Have you ever tried to compile a railway history for a small hamlet on a branch line in southeastern Alberta? Not an easy task, but with the help of some knowledgeable individuals, I was able to come up with as complete a history as possible for Mossleigh, Alberta, on Canadian Pacific Railway's (CPR) former Lomond Subdivision. Fourteen miles of this branch line are now the domain of the Aspen Crossing Railway. Missing are photos of the old CPR station and freight shed at their original location plus any photos of a CPR train at Mossleigh. Someone out there must have a photo! Please contribute.
In the 1949 timetable train time at Mossleigh for the local mixed was 12:50 westbound on Wednesday and Saturday and 13:50 eastbound on Monday and Thursday.
By 1957 the timetable was a bit different from what it was in 1949. The mixed trains, Number 653 westbound (on Tuesday and Thursday) and Number 654 eastbound (on Wednesday and Friday) operated twice weekly in each direction between Medicine Hat (on the Brooks Subdivision) and Aldersyde (on the Aldersyde Subdivision). Train time at Mossleigh was now 12:50 westbound on Tuesday and Thursday, 11:40 eastbound on Wednesday and Friday.
The 1957 timetable shows a daytime only (D) telephone/telegraph operator at Lomond (code MD), Milo (MI), and Arrowwood (RD). Mossleigh no longer had an operator.
In 1957 yard limits (Z) were defined at all stations except on the Lomond extension at Mossleigh, Farrow, and Herronton. Wyes (Y) were located at Lomond and Arrowwood. Fuel (C) was available at Milo. Water (W) was available at Anastasia. Freight conductors were required to register (R) at Eltham. A standard clock, bulletins, and a train register (K) was available at Lomond.
In 1913 a branch line of the CPR was constructed from Suffield west to Retlaw. In 1914 the Suffield-Retlaw line was extended to Lomond completing the 84 mile branch. This Suffield-Lomond line was once again extended to Arrowwood in 1925. The stations on the line from east to west were Suffield, Agatha, Illingworth, Ronalane, Cecil, Hays, Grantham, Vauxhall, Retlaw, Enchant, Travers, Lomond, Armada, Pageant, Milo, Qeenstown, Shouldice, Anastasia, and Arrowwood.
In 1929 CPR began extending the Lomond Subdivision west 23 miles from Arrowwood to Eltham (Junction with the Aldersyde Subdivision) adding the three stations Mossleigh, Farrow, and Herronton in between. In April of that year a construction of a siding was approved for grain elevators at Mossleigh. The Lomond Subdivision extension was complete by 9 Jul 1930 when it was placed in operation. The typical train at this time running twice weekly in each direction was a local mixed freight consisting of a steam locomotive, some freight cars, and a caboose followed by a baggage car with a coach bringing up the tail-end.
1930 was a busy time for the railway as it erected many buildings at Mossleigh (milepost 48.2 on the Lomond Sub) including a portable station, a freight shed, a section foreman's house, tool shed, and three privies at a cost of some $4,000. Mossleigh's portable station had an operator from at least 1930 to 1931 using call signal "GH". A section crew was based at Mossleigh at this time.
That same year saw four grain elevators constructed at Mossleigh. One each by Searle Grain, Parrish & Heimbecker, Pioneer Grain, and the United Grain Growers (UGG). The UGG elevator remained until 11 Nov 1967 when it burned down.
Sometime after 1932 the standard portable station at Mossleigh was removed and the section men's bunkhouse was placed in service. It probably remained in use until passenger service was discontinued in 1957.
In 1948 the coach fare between Suffield and Arrowwood was $3.75.
By 1955 diesel-electric locomotives started to replace steam engines on the branch line through Mossleigh.
The last local mixed train (freight and passenger cars) was CPR eastbound Second Class Train Number 654 on Friday, 25 Oct 1957. After that only unscheduled wayfreights used the line.
Like many prairie branchlines the writing was on the wall by 1978 when the east end of the branch line, Hays to Suffield, was removed. This removal forced a huge change in milepost numbers. Milepost 0.0 was now moved west to the opposite end of the subdivision at Eltham. The mileposts then increased eastbound with Mossleigh changing from 48.2 under the old scheme to milepost 15.3, or 15.3 miles east of Eltham.
One year later this shortened branch line through Mossleigh (from Eltham to Milo) was upgraded to handle the new 100 ton grain hopper cars.
Twenty years later, in 1999, Canadian Pacific Railway gave its required 3 year notice of discontinuance. On 20 Jun 2002 the abandonment took effect. CPR retained the first 8 miles from Eltham to slightly east of Herronton. The Aspen Crossing Railway acquired the 14 miles of track from slightly east of Herronton, through Mossleigh, to Arrowwood.
On May 15 May 2015 the Aspen Crossing Railway excursion train made its inaugural run.
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, or Dominion boxcar, was a typical car used during the period. Eventually the addition of drop doors were added to facilitate the
removal of grain.
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