Gordon McIntosh’s RR Experiences


 To begin this sto­ry, let me say that I am a third gen­er­a­tion rail­road­er (Cana­di­an Pacif­ic) fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of both my Father and my Grandfather.

My rail­road career com­menced in June of 1944.  As WW11 was rag­ing , every per­son of mil­i­tary age was away in the forces and high school stu­dents were wel­comed to alle­vi­ate the labour short­age. My Father was Sec­tion Fore­man at Mac­Gre­gor, MB. It was under his guid­ance that I sur­vived the first week on the gov­ern­ing end of a track shov­el for 10 hours, 6 days a week.

The pur­pose of this sto­ry, is not to gar­ner glo­ry for the labour­ers of the days gone by, but rather to pass on to some, to per­haps bring back mem­o­ries to the ‘old timers’, of just how labour inten­sive things were on the rail­road. Our coun­try was just over a great depres­sion and mon­ey for enhance­ment of rail­way roadbeds, rolling stock and facil­i­ties were taxed to the lim­it. On the prairies, for the most part, the 100 lb. steel and cre­osot­ed ties sat on very lit­tle bal­last, most­ly mud, and so heaved in win­ter and pumped into slush when it rained. In win­ter months the track would  heave off-lev­el with the heavy prairie frost, and was “lev­elled up” by plac­ing hard­wood shims between the tie and tie plate and respik­ing. with the arrival of warm weath­er these shims had to be removed. Imag­ine putting in and sub­se­quent­ly remov­ing 20,000 shims each year, as was done on the Mac­Gre­gor East, and oth­er sec­tions. When the shims were removed and the first frost gone, the Fore­man marked the ties to be replaced, and the new tie was dug in, tamped into place with shov­els, tie plate placed in posi­tion and tie fur­ther tamped up by use of a tamp­ing bar, 8 strokes on each side of the rail, at base of the tie. Now, this was labour!  You devel­oped stur­dy arm mus­cles on this one. Spikes were dri­ven and then on to the next tie. It was said a good pair of work­ers were capa­ble of replac­ing 16 ‑18 ties per day, how­ev­er, my part­ner and I attained 12 one day, nev­er slack­en­ing. They must have been much bet­ter men to attain 16.

Can you imag­ine unload­ing cre­osot­ed ties from a box car, as the train moved slow­ly, in the heat of the sum­mer? It was ‘hell’. The Fore­man rode atop the box car and struck the roof with a pick han­dle to indi­cate a tie should be pushed out the car door, usu­al­ly 2 or 3 ties per tele­graph pole length. The cre­osote burned your skin and the air was foul. Some of the gang wrapped their boots and pant legs with jute sacks and tied them with twine to stop them from being ruined. The Com­pa­ny lat­er loaded ties in slat­ted stock cars, but this was frowned upon as the cre­osote was harm­ful to the ani­mals, should they come in con­tact with it. What about the men load­ing and unload­ing? The Fore­man did get a small bot­tle of calamine lotion from the Com­pa­ny sup­ply car, which proved of lit­tle use.

I vivid­ly remem­ber hun­dreds of pas­sen­ger trains of that era. Many stopped for water, some high­balled through. There were many spe­cial troop trains with ser­vice per­son­nel at win­dows wav­ing. There were also pris­on­er of war trains, all coach win­dows drawn. When the train stopped for water, armed Home Guard sol­diers stepped down at each coach stair­well, to sur­vey train for escapees.

These were war years, every­one worked hard. While the glo­ry and acco­lades might have gone to Com­pa­ny offi­cials, many of whom were detest­ed by the aver­age work­er, it was the labour­er who faced the win­ter cold and the sum­mer heat. I was paid 28 cents per hour, the Fore­man received about 35 cents per hour, and we were active­ly solicit­ed to buy war bonds. My ‘First Sum­mer Job’ became a per­ma­nent job until 1947, at which time I trans­ferred to a Class B rail­road ter­mi­nal, with a view to learn­ing teleg­ra­phy, but there­in lies anoth­er sto­ry for anoth­er time.

 My Rec­ol­lec­tions of Souris, 1950 — 1952

I vacat­ed the night Car Check­er’s posi­tion at Minnedosa and moved to a day posi­tion as Assis­tant Agent, Souris, sum­mer 1950. Har­ry Casey was Agent. Jim Ker­by was Freight Clerk. My job was, morn­ing Jan­i­tor, viz. sweep the floors, sup­ply the wash­rooms and pre­pare for arrival of high­way truck from Bran­don. Usu­al­ly around 10 a.m. Unload, write up bills, trans­fer express to local dray­man for town deliv­ery, Jack Bur­nett and Ralph Sopp. Tend wick­et for deliv­ery of express and pre­pare for after­noon traf­fic: four pas­sen­ger trains passed through dur­ing after­noons, viz. 137–138, Bran­don-Este­van/ 55 — 56 Win­nipeg-Regi­na. In addi­tion to these the Lyle­ton pas­sen­ger depart­ed and lat­er the Reston-Wolse­ley mixed arrived. As a result of these arrivals and depar­tures, I nev­er saw so many 5 gal­lon cream cans, both full and emp­ty, and dis­trib­ut­ing emp­ty cans to prop­er car­ri­er took a few days to mas­ter. It was incum­bent on me to place signs stat­ing which train was for such and such des­ti­na­tions. If I ever slipped up, or missed plac­ing signs, I was rather harsh­ly rep­ri­mand­ed by the Assis­tant Super­in­ten­dent, who as near as I can recall, was of very lit­tle use to the ter­mi­nal. I pre­pared the account for Souris Cream­ery, on a week­ly basis, approved by the Agent and sub­mit­ted for pay­ment. With the advent of the Christ­mas sea­son, I was to bill express by weight and in most cas­es at min­i­mum charge iof $1.50. Here again I nev­er ever han­dled so many frozen turkeys des­tined Win­nipeg, 1 pa frozen poul­try, etc. I enjoyed my posi­tion and when it was time to move on, I was thanked with remarks like “Sor­ry to see you go”. In 1952 the 40 hour week became the law of employ­ment for non-oper­at­ing trades on the rail­ways in Cana­da. As a result there were Teleg­ra­phers posi­tions cre­at­ed and I bid on them all, land­ing the Bin­scarth, Shoal Lake, Minnedosa swing shift. So I moved my fam­i­ly, wife and daugh­ter to Bin­scarth. With time pass­ing I bid in the Agency at Mor­ris, MB. and in 1971 the end came (all Man­i­to­ba CPR sta­tions were closed down). I was for­tu­nate to receive a job with Mar­ket­ing & Sales, 150 Hen­ry Ave., Win­nipeg, first as Freight Tar­iff Com­pil­er, Rate Ana­lyst, Super­vi­sor Freight Tar­iff pub­li­ca­tions, Inter­mod­el Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Win­nipeg & Saskatchewan, Freight Tar­iff Pub­li­ca­tions Offi­cer, retir­ing in 1985, 3 months short of 40 years con­tin­u­ous ser­vice. I reside in Win­nipeg and try to keep active and in touch with CP pen­sion­ers. At times it was a “tough go”, no expens­es on the road, but my wife helped more than I could ever tell. We were both chil­dren of Rail­road­ers, she was the daugh­ter of Road­mas­ter Ivan M. West. (Edi­tor’s note Gor­don’s wife passed away a num­ber of years ago, and Gor­don died a year or so ago. He helped us with mem­o­ra­bil­ia for our muse­um and also his Rail­road­ing his­to­ry above…FD…Jan.1, 2018) More names that come to the mind of Gor­don F. “Red” McIn­tosh, 1950–52 are as fol­lows                  Jim Ahern, Loco­mo­tive Fore­man,     Frank Shanks, Car Fore­man    Buck MvLaugh­ry (should be Car Fore­man)     Jack Bur­nett Dray­man,    Ralph Sopp dri­ver for Bur­nett, Tee­nie Brown & Mrs. Shand Lunch Counter Pur­vey­ors,    Art McCart­ney, Line­man,       Steve Bal­anyk, Teleg­ra­ph­er,     W,G, (Bob) Kil­patrick, Telegrapher…Steve Bal­anyk used to encour­age me to learn and mas­ter teleg­ra­phy and it was with his assis­tance I was sent to Deleau, MB. to start my Senior­i­ty August 5th 1950. This dis­course could apt­ly apply to so many men. In ret­ro­spect, I am sat­is­fied it hap­pened and though the Rail­road has changed so much, the mem­o­ries linger on!    Gor­don F. McIn­tosh #183817, Assis­tant-Agent, Teleg­ra­ph­er-Agent, Freight Tar­iff Pub­li­ca­tions Offi­cer, West­ern Lines.….…“AMEN”