Friday, 1 February 2013

Leslie McLeod

Leslie once told me that he started working for the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1916 during World War I. He and another person had walked the railway from Milan to Megantic seeking employment. After nearly forty-seven years of service and at the rank of Conductor, Leslie McLeod retired from the CPR in 1963.

Milan, Quebec, circa 1965. Leslie McLeod (right) looking in on a cribbage game.

Leslie returned to his hometown Milan, Quebec. His house was on the north side of the track and not too far downhill from the railway crossing in Milan and in sight of the trains. When I visited, he often mused about going out on the front porch to give Train 952 a highball. I was ready company. Often the engineer would acknowledge Leslie’s highball with Rule 14g whistled in reply. 

Other times I would find Leslie at the station talking to the crew of Train 201 when the lone Budd car was sitting in the siding waiting for the 952. Leslie was there to catch up on the latest inside news; I was there to watch the trains. He once surprised me when he handed me a genuine Canadian Pacific Railway employee time table for the Laurentian and Farnham Divisions and then told me to keep it. He had obtained it from a crew member of the 201.

While Leslie’s livelihood had been the railway, his interests were hunting and fishing; fly fishing in particular. Once in a while he was game to walk the track from the small road crossing about a mile west of Milan (west of Mile 16) to Otter Pond and we would spend an afternoon fly fishing. He would do the fishing; I was just along for the outing. Anyway he did not talk much about railroading but he would always patiently answer my questions.

Over the years I did manage to glean enough information to learn that he worked on the Farnham Division routes. He most often referred to working on the trains operating from Farnham to Newport or between Farnham and Drummondville.

One time I asked Leslie if he had ever worked on the passenger trains over the Megantic Subdivision. He had and it was at that time he explained to me about passenger trains operating in sections. Most of his career was on the freight trains, however he had on occasions worked on second sections of Train 42 between Farnham and Megantic.

Another time I was with Leslie in Megantic and he commented about a large truck that was hauling a load of pulpwood through town on Frontenac Street. He remarked with authority that the truck was carrying more wood than could fit into a standard 40FT boxcar and he went on to speculate that a time may come when there will no longer be a need for boxcars. That was quite a comment to hear in the late 1960’s from a retired railway man. I never forgot that remark.

The last time I saw Leslie was in September 1973 just after the railway strike ended and just before I headed off to Vancouver. He knew I was hoping to find employment out west with Canadian Pacific.

In November 1974, as he did almost every day, Leslie had walked up the hill from his house to the post office (located beside the track) to collect the mail. He sat down, suffered a fatal heart attack and was gone. I like to think he was waiting to the give the 952 a highball.

The Oddblock Station Agent


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