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