engines.  At the coal dock at East Tower and at the station were water standpipes.  This is where the locomotive fireman would shake the ashes and the clinkers into a steel pan underneath the firebox.  These hot ashes were later taken away by ‘Cinder Bill’ with his wheelbarrow.  When cinders were needed for the streets and back lanes, the city workers would pick them up by truck and distribute where needed.  When running around in our bare feet we had to be mindful of hot spots.  (Top photo: I'm aboard VIA No 2 passing East Tower's signboard in 1981 having crossed from CP to CN at the Shepp connecting track at West Tower, and below: Taken from aboard CPR on September 11, 1950 - L.C. Gagnon photo, and eastbound CN freight at East Tower, taken from CP's right-of-way to the north in September, 1985)
It was the summer of 1952 when I began at East Tower.  At that time, the office was a small shack on the north side of the CN tracks just east of the rail crossing on Stephens Street, and one mile east of the station there were also operators on duty.  The coal dock and water supply for the steamers was just west of the crossing.  At the coal dock was a track leading to the yard with about ten storage tracks, a wye for turning engines, a rip track where the car-knockers did their work changing wheel bearings, repairing defective brake apparatus, changing wheels etc.  I must not forget the crossing watchman shacks.  These were small, two meters square, with a stove and a small desk for the watchman on duty.  There were such stations at Main Street, Tupper Street and Eighth St NW. (Eastbound CN grain pickup behind GMD-1's 1012-1067 crosses Eighth St NW in September, 1985)
Portage had a switch engine to spot cars for loading and unloading.  The yard goat was housed and serviced in the roundhouse.  There was a day switch crew, consisting of fireman, engineer, conductor and switchman.  The yard clerk made switch lists of the work to be done.  When cars were set out in Portage they were usually left on a convenient track to save time.  The goat would do the rest.  The goat did the spotting of cars.  We also had a transfer track to the CPR and a spur to the Campbell Soup plant.  There were about six grain elevators that required the goat to take out the loads of grain and spot the empties.  When I first arrived in Portage, there was a block operator at Eighth Street and a towerman at West Tower, just west of Thirteenth Street.  The two worked with East Tower to get trains quickly and safely through Portage.  Some trains may have cars to set out, and some may pickup in Portage. 
(Above: Operator Carlson at work in the new East Tower office.  In the background is the control panel with all the tracks through Portage.)  The trains were announced on the board by a ‘ding’ and a small light.  The operator would then line up the chosen track and give green signals for the train.  I had a city phone, two dispatcher’s lines, the block phone for in-yard calls and the brand new two-way radio to talk to the train crews.   I also had the Morse wires as there were always company messages to send, and in the case of telephone failure we used Morse.  Sometimes it seemed that all bells were ringing at the same time!  The East Tower operator was also responsible for traffic using the diamond at West Tower, where the CP and CN mainlines cross.  We had to be watching for CP passenger trains to avoid delaying them for a CN freight. (VIA's Super Continental crosses the CP at West Tower's signboard in June, 1980)
Working at East Tower was a new experience.  There were often loaded cars being picked up from elevators, Campbell Soup and others.  Then there were empties being setout for reloading.  There were sometimes cars to go to the repair track.  The switch crew looked after these jobs on weekdays on first trick.  The rest of the day and on weekends the road crews were stuck with it.
With the death of the steamer, quiet a number of jobs were abolished.  There was no more coal dock employing half a dozen men.  There was no longer ‘Cinder Bill’, the guy that cleaned the hot cinders that the steamers dumped at each water fill.  No more roundhouse which had a large number of employees.  The regional stores closed at around the same time.  At one time there were around 500 railway employees in Portage counting both CP and CN.  After CTC was completed on the mainline and the job cutting slowed, one could count the number of jobs on your ten fingers.  (CN 9546 leads a westbound freight over Stephens Street at East Tower in 1986)
In the spring of 1964 [CN memo above] the creation of CTC replaced many telegraph operators.  Luckily, I had enough seniority to get a position at the Portage station.  I should spend some time telling you about the remaining years of railroading…at the CN station.  The first items to take care of were a written transfer from the second-trick operator, and a verbal report of what was to be done.  For example, we may have carloads to be picked up or some other chore like putting a loaded car on the CPR transfer track.  I may be required to sell a train ticket, check baggage for train No 1, send or receive telegrams.  I made sure the checked baggage for the passenger train was on the wagon, and the train orders and clearance ready to hoop up to the engine crew.  The conductor usually came in to get his copies and sign the ‘register’ book. (VIA's eastbound Canadian crosses from CN to CP at East Tower to complete its run into Winnipeg on January 9, 1993 after a CN derailment east of Portage - Brian Schuff photo)
The Assistant superintendent we called “Big Nick” came to Portage to present an award to a citizen.  A farmer west of Portage had spotted a hotbox on a freight car.  He was able to stop the train, thus preventing a derailment.  The official went out to the farm and made the presentation.  Much to the embarrassment of the CNR, it was a lovely set of hair brushes…and the farmer was bald (!!)

Excerpted from …
From the Dirty Thirties to the Mayor’s Chair - Memories of Glenn Carlson, printed by Norquay Printers Ltd. Received 2011.  Copies are available for $25 plus postage, kindly email Joyce Carlson at for more information.

I'd like to thank Glenn and his family for allowing me to share his memories, as well as my uncle Wilf for the autographed copy of Glenn's book.  It's a great read and I heartily recommend it!

April 2013 Update: Glenn Carlson passed away in December, 2012. It's not every day that I am privileged to be able to share some experiences of railroaders of Glenn's era. I trust Trackside Treasure readers have enjoyed his reminiscences of Portage's railway heyday as much as I did. I'd like to thank Glenn's family for their assistance and support of this post getting published.  I trust it will serve as a fitting tribute to Glenn Carlson.

Interestingly, East Tower was the subject of a 1961 Ted Rose painting that appeared on the cover of David P. Morgan's seminal book Canadian Steam! His view appears to be looking north-west:

Here's a 1908 view of some of the Grand Trunk Pacific staff at a tower in Portage la Prairie.  Could this be West Tower, with the CP represented by the pole line?
CSTM Collection photo CN002387

August 2020 update: Fletcher Wade kindly shared this additional information: 

After CTC was installed on the Rivers sub the operators in Portage la Prairie lost most of their train order load as they were then generally only copying train orders for the Gladstone Sub and the Pleasant Point Sub. The Pleasant Point is where all traffic for Brandon and Regina via the Cromer Sub, as well as down the Lampman Sub to Estevan ran. When the Pleasant Point was removed that just left train orders for the Gladstone. Occasionally orders such as these shown would be copied, but as most of the traffic was on the Rivers sub these trains would just do a run through and rarely would pick up orders there. It must have been frustrating for operators who enjoy the moving of trains. I got lucky. My first job as a brand new operator in 1971 was second trick Rainy River terminal. The Sprague and Fort Frances Subs were even then, a very busy main line and all of it train order territory. I was fed with a fire hose and it was all very exhilarating. I also worked Navin, hooping up train orders on the Sprague Sub. Navin was located on the eastern end of Symington Yard, about a mile from the hump. Same sub but only one set of orders for each train vs Rainy with train orders for both subs. Portage la Prairie was once like that. In the 40s and 50s when my father, newly returned from war worked Portage la Prairie; East Tower, Eighth Street, and West Tower, the job of operator Portage la Prairie would have been a very busy one indeed.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Colourful Cars on Queens Interchange

A plethora of colourful freight cars could often be found on CP's Kingston interchange with CN. CP cars, as well as a variety of cars from US railroads were left here for the other railway.  April 16, 1979 finds a CP script covered gondola, CP flat with two JC Crane Rentals vehicles and a speedy sports car receiving some last-minute securement, CP 290443 and other CP boxcars including fifty-foot combination door CP 202127 (above).  BN forty-foot boxcar 161060 is on the interchange on April 21 along with CP gondola 344327 and CP boxcar 202396 (below):
CP script boxcar 70099, Chessie/C&O 526765 (built 2-64) CP covered gon 344280 and Detroit & Mackinac 50-foot boxcar 2169 are on the interchange on June 2, 1979:
On July 16, 1979 a CP boxcar, Norwood & St Lawrence 100072, Conrail "can-opener" 169310 and C&O 22379 shared the interchange with a CP covered gon.  Interestingly, I noted that these cars were LEFT on the interchange by CP 8043 shown switching in this post about the interchange at Queens. Perhaps they'd been spotted over at CP Express, just north of the interchange? Notice how many CP covered gons were here, usually singly?  I believe these cars were loaded at the nearby Alcan plant. In 1967, CP began providing covered gons to Alcan, winning a share of CN's traffic since CN's gondolas still required labour-intensive tarping.
Cadiz Railroad 1143 (built 4-79), a gon IC boxcar 567753 were on the interchange track on November 20, 1980.  This was during the Incentive Per Diem (IPD) era when shortlines provided brand-new boxcars in riotous colours, usually more than they could ever store on home rails, to take advantage of per diem rates for their use. The late-70's/early-80's were the heyday of IPD, with the late-80's/early-90's seeing the end of this lucrative, colourful era as cars disappeared into lease fleets or were sold to new owners.
May 9, 1981 finds boxcars IC 524448, Chessie/C&O 482054 and IC 526212 waiting.  I wish I had more information to share about the origin and destination of these wandering cars, or had seen CN lifting or setting out some of them...presumably CN switched the interchange at less-opportune times than my usual Saturday morning visits.
Another IPD car, Mississippi Export Railroad (MSE) 934 waits with another boxcar on a sunshine-bathed early morning in June, 1981:
In March, 1982 Landis door-equipped SP 693866 (built 1-71) and a bulkhead flat repose in the sun.  SP rostered at least three classes of RBL-class cars equipped with Landis doors: SP 698500-699199, SSW 23000-23249 and 25600-25999.  RBL is the Association of American Railroads designation for refrigerator cars without mechanical or chemical refrigeration for beer, canned food or other temperature-sensitive commodities.  The plug doors are 6 and 8 feet wide, and this is a Plate C car:
Poisonous beer?  Probably not in this case, but I made a point of photographing the placard on the tack board and its interesting conditions...Heated Car...Explosives...Dangerous...Warning...Poisonous Fumes.  Are placards anything?  
In the waning years of use of the CP interchange, primarily CP cars were left here.  CP grain-loading boxcar 143015 (built 6-56) and script 143016 were here in March, 1982. Notice that both interchange tracks are uncharacteristically in use.  Perhaps CP's frequency of operations to Kingston was decreasing.
Here's another example of only CP cars appearing: appliance/auto frame boxcar CP 41010, one of a small but often-photographed CP 'scratchbuilt' class, usually photographed singly. On September 26, 1983 I observed but didn't photograph the following CP boxcars on the interchange: 40-foot double-door CP 100413, 100387, 100240, E&N 292534, 292059, CP 40-foot sliding door 52286 and 50-foot plug door 71037. A 1985 Whig-Standard news photo of snow removal on Division Street (street in background) revealed two CP boxcars and a CN Burro crane outfit.
Years earlier, in an attempt to be more successful at catching CP in town, I'd inquired and received a letter from the CP Rail Superintendent in Smiths Falls:
And now, not-so-colourful.  Here's a black-and-white view of the interesting mix of cars spotted on the interchange in April 1979, taken from the end of Rigney Street. Would you believe I happened upon this composite photo (that I didn't know I had) on the very day this post is to be published? I'd call that a happy happenstance, Kingston cosmic kismet, or an incident of implausible interchange incidence. Notice how this wide view shows the entire  scene from CP's inbound track at left, two interchange tracks, CN Kingston Sub mainline and two sidings at Queens East, the CP tail track, and the Division Street overpass that it leads to, formerly providing CP with access to downtown Kingston, by way of a bridge over CN that was removed in 1974.
Believe it or not, this post has languished in the queue for five years. I'll dedicate it to loyal (and patient) Trackside Treasure reader Jakob Mueller.  Instrumental in the genesis of my books on VIA Rail, sorry this took so long to see the light of day, but enjoy, Jakob!

Four undated photos purchased from Liz Reid show CP cars on the Queens interchange:
Classic covered gon and maybe a newsprint car for the Whig-Standard (above) and a script-lettered grain-loading boxcar 143116 coupled to what looks like Great Northern 319325:

More CP (likely) newsprint cars (above and below).

Running extra...

I've got a couple of cool Canadian model railway blogs to share: Trevor Marshall's Port Rowan in S Scale and Jeffrey Smith's Ontario in HO Scale.  I hate having to stumble across such interesting blogs haphazardly.  Perhaps Google or Yahoo could use their intuitive software capabilities to make this easier, the way they seem to magically place ads relevant to my email content?

Are placards anything?  The one I photographed on that SP boxcar is certainly different.  I have several others, such as Canfor, Weldwood and other lumber companies, plus Dangerous placards, Unload This Side and the smirk-inducing Do Not Hump. Before the era of computers, placards on cars' tack-boards carried important information re: lading and how the car was to be spotted.  They're easy to scan or photograph...would this be something you're interested in for a future post?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Spring Cleaning Sale

It's Trackside Treasure spring sale time again. You'll find some articles that will look at home on your bookshelf, layout room wall or reference library.  Timetables, books, artwork, posters  and one or two other treasures you will like. First email received indicating interest in each item to mile179kingstonATyahooDOT ca and the item is yours. Each item will be shipped well-protected via Canada Post upon receipt of payment. Shipping cost will be actual postage.  Payment by cheque, money order or well-concealed cash, at your convenience.  Thanks for browsing and I hope you'll find something you like! --- Eric

ITEMS SOLD SO FAR: 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 12, 19, 21, 22 (only the CN Lines, Canadian Rails and CP Tracks), 24 (only Tugs), 25, 32, 33,

ABOVE: Item 1 CN General Operating Instructions $2; Item 2 CP Rail Designated Station Names and Numbers 1985 $8; Item 3 CN Condensed Schedules 1973 $2; Item 4 CN Symington Division Operating Manual No 1 $8; Item 5 Canadian Pacific Montreal public timetable folder $3.

BELOW: Item 6 1978-79 VIA Ontario and Quebec regional timetable $2; Item 7 CN South River 8x10 B&W photo $5; Item 8 1978-1979 Eastern Canada regional timetable $2.
Item 9: Vancouver Island Railroads excellent illustrated hardcover with dustjacket, by Robert D Turner $30; Item 10 CNR maple leaf wooden wall plaque $10; Item 11 The Old Railway Station Book US and Canada. $5
Item 12: Rail Canada volume 3 Canadian Pacific/CP Rail $12; Item 13 1990 Official Guide $5; Item 14 1993 Official Railway Equipment Register $15.
Item 15 Tales of the CPR by David Laurence Jones $8; Item 16 1978 BCR Employees Timetable $3; Item 17 1988 CN St Lawrence Region bilingual timetable $2.
Item 18 Dangerous cardboard Anhydrous Ammonia tank car placard $2; Item 19 Framed Irridescent UP steam engine artwork $10; Item 20 Dangerous cardboard Propane tank car placard $2.
Item 21: CN Industrial Development Marketing multicoloured drafted map of Windsor, Ontario 1985 8x11 folded, folds out to four panels $5.
Item 22 Assortment of premium magazines $2 each or $15 for all. Includes Canadian Rail RDC and St Constant museum special issues.
Item 23 Unique collectible Model Railroad Data Sheets: layout design, car construction, binder format $5.
Item 24 Railroad Model Craftsman article series: Pacific Coast Logging in 3 parts, Railroad Tugs in 4 parts. Each series $1.
Item 25 Section Section green flag, Extra white flag, each from CN passenger cab units, 1970's. $10 each.
Item 26 CN Station notecards: Kensington PE, Charny QC, Eckville AB, Kipling SK, Orangedale NS, Rainbow BC, Oakburn MB, St John NB,Goobies NF; 
Item 27: 15 Transit notecards; 
Item 28 CN Equipment notecards: 5 business cars plus CN 15820, 2900, 77, 7900, 7751, 900, 9400 each set with envelopes $2; 
Item 29 Marx NYC metal O-gauge caboose $10.
Item 30 Pacific-type Steam Locomotive diagram folds out to 8 panels $5.
Item 31: Covered hopper diagram folds out to 12 panels, by Railway Educational Bureau. $5.
Item 32 Calgary Transit by DM Bain, $5; Item 33 CP Rail Centennial Celebrations 1981 book showing events at major CP terminals and stations across Canada $5. Clowns on Cover!
Thanks for your interest in these items.  Sold items will be listed at top of post.