Bill Barr’s Articles


Bill Barr in 1947 held a job as a CPR Fire­man on the Win­nipeg-La Riv­iere way freight. He wrote 4 arti­cles about expe­ri­ences on the job. The first arti­cle tells us the duties he had to per­form before they even took the engine off the shop track, plus their trip as far as Rosen­feld. I showed this par­tic­u­lar arti­cle to another for­mer fire­man who worked out of Souris and he replied “that is exact­ly what we did before we start­ed to work”. Bill Barr has giv­en us per­mis­sion to include these 4 arti­cles in our web­site in the “Sto­ries” sec­tion. Thanks Bill

William B. Barr states “When I decid­ed to write an arti­cle on rail­road­ing now and rail­road­ing way back when, I could­n’t help myself, and went back fur­ther than intend­ed. The years were rough and tough, the work was hard and dirty, the days were long and we did­n’t know any bet­ter. But we sure got an “A” for deter­mi­na­tion. I was deter­mined to become a rail­road engi­neer and I did. Through all the hard work there was always some kind of reward,either along the way or at the end of the day. For me it was watch­ing nature go by the win­doww, wav­ing to peo­ple and get­ting a friend­ly wave back. I also enjoyed watch­ing the sea­sons change and know­ing at the end ofn the day you had done a good job. I hope you enjoy this glimpse into the past” .

The new diesels that are part of our trans­porta­tion sys­tem now are a far cry from the diesels of yore. If we go back even fur­ther to the days of steam, you would say I was mak­ing this up. Shall we go back to the days of steam? Ah, the romance of steam!

Hold it right there. Let me tell you about this so-called romance.

Pic­ture this. You are a fire­man on the Cana­di­an Pacif­ic Rail­way work­ing out of Win­nipeg, Man­i­to­ba and are assigned to the La Riv­iere way freight Yahoo! You are awak­ened at 4:45 A.M. by the Crew-Clerk. With the train ordered for 6:45. You’re time to be on duty is 6:00 a.m. The birds are not even up yet. Why did­n’t I go to bed ear­li­er? It’s going to be a long day, so you bet­ter get a good break­fast. You live two miles from the Round­house, where you pick up your engine. You don’t own a car, but a bicy­cle you do have. So, it’s 15 min­utes to bike in the sum­mer time or 25 min­utes in the win­ter time, most of the time push­ing the bike. You also have to car­ry your over­alls and lunch buck­et. And don’t for­get your rule book, your rail­way watch and timecard.

At the book­ing in office at the round­house you have 30 min­utes prepara­to­ry time before you are due off the shop track, and 15 min­utes to get to your train. You must sign the reg­is­ter, check your watch with the stan­dard clock and read and sign all the lat­est bul­letins. You check to see if you can hold a bet­ter job, prefer­ably one that has a stok­er, not like this hand-fired engine you have today.

Your engine today is #996, a D‑10, with 4–6‑0 wheel arrange­ment, and the only thing worth not­ing about it is that it has a brass num­ber­plate The D‑10 was the back­bone of the C.P.R. It was a hand-fired engine that could be used in any class of ser­vice. With a coal capac­i­ty of 12 tons.and a water capac­i­ty of 6,000 gal­lons. It’s range was lim­it­ed. Built between 1905 and 1913, the D‑10’s were still a motive pow­er main stay in the late 1940’s, but since new­er steam pow­er had emerged in the late 1920’s and ear­lyy 1930’s, most of the D‑10’s were rel­e­gat­ed to freight ser­vice. There were approx­i­mate­ly 500 of them built.

Time to put on your over­alls and smock and your pec­ca­ry-hog gloves with seams on the out­side. (These are very impor­tant when you’re about to shov­el 10 to 12 tons of coal). You leave the office. You go to the shop­track and get on your engine. Your engi­neer today is Fred Stow­ell. You and Fred have worked this job for the last two years, so you know what to expect of each other.

Your duties, when you get on the engine, are as fol­lows: First, the most impor­tant thing is check to make sure the water in the water glass is real (The water glass is locat­ed on the front of the boil­er to the left side and indi­cates the amount of water in the boil­er). If you don’t see any water in the glass, noth­ing else mat­ters, except your dis­tance from the loco­mo­tive, and the fur­ther away you are, the bet­ter. When a boil­er goes dry and heat is still being applied from the fire, there is a good pos­si­bil­i­ty of an explosion.

You blow down the water glass, so the indi­ca­tion in the glass is real. Let’s make sure. You blow down the three tri-cocks, which are locat­ed on the back­head of the boil­er, at dif­fer­ent lev­els. It’s water alright. You now take a look into the fire­box to see if you have a fire of sorts. You check for any leaks around the stay­bolts and see that then brick arch is intact. Every­thing looks good. The boil­er pres­sure is at 155 on the steam gauge, which rep­re­sents pres­sure of 155 pounds per square inch. You throw in a cou­ple scoops of coal to see if the shov­el works. It works. The shov­el you will use today is a # 10 scoop with a longer style sec­tion­man’s shov­el han­dle. It does save the back and allows you to reach fur­ther. The Sup­ply­man has already put it on for you. He took it off the engine when you came in from your last trip, put your name in chalk on the blade and hung it up in the sandhouse.