Written April 26, 1991 by Dave Jenkins (Grandson of George Jenkins, Sectionman)
The Jenkins family of Souris were all Railroad men, starting with my Grandfather George. He brought his family of 8 children to Vermillion Bay, in Western Ontario, from Birmingham, England in April 1893. Here. he worked as a section hand for the C.P.R. until 1903 when he moved to Souris, Manitoba. He then was the Crossing-man cum “flagman” for 20 years.
My Father, Nathaniel (Nat) started work with CPR as a pump man in Vermillion Bay, when he was 17 in 1900. At 18 he went to Ignace, Ont. as a shop hostler and then to Port Arthur, as a fireman, in 1901. In 1902, he transferred to Winnipeg as a Fireman. In 1903, he went to Souris, as a Fireman (temporarily). However, as he had “written info” as an Engineer he was given an Engineers job. The CPR had to get a special permit for him to run an engine, as he wasn’t 21. He then ran an engine until 1909 or 1910, when he was set back for 3 months to “firing”. He was “set-up” to Engineer, and remained an engineer until 1948, when he retired with 48 years pensionable service. His last 10 years were served in Winnipeg. He moved to Victoria and was very active until his death in 1970 from natural old age causes.
My Uncle Harry Jenkins. a year younger than Dad worked for the C.P.R. as a teenager. He changed his job and went to work for the C.N.R. for 44 years at Radville, Sask. His name was on the plaque about bridging the Souris River with the Souris Swinging bridge.
My Uncle Oscar Jenkins at 20 years of age, ran a steam shovel for the C.P.R. in the Fraser Canyon in B.C. He went to WW 1 and was an Engineer on an ammunition train in France for 3 years. He returned to Souris and worked in the CPR Roundhouse steam plant until he retired after 42 years service.
My Uncle George Jenkins Jr., the youngest of this railroad family, started working as a call boy, at age 15. He went through all phases of becoming an Engineer, and retired, in 1962 with 44 years of CPR service. In his twenties he also worked on the CPR Bridge & Building gangs during summers as a painter and carpenter. He passed away in 1978.
Dad (Nathaniel) used to recount many stories of his railroad career. My sisters Nora and Esther and brother Walter have talked these tales over and the following, we think are worth repeating.
1) For many years Nat worked the mixed train to and from Lyleton, 3 days away, or 4 if he caught the Sunday lay away. One Christmas eve while travelling in a blizzard, he stopped the train for no apparent reason. Conductor Billy Stokes walked up from the rear end to find out the cause of the stop. There was no apparent cause but Dad and the Fireman, Jack Sprout walked ahead for about two hundred yards and found a sleigh (grain box) with two horses stuck on the right-of-way. In the sleigh was a drunken man, passed out, and a small girl, 3 or 4 years old. It appeared that the team was proceeding on their own and when they came to the tracks, they turned to follow the rails. The sleigh runner was wedged between the rail and the crossing planks and this had halted all movement. It took about an hour to free the sleigh. The man sobered up enough to drive off with his child.
2) One year in the 1920’s, all the prairie sloughs were very full of water, from many rain storms. By fall, the sloughs had hundreds of ducks in them.. Dad was working the Arcola way freight. His Fireman was Len Littleford. They left Arcola at daylight, with a shotgun available for duck shooting. The train was stopped at every slough that touched the right-of-way and they bagged ducks all the way to Souris. When they got to Souris they had four large grain bags of ducks, which were distributed around town.
3) The winter of 1921/22 had many snow storms. The Lyleton mixed train took 3 weeks to make the 3 day trip. Most of the time the train was stuck in a snow bank near Alids, Sask. (Editor’s note “see picture of 6 engine snow plow in 1922, west of Killarney, Man.”)
4) On May 8, 1950, a snow plow was dispatched from Souris to get the Lyleton mixed train out of heavy snow near Deloraine. This was, at that time, the latest known date for a CPR snow plow to be used in Southern Manitoba.
5) In 1907 and 1908, dad ran the engine for the work train that built the Reston-Wolseley branch line. In the 1960’s his brother George ran the engine on the work train that tore up and recovered the material on this same branch line.
This website appreciates the above Jenkins story.