Railroading career of A. B. Peden comes to an end
In August of 1960, I could no longer stand the frequency and duration with which I was being laid-off my job as a C.N.R. trainman. More and more diesels were being purchased by the company every year and, although my seniority was getting greater with each passing year, it was not growing nearly fast enough to compensate for the change of an era from steam to diesel.
It was very disheartening to be continually laid-off. And it was very hard to find temporary work if your prospective employer suspected that you were a railroader and would go back when called. What was most frustrating of all, was being laid-off for several months just prior to the festive season, then to be called back for a couple of quick trips during Christmas and New Year’s, and told that if you didn’t come back you would lose your seniority. Only to be laid-off again for another four months starting about January 2nd.
What used to infuriate me, was the ‘mile hogs’ we had amongst the conductors and trainmen. Although our pay scale was somewhat less than that paid to enginemen and firemen and, consequently, we would have to work extra miles to make the same money, there were those amongst the conductors and trainmen who literally lived from one pay period to the next on the road. They could care less whether the spare board brakeman was able to make a living or not. It was these same mile hogs who abandoned their jobs in the festive season and felt it the responsibility of the spare board men to cover for them. The engine crew, on the other hand, were automatically pulled out of service each month when they reached 3800 miles, which gave the younger men a chance to earn a living. So much for our great union, The Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, who were quite content to see this system perpetuated from contract to contract. I had nothing but disdain for those members of our union executive who pretended to speak at contract time for their members. They spoke only for themselves! And it took a Royal Commission, long after I had quit, to bring any semblance of working conditions to the job.
But, having said that, railroading was a thrilling way to earn a living and I’m not sorry for one minute that I gave it a try. I look back with fond memories to those trips when I was up on a steam locomotive in the middle of the night, going ‘hell bent for leather’ to keep ahead of a passenger train and make several ‘meets’ as well. I wish I could have stayed with it till I received a pension, but that was not to be.
I’m glad I took my camera along with me on some trips. I only wish I had taken it along much more often. My brother, Bill, took his camera to work frequently as well, so I was able to use quite a few of his photos in this collection. I was able to use the old photographs to bring back memories that had long since vanished from memory, some of the photos having been taken over forty-five years ago. Bill’s memory was a lot better than mine so he was able to help me out on quite a few occasions. Anyway, I’m glad we got the photos because some of the fellows have long since died and without the photos they would be hard to remember.
Well, ‘let’s get this train out of town,’ and get the car knocker to ‘High Ball the Gate.’