A MILLION DOLLARS
By E.G. O'Brien
Assistant to General Superintendent of Transportation
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 from that book, "A
Million Dollars Per Train", written by E.G. O'Brien, Assistant to General Superintendent of Transportation, is reprinted here for
your enlightenment with the addition of some appropriate images.
The 1937 Article
This is what happens when a Transcontinental train starts out of Windsor Street
Station on the Canadian Pacific Railway. It may be of interest to follow the manifold details which ensure that it goes out
smoothly and which are the everyday job of the numerous employees responsible.
First, a word as to the approximate value and weight of the train:
Coach (1st class)
If the extra cars used and the "Guard" cars which are always available are added, the
value of the train will exceed a million dollars.
Of the train units the locomotive is the most important and interesting and on its care and efficiency depends the success of running the
train on time. This is ensured by knowing that only fully qualified men operate it and by the careful arrangements for its handling from
the time it arrives on its inbound trip until it starts out with another train. On arrival at the terminal it is first taken to coal
chutes where coal and sand supply are replenished, it then goes to the ash pit where fire is dumped and ashes carried away by a mechanical
conveyor and while this is done the tender is filled with water and the exterior of the engine washed with a pressure spray of water with
a percentage of oil, this to remove all dust and dirt and prevent rust. The engine, without fire, has still enough steam pressure to move
into the roundhouse. At some points engines are connected with the stationary steam plant and kept under steam pressure. The engineer
examines his engine, and from this examination and his experience on the trip, he notes in the book provided any defects or work required.
The assistant foreman copies from this book a memo for each craftsman who will later do the work. Thus the machinist, boiler maker,
fitter, electrician, packer, and pipe fitter each will know what work he is required to do. The locomotive is also examined by a fitter
who reports to the foreman any work which is required and which may have been overlooked by the engineer. A trained "packer"
then examines and fills all parts which require grease or oil, including the "cellars", boxes, and grease cups, and gives a
supply of oil to the "lubricator". Each other craftsman does his part of the work required. Brakes and car heater appliances are
then tested. The fitter who inspects the engine for work done is responsible to the foreman in charge.
Once a month the engine boiler is given a pressure test with water. The boiler is washed out, cylinder covers removed, piston rings
examined, and all bearings are examined and repacked. The engine is separated from the tender and all bars and couplings thoroughly gone
over. The stoker is opened and inspected. Feed water pumps and injector are tested.
When the engine has run 50,000 to 60,000 miles, it is given a thorough examination and repair with special test for flaws, fittings are
checked, and renewals made where necessary. This is known as a No. 3 repair. When 100,000 to 125,000 miles have been run by an engine, it
is sent to the main shop where it is stripped down to a skeleton and all wearing parts renewed so
that it comes back as good as a new engine.
Engines are interchangeable and do not always go on the same train, but normally they handle the same train or go on the same run. They
are assigned by the locomotive foreman and the time they are required is known. The engine is finally checked to see that all work has
been correctly done, it is cleaned inside and out, the fire is lighted about three hours before the train leaves, and the engine is out of
the roundhouse about 1 1/2 hours before leaving time. The engineer comes on duty one hour before time of departure and he inspects and
oils his engine, tests brakes, sanders, etc., and is expected to know that his engine is in good condition.
The Engine Terminal at Montreal is equipped with machine shop, coal chutes, with a
capacity of 375 tons, sand drier, capacity 30 tons, cinder pits, etc., and an office to keep records. Spare parts of all kinds are
available, in charge of the storekeeper.
Engines hauling long distance trains are changed en route so as to permit thorough inspection to be made, and at each change the procedure
outlined above is followed, except that where a small number of engines are handled the duties of some of the men are combined where this
The cars on the train receive the same careful attention as that given the locomotive, but the procedure is
The conductor of the train arriving enters in the "Log Book" a report of any special attention cars require, and the sleeping
car conductor leaves in each car a report of special features which require attention in that car.
The mechanical inspector, on arrival at the point where cars are held for the outgoing trip, inspects wheels, draft gear, brake rigging,
and other appliances which affect safety, and, if necessary, cars go to the repair shop. Minor repairs are made where cars stand. The
interior is inspected as to cleanliness, lighting fixtures, air conditioning apparatus, electric controls, and thermostatic controls, and
gravity and voltage of batteries are taken.
The train is then placed on the first cleaning plant, where seats and carpets are removed, as well as blankets and mattresses from
sleeping cars, used linen is turned in and a fresh supply put in the car. The
carpets and seats are taken to a special cleaning plant and cleaned by use of air blowers, mechanical beaters, and air suction. Interiors
of cars are blown out with air hose, particular attention being given to portions underneath seats and around steam pipes. Air ducts in
the car are blown out, air filters changed, walls washed, floors scrubbed, nickel fittings polished, windows, toilets, and woodwork
The car is then refitted with cleaned seats, carpets, etc., and is cleaned again with a portable vacuum set, and dusted. The exterior of
the car has been washed in the meantime.
Shortly before the train is made ready, the car is supplied with water and ice,
and a test is made of lights, bells, air conditioning equipment, etc., and test machine is applied to brakes.
The air conditioning machines use 300 pounds of ice per hour and the cars hold 4,500 pounds of ice.
Certain cars are supplied with magazines and other material when the porter takes charge, and the car is finally
inspected as to supplies, etc.
The train, without the road locomotive, is then placed at the station where it is inspected again and adjustments
made if necessary.
At stated intervals, usually once a year, cars are sent to the general repair shops where all fittings are removed, painting scraped, and
all worn parts replaced and latest improvements added. Seats and mattresses are renewed and generally the car is put in as good condition
as when new.
The dining car, in addition to cleaning, is checked each trip for completeness of
supplies, and fully provisioned. When it leaves it has normally supplies to the value of:
The Canadian Pacific is the only railway using silverware, hence the value of this equipment.
The provisions are replenished en route. Fresh fish is taken on as the train passes fishing centres on Lake Superior and elsewhere, hence,
the popularity of fish dinners on the Canadian Pacific, particularly lake trout and Winnipeg Gold Eye. The art of the dining car chefs is
proverbial and the remark is often made that there is nothing to compare with a "plank" steak on a Canadian Pacific diner.
The cars in charge of porters are kept clean by the porters, and others are swept out at intervals by the staff at designated terminals.
The running gear is inspected frequently by trained car inspectors who have spent years repairing cars and know just what to look for. Ice
and water supply is replenished at inspection points.
When the passengers are aboard and the train starts out, the conductor and engineer have been given their orders, which show what trains
have to be met or passed, what other trains have preceded them, and whether other trains due have arrived. This is one of the most
important features of railroading and is known as "dispatching".
The dispatchers, with phone and telegraph key, record the passing of all trains at
stations and issue the orders governing the movement of all trains other than those having regular schedules. Trains having regular
schedules receive a copy of all orders issued to trains which may have to meet their train, and the rules in connection with train orders
and train operations are the result of years of study by railway officials, government supervisors, committees, and associations. All
railway employees are examined as to their knowledge of these rules, as well as to their eyesight, hearing, etc., so that every possible
effort is made to guard against human failure.
The train which operates from Montreal to Vancouver is first in charge of a dispatcher located at Smith's Falls,
the dispatching centres, Montreal to Vancouver, are:
Montreal to Chalk River
Chalk River to Cartier
Cartier to Fort William
Fort William to Winnipeg
Winnipeg to Brandon
Brandon to Broadview
Broadview to Moose Jaw
Moose Jaw to Swift Current
Swift Current to Calgary
Calgary to Field
Field to Kamloops
Kamloops to Vancouver
Total Train Miles
Smiths' Falls, Ont.
Moose Jaw, Sask.
Medicine Hat, Alta.
North Bend, B.C.
These dispatchers do not let another train follow a passenger train until the passenger train is
reported passing the next station ahead. The chief dispatchers check the work of the dispatchers who work eight hours, in three shifts,
In addition to these precautions, there are many automatic signals with the familiar red, green, and yellow lights, which automatically
record the presence or absence of trains or obstructions on the track.
The track is maintained, in condition to ensure smooth running of the train, and the Canadian Pacific has an enviable record for condition
of track and roadbed. Its slogan is "maintain the property". Each section of about eight miles is in charge of a foreman, with a
varying number of men, and the interest they evidence in their work may be noted in the neat trim of the rock ballast, hedges, etc. The
efficiency of the work of the track forces is supervised by the Roadmaster, who reports to the civil engineer of
The ties are regularly inspected and replaced and the track checked for width of gauge and for alignment. Where necessary it is raised to
ensure smoothness of the running of the train. During winter when the roadbed is frozen, wooden wedges called "shims" are used
to raise the track.
Where there are tunnels or rock cuts, men are designated to patrol the track to guard against falling rock, and they walk the track
shortly before passenger trains are due. Bridges are inspected by experts regularly.
Cars are taken off the train or added to it either to ensure cleanliness en route or to provide for passengers moving to intermediate
points, especially where trains arrive in the morning and passengers in sleepers do not want to be disturbed until the usual hour of
To ensure accommodations for all travellers, there is the system of reserving berths or parlor car seats and this involves a system of close co-operation between the ticket
offices and the train supervisors, so that extra cars are ordered and available and, when necessary, sections of the train operated.
The train is frequently inspected en route to ensure safe operation and the locomotive is changed to permit of thorough inspection and
cleaning. Train conductors, brakemen, and others change at various points.
The train crew are all well trained in their work, as the conductor on a passenger train is one of the seniors in his work. He has to
start in a yard and work for years to be promoted to a brakeman on a freight train, then as a passenger brakeman, later a freight
conductor, and finally a passenger conductor.
The engineer has also worked as a freight fireman, passenger fireman, freight engineer, and finally passenger engineer. Other members of
the train staff have had long experience and all have passed frequent tests and examinations.
The train employees change en route. Some employees remain on the train for long distances, such as the sleeping car porters who, in the
case of Montreal-Vancouver through sleepers, go through with the car all the way from Montreal to Vancouver. The sleeping car conductors
and the dining car staff, steward, chef, cooks, and waiters stay on the train from Montreal to Winnipeg. The train conductor and trainmen
(brakemen) change frequently en route, and the engineer and fireman change at every terminal.
The locomotive which starts out of Montreal goes through to North Bay, a distance of 359 miles, but the engineer and fireman change while
the locomotive is standing with the train at Ottawa and at Chalk River.
The table below shows where the locomotive is changed and where employees change, the figures denoting the number of men and stations
between which they remain on the train, and the figures at the bottom, the total number of each class of employee on one through train.
While there are three separate sleeping car conductors each following the train for about one-third of the route, there are ten train
conductors each, making a relatively shorter trip.
The number of men on the train varies with the length of the train, as there is an extra porter for each extra sleeping or parlor car and
extra trainmen depending on the length of the train.
Probably the outstanding feature of Canadian Pacific service, in so far as the passenger is concerned, is the
organization which ensures that he makes connection through to his destination, whether it be a rail destination or connection with a
steamer. This involves a system of advices of passengers for connection with trains as well as careful supervision of "on time"
performance of trains.
At the Head Office in Montreal telegraphic reports are received of the records
of all trains.
Passengers crossing two oceans and a continent frequently make such close connections with train and steamship that there is one
continuous journey around two-thirds of the earth.
If the passengers, particularly sleeping car passengers in berths, drawing-rooms, and compartments are to have accommodation on connecting
trains, it is necessary that cars be available to handle them.
The task of keeping cars available for trains at all times is a difficult one, for cars are not all alike. Some coaches have plush seats
with a smoking room. These are normally used on long distance trains. Others are equipped with rattan or cane seats which are preferable
for short runs or suburban trains, while others have leather seats where an entire car is used as a smoker. There are colonist cars for
the use of those travelling long distances who do not use sleepers. Then there are parlor cars, sleepers, Tourist sleepers, and
compartment cars, all to be supplied in the proportion which demand dictates.
The cars used regularly are assigned, but an unusually heavy demand requires that cars be available for extra travel. Before extra travel
is arranged, the Passenger Traffic Department secures from the Transportation Department an assurance that the kind of car required will
be available. In the case of special trains or large parties on regular trains requiring "special type" cars, this is usually
arranged months in advance, and heavy travel on regular trains, for instance holiday traffic, is estimated so from past experience and the
known factors, such as the day of the week, etc.
For cars in which space is reserved, such as parlor cars, Tourist, sleeping cars, compartment cars, etc., the ticket offices selling the
space, do not assign berths or issue tickets until they have been told that the car, and consequently space, will be available.
The Transportation Department must have an organization which will enable it to know months ahead just how many passenger cars are
available for immediate business or how many will be available at any date, and they must advise the Sleeping and Dining Car Department of
the cars which will be used, so that staff and supplies will be ready. The Operating Department, and through the Operating Department the
Mechanical Department, have to be advised so that men and locomotives will be available.
Schedules for extra trains have to be arranged and fitted in with regular trains. For the purpose of doing this efficiently a system of
numerous mail and telegraph reports is required, with a graphic record using cards representing cars which are moved as test cars move so
that it is known where cars are or will be at any given time.
The position of each car on the train has to be arranged in order that there will be a minimum amount of switching en route which would
disturb the passengers, and in order that dining and lounge cars can be reached from the various parts of the train with as short a walk
as possible. At the same time consideration has to be taken of the passengers' convenience and the time available for switching at
terminals where cars have to be added or taken off.
The organization necessary to do this, to the satisfaction of the man who pays, can be developed only by a staff trained in the school of
Canadian Pacific 2-8-0 Consolidation number 1057 with an excursion train of heritage cars crosses the Mud Lake
bridge in Ontario - circa 1970 Photographer unknown.
Associated Web Sites
Canadian Pacific Railway
Canadian Pacific Historical Association
Additional CPR Web Sites