American Morse Code Used on North American Railroads

The Telegraph machines were invented before the Telephone.

(Please Click your cursor on “The American Morse Code” in line 3 below for an explanation from Wikipedia about Codes)

There were two Morse Codes. The first was  the International Morse Code which was used by “Ham Radio Operators”, ships at sea, and the military Army, Navy and Air Force. The second Morse Code was the The American Morse Code used by North American Railroads. There were 10 letters different between the 2 codes. The Railroad Telegrapher was a very important employee. He was the middleman between the Train Dispatcher and the employees on the Trains. The Railroads required communication from the railhead construction site to their headquarters with daily reports on how many miles had been laid that day. Some Railroad Telegraphers learned the code by going to Telegraph Schools. Others became Assistant Agents, and learned from the Agent and practised on the Telegraph key and memorized the Rule Book while off-duty. They wrote an examination on rules, and if they passed that, they were sent out as relief Telegraphers until obtaining enough seniority to hold down a permanent position. Another position was the Commercial Telegrapher, who handled Commercial Telegrams and Newspaper traffic, and also communicated with Commercial Telegrams to the Railroad Telegrapher Agents. The experienced Railroad Telegrapher could advance his employment to becoming a Station Agent, or a Train Dispatcher when his seniority allowed.. They were held in great esteem by the Public and the Officials.

THANKS EVERYONE for reading this article about Souris great attractions

THANKS EVERYONE for reading this article

We hope you like our website. In this write-up, it is our desire to tell you about all the nice attractions that Souris has for you to visit, when you are in our town.

Of course, one of the great attractions is our famous Souris Swinging Bridge. It is the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in Canada. Todays bridge was opened in 2013, after our great flood of 2011, when it had to be cut loose before the Souris River washed it away with all it’s anchors, and possible impending damage to sewer and water systems.

When you arrive in Souris on Highway #250 from the North, or Highway #2 from the East or the West you will come to a junction with Highway #22 South. On the Northeast corner of this junction is the “Whiteowl Gas Bar”. West of the “Whiteowl” on the Northwest corner is the “Subway” cafe and on the Southwest corner of this junction you will see “The Rock Shop”. Be sure to visit “The Rock Shop” & get a permit to visit the largest Semi-precious stone & Agate pit in North America.

These businesses are all quite visible. Highway #22 South is also Souris’ 1st St. South. So in order to get to the Swinging bridge, go South on 1st St. South. Just past the new 4 story hotel/condo building on your left, turn left onto Crescent Ave. East, and 2 houses East will bring you right up to the West side of the Swinging Bridge.



Before you turn left onto Crescent Ave., East, make sure there is no traffic coming up the hill towards you. Also at Southend of the new 4 story building is a pedestrian cross-walk, so you will also have to watch out for pedestrians crossing. There is limited parking space at West side of Swinging bridge, so you may have to park farther down that street.

As soon as you turn East onto Crescent Ave. East you will see this small building in front of you. It holds an antique horse drawn fire wagon. To it’s right is Hillcrest Museum.This is the starting point of Tourism Row. Behind Hillcrest is an Agricultural Museum, and caboose CP 437180, which is also part of Hillcrest, and west across the street is “The Plum” museum, which is the oldest building in Souris and houses our tourist information booth.

Below “The Plum” is a Moose statue and at the bottom of the hill is Souris Railway Museum with it’s yellow track motor sitting in front. This Museum has no connection with Caboose CP 437180 behind “Hillcrest”. Further South is Victoria Park & Kiddies playgrounds and Lions Washrooms.


Also in Victoria Park at Southwest end is a well sheltered campground and excellent swimming pool with 3 slides. Also there is a lookout tower at South end of the Park which gives a good view of the town. Make sure you have your camera. The frog shown below is the Kiddies slide in our swimming pool.





Souris Glenwood Golf Course is 1 mile South # 22 highway. It is one of Manitoba’s most picturesque & challenging 9 hole courses. It boasts a newer licensed clubhouse with eating facilities. Club rentals & Cart rentals are available.Be sure and phone ahead for a tee time booking. Phone # is shown in photo at left. Just click your cursor on all photos & they will enlarge. We also have a newer skateboard park which is located Northwest of the schools. Also fishing available at the dam which is at East end of Souris, just south off #2 highway….There’s lots to do in Souris. More than the average  small town in Manitoba. Enjoy & have fun.

Buffalo N.Y. News Article About Canadians

(This is an article that was posted in the Buffalo News by Gerry Boley. Please read more about Gerry Boley at the end of this article. I received it by e-mail from a friend on November 15, 2015 and although it has nothing to do with Souris, MB., I feel it is a most worthy item, which requires reading by Canadian Citizens.       Ferg Devins of Souris Railway Museum.)

Misconceptions in the United States about Canada are quite common. They include: there is always snow in Canada: Canadians are boring, socialists and pacifists: their border is porous and allowed the Sept. 11 terrorists through: or, as the U.S. Ottawa embassy staff suggested to Washington, the country suffers from an inferiority complex. With Canada Day and America’s Independence Day just past, this is a great time to clarify some of these misconceptions and better appreciate a neighbour that the United States at times takes for granted.

With the exception of the occasional glacier, skiing in Canada in the summer just isn’t happening. Frigid northern winters, however, have shaped the tough, fun-loving Canadian character. When it is 30-below, the Canucks get their sticks, shovel off the local pond and have a game of shinny hockey.

The harsh winters have also shaped Canadians’ sense of humour. Canada has some of the world’s greatest comedians, from early Wayne and Shuster, Mike Myers, Leslie Nielson, John Candy, Martin Short, Eugene Levy and “Saturday Night Live” creator and movie producer Lorne Michaels.

The suggestion that Canadians are soft on terrorism is a myth. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau backed down the Front de Liberation du Quebec terrorists during the1970’s. And the 9/11 Commission reported that terrorists arrived in the United States from outside North America with documents issued to them by the U.S. government. Likewise, the Canadians in Gander, Newfoundland countered despicable terrorist acts with love and caring to their U.S. neighbours when planes were diverted there.

Americans glorify war with movies, but it is the Canadians who are often the real “Rambo.” The Canadians are anything but pacifists and their history is certainly not dull. Be it on the ice or battlefield, this warrior nation has never lost a war that it fought in – War of 1812 (versus the United States), World War I, World War II, Korea and now Afghanistan. During the ’72 Summit Series, Soviet goalie Vladislav Tretiak said, “The Canadians have great skills and fight to the very end.”

In hunting the Taliban in Afghanistan, U.S. Commander and Navy SEAL Capt. Robert Howard stated that the Canadian Joint Task Force 2 team was “his first choice for any direct-action mission.”

Contrary to Thomas Jefferson’s 1812 comment that, “The acquisition of Canada will be a mere matter of marching,” the wily Native American leader Tecumseh and Maj. Gen. Isaac Brock captured Brig. Gen. William Hull’s Fort Detroit without firing a shot. The Americans never took Quebec and when they burned the Canadian Parliament Buildings at York, the White House was torched in retaliation. Canada considered its status as a warrior nation during World War I battles at Vimy Ridge, Passchendale, Somme and the Second Battle of Ypres, where soldiers were gassed twice by the German but refused to break the line. By the end of the war, the Canadians were the Allies’ shock troops.

In the air, four of the top seven World War I aces were Canadians. Crack shots, the names William “Billy” Bishop, Raymond Collishaw, Donald McLaren and William Barker, with 72, 60, 54 and 53 victories, respectively, were legendary. These were the original Crazy Canucks, who regularly dropped leaflets over enemy airfields advising German pilots that they were coming over at such and such a time, and to come on up. Bishop and Barker won the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry.

The pilot who is credited with shooting down the Red Baron, Manfred von Richtofen, with a little help from the Australian down under, was not Snoopy but Roy Brown from Carleton Place, Ontario.

During World War II, Winnipeg native and air ace Sir William Stehenson, the “Quiet Canadian,” ran the undercover British Security Coordination under the code name intrepid from Rockefeller Centre in New York, as a liaison between Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Stephenson invented the machine that transferred photos over the wire for the Daily Mail newspaper in 1922. Americans were not aware that the BSC was there or that it was stocked with Canadians secretly working to preserve North American freedom from the Nazis.

Also little known is that intrepid trained Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond series, at camp X, the secret spy school near Whitby, Ontario. Five future directors of the CIA also received special training there. It is suggested that Fleming’s reference to Bond’s 007 license to kill status, his gadgetry and the “shaken not stirred” martinis, rumoured to be the strongest in North America, came from Stephenson.

When Wild Bill Donaldson, head of the U.S. OSS, forerunner of the CIA, presented intrepid with the Presidential Medal of Merit in 1946, he said, “William Stephenson taught us everything we knew about espionage.”

American military writer Max Boot wrote recently in Commentary magazine that Canada is a country that most Americans consider a “dull but slavishly friendly neighbour, sort of like a great “St. Bernard.” Boot needs to come to Canada, have a Molson Canadian beer and chat about Canadian history. He owes his freedom to Canucks such as Stephenson and the courageous soldiers and fliers of the world wars who held off the Germans while America struggled with isolationism.

Canadian inventions such as the oxygen mask and anti-gravity suit, the forerunner of the astronaut suit, allowed U.S. and other Allied fighter pilots to fly higher, turn tighter and not black out with the resulting G-force. The 32 Canadians from the Avro Arrow team helped build the American space program and were, according to NASA, brilliant to a man. The most brilliant, Jim Chamberlin, chief designer of the Jetliner and Arrow, was responsible for the design and implementation of the Gemini and Appolo space programs.        ( Readers please note… Don “Kayo” Davidson of Souris.MB. worked on the Avro Arrow in Canada, before it was scrapped…he later moved to California and worked for Avro….FD)

Although Canadians have had a free, workable medical system for 50 years, they are not socialists and there are not long lineups, as some politicians opposed to Obamacare suggest. This writer (Gerry Boley) has had a ruptured appendix, hip replacement, pinned shoulder, blood clot, twist fracture of the fibula and broken foot, and in every case, there was zero cost to me. Canadians have and value a medical system for all Canadians that is free with minimal waits. That is not socialism; that is caring about Fellow Canadians.

Americans may be surprised by the Canadian content in their life. Superman – “truth, justice and the American way” – was co-created by Canadian Joe Shuster, the daily Planet is based on a Toronto newspaper, and the 1978 films’s Lois Lane, Margot Kidder, and Superman’s father, Glenn Ford were both Canadians. The Captain of the starship Enterprise was Montreal-born William Shatner. Torontonian Raymond Massey played Abraham Lincoln in 1956. And as American as apple pie? Ah, no. The McIntosh apple was developed in Dundela, Ontario, in 1811 by John McIntosh.

Many of the sports that Americans excel at are Canadian in origin. James Naismith  from Almonte, Ontario, invented basketball. The tackling and ball carrying in football were introduced by the Canucks in games between Harvard and McGill in the 1870’s. Five-pin bowling is also a Canadian game. Lacrosse is officially Canada’s national sport, and hockey – well, Canadians are hockey. And Jackie Robinson called Montreal “the city that enabled me to go to the major leagues”

To make everyone’s life easier, Canadians invented Pablum, the electric oven, the telephone, Marquis wheat, standard time, the rotary snowplow, the snowblower, the snowmobile, Plexiglass, Oven cleaner, the jolly jumper, the pacemaker, the alkaline battery, the caulking gun, the gas mask, the goalie mask, and many more.

Canadian inferiority complex? That is another myth. Never pick a fight with a quiet kid in the schoolyard. Never mistake quiet confidence for weakness. Many a bully has learned the hard way. Canadians are self-effacing and do not brag. That does not mean we do not know who we are. We are caring but tough, fun-loving but polite and creative, and we share with each other and the world. Our history is exciting but we don’t toot our horn. The world does that for us. This is the third year in a row that Canada has been voted the most respected country in the world by the Reputation institute global survey.

Perhaps once a year around our collective birthdays, Americans can raise a toast to their friendly, confident neighbour in the Great White North.

(Gerry Boley is a University lecturer and writer living in St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada)

Conductor Angus “Mac” McDonald

27 years on the Reston-Wolseley Mixed Train.

Please click on this news item shown here, and it will give you a great news clipping from the Reston Recorder dated Jan, 4, 1934, about Train Conductor Angus McDonald, an amazing and beloved man, and some of his history. He had 25 years service with CPR prior to taking over the Reston-Wolseley mixed, for a total of 52 years service.

Souris Railway Museum attained his collection of memorabilia from the committee of “The Caboose” CP 437180, which they had in storage, and with no place to exhibit them. We have the originals of this memorabilia safely locked in our strong box. Among these artifacts are 26 train orders from 1891 and 1892, an engine haulage capacity book from 1926, which illustrates all the sub-divisions  and stations of the former Souris Division, a time bill (today it is known as a schedule) dated 1895 showing schedules from Fort William,Ontario to Donald, B.C. and all branch lines connected. One train order and one page of time bill #31 are displayed on this page. All Train orders can be seen in our library, photocopied in a binder. (Click your cursor on each illustration inserted in this article for enlarged viewing).


The next summer after Angus McDonald retired, a picnic was held at what is now called Kenosee Lake in honour of Conductor McDonald and at which there were over 2,000 well-wishers in attendance. People from all over who had travelled on his train in those 27 years. Another news item is displayed here, illustrating why the crew of the “Peanut” were well liked by the travellers on the Reston-Wolseley mixed.

An illustration of the cover of a book, titled “The Peanut”, by Editor Gilbert McKay of the Moosomin, SK.,World-Spectator is also illustrated in this write-up. One story as to how this train became named the “Peanut” is about a settler stating every time he heard this train’s whistle it reminded him of a peanut vendors whistle as he peddled his peanut machine, back home in England.

We are very thankful to the descendants of Angus McDonald from Reston, Manitoba for their gracious donation of his memorabilia to the history of Souris Railway Museum. Written by Ferg Devins.



THE RUNAWAY FLATCAR by Gordon F. “Red” McIntosh

The runaway train came down the track and hit the station a a helluva whack!   

Remember that old song? Well, let me tell you about the runaway flat car that missed the station and went for an uneventful downhill ride. These are the circumstances.

I was the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Station Agent at Forrest, Man., during the period 1961-65. Trains passed Forrest, located on the Rapid City Sub., on regular timetable schedules and branched off to 3 other subdivisions, viz; Lenore, Varcoe and Miniota.The Rapid City sub., passed over the Canadian National Railway, at Forrest Transfer over which traffic was interchanged. The paperwork for such movements was handled by the CNR staff at Rivers, MB., and the CPR Agent at Forrest.

Trans Canada Pipelines maintained a pressure station North of Forrest, and with plans made to enlarge this facility, several flat cars loaded with gigantic compressors and duct work arrived at Forrest from Eastern Canada.

Arrangements were made with CPR, TCPL and contractor Ernie McLean of Estevan, Sask., to have loads hauled up at rear of the Miniota train and left on the main track at a spot where they could be driven to, and unloaded by McLean’s dragline crane. This was done. Roadmaster Downes instructed Section Foreman Savich to follow along and assist where required, and to ensure hand brakes were applied to the empty cars as they were unloaded. This he did. However, it became evident after several cars were unloaded and pushed down, the coupling between first and second flat was not completely made and the first car out began to roll away, even though the hand brake had been applied, and smoke was evident from the brake shoe friction. Sectionman Deleau ran after the flat, until he dropped, but could not catch it.  ….(Editor’s note for your info, this section man Tony Deleau, would be a brother to Fireman/Engineer W.H. “Pete” Deleau of Souris MB,)…..

From the point of release Southward, lay some 14 miles of downhill grade. The flat picked up speed, passing over Provincial Hwy #25, over CNR mainline at Forrest Transfer, over numerous Municipal crossings, past Forrest station, over Provincial Hwy. #10 and Southward at an estimated speed of 30 MPH, ultimate destination CPR main line at Chater.

After the flat whizzed by my office window, I attempted to advise the Train Dispatcher in Brandon of what was happening, but Art Grant, Road Foreman of Engines, was speaking to someone on the Dispatcher’s phone about a problem, so I rather rudely interrupted him and told him the drill, that should the flat car run over the knoll at Barager, it could run out onto the mainline at Chater. I was told Mr. Grant and Gordon Dingwall & Division Master Mechanic vacated Company premises in Brandon and broke all speed limits driving out to the Mental Hospital Spur at Barager, arriving in time to see the flat come slowly to a halt. It was their intention to derail the flat by any means they could, likely open Barager switch to put the flat  on the ground.

After advising Mr. Grant, I telephoned the Plains Western Gas Plant at #1 Hiwy., and asked a person to watch for the runaway and flag #1 Hwy., crossing, even though the crossing was protected with signal lights. A lone flat car travelling at any speed would not be seen and #1 was a busy highway. The crossing was flagged and the flatcar passed over.

So, a catastrophe had been diverted through good fortune. All crossings at grade were passed over and wonder of all wonders a CNR train was not passing Forrest Transfer. The Miniota train on return, nosed onto the empty cars on the main track, pushed them down to Forrest, ran around them, picked up the runaway at Barager, proceeded to Brandon yard and tied up.

It appeared the section crew was in for a citation, however cooler heads must have prevailed, inasmuch as Section crew was not “Running Trades” personnel and no injury nor loss of equipment resulted. The case was closed. In conversation with Superintendent Lowe next day, I asked him if he would write Plains Western Staff a letter of thanks. which he agreed to do.

Plains Western staff were pleased with the letter and to have received some recognition. The plant Manager advised me that they had been on the CPR “bad list” as shortly before this incident they had flared-off some excess product and had melted the telegraph wires on a CPR pole nearby, and had received an angry blast from the CPR linesman.

As Robert Burns so aptly put in his poem; ‘the best laid schemes o’mice and men….gang aft a-gley’

  The North Branches are abandoned now !….Written December 2004.



****Editor’s note….In the 1950’s a carload of grain escaped from Franklin, Manitoba and ran all the way to Gladstone before it came to a stop. No other details are available****




Author Unknown

Like Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, The C. P. R. snow plow, sent out from Souris on Monday, May 8, 1950 to clear the line on the Lyleton branch, “will go down in history”.

The remnants of last weekend’s snow storm in this part of the province hung around so long that it was found advisable to have the plow sent to the branch line to clear the track of snow, which in some places reached a height of seven feet.

May 8th is believed to have established itself as a record date for snow plow to be called into action in these parts.

Monday’s train crew was made up as follows: George Stokes, Conductor, Johnny Raeside, tail-end trainman, and Harold Topps, head-end trainman; Andy Petrick, engineer; Ray Johnson, fireman.

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”


Some songs and their memories by Ferg Devins


  1) Song #1, “Cowboys,Horses, Hoboes & Trains” sung by Boxcar Willie remind me of the “Dirty 30’s” when we were kids. Trains would pull into Yorkton and the tops of the box cars would be covered with men riding the rails They were called “hoboes”. They were the unemployed of Canada.They had no jobs and no money. One Sunday in 1938 such a train stopped and the men got off and started walking up the back lanes, looking in garbage cans for food. They knocked on back doors begging for a handout, and offering to work for food. My Mom handed out sandwiches until her supply of bread ran out, and then she had to turn them away from her door, with tears in her eyes. She said that whenever she helped someone out, something good always happened in her life. And my Dad got a job the next day. After WW2 started the unemployed joined the armed forces and thus a whole new era began.

2) Song #2, “The Log Train” sung by Hank Williams and the part where he sings “Momma said, get the supper on the table, here comes the Log Train” makes me think about how the wives of railroaders were among the unsung heroes of railroading. My Mom always had the large meal of the day when Dad was home. If he was going to be out on the job at suppertime, then she had the big meal at noon hour or vice versa. And then  in the song the words, “Every morning at the break of day, he would grab his lunch bucket and be on his way”. Who the hell got up one hour ahead of Dad, took the 2 hour call from the call-boy and fixed his breakfast. You bet, it was good old Mom. Makes me think about the statement, “that behind every successful man, is a surprised wife” ha, ha.


3) Song #3, “My Daddy was a Railroad man”, sung by Boxcar Willie, is about the section men . Probably the hardest working man on the Railroad, and the lowest paid. yet he was the backbone of railroading. They kept the trains running on safe rails. This song may not have catchy music or words, but it highly deserves mention.


Song #4 “The wreck of Old 97” played by Flatt & Scruggs & sung by Boxcar Willie, reminds me when I was Station Agent at Nesbitt. One night I had to curl in Souris. After the game was over, both teams went for some beer, and played many more extra ends in the beer parlor. We ended up on a farm near Carroll and I had the host sing this song many times. I got home about 2 a.m. (fairly pickled) and went upstairs singing the last words of this song, “All you ladies take fair warning from this time on and learn, never speak harsh words to your true loving husband, for he may leave you and never return”. The next morning, I was working in the office when my wife woke up and came down stairs singing “there’s a stranger in my home”. (ha, ha).


 5) Song #5 “Jimmie Brown, The Newsboy” sung by Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs, reminds me of all the paper boys, down at the station, in Souris. The Assistant Superintendent was in charge of about 200 employees and yet it seemed to me that the only thing he ever did was stand around at passenger train time and give the paper boys hell for not picking up the scrap paper and putting it in the trash barrel. I had a few different paper routes. The one I liked best was my route to the airport during WW2. The pay was real good. On evening of May 7th or 8th in 1945, returning to Souris on the airport bus, we could hear all the steam engines at the Roundhouse blowing their whistles. It was the end of the war in Europe. I was only 15 years old but what a night that was in Sours. We played in the town band and marched up and down the streets… Another Newsboy Story…I was a Relief Dispatcher in Brandon, 1952 or 1953. There was this large, overweight teenage paper boy, who seemed to always be on the station platform whenever Passenger Trains were stopped for servicing. It was about 17 O’clock and there was a Special Passenger Extra East stopped at the depot. It was a passenger train carrying “Shriners” from all across Canada. It had started out in Vancouver, picking them up all along the way. Destination, a convention in Toronto. One of the Shriners took all the newsboys papers, and went down the station platform selling them to other Shriners. When he had sold them all, he took the money and gave it to the paperboy. Then before the train left the station, he went and retrieved all the papers and returned them to the newsboy. Bless those Shriners.


  6). Song #6, “Take this Job and Shove it”, sung by Johnny Paycheck. I’m sure all Railroaders felt this way at one time or another. I know I did, after 29 years on the CPR. And I did quit. But Railroading gets in your blood and you can’t shake it. This song reminds me of a call-boy (no names, please, so he says) who had only been on the job for a couple of months. He had to call a train crew for a Brandon turn. It had been raining all morning. A nice steady rain (remember this fact). The crews were ordered for 13:30. The call-boy had contacted all the crew except the headend brakeman, who didn’t answer his phone at home. So the call-boy went to the brakeman’s house, knocked on the front door and there was no answer. So back to the shops he goes. Borrows a Fireman’s truck and proceeds to ride around town looking for the brakeman. He even went down to the dam to see if he was fishing. He still didn’t find him. As time was getting short, he then called another brakeman off the spareboard to fill in the crew. When the regular brakeman found out he had missed a call, he put in a “run around ” ticket, claiming pay for not being called, saying that he was out working in his garden and that the callboy should have come around to the back yard looking for him. NOW REMEMBER IT HAD BEEN RAINING,  ALL DAY, so who the hell would be working in a garden? Anyway, the Assistant Superintendent left a message at the shops for the call boy to come to his office. The call boy goes to the Assistant Superintendent’s office, and the “super” asks the callboy, “What are you going to do about this run-around ticket?” Now imagine, the call-boy is likely one of the lowest paid employees on the CPR and they are wanting him to pay it out of his wages! The call boy replies “How would you like to stick your job up your ass?” and walks out. Another story that adds to this item is about my Grandfather David Munro Fergus who arrived in Canada in 1883 from the Orkney Isles in Scotland at the age of 17 years. When he arrived in Brandon, he took a trial trip as a fireman on the CPR. The main line was built as far west as Whitewood, SK. Fuel back in those days was wooden logs. Anyway after he returned to Brandon, he had enough of that job, and I like to tell folks that this song “Take this job and shove it” must have been what he was thinking. And that my friends, is why I remember this song…..(John Fergus Devins)


        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.