Wednesday, 19 November 2014

A Few Comments About CPR Boxcars

Canadian Pacific Railway's brown 40FT boxcars with the stepped white block lettering were once a familiar sight in trains and at locations all across Canada on the CPR network. These box cars often made guest appearances in other railway's trains when shipments required the cars to be interchanged to move the freight to wherever it was going.

As CPR's corporate image evolved and changed, so too did the lettering on box cars. In the late 1950's and early 1960's, the block lettering gave way to script, as detailed in this next photograph.

Further changes ensued in 1968 when Canadian Pacific gave their railway a make-over and changed the name to CP Rail. The familiar brown of CPR boxcars changed to bright red (and other colours) with new black and white multi-mark logo added.

If you have been paying attention to details, you will notice that all the featured boxcars have ladders on the sides and ends. The top photo shows the roof-walk in place and this point leads me to the next part.

In the 1960's, Milan, Quebec, still had a siding and team track in place. On very rare occasions, a single 40FT brown CPR box car would be set out on the team track. That rail car was a magnet and of course upon my suggestion, Ted and I walked over to take an up-close look. After a few minutes our looking developed into hands-on. Ted and I climbed on the ladders and eventually on to the top of the box car. 

The photo on the right was found on the internet. That could have been me in the 1960's. This box car is in CP Rail colours too.

One warm summer afternoon in 1968, a westbound freight train that was passing through Milan was having difficulty. Perhaps a locomotive had failed but I don' really know. The result was a long string of box cars being set out in the siding. A very unusual railway activity for Milan so Ted and I wandered over to take a look. What we found were empty refrigerator cars like the one shown below.

We climbed on the top of one car, walked along the roof-walk, and then jumped over to the next car, and so on for a dozen or more cars. 

The roof-walks of some cars were made of wood and we quickly discovered they were well rotted. 

On some of the cars the roof hatches were locked open but the ice bunkers were empty. No liquids were leaking out of the drain spouts on any of the cars; meaning they were probably all empties; ideal selections for an unplanned set-out. 

Here is another photo from the internet selected for illustration...complete with a rotted roof-walk.

The following morning the Milan siding was empty and our brief bit of railway excitement was over. 

Railways and trains are fascinating to watch but are dangerous places to play around. I guess we were lucky that nothing happened and no one got hurt. 

This last photo on the right illustrates one more reason why railways are dangerous places to play. Strangers can be lurking and appear out of anywhere. They may be harmless... but you just don't know.

A word of advice: 

If you really want to see railways and trains up close, then visit and support your local railway museum. Some of them even run trains you can ride on.

(Originally published November 2011. Moved to this blog and updated November 2014)

The Oddblock Station Agent

Monday, 3 November 2014

Canada's Most Famous Photo

Agree or disagree, even today no other photo taken of Canada is as familiar or so clearly defines the history of this nation.

The irony of Canada's most famous railway scene, was the absence of a train or even a locomotive in the background.

About 28 miles west of Revelstoke, the middle of nowhere in British Columbia, on November 07, 1885, the ceremonial last spike was driven to complete the Canadian Pacific Railway.

The Oddblock Station Agent