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.


Souris wins Bantam BB Provincial baseball 1962

   CPR Storekeeper Gordon Crowe (no relation to Morgan & his brother Gordon) came to work in CPR stores at Souris in mid 1950’s. He was from Winnipeg and introduced “Little League” baseball to Souris. There were 4 teams established, namely, CPR, Legion, Kiwanis & Elks. Shortly after the Legion, Kiwanis & Elks agreed to donate $500.00 each for a Recreational Director for July & August. The first one hired was Al Robertson from Hamiota.
I remember asking CPR Engineer Bill Roney, what he thought of our new Rec.Director, and Bill replied “Anyone who can work my son (Allan) for 2 hours on a ball diamond and then when Allan comes home at noon and sleeps for an hour, is an OK person as far as I’m concerned”.
    Gordie Lyall was the Rec. Director in Souris from July 1 to Aug. 15, 1962. I was CPR Station Agent at Nesbitt (22 miles East of Souris) and as a Past President of Souris Little League I kept in communication with them.                                                                           

   Jim Down (brother to Souris Butcher Harry Down) used to bring his Brandon Little League team to play our Nesbitt team once a year for an exhibition game. After the game he told me that  we should enter our team into the Provincial Playdowns because he thought we had one of the best pitchers in Manitoba. I called President Al Richardson at Morden to see if we could get entered, but he said that the draw was already made and mailed out. I said that I felt that I was responsible for these players losing the chance to compete in the playoffs. He suggested that I take players to closest team entered. I asked about taking them to Souris. And he said that was okay.

  I met Gordie Lyall and Bob Sanderson later and asked them if they had the full complement of 18 players on their team. They said they had room for 4 more and I asked them if they wanted to win the Provincial Championship, because I had some players that could help their team out. They said bring them to their next game. The four players I had in mind were Mark Fisher (a good Nesbitt Pitcher & good batter), Grant Everard (another good pitcher), Don Brown ( a relief pitcher) and Greg Leachman (a third baseman who was also good at bat).The last 3 boys were from Wawanesa.

    We won the Manitoba Provincial Bantam BB Championship in Morden,MB September Labour Day weekend of 1962. The Souris Elks Lodge hosted a dinner and donated individual trophies to each player. Two players on this team were sons of CPR employees, namely George Davis (son of Engineer Norm Davis) and Paul     Eliuk (son of Sectionman Conrad Eliuk) also Gary Davidson was son of CPR Watch Inspector Allan Davidson. Another boy who would have been on this team was Andy Murray (who later became NHL hockey coach) but he was on vacation during this playoff session.Later in life, Garry Davidson would become owner of Junior Hockey team, (The Portland Winterhawks), Greg Cameron, Grant Everard, Mark Fisher and Gordie Lyall would become inducted into the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame. Please see photo below. Click your cursor on it to enlarge. Click a 2nd time and it will enlarge more. I have added 2 notes at top right hand corner and bottom right hand corner of the photo about Little Leaguers Keith Edwards and Bob Neufeld.

    There was another player named Keith Edwards who would have been on this team. I left this part of the story for the last of this article. Keith was playing ball in June 1962 when he developed a strong headache, and his coach Murray Zuk took him out of the game. He went home complaining of a bad headache. He died in an ambulance enroute to Winnipeg. The attending Dr. declared that Keith had suffered from a ruptured aneurysm.The team and management along with the Souris B.P.O. Elks Lodge #21 decided that a posthumous trophy be delivered to Keith’s family at an appropriate time. It was the saddest Christmas Eve of my life. I went around to the Edwards home just before midnight Dec. 24th 1962, after Keith’s Sister Joan & younger Brother Clare were in bed. His Mother Florence was busy putting together a bike for Clare for Christmas and I helped her. Finally, I said to Florence that I had a sad duty and presented her with the trophy. Surprisingly she was very happy to receive it. We cried and we hugged. It was placed on their mantle. Trainman/Conductor Al Edwards (father to Keith) was out on a CPR run at the time. They were very proud and happy to receive it. (This story was written by Ferg Devins)

The Royal Train, Elkhorn, MB. Oct 17, 1951

Above left is picture of Princess Elizabeth & Duke of Edinburgh on rear of Royal Train at London Ont. on Oct. 14th, 1951. At centre is Page 1 and at right is page 2 of a letter that I sent to my parents the morning after the Royal Train went through Elkhorn, Man. on Oct. 17, 1951. I was the CP Operator on duty for Royal Train. Below please find a revised version of these 2 pages, which explains the experience more specifically.Click your cursor on all small pictures to enlarge them. At the bottom you can find copies of clearances and train orders issued to trains involved. Click on them too…This is history shared with you….Ferg Devins.

Kirkella, MB,Oct. 17/51

Dear Folks,…Well I got back to Elkhorn on Monday…and into the old routine again. Worked at Elkhorn until 8 a.m. today, and into bed by 9:00 a.m….Then was called at 11:50 a.m. to go to Kirkella to clear the branch way freight from the Neudorf/McCauley subs, onto the Broadview sub (Main Line). So am sitting here waiting for it & decided to drop you a line.

Well the Royal Trains went through Elkhorn this morning with officials on each train. Ahead of the passenger Extra trains was regular passenger train #1 at 2.37. Maurice Roach (Assistant Superintendent from Minnedosa) was on it. Then Passenger Extra 2861 West (the Press Train) with Assistant Superintendent Barney O. Fryer from Souris, arrived at 2:59 and departed at 3:10. The Royal Train ,Passenger Extra 2863 West with Superintendent Wood from Brandon attending it arrived at 4:58 and left at 5:05.  RCMP and officials were all over it. There were about half dozen people down to see it and 5 cops (3 from Virden and 2 from Elkkhiorn). I was standing on the platform after it arrived and this guy came up and asked if I was the Operator on duty. I told him I was. He asked me my name and I told him. He said “Well, my name is Thompson” and we shook hands and stood around, shooting the breeze for 5 or 10 minutes. After he left I discovered that he was the CPR Vice-President. He seemed like a very nice person.

Eastbouind passenger train #2 arrived at 3:46 and couldn’t make Hargrave in time to clear these 3 trains by 30 minutes and so it had to pull into the number two passing track at Elkhorn because the siding switches at Reaper were spiked closed. After #2 pulled into passing track the section men spiked the east switch closed and then pulled spikes after the Royal Train was by. No. 2 sat at Elkhorn from 3:46 until 5:00. I had to make 3 copies of train orders for train #1, 4 copies for the press train and 5 sets for the Royal Train. But they were only slow orders, which were already on the hook when I came on duty at 24 O’clock All freight trains had to be in the clear 5 hours ahead of the Royal Train, but there were none on the Broadview Subdivision. There was no sign of the Princess and Duke, just Mounties, Officials and Train Crews. Speed limit was 35 mph. Royal Train was sure shined up and coaches from CNR & CPR. I could see into some of them and they were really fixed up nice.

I was wrong about the Royal Couple going to Rivers.They will be passing through there on return trip via CNR on Sunday Oct. 28th.

That’s all the news for now. So will sign off and see you on Sunday. Bye for now…Fergie.

(Please note…The reason that all trains stopped at Elkhorn was so they could take on more coal and water for the engines. The engines 2861 and 2863 on the “Press train” and the “Royal train” were oil burners and only required to take on more water, which meant they took less time at Elkhorn than the usual trains. Also Princess Elizabeth’s father King George sixth died a few months after this tour and she became Queen of England, and the Commonwealth, and is still the Queen in 2018)

You might be wondering why the spaces on these clearances shown below are filled in with a short dash, instead of the “Train ahead, etc”. The Broadview subdivision consisted of double track from Brandon to Virden, then single track, Virden to Whitewood, and double track again Whitewood to Broadview. The single track portion was Automatic Block System and trains were controlled by Automatic block signals, so it was not necessary to fill in that portion of the “Clearance form” as shown below…..FD