Memories by Jack E. Clevett

Canadian Pacific Railway History

Writ­ten by Jack E. Clevett 1991

Cana­di­an Pacif­ic Giv­en Eighty Acres: Negotiations

      Until 1890 Souris and area were with­out rail com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Grain had to be teamed to Alexan­der or Bran­don and sup­plies of all kinds had to be hauled from one of the same two points on the main line of Cana­di­an Pacif­ic Rail­way. As ear­ly as 1884 Glen­wood Coun­cil had request­ed W. H. Sow­den when in Ottawa to inter­view the gov­ern­ment and stress the urgent need of rail ser­vice, but it was 1890 before the line from Bran­don to Este­van reached Souris.

    In 1892 the Glen­boro line was com­plet­ed to Souris, fol­low­ing a bonus of $15,000.00 per mile giv­en the Com­pa­ny by the Man­i­to­ba gov­ern­ment in return for a low rate to Win­nipeg for Este­van coal, and Souris was estab­lished as a divi­sion­al point.

     As the pros­per­i­ty and growth of Souris have since been so close­ly asso­ci­at­ed with the Cana­di­an Pacif­ic, it is inter­est­ing to note the nego­ti­a­tions and land grants giv­en the com­pa­ny in return for the estab­lish­ment of the vil­lage as a terminal.

   When the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment entered into the agree­ment for the con­struc­tion of a rail line across the prairies and to the coast, it’s grant or bonus to the com­pa­ny includ­ed all the odd num­bered sec­tions for ten miles on each side of the line to be built.

   This did not affect the odd num­bered sec­tions in the north­ern part of Glen­wood Munic­i­pal­i­ty as the main line when con­struct­ed was fif­teen miles from Souris vil­lage. Con­se­quent­ly the odd num­bered sec­tions in Town­ships 6, 7 and south half of 8 in ranges 20, 21 and 22 remained with the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. The fed­er­al grant to Mill­brook Col­o­niza­tion Co., actu­al­ly embraced town­ships 6 and 7 and the south half of 8 in ranges 20, 21 and 22, except­ing of course the school sec­tions, 11 and 29, and the Hud­son Bay three quar­ters of 8 and all of 26.

   In it’s agree­ment with the Sow­den Col­o­niza­tion Co., the gov­ern­ment reserved the even-num­bered sec­tions for the colonists which the com­pa­ny agreed to bring to the dis­trict; and each home­stead­er was giv­en the priv­e­lage of pur­chas­ing the odd-num­bered half sec­tion adjoin­ing his home­stead and pre-emp­tion for $2.50 per acre.

By the same agree­ment the pro­mot­ers of the Com­pa­ny which includ­ed W. H. Sow­den, J. N. Kirk­hof­fer, Major Fair­clough and Woods and Kells were giv­en the right to pur­chase the odd-num­bered sec­tions after the home­stead­ers of the par­ty had decid­ed not to take up their rights.

Through this arrange­ment the Sow­den Syn­di­cate secured the own­er­ship of sec­tion 33–7‑21, the south­west por­tion of the present town­site of Souris and W. H. Sow­den acquired the own­er­ship of sec­tion 3–8‑21, the north­east por­tion of the townsite.

Kir­chof­fer had home­stead­ed the east half of sec­tion 4–8‑21, the north­west par­took­the town­site; and Sow­den had home­stead­ed sec­tion 34–7‑21, the south­east part of the town­site. Among them they owned almost all the present townsite.

In the nego­ti­a­tions that devel­oped over the estab­lish­ment of Souris as divi­sion­al ter­mi­nal, the Cana­di­an Pacif­ic was giv­en 80 acres of sec­tion 3–8‑21 by Sow­den for it’s round­house and yards. In addi­tion the rail com­pa­ny was giv­en every oth­er lot in the west­er­ly por­tions of the town­site and agreed not to allow any ele­va­tors west of Third Street. Fol­low­ing this agree­ment the Cana­di­an Pacif­ic at once built a two stall round­house and Souris became a ter­mi­nal point.

The dis­trict suf­fered severe­ly by the dry years  of 1892 to 1895 and the fact that wheat was worth only 35 cents a bushel for No. One Hard wheat, and 34 cents a bushel for One North­ern wheat in 1895. Even in 1895 employ­ment in Win­nipeg was at a low ebb with wages as low as 10 cents per hour on such build­ings as the Wes­ley Col­lege, now named Unit­ed College.

With the return of bet­ter crops dur­ing the last years of the cen­tu­ry the town and dis­trict made rapid progress. In 1892 a brick yard was estab­lished by Squire Sow­den on the bank of Plum Creek and South of the C.P.R. bridge. It was oper­at­ed by a man named Dayne, who lat­er went to Hart­ney and ran the brick yard at that point. Ten years lat­er, in 1902, A. L. Young and C. H. Brindle estab­lished a brick yard east of the vil­lage, near the iron springs. Among the employ­ees were S. Light­foot, Tom Mait­land, Ben Yal­lop, Frank But­ler and James Green. While these yards only oper­at­ed for a short peri­od of time, they undoubt­ed­ly were the rea­son for many of the busi­ness blocks and res­i­dences of that peri­od being of brick con­struc­tion, with some faced with import­ed pressed brick. The Kitchen broth­ers, Dan, Squire and White­ly were the men who built near­ly all of these build­ings. C. H. Brindle was the archi­tect that planned some forty or more of the busi­ness blocks and res­i­dences of that peri­od of the town’s growth.


   The arrival of the Cana­di­an Pacif­ic Rail­way in 1890 sig­nalled the growth of Souris as an impor­tant rail ter­mi­nal on the prairies. The first line was com­plet­ed in 1890 from Bran­don. The sec­ond line was com­plet­ed in 1892 from Win­nipeg through Glenboro.

In 1910 the Cana­di­an Pacif­ic revealed plans for mov­ing their ter­mi­nal five miles west of Souris, at what was called Schwitzer Junc­tion, where the line splits, with one line going to Arco­la and beyond to the Koote­nays, as a sec­ond Trans Cana­da rail line, while the sec­ond line went to Este­van to the coal fields and con­nect­ed to a line from the Unit­ed States. The C.P.R. had even pur­chased about four hun­dred acres of land at Schwitzer. The Souris Town Fathers of the day, put in a great deal of effort and time nego­ti­at­ing with the Com­pa­ny and get­ting land own­ers to agree to make suf­fi­cient land avail­able and the Cana­di­an Pacif­ic Rail­way was giv­en 80 acres of land where the shops, coal docks, and yards were locat­ed for their pro­posed expan­sion. The first line through Souris con­nect­ed with Bran­don and only after the town vot­ed to install sew­er and water did the Rail­way decide to build their ter­mi­nal in Souris instead of Schwitzer. There­fore Souris became one of the first rur­al towns in Man­i­to­ba to install  sew­er and water­works. The CPR con­struct­ed a 2‑stall round­house which was lat­er increased to 6 more in 1912 and even­tu­al­ly had 18 stalls. There was a turntable installed to accom­mo­date the park­ing of engines in this round­house and to turn an engine around to go the oth­er way. It con­sist­ed of a plat­form in a round pit rid­ing on a sin­gle rail dri­ven by steam.It turned until it lined up with the rails going into one of the stalls, or to the line com­ing into or out of the shops. These stalls had pits four feet deep, so that it was pos­si­ble to work under­neath and to lubri­cate the wheels of the steam engines.

The steam pow­er was sup­plied by a boil­er in the round­house manned 24 hours a day. This boil­er also pro­vid­ed heat for the build­ings around and the large water tank in the win­ter. Every engine com­ing in had to be spot­ted under a smoke stack in the roof of the shops, to keep the shops free of smoke.When the engines came in, the shop staff went to work to pre­pare it to go back on the job. The fit­ters went to work first, putting in new brass bush­ings or putting in met­al shims to improve the loose ones of the work­ing parts of the engine.The boil­er­mak­ers were men who worked on the water and steam por­tion of the loco­mo­tive to caulk or riv­et any leaks. Some­times they had to go into the fire­box as soon as the engine came into the shops, after the fire had been dumped out­side in the ash pit.   They had to caulk any steam leaks inside and with the tem­per­a­ture inside reach­ing approx­i­mate­ly 160 degrees F. They cer­tain­ly earned their wages. The boil­er wash­er had to wash out the boil­er por­tion of the engine to remove scale and sludge which had built up from the water. The wipers had to keep the fire going or put a new fire in the loco­mo­tive, grease the mov­ing por­tion of the dri­ving wheels, put sup­plies such as oils, greas­es, etc., on the engine and keep the out­side of the loco­mo­tive espe­cial­ly clean. Labour­ers had no def­i­nite job, but helped any­one that need­ed help. The sta­tion­ary fire­man had the job of keep­ing two boil­ers fired up to sup­ply steam for heat­ing the shops, steam for a water pump to keep up pres­sure for the boil­er wash­er and steam for a gen­er­a­tor to sup­ply elec­tric­i­ty for all the build­ings (before hydro). Some­times in the win­ter, the steam was so bad you could only see a few feet ahead of you. There was a coal dock which was filled by man­u­al labour and grav­i­ty fed it into the engine, as was water, into the ten­der. There was what they called the “rip” track where repairs were made on box­cars etc. A kilo­me­tre east of town were 17 tracks, called “The yards” where trains end­ed their runs and oth­er trains were assem­bled by the yard engine for depar­ture. The yard engine also served as a push­er engine to help push trains 5 miles to get up the hill north of town toward Bran­don. Sec­tion work has changed over the years, from pump-car to an engine dri­ven track motor car. Each gang used to cut a swath on each side of the track with scythes, and used pick and shov­el. Track bal­last began as just soil, to patch­es of cin­ders to being rock bal­last­ed. Weed con­trol went from hoe or track shov­el to chem­i­cal­ly sprayed. There used to be Right of Way fence on both sides of the track which had to be main­tained by the sec­tion men dig­ging in 8 ft. cedar posts by hand. Each rail­way ter­mi­nal had a repair track (Rip Track) for the pur­pose of repair­ing bad order cars. All trains arriv­ing and depart­ing rail yards had to be inspect­ed. Car Inspec­tors walked around the train look­ing for defects, such as cracked arch bars, drag­ging bro­ken beams, faulty draw bar, etc. Any defect­ed car was card­ed with a “Bad Order Card” and the Yard­mas­ter was noti­fied so he could have the yard engine crew switch out these cars and take them down to the “Rip Track” for repair. A bunkhouse west of the water tow­er was where train crews from out of town stayed overnight before they took a train back to their own ter­mi­nal. To the North of the bunkhouse was a house for the fore­man of the “rip track” and to the South of the tracks was a house for the Loco­mo­tive Fore­man. At what is now the cross­ing on High­way #250 there were cross­ing gates which were oper­at­ed man­u­al­ly by a man in a small build­ing on the South side of the tracks. many a youth spent time in this shack help­ing to move the big levers that low­ered or raised the arms.

   In 1911 the cor­ner­stone of the Sta­tion was laid which was to be one of the finest in West­ern Cana­da. It had a freight shed, bag­gage room, wait­ing room, tick­et office, express and tele­graph office, lunch counter, and mod­ern ladies & mens wash­rooms con­nect­ed to water and sew­er on the main floor. On the 2nd sto­ry floor were the Train Dis­patch­ers offices, Super­in­ten­den­t’s and clerks. Road­mas­ters, Assis­tant Super­in­ten­dent and Engi­neer­ing Depart­ment offices. The divi­sion­al offices were moved from Souris to Bran­don in 1933. The Souris Divi­sion was absorbed by the Bran­don and Portage Divi­sions. The Napin­ka and Snowflake Sub­di­vi­sions were por­tioned to the Portage Divi­sion, and the Arco­la, Reston-Wolse­ley, Este­van, Lyle­ton, Bois­se­vain and Ali­da Sub­di­vi­sions were amal­ga­mat­ed into the Bran­don Divi­sion. (See pho­to of Time Table of  Sept. 29, 1929 below illus­trat­ing Divi­sions that formed the Man­i­to­ba District).This Timetable was con­tributed to us by Bill Hoop­er of Rev­el­stoke B.C..

 The sur­round­ing grounds were the win­ner of many awards with their gar­dens and green lawns cared for by R. T. “Tom” Clevett. There were two spur tracks on the south side of the main line, just East of the new sta­tion. The South­ern­most spur track held the freight shed, which was the first sta­tion, that had served Souris from about 1890. The spur track sit­u­at­ed imme­di­ate­ly South of the main line was used for work gangs, called B and B gangs (Bridge and Build­ing crews). They were housed in sleep­ing, din­ing, and kitchen rail cars. The local kids got some ben­e­fit from this as the cook would feed us a whole pie fresh from the oven which to us was a real treat in the hard 30’s and 40’s. On anoth­er spur were the live­stock yards, Impe­r­i­al Oil stor­age tanks & shed, White Rose stor­age tanks & shed and two grain elevators.

   Six days a week there were 4 pas­sen­ger trains a day run­ning into Souris, two going East to Bran­don and Win­nipeg and two going West to Arco­la and Este­van. There were also two mixed trains (made up of freight, grain & pas­sen­ger cars). One called the Reston-Woles­ley and the oth­er the Lyle­ton Mixed. There were also two way freights, one to Este­van and one to Arco­la, which ran on a reg­u­lar basis. With 5 men to a crew, there were a lot of men in Souris work­ing the trains as there were approx­i­mate­ly 12 crews on the through freight board over and above the pas­sen­gers, mixed and wayfreights. There was also a twice week­ly freight from Win­nipeg that tied up in Souris overnight and returned East the next day with a new load. This train was manned by a crew from Winnipeg.

   In Sep­tem­ber of 1921 over 800 cars of grain went through Souris in one day. In 1924 over 24 mil­lion bushels of grain went through Souris in one season.

   The intro­duc­tion of the pow­er­ful diesels spelled the demise of the steam engine and the end of Souris as a major ter­mi­nal on the rail line. In 1961, the round­house was closed and what was nec­es­sary for the shop staff and car repair shop was moved to the sta­tion. This move cut off the shop staff and car repair men to a min­i­mum of two or three men on a shift. The upper part of the sta­tion was made into a bunkhouse, with three bed­rooms, a din­ing room, kitchen and wash­room.  IT WAS THE END OF AN ERA, GONE  FOREVER !


writ­ten by Har­vey Saun­der­son who farmed near Schwitzer Junc­tion. Includ­ed in Jack E. Clevet­t’s Memories.

    Schwitzer Junc­tion was orig­i­nal­ly sit­u­at­ed just North of Wick­strom’s build­ings on 21–7‑22. How­ev­er, the C. P. R. dis­cov­ered that, after stop­ping here, the trains had dif­fi­cul­ty get­ting start­ed up the grade. Con­se­quent­ly, some­time around 1914 they changed the Arco­la line so that the junc­tion with the Este­van line was on SE 27–7‑22, about two miles North­east of the orig­i­nal loca­tion. On this site, a good sized sta­tion was built con­sist­ing of a wait­ing room at one end, freight shed at the oth­er end, and the office and liv­ing quar­ters in the cen­tre section.

As there was only a sin­gle track between Schwitzer and Souris, a staff sys­tem was used. The Con­duc­tor was required to have a staff ( a bolt-like instru­ment about six inch­es long), before he could leave either Souris or Schwitzer. The machine hold­ing the instru­ments would not release any, if there had been one removed at the oth­er end. This inter­est­ing arrange­ment insured that there could only be one train on that stretch at any giv­en time. For years three switch rail lines were on the North side of the main line. These ran for one half mile east of Schwitzer, and were used for pass­ing trains. There was a load­ing plat­form beside the most Norther­ly line. Also on this line, as many as six portable ele­va­tors would be sit­u­at­ed in har­vest time, load­ing grain into 1,000 bushel boxcars.

   Nels J. Lob­bert spent some time at the orig­i­nal Schwitzer sta­tion, board­ing at Wick­stroms and he was the only agent at the new sta­tion, leav­ing when the CPR phased Schwitzer out as an active sta­tion, about 1932. A relief Oper­a­tor assist­ed Mr. Loberg dur­ing the busy sea­sons, so it was obvi­ous­ly a busy place. It was also a very pop­u­lar cen­tre for the neigh­bour­hood as Mr. and Mrs. Loberg were both musi­cal­ly tal­ent­ed and enjoyed hav­ing neigh­bours  in to prac­tise for Com­mu­ni­ty Club con­certs and just to have fun. Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Sar­son and fam­i­ly lived just east of Schwitzer in the C. P. R. sec­tion fore­man’s house. The Sar­son­’s were music lovers also, so con­se­quent­ly the Schwitzer “com­mu­ni­ty” of two fam­i­lies made a real con­tri­bu­tion to the Breezelawn and White­field dis­tricts. For years, two East­bound and two West­bound pas­sen­ger trains stopped at Schwitzer six days a week. This ser­vice was used by many in our dis­trict. All trains, both pas­sen­ger and freight, had to stop and the Con­duc­tor had to register.

   Mentei­th post-office was oper­at­ed out of Schwitzer for a num­ber of years, with Mrs. Loberg as post-mis­tress. Mon­ey orders for Eaton’s or Simp­sons or oth­ers, could be pur­chased from the post-office and the parcels would come by mail, if small, or by express, if larg­er, to Schwitzer.

As kids, we used to be fas­ci­nat­ed by the mes­sages com­ing through the tele­graph and by watch­ing Mr Loberg oper­ate the key. Mr. and Mrs. Loberg oper­at­ed at sev­er­al sta­tions in Man­i­to­ba and Saskatchewan after leav­ing Schwitzer. They retired to Coquit­lam, B. C. and both died there.

Care­tak­ers were sta­tioned at Schwitzer after clos­ing as an “active sta­tion”. Mr. and Mrs. David Vyse and daugh­ter, Lily, lived there for a few years. Mr. Vyse met a trag­ic death in Feb­ru­ary 1943, when he got off the bus two miles North on high­way No. 2, and start­ed walk­ing home. Snow start­ed to fall and became very heavy and Mr. Vyse lost his way. He was found the fol­low­ing day, about three quar­ters of a mile North­east of Schwitzer. Mrs. Vyse lat­er moved to Souris.

Allan Water­man con­tin­ued as care­tak­er for sev­er­al years, but had moved to Car­man some­time before the sta­tion burned in 1954. A spark had set fire to the plat­form and the fire was well advanced before it was noticed late at night. So went a land­mark ! And now Schwitzer is just a paint­ed sign at the junc­tion of two right-of-ways..….….….….….…Writ­ten by Har­vey Saunderson


   I quit school in May and start­ed to work for the rail­way on 31st of May 1943. I went to work as a “Wiper” and even­tu­al­ly a loco­mo­tive fire­man. I made my first trip as a fire­man with my Dad as engi­neer and we worked a train from Souris to Bran­don and return, and were all night and got home about 8 or 9 in the morn­ing. I was work­ing a 14 O’clock to 22 O’clock shift as a wiper at the time and when we got hone I told the Loco­mo­tive Fore­man that I would­n’t be in to cov­er my shift and he said, “what shift? You are on the fire­man’s spare­board”. I was­n’t sent back to wip­ing again, as some of us were trans­ferred to Minnedosa and Bran­don when we were cut off the board at Souris in the spring. On my sec­ond  or third trip I had an engi­neer named George Allen and we had just come in from Bran­don and were yard­ing our train and had to dou­ble some cars over into anoth­er track. Being inex­pe­ri­enced I was­n’t  up on repeat­ing the sig­nals to the engi­neer when the brake­man was work­ing on my side, and we were mov­ing a lit­tle fast, when the brake­man swung us down as we cou­pled onto cars in the track, and I hollered “whoa”. We came to a stop with a bang and the engi­neer struck his head on the win­dow frame which made him rather angry, and he shout­ed at me, “Whoa, what the hell do you mean whoa, I’m not a team of hors­es”. For­tu­nate­ly noth­ing was bro­ken and he quick­ly held his tem­per. I knew it must have hurt him, because it threw me against the win­dow frame and broke my plas­tic cig­a­rette case in the bib pock­et of my over­alls, and bruised my chest.George was real good and explained how to repeat sig­nals, which was a big help. In the spring of 1944 I end­ed up hav­ing a row with the Mas­ter Mechan­ic in Bran­don and I went and joined the Navy, and was away for 18 months. I went back to work on the rail­way, when I got my dis­charge from the Navy and made it my life’s work, and was­n’t laid off for more than a total of eight months from then until I retired.

WINTER STORM OF FEBRUARY 1947 by Jack E. Clevett

(Please note there will be pic­tures in this sto­ry. If you click your cur­sor on them, they will enlarge, if a plus sign comes up, click again & it will zoom in more. Click again to reduce size. Then go to top left hand of your screen & click on the “back arrow” To get it back to normal.….editor)

   There was a bad bliz­zard in the win­ter of 1947 and roads and even rail lines in South­east­ern Saskatchewan and South­west­ern Man­i­to­ba were blocked for a few days. There were at least five trains stuck between Oxbow and Este­van, Saskatchewan, and after first being called for a trip to Bran­don we were even­tu­al­ly sent west on a dou­ble head­er snow­plow to pull the Oxbow way freight out of drifts west of Hart­ney, as they had cars of live­stock on board. After get­ting them out and going to Laud­er to turn around to return to Souris, they decid­ed to send us on to Este­van because the Pas­sen­ger train was stuck at Fro­bish­er. We arrived at Oxbow and were told that there were five or six trains stuck between us and Este­van. Because I had been on duty for 18 hours, I booked rest and got a room at the hotel. They left with­out me but only got about a mile out of town and wound up stuck for about thir­ty two hours. They hired all the men they could in Oxbow to dig the plow out and final­ly they got it out, but only going for­ward and they could­n’t go any fur­ther than Rapeard at the bot­tom of the hill as they did­n’t have enough coal to go on. A triple head­er snow­plow was sent out of Souris and after sev­er­al tries got through the snow on Oxbow Hill to the plow I was on, and every­one came back to Oxbow for the night. The triple head­er left ear­ly the next morn­ing and even­tu­al­ly cleared the track to Este­van and we were ordered out to pick up the Pas­sen­ger train at Fro­bish­er and take it into Este­van, which we did. We arrived in Este­van about eight O’clock at night and some jok­er ran along side the engine as we pulled in hol­ler­ing at us for com­ing in two hours ahead of time. He did­n’t seem to real­ize that the train was actu­al­ly over two days late. The out­come of the storm was that five engines had to be sent to the repair shops in Win­nipeg for a lot of seri­ous repairs.I nev­er expe­ri­enced a storm like it before or since. I have worked through a num­ber of tough storms, though. Anoth­er time I was on a plow with my Dad, when they kept run­ning us on a plow ahead of the Pas­sen­ger trains between Este­van and Laud­er, back to Oxbow and then to Napin­ka and return to Este­van. We did this for a cou­ple of days before that storm blew itself out.

MORE MEMORIES.…by Jack  E. Clevett

   In 1951 I wrote up as a Loco­mo­tive Engi­neer and was set up as same in late August and was the youngest engi­neer, age wise, on the Man­i­to­ba Dis­trict, as I had only just turned 26 which real­ly made me feel good. Because of the Depres­sion years my Dad nev­er wrote up for engi­neer until 1940, when World War 2 was started.

   Through Dad I became active in the Fire­men’s union, (which no longer exists today) and served as Leg­isla­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Sec-Trea­sur­er and even­tu­al­ly Local Griev­ance Man. The first and lat­ter posi­tions required my going to Ottawa and Mon­tre­al for a cou­ple of meet­ings. I led a strike by the Local here when the Com­pa­ny tried to get rid of all the fire­men. We went to Arbi­tra­tion and the Com­pa­ny was forced to work us all out, except for a few recent hirees. This all came about after they switched to diesel pow­er. As a result of this strike I was threat­ened with dis­missal by the local Assis­tant Super­in­ten­dent, but for­tu­nate­ly the law was on my side. When diesels put me out of work at Souris, I went to Win­nipeg, and then to Keno­ra to hold work. I was in my forty-fourth year of senior­i­ty when I retired in 1986 and have been told that I had the biggest turn-out of well wish­ers that any­one had ever seen in Bran­don. On my last trip down from Broad­view, I had my son, Jer­ry, as my Con­duc­tor and we made an unsched­uled stop at Oak Lake to pick up my daugh­ter, Lor­raine and Grand­son Garfield 111, to ride the last thir­ty miles into Bran­don with me. The delay to the train was min­i­mal and noth­ing was said about hav­ing unau­tho­rized peo­ple on the engine. The Super­in­ten­dent pre­sent­ed me with a plaque com­mem­o­rat­ing my years of ser­vice, and I in return did some­thing no one else had ever done, I pre­sent­ed him with all the rule and reg­u­la­tion books I had been required to car­ry when­ev­er I went to work, they were all tied up with a pret­ty rib­bon. I hear he kept them in plain sight in his office as a con­ver­sa­tion piece. I had giv­en out a ver­bal invi­ta­tion to all my fel­low rail­road­ers to come to my home for a drink and snacks. This was also at the same time that all my rel­a­tives were com­ing for a fam­i­ly reunion on the July long week­end. There was well over a hun­dred and ten peo­ple signed the guest book. It was for­tu­nate that we had a huge paved yard for them all to park in, as most of my fel­low rail­road­ers and wives came. I know we drank a lot of booze and ate a lot of food and that every­one enjoyed them­selves and social­ized real well, and had a good time. There were rel­a­tives and friends there from as far away as Cal­i­for­nia and Van­cou­ver and Win­nipeg to the East.

THE  PRAIRIE  DOG  CENTRAL.….…..(See pic­tures below)

    It was a beau­ti­ful day in July 1981 when The Prairie Dog Cen­tral arrived late, as trains some­times do, but there were about 1,000 spec­ta­tors at the sta­tion anx­ious­ly await­ing it’s arrival. The 99 year-old “Iron Horse” chugged it’s way into Souris to help the town cel­e­brate it’s Cen­ten­ni­al. Jack Clevett served as pilot and assis­tant coal-shov­eller for the jour­ney from Win­nipeg. Jack was from Souris and was an Engi­neer for CP Rail. The train made sev­er­al tours dur­ing the 1981 cel­e­bra­tions, car­ry­ing his­to­ry-lov­ing pas­sen­gers, between Souris and Hart­ney and again between Souris and Nesbitt.–Written by Jack E. Clevett (1991).

HISTORICAL TRAIN TANGLES WITH 20th CENTURYafter suc­cess­ful­ly dodg­ing hors­es and bug­gies for a good part of it’s 99 year lifes­pan, the Prairie Dog Cen­tral was near­ly done-in by a new fan­gled horse­less car­riage, Wednes­day. The reju­ve­nat­ed steam loco­mo­tive was car­ry­ing bug-eyed tourists on its last celebri­ty run between Nes­bitt and Souris, as part of the Souris Cen­ten­ni­al cel­e­bra­tions, when it crossed paths with an auto­mo­bile 95 years it’s junior. A 19 year old Souris woman, Rhon­da Ker­bis, was treat­ed for head lac­er­a­tions and released from Souris Hos­pi­tal after the col­li­sion at 10 p.m. at a lev­el cross­ing three kilo­me­tres east of Souris, so RCMP said.

RAILROAD WEEK  JULY 7th — 13th,  1991–On July 12th, 1991 the Cana­di­an Pacif­ic Rail­way Caboose (CP 437180) open­ing and ded­i­ca­tion was held. Thanks to the Souris Lions Club and the Rail­road­ers for the restora­tion of the caboose.

 Here’s a tale that will help you cool off:– Four or five weeks ago I promised you anoth­er chap­ter in the sto­ry of the Big Snow­storm of ’47.

    As a metic­u­lous keep­er of records, Lawrence Stuck­ey (aka Dr. Choo Choo) has all the details, and he used them for a chap­ter in his book, “Prairie Cin­der”. Mind you, he knew he was in for a spot of weath­er. The radio was promis­ing heavy snow, winds of 50 mph (remem­ber miles) and a tem­per­a­ture of 18 F (remem­ber F ?) below. It was a strug­gle, but Dr. Choo Choo, to give him his oth­er name, made it to the depot for a trip to Broad­view on Pas­sen­ger train #7.

    He would be Fire­man with Engi­neer Albert Kauf­man. This was Mon­day Feb­ru­ary 3, 1947. What was in the wind was a storm of his­toric pro­por­tion. The trip to Broad­view was tough going, but they made it with only a slight delay. They returned to Bran­don the next evening on the last freight train to run for sev­er­al days. For three days the forces of CPR on the Bran­don Divi­sion were ful­ly occu­pied keep­ing Pas­sen­ger trains run­ning, all of them with dou­ble-head­er engines, and all of them were late. Lawrence received his next call on Thurs­day: he was to be the fire­man again on #1 for Engi­neer Fred Cook. Lawrence knew he was in for a dif­fer­ent type of expe­ri­ence as soon as he was leav­ing the house; he had to call Mavis to help him push the door open. The drift that had formed over the front steps was deter­mined to keep him house­bound. The Cook-Stuck­ey duo head­ed west with two engines. Vis­i­bil­i­ty was zero. At Vir­d­en, where they stopped for train orders, they had trou­ble get­ting under way. At Elkhorn where they stopped for coal and water, they were work­ing in snow over their knees. It’s hard­ly sur­pris­ing to learn they were late get­ting into Broad­view. The next after­noon, when they awoke, they were sur­prised, nay, aston­ished, to see the train was still at the depot.It had­n’t moved and would­n’t for sev­er­al days, fire­man and engi­neer put in time as best they could, part of it in the sta­tion lis­ten­ing to weath­er bul­letins. They heard that on the Este­van sub­di­vi­sion, that there was one snow­plow and three engines all derailed and aban­doned on account of packed snow. In one instance, it required an air­plane on skis to res­cue one of the crews.

   On the 9th Lawrence was ordered to pro­ceed even far­ther west, this time to Moose Jaw with engi­neer A. R. Smith. They were on train #1 with two engines. At Sin­talu­ta they were in a sid­ing for four hours, wait­ing for three sec­tions of Train #4 to pass, and this was just suf­fi­cient time that the drift­ing snow almost kept them there — storm­bound. They were twelve hours late arriv­ing in Regi­na. As if the storm was­n’t trou­ble enough, they also had to con­tend with a blown pis­ton ring. At Moose Jaw the storm was still bad, but the news was good. Our ear­ly trav­ellers were told to dead­head home as soon as pos­si­ble. They decid­ed to go uptown to pick up some of their missed meals, but before they could leave the yards, an east­bound pas­sen­ger train pulled in and they got on board,— fam­ished. They were just get­ting off their coats when a news agent came through the coach with an urn of cof­fee and bas­ket of sand­wich­es. They bought the lot. Their odyssey began on a Sun­day and end­ed on a Mon­day, one week lat­er.  P.S…had a great chat one evening with Jack Clevett, a retired engi­neer from Souris. Pad­dy Bow­man’s bliz­zard sto­ry start­ed Jack­’s nos­tal­gia work­ing over­time. Jack was on duty on the Este­van line dur­ing the Big Blow. His train got stuck west of Hart­ney. It got help from a snow plow, but got stuck again on the hill west of Oxbow. On the return trip he had five engines, only one of which worked. What should have been a quick trip, took 18 hours. All this busi­ness of bliz­zards and late trains, brings to mind, a rec­ol­lec­tion from Med­i­cine Hat. From my desk I could see trains arriv­ing at the depot. One morn­ing to my sur­prise, I saw The Cana­di­an arrive at 9 a.m. instead of its sched­ules 9:30. I asked one of the reporters to inquire why the pride of the fleet should be run­ning ahead of time. He called back with a bul­letin: this was­n’t today’s train, it was yesterday’s!!

    Weath­er wreaks hav­oc on Prairie land­scape.…. Five or six weeks ago, Jack Stothard remind­ed us of the Big Blow of ’47 which shut down the town for a few days. It caused such a coal short­age that the young schol­ars were sent home from locked up insti­tu­tions. They attend­ed schools on sub­se­quent Sat­ur­days to make up the required num­ber of study days.                                                           Jack­’s reminder trig­gered a mem­o­ry in the mind of anoth­er informed nos­tal­gic, Lawrence Stuckey.This man (some­times I call him “Stuck” but more often, I call him “Dr. Choo-Choo) was deeply involved in that bliz­zard. He sent me two doc­u­ments: one was a reprint an arti­cle he wrote for “Prairie Cin­ders”, the sec­ond was an arti­cle by Pad­dy Bow­man, whom some of you may recall was a civ­il engi­neer here in Bran­don. He was in charge of track and main­te­nance  in this CPR divi­sion.                                                                                                    Bow­man says it was a Thurs­day in Feb­ru­ary of 1947, when the Big Blow struck. He recalls that on that day, a pas­sen­ger train left Bran­don head­ed for Este­van, a trip of 170 miles. Obvi­ous­ly the employ­ees along the line want­ed to make cer­tain this train got through, but that was­n’t going to be easy. What hap­pened was a ter­ri­ble series of mishaps.                                                                                         At Bien­fait, a work train, try­ing to keep the line clear of drifts, derailed, block­ing all traf­fic both ways. The dis­patch­er telegraphed to Fro­bish­er, ask­ing the agent there to hold the Este­van pas­sen­ger train at that point. He chose Fro­bish­er for this pur­pose, because it was large enough to have some crea­ture com­forts in case the pas­sen­gers were storm stayed. Anoth­er train was ordered to run from Souris to Bien­fait to help with the derail­ment, but it got stuck in a snow­bank nine miles East of Fro­bish­er. The fol­low­ing morn­ing two loco­mo­tives push­ing a snow­plow left Souris, hop­ing to clear the track. For hours this unit bunt­ed snow, then backed up, and bunt­ed again, but five miles east of Oxbow, it too had to be aban­doned. This left three use­less units on one line.                                               On Sat­ur­day, a spe­cial train left Bran­don to try to open the Este­van line. This unit con­sist­ed of three loco­mo­tives, a snow plow, a pas­sen­ger car, and a pair of caboos­es. On board was a crew of snow shov­el­ers. When a drift was too tall, or the snow was too tight­ly packed, it was the men with shov­els who reduced it to a size that the snow­plows could han­dle. (My back aches just think­ing about this as a form of employ­ment).                                                                                           The crew on that spe­cial train out of Bran­don, worked until Sun­day night clear­ing the track and get­ting derailed units back on the steel. Mon­day morn­ing they began the return trip, and it took them until late that night until they were back into the Wheat City. (Pass the lin­i­ment).                                                  Now, while I thank Lawrence Stuck­ey and Pad­dy Bow­man for their con­tri­bu­tions, I must add a PS, which may or may not involve this par­tic­u­lar bliz­zard.                                                                                                                  In those days, I heard a radio show called “Neigh­bourly News from the Prairies”. I once used an item from a paper in south­east­ern Saskatchewan, per­haps the Wey­burn Review. It told of a ter­ri­ble bliz­zard strik­ing the area, and of a woman in Beaubier, stand­ing by her liv­ing room win­dow won­der­ing if per­haps she was hav­ing hal­lu­ci­na­tions. The snow was so heavy that on occa­sion she had no vis­i­bil­i­ty at all; a moment lat­er she might see for a block or more. Occa­sion­al­ly she would think she could see human fig­ures approach­ing, and then the images would dis­ap­pear in the drift­ing snow. Even­tu­al­ly there was a lull and guess what? Indeed there were three men approach­ing, fight­ing their way through waist-deep snow. This was a rail crew. They had just aban­doned their freight train because it was hope­less­ly stuck. For three days they stayed with that watch­er at the window.…..Do you know where Beaubier, Sask. got it’s name? It’s name hon­ours Miss H. Beaubier, of the Bran­don fam­i­ly by that name, who nursed the ‘flu’ patients in that area in 1918 until she died of the dis­ease. Some day soon I’ll give you the Stuck­ey storm report. OOPs. You have already seen Stuck­ey’s bliz­zard mem­o­ries. Hope you enjoyed it.

Rail­way work is no longer roman­tic, now that iron hors­es have stum­bled !!                                               

Souris — Jack Clevett and Cliff Hinks recall with pride, an era when rail­ways played  a much big­ger role in the lives of Prairie res­i­dents.   Forty years ago, trains still pro­vid­ed towns and vil­lages with their most impor­tant trans­porta­tion link. Freight, mail, and mer­chants’ sup­plies were brought in by train. Eggs, cans of cream, and oth­er farm prod­ucts were all shipped out by rail. and almost every com­mu­ni­ty was served by pas­sen­ger train.                  The Cana­di­an Pacif­ic Rail­way once employed 253 peo­ple in Souris. Today (in 1991) there are only sev­en employ­ees. Sim­i­lar reduc­tions have occurred in train towns across the Prairies. Their num­ber of track work­ers on the Minnedosa Sub­di­vi­sion has dropped from about 90 to a half-dozen.The first cut in rail employ­ment came in the late 1950’s when steam engines were replaced by diesel units. Nobody had to shov­el coal to keep a diesel train mov­ing.….. “It was kind of sad when the steam­ers went out. They were darn hard work, but there was some­thing about them”, recalls Hinks, who was with the CPR from 1953 until 1990, most­ly work­ing as an Engi­neer.           Tech­no­log­i­cal advances con­tin­u­al­ly reduced the need for labour. As engines became more pow­er­ful and length of trains increased , few­er “runs” were required. New track build­ing equip­ment also had an impact and instal­la­tion long, smooth rails has reduced the need for main­te­nance. The num­ber of rail stops dropped as ele­va­tors closed and trucks replaced trains as the pri­ma­ry method of haul­ing freight to small com­mu­ni­ties. 57 Sta­tions were closed in 1971, on the Bran­don Divi­sion, putting many teleg­ra­phers out of work, replaced by Cen­tral­ized Ser­vice Cen­tre in Bran­don, MB.  In 1950 rail­road­ers could nev­er have imag­ined that rail oper­a­tions would change so dra­mat­i­cal­ly. Hinks said recent­ly, “The old guys who died, if they came back and saw all this, they would just take one look and die again”.….Clevett, who retired as an Engi­neer in 1986, began work in 1943. He remem­bers the cama­raderie among crews and respect peo­ple had for Rail­road­ers. “Morale was high and every­body pulled togeth­er. It was a good pay­ing job and you were proud to go to work.…it was the biggest pay­roll in Souris”.…“Trains once cap­tured peo­ples atten­tion and imag­i­na­tion. Peo­ple would come to rail­way Sta­tions to see the trains pull into town. If a vehi­cle pulled up to a cross­ing, peo­ple would wave and chil­dren would stick their heads out the win­dow to get a clos­er look”, he says.…People now don’t  appear to care. Trains roll through com­mu­ni­ty after com­mu­ni­ty not noticed by any­one, except an occa­sion­al motorist who is upset that a rail­way cross­ing is tied up too long”, Clevett says, ..“If you toot the whis­tle at them, they don’t even look. You are just part of the dai­ly scene”.

Fourth gen­er­a­tion rail­road­er pro­vides glimpse inside the cab. .….They’re a nor­mal part of life in this area. Pulled by roar­ing diesel engines, CPR freight trains pass through each and every day. Yet as famil­iar as they may be, most of us don’t have any idea what is going on inside the cabs of those engines, or what skills today’s Engi­neer must have, to keep his train mov­ing safe­ly and smooth­ly along. But last Fri­day (date unknown) thanks to the Lan­gen­burg Sask. Library and CP Rail near­ly 600 peo­ple got a chance to actu­al­ly climb aboard  an engine, set­tle into the engi­neer’s right hand seat, and see and hear, first hand, what train crews expe­ri­ence on their dai­ly runs…Diesel 9002, a Gen­er­al Motors SD-40 unit, was sit­u­at­ed on a sid­ing in Lan­gen­burg, spe­cial­ly for the event and a large wood­en stair­case was built, enabling folks to climb aboard. Inside the cab, Jer­ry Clevett, a long-time rail­road­er, who is now involved with CP’s safe­ty and field oper­a­tions divi­sion in the Man­i­to­ba dis­trict (based in Bran­don) was on hand to answer any and all ques­tions thrown at him.….Many young­sters, and even a few old­er folks, got an obvi­ous thrill sit­ting in the engi­neer’s seat, eye­ing and touch­ing the throt­tle and brake levers (Jer­ry had the lever that makes the engine actu­al­ly move, safe­ly tucked away in his over­alls), and even get­ting a chance to sound the loud diesel horn and ring the engine’s warn­ing bell.                             A lot of ques­tions focused on the engine itself. Clevett explained that it’s mas­sive 16 cylin­der engine pro­duces 1,000 horse­pow­er. It can trav­el at a max­i­mum speed of 65 miles per hour. It’s large fuel tanks can hold 3,340 gal­lons of diesel fuel, allow­ing it to trav­el Win­nipeg to Cal­gary, non-stop. The engine, which was built in Novem­ber, 1988, keeps run­ning smooth­ly thanks to the 129 gal­lons of oil which are con­tin­u­al­ly pump­ing through it.…Asked why trains hold such attrac­tion for many peo­ple, Jer­ry puts it down to size. “They’re big”. “Every­thing from a road­grad­er to an air­plane seems to just nat­u­ral­ly attract peo­ple’s atten­tion”, he explained.….He is a fourth gen­er­a­tion rail­road­er which attrib­ut­es to the fact that “it’s a good life”, His Great Grand­fa­ther came over from Eng­land in 1891 and trav­elled by train across the coun­try. Stop­ping in Win­nipeg, he got into a con­ver­sa­tion with a rail­way boss, who helped him get a job as a sec­tion man in Souris, MB. He spent his entire life work­ing for the railway.…Jerry’s Grand­fa­ther hired on as a helper in the train shops in Souris and pro­gressed on to being a Fire­man, and then as an Engi­neer. His Father fol­lowed a very sim­i­lar path, hir­ing on at the age of 17 as a call­boy, trav­el­ling around town by bike (even in win­ter) call­ing crews to work. He, too, grad­u­at­ed to being a Fire­man and lat­er an Engi­neer, retir­ing in 1983 with 43 years of service.….Jerry “hired on” in 1973, start­ing as a mem­ber of a main­te­nance gang. That did­n’t last long, how­ev­er, as two weeks lat­er he got a job in the Souris shops as a labour­er. Tak­ing time off to try his hand at Uni­ver­si­ty (and real­iz­ing “that was­n’t the life for me”), he rejoined CP in 1974 as a brake­man, “and I’ve been out on the road ever since”.….This past March (1991) , how­ev­er he assumed his new duties in the safe­ty and field oper­a­tions depart­ment, an office based job, which is final­ly allow­ing him to lead a rel­a­tive­ly nor­mal life.…While the job may be inter­est­ing and it may pay well, Clevett says “rail­road­ing is def­i­nite­ly tough on fam­i­ly life”. Trains run every day of the year except two at Christ­mas time”, and they are mov­ing at all times of the day and night. Rail­ways and Unions have been try­ing to work out a sys­tem that will make the job eas­i­er on fam­i­lies, but Clevett says “it’s going to be dif­fi­cult to imple­ment. Trains can’t run on a day-after-day, straight for­ward sched­ule”, he says. “There are too many vari­ables to take into account. It’s impos­si­ble to run it that way”.….Providing an insight into what is tak­ing place in the cab of a train run­ning at full throt­tle, Clevett says “that it’s all busi­ness”. With per­haps the excep­tion of the cof­fee pot on a spe­cial burn­er in the cen­tre of the cab, there are few, if any dis­trac­tions. “You watch out for a farmer com­ing up to a cross­ing, or some kids play­ing along­side the tracks in the town. There are slow orders to slow the train down, and you speed it up after you get over the slow order area.. You’ve got to blow the whis­tle and ring the bell. There are speed lim­its, so you’re con­stant­ly work­ing the throt­tle to keep the train at the right speed, and set­ting the brake. You’re always mon­i­tor­ing your air and every­thing else. You’re lis­ten­ing to the radio to hear what’s com­ing at you and what’s going away”. The Con­duc­tor is work­ing hard copy­ing Clear­ances and Slow orders. “It’s a full time job.…You’re not sit­ting with your feet up”.….He not­ed that between Bran­don and Broad­view, there are 270 cross­ings, and the Engi­neer must blow his horn when approach­ing each and every one of them.….…..Yet while the work­load  remains ever demand­ing, the num­ber of peo­ple shar­ing duties is decreas­ing. Hav­ing already lost the brake­man in the old tra­di­tion­al, end-of-train caboose sev­er­al years ago, on August 18 new rules come into effect, allow­ing trains to run with only a two-man crew…the engi­neer and conductor…in the engine. Brake­men will no longer be necessary.…Despite omi­nous changes such as that, Clevett believes the future of rail­road­ing in Cana­da is look­ing very good. “We’re going to expand into big­ger and bet­ter mar­kets”. “If we can ever get every­thing straight­ened out with the farm­ers, the Wheat Board, the Rail­ways and every­one else, we can move grain very effi­cient­ly. These big inland ter­mi­nal  are the way of the future, and they are tai­lor-made for rail­ways to increase their efficiency”.…Comparing the per mile cost of haul­ing freight long dis­tances by train, as com­pared to haul­ing it by truck. Clevett notes that trains are vast­ly more effi­cient. It was even men­tioned that a train uses one cup of diesel fuel to haul one ton of goods one mile.……But that kind of infor­ma­tion was not what most of the young­sters who climbed aboard  Fri­day were most inter­est­ed in. “Where’s the horn?”, they asked. And despite a pound­ing headache caused by hear­ing it already dozens of times, Jer­ry point­ed to the horn switch, hap­py to keep alive the excite­ment that the sights and sounds of trains nat­u­ral­ly cre­ate in young minds and heart.

NEWS FROM CANADA — Engine­men’s Press.…..

Novem­ber 18, 1966.….…Lodge 464 Hails Vet Members

Bran­don, Man.—Officers of Wheat City Lodge 464 recent­ly hon­oured vet­er­an mem­bers of the Broth­er­hood of Loco­mo­tive Fire­men & Engi­neers, with awards for con­tin­u­ous peri­ods of membership.The old­est senior man receiv­ing acclaim was half-cen­tu­ry mem­ber J.S. Sprout was giv­en 50-year lapel but­ton, and engraved cer­tifi­cate by Local Chair­man J.E. Clevett. Sec­ond old­est was R. Clevett, father of J.E. The elder Clevett had com­plet­ed 40 years of con­tin­u­ous affil­i­a­tion with the BLF&E…Local Chair­man J.E. Clevett pinned the lapel pin on his father, not­ing that he, him­self, was recruit­ed into the BLF&E by his Dad some twen­ty years ago after he had hired on the rail­road. The pre­sen­ta­tions to the two old­er men were made at the Vic­to­ria Park Lodge Senior Cit­i­zens Home in Souris…Young Clevett is Local Chair­man for the Souris ter­mi­nal Sub­di­vi­sion of the Cana­di­an Pacif­ic Rail­way. He received a 20 year mem­ber­ship award. Oth­ers in the 20 year clas­si­fi­ca­tion were W.H. (Pete) Deleau, Gor­don R. Austin and Harold E. (Snook) Hale.….The hon­ourees were laud­ed for their envi­able records of unbro­ken mem­ber­ship and the part they played in build­ing and main­tain­ing a good Broth­er­hood lodge and effec­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tion for engine­men in the area.

These arti­cles “Mem­o­ries of Jack E. Clevett” were found in a binder and donat­ed to Souris Rail­way Muse­um by his family.

Typed, and edit­ed by Ferg Devins…