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By R.A. Gamble
Superintendent of Terminals
The Arlington Street bridge crosses above the Canadian Pacific Railway yard near the center of Winnipeg, Manitoba - Date/photographer unknown.
 Internal link   Introduction

      Many, many, years ago Canadian Pacific published a series of ten books named the "Foundation Library". One particular book in this collection, published in 1937, is named "Factors in Railway and Steamship Operation". It contains many short stories and articles dealing with the company during that period. This month's article is from that book, "Winnipeg Terminals", written by R.A. Gamble and reprinted here for your enjoyment with the addition of some appropriate images.

 Internal link   The 1937 Article

      Conceded to be the largest individually owned railway terminal yard in the world, Winnipeg terminals of the Canadian Pacific Railway accommodate 308.5 miles of trackage and are divided into twelve industrial yards covering a radius of fourteen miles, with the traffic yards proper located both in Winnipeg and Transcona.

      Small wonder that in the business of handling cars of every description in railway service, anywhere from 2,000 to 7,000 cars per day pass through these commodious terminals with a smoothness of operation that means perfect organization. This handling of cars varies because the business represented is largely seasonal. The organization is necessarily flexible in order to adequately handle such a variable mass of traffic.

      Besides the heavy passenger traffic of the summer months, the grain movement of September, and subsequent months till the year's close brings Winnipeg terminals business to its peak, the daily average of 2,000 cars arriving and departing in the slack period rolls up to five to seven thousand, taxing every facility known to good railroading.

      For administration purposes, terminal organization at Western Lines headquarters divides into several departments under the direction of the superintendent of terminals, the assistant superintendent, division master mechanic, and division engineer. These departments cover local freight, under an agent in charge of all direct dealings with the public incidental to the receipt and delivery of freight.

  • Yard - under the jurisdiction of a general yardmaster who has charge of the actual movement of all cars in and out of the terminal;

  • Roundhouse - under the direction of a locomotive foreman responsible for the maintenance and dispatch of all locomotives operating in and out of Winnipeg;
  • Coach Yard - under the care of a coach yard foreman responsible for the cleaning, maintenance, and make-up of all passenger cars arriving and departing;
  • Maintenance of Way - under the direction of two Roadmasters who look after the maintenance of all terminal trackage;
  • Bridge and Building department - under a "B&B" master whose duties cover the upkeep of all buildings and facilities connected with them;
  • Repair Track department - directed by a car foreman responsible for the inspection of all cars arriving in the terminal and the proper maintenance of them.

      Included in the industrial areas served by Winnipeg terminals are 270 private sidings, giving service to as many as 847 local consignees. In other words, 847 of the Canadian Pacific Railway's Winnipeg patrons have private siding facilities. This is in addition to the number of consignees who take delivery on regular team tracks and through L.C.L. (Less than Car Load lots) facilities at Winnipeg freight sheds.

      The average unloading through these sheds each day amounts to approximately thirty cars during the slack season. This is increased in the fall for a period of about four months. The average number of outbound shipments exceeds 900 per day, which is also increased to much more in the autumn months.

      The free pick-up and delivery system of L.C.L. freight is a successful operation and is supplemented by a freight express service, handled by the express department on passenger trains, which shows a large volume of increase, particularly on local trains.

      In the westbound classification yard there are thirty-six tracks, and all of the westbound merchandise trains are marshalled for terminal set-outs between Winnipeg and Vancouver and between Winnipeg and Edmonton, as the case may be. In each case ten separations are made. This entails much extra work as far as the terminal forces are concerned, but it expedites the movement of the symbol trains on the road and minimizes the work to be done at smaller terminals further west.

      The system of switching trains in Winnipeg terminals during the slack period is a modification of the gravity system, really a miniature hump operated without riders. Trains are shoved over a slight elevation and are cut off at a given point from which there is sufficient gravity to permit cars to be distributed in the various tracks in the classification yard under their own momentum.

      At the peak movement, however, with Transcona in actual operation, hump riders are used and the movement considerably accelerated. The riders control the movement of cars which are released from trains pushed by powerful switch engines to a breaking point and are run down under their own momentum.

      During the height of business activity in the boom years, one of the most spectacular sights of the Western Canadian gateway at Winnipeg was the jockeying of these tremendous train loads over the hump. In this tricky process of classification of cars, the speed is controlled by the hump riders or jockeys. The system is recognized as the easiest and smoothest method of handling cars both for equipment and lading. For the sake of accuracy and speed, each rider has a number and each works under the direction of the hump-master, who is in turn responsible to the yardmaster.

Grain was traditionally shipped by boxcar prior to the adoption of today's center-flow hopper cars. Today's running trades employees still call a solid train of grain hoppers a "box train" so this is probably where today's name originated. The Fowler outside braced boxcar was a typical car used during the time this story was written. Click on the image to learn more about grain handling.

      As one of the world's greatest grain centres, Winnipeg presents peculiar problems in the handling of trains in the terminals.

      An operation feature of note is that all cars of grain arriving at Winnipeg are not available for switching until they have first been under observation by the Dominion Government Grain Inspection Department. Officials of this department proceed to take from five to seven grain samples from each car, using an instrument which burrows into the bottom of the load at each corner, and in the centre of the car. These samples are mixed, the mixture giving the average quality for the whole car.A small sack, containing about five pounds of grain is sent to the central inspection office, where the grade is established by government inspectors. The process takes approximately one hour per train and the trains are not permitted to be moved until the sampling is completed.

      During the peak year of 1928, the daily average movement of grain eastbound for three months was 1,044 cars for September, 1,468 cars for October, and 1,452 cars for November. For the latter two months the average movement in bushels exceeded two and a half millions per day. The total movement of cars in and out of Winnipeg terminals during the same period averaged 7,164 daily.

      The terminals superintendent at Winnipeg completes his organization with a station supervisor who has charge of the cleaning and proper maintenance of the station building, a baggage-master in charge of the baggage department, and a station-master, night and day, who is responsible for the make-up and dispatch of trains passing through, or local trains originating in, Winnipeg.

      Under station services also can be included the Information Bureau, where 24-hour service is given the public. Direct information is given through this bureau on inquiry, so that one call from outside can procure any desired information. This department has been in operation for a number of years and is similar to that recently introduced in Windsor Street Station, Montreal.

 Internal link   News Articles

10 Nov 2000 - Derailment Closes Winnipeg Bridge

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Canadian Pacific Railway
Canadian Pacific Historical Association
Additional CPR Web Sites

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