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Snow Plows

Cliff Beagan

Seasons greetings from the 'old guy' who, when reading on the internet about the snow plowing on the branchlines in the year 2010, began to recall some of the trips I had on the Orangeville and Owen Sound run some 55 years ago. And I sure had some dandy adventures running ahead of the 705-706-707-708 passenger trains. Very few people owned cars back then, and those trains were packed with people heading in both directions over the holiday season. I remember working those passenger trains during the Christmas season, and also at other times when I was running ahead of them 'with station to station block' on a snow plow. They had a combination car as I recall that was half mail and half express with a 'crawlway space' (get on your knees) between the two sections. I remember one trip in particular (when I was the baggageman) with trainman 'Bill Kelly' who was B of RT Union Rep at the time and who later became a government appointed labor arbitrator before and during 'strike' action on both CNR and CPR.

I wrote a column for the Branchline magazine'in March of 2004 describing a wild trip we had on a southbound snowplow with engineer Ernie Warne and a 2200 class steam engine in the middle 50's. We had a train order meet with the northbound Walkerton job at Shelburne and that 2nd class train was directed to take the siding for us. The snow plow foreman 'neglected' to sound the steam engine whistle (one--loooooooong) when passing the north 'mile board' approaching our meet at
Shelburne. Ernie 'knew' that we were getting close, and when he felt the impact of the engine going over the frog at the north switch, he 'dumped her'. (Air brakes applied in emergency). I ran to the end of the van, peeked around the corner of the van on the station side, and almost had my head removed from flying chunks of the station platform. The wingman had forgot to pull in the wing on that side and we just severed about a 'one foot long section' of every 3" x 8" plank on the entire length of
the platform from north to south. We then knocked over a 'pot switch' leading to a back track behind the station with the points pointing 'south' thankfully, and came to a stop just short of the road crossing south of the station and close to the water spout where the Walkerton job (half way in the siding) was stopped to take on water. We came within 100 yards of hitting his tail end. I never did find out why the plow foreman and his helper 'goofed' on that one. At least they had presence of mind to 'elevate' that section of the plow that sits between the rails or he would have derailed us at the north switch. Conductor Al
Harrington's dad was the road foreman up there at the time. I can't remember his first name. He was at Fraxa when we got there and knew all about what happened. Thats as far as it went though. No demerits that time. But on another occasion, an 8400 or 8600 class deisel engine caught fire when idling behind the station at Orangeville after a snow plow run. The engine was completly covered in snow and ice and had overheated from lack of ventilation. The poor engineman, who smoked cigars, got blamed for the fire because they found cigar butts on the floor of the engine. He got quite a few demerits as I

On bitter cold nights, when the wind is howling outside my bedroom window, I sometimes still hear that steam whistle in the distance, and smell that wonderful aroma of coal smoke and super heated water mixed with lubricating and coal oil. The only thing nicer for me is the smell of fresh cut Timothy hay. Yes boys, it was good to young then.
All the best in the New Year you young un's.

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