Conductors & Enginemen

Before I tell anymore of my experiences on the railroad, I would like to list the names (and nicknames) of some of the people Bill and I worked with over the years. Those guys with nicknames came by them honestly and were known by the nicknames they made for themselves. . And I want to list these names before I forget anymore of them because they were a breed unto themselves. After forty-eight years I can look at the names and visualize almost everyone. And, fortunately, I have pictures that I took on the road for many of them and through the course of my story, I’ll try and include as many photos as possible.


  1. Barley Ass. Broad across the beam and liked the occasional beer
  2. The House Dog. A big man who looked just like a big shaggy house dog.
  3. Mumbles. Always talked in a low voice.
  4. The Lumber Merchant. Was always talking about lumber.
  5. The Little Arab. A small man who, if you let your imagination run away, looked a bit like an Arab.
  6. Moccasin Face. So named because he had a rather expressionless face.
  7. Slug.
  8. Tarzan. A skinny man with a mighty loud voice.
  9. Whiskey.
  10. Big Foot. So named because he wore about a size 14 shoe.
  11. Overcoat Pete.
  12. Rubber Belly
  13. Moon. For his big round face
  14. Fearless. Was never afraid of anything.
  15. Spring Switch. His initials were S.S. so they nicknamed him Spring Switch.
  16. The Town Crier, also known as ‘Omar’ (sees all, knows all, does bugger all).
  17. Skin. Drank too much liquor and wasted away.
  18. Harvey Ramsay. Harvey was overseas with my cousin Jim McKie during World War II
  19. Tom Landry
  20. Jim Evans
  21. Samitz
  22. Bruce Jacobs
  23. Pete Todd
  24. Mack Hall
  25. Bill Peden
  26. Wally Parsons
  27. Charlie Mayor
  28. Alex Dickson
  29. Johnny Audette
  30. Don Cleghorn
  31. Joe Tymchysn
  32. George Henderson
  33. Gerry Forrest
  34. Bill Maxwell
  35. Ken Murphy
  36. Harvey Burnette
  37. John Ryan
  38. Fred Dagg
  39. Meryl Dagg
  40. Roy Dagg
  41. Neil Sorby
  42. Jack O’Donnahue
  43. Fred Jordan
  44. Rolly Jeanson
  45. Daryl Hillstrom
  46. Harry Crawford
  47. Al Robinson
  48. John Amdal
  49. Art Overby
  50. Walter Prystako
  51. Rod Conrad
  52. Les Sherman
  53. Bruce Halley
  54. George Halako
  55. Chomiak
  56. Bill Cardinal
  57. Terry McSpadden (Roseile*)
  58. Terry McGitrich (Belmont*)
  59. George Rush
  60. Fred Peden
  61. Earl Lawrence
  62. Cliff Cross
  63. Hugh MacDonald
  64. Don McIvor
  65. Dinty Moore (freight handler)
  66. Rennie Smith (freight handler)
  67. Burt Currie
  68. Wes Patterson
  69. Mack Hall
  70. George Ellis


  1. One Round (Nelson) ? I always enjoyed working with him but wouldn’t want to tangle with him.
  2. Bubble Gum (Jones) a little guy always chewing gum, but could he ever make an engine dangle!!
  3. Dangerous Dan (Danny Lavashieur) He entered every new brakeman’s name in his little book.
  4. Blue Rod (Christink) I’ve heard Lyle Corbet mention him and Lyle said he was a demon to go.
  5. Jesus Pelican Christ (Bruce Pearce) When he got excited that was his favorite expression.
  6. Curley Verner. Bill and I worked with Curley out of Fort Rouge on many occasions.
  7. Hazen Laurie. One of the better hogheads out of Fort Rouge.
  8. Gord Snider. Only worked with him once or twice, I can’t really remember him.
  9. Alister McGregor. Will have lots to tell about Alister later; he was a real gentleman.
  10. John Riemer. He almost speared our tail-end at Elie..
  11. Bill Eyre. One of the very best working out of Fort Rouge
  12. Bill Hall. A fabulous hoghead
  13. Bill Leach. Another of the very best, a treat to work with.
  14. Jack Mineer. A good fellow, but an awfully slow engineer. Liked half throttle all the time,
  15. Ralph Grant. I worked often with Ralph when he was firing. He ran the Prairie Dog for years.
  16. Bob Milne. A good guy and a good hoghead.
  17. Walter Bachynski. I worked often with Walter when he was firing, a nice guy to work with.
  18. Harvey McKeckeran. Harvey was firing when I was braking, we were good friends.
  19. Billy McGuiness. Worked a few weeks with Bill on the Emerson run. Good man, good hoghead.
  20. Vince Glendenning. Another excellent hoghead out of Fort Rouge, a teat to work with.
  21. Harry Phil. Only made a few trips to Dauphin with Harry. Good man.
  22. Lyle Corbet. Lyle and I became very close friends after the ‘Lavenham Meet,’ page 112.
  23. Barney Perron. Transconna hogger and I never worked with him but Bill says he’s real good.
  24. Fred Rooke. Worked to Rainey River with Fred a few time before he retired.
  25. Peter Penton. Pete was firing when I was braking, he became an excellent engineman
  26. Bud Anderich. Bud was originally from Portage la Prairie,later went back running in the yard.

Master Mechanics, Rule Instructors etc:

  1. Sam Payne. Sam was Master Mechanic, related to Tom & Bill Paul. We worked on Uncle Fred’s wreck at Lake Francis together
  2. Jimmy Gregor. Expressman and awfully nice fellow. In the army during W.W.II
  3. Charlie Kramble. Crew clerk at Ft. Rouge and brother of Johnny Kramble..
  4. Hugh MacDonald. I worked a few times with Hughie when he was a conductor. He later became
  5. A Rule Instructor. I sent Hugh some of my railroad pictures on a couple of occasions.
  6. Don McLennan. Clerk for Supt. A.C. Nicol when I hired out.
  7. Barney Valance. Worked as crew clerk in the Crew Office


Getting back to my early railroad days, The Spare Board was very busy in July of 1951 and after completing the Steep Rock trip, I made two more successive trips to Gypsumville as a freight handler helping old McKenzie. On July 29th I was called for a 14:00 K trip to Birds Hill to bring in a load of gravel. Birds Hill was only fifteen miles from Winnipeg and so these trips, although not very good for pay, were always completed very quickly. Again, we had engine 2107, the same old "hand bomber" we had had to Steep Rock a few days earlier, but this time our conductor was a big barrel-chested man by the name of Fred Jordan. Fred was a jovial fellow in his mid-fifties with a ruddy complexion suggesting high blood pressure. It turned out to be a very enjoyable trip, almost like a holiday outing. The land adjacent to Birds Hill has since been turned into a provincial park because of the natural beauty of the spot.

The gravel pits themselves, some of which had filled with beautiful clear spring water, were a very popular place for Winnipeg residents to swim and picnic. This particular July afternoon was clear and hot and I remember the pleasant atmosphere and joking that went on as we shared a pot of tea in the caboose before returning home. During the next two years I only made three more trips with Fred Jordan, going to Dauphin, Brandon and finally to Victoria Beach on passenger on May 31st, 1953. Three weeks later, on June 23rd, Fred Jordan died of a heart attack.

Before my first pay period ended on July 31st, I made two more fast trips, one to Brandon with conductor Alfie Colbert and the other two to Dauphin with conductor Dave Muckle. I can’t remember much about Muckle, but Alfie Colbert made a lasting impression, was a real gentleman and treated me like a son. Alfie was getting along in years and had a sort of gravel voice. He wore glasses low on his nose, wore suspenders on his pants and had what is commonly called a "stenographer’s spread." For some unknown reason, railroaders liked to apply nicknames to as many of their fellow workers as possible, particularly if they had some peculiarity of character, shape or personal trait. George Livingstone was the tail-end brakeman on this trip and was well known for his sharp wit. George had a bad habit of talking very softly and letting his voice drop off even further at the end of a sentence. So, if he was talking to you, you had to listen closely to catch what he was saying. Because of this personal trait, George became known far and wide as, "Mumbles." Mumbles Livingstone was a good friend of my older brother, Bill, who was also a C.N.R. brakeman. Working with Alfie Colbert and "Mumbles" turned out to be a lot of fun. They were both great guys to work with.

August 3rd started the new pay period for me and bright and early I received a call for 8:00K on the Miami wayfreight. The engine was again the hand-fired 1351, the same engine I had on my first trip to Emerson with conductor Jack O’Donahue. The conductor this day, however, was George Ellis. George was a friendly, easygoing person about sixty years old.

Left Photo: L/R: Head-end brakeman Al Peden, conductor George Ellis and fireman, Ralph Grant at Portage Jct. waiting to go on the Miami weighfreight, Aug.3rd, 1951. Right Photo: Engineman Ralph Grant running the Prairie Dog Special at Pine Falls, MB during the ‘80’s. Left photo credit: Ralph Grant

The final destination of the Carman wayfreight was the little farming community of Belmont, about 130 miles southwest of Winnipeg or 40 miles southeast of Brandon. The route from Winnipeg ran straight south to Morris, then straight west to Belmont passing through all the little farming communities such as Kane, Myrtle, Roland, Miami, Altamont, Sommerset, Swan Lake, Baldur and finally Belmont. There were numerous other stations along the way and they all had one thing in common – two or three grain elevators and an oil storage tank at each place. There was usually switching to be done at each place with tank cars of gas to be spotted in behind grain cars. In the fall of the year, when grain harvest was coming in, these elevators were loading cars of grain almost continually and required frequent servicing by the weighfreight or maybe an "extra" to keep them supplied with boxcars.

This particular trip was just ahead of the annual grain rush so our work load was not all that heavy. We had a few cars to set out along the way; a car load of lumber here, a tank of gas there and then pick up the cars which had been loaded with grain since the previous trip. The wayfreight, though strenuous for the head-end brakeman was, nevertheless, quite successful from my point of view because I gained much more experience hand-firing and switching, saw another part of Manitoba that I had never seen before and had the pleasure of meeting and working with Conductor George Ellis.


Left Photo: Myself in the rail yard at Brandon waiting for the return trip home to Winnipeg, Aug. 1951. Right Photo: Neil Sorby (one turn ahead of me on the seniority list) on the back of the caboose, Brandon. May 18, 1958.


Myself on the pilot of the beautiful big C.N. 6079 in the Fort Rouge "B" yard near Portage Jct. prior to a trip to Dauphin about 1957. They were a magnificent engine to ride on and they could go like a scared deer.


Engineman Bobby Milne sitting in the cab of a 3300 class engine at Brandon, Manitoba in early 1950’s. The throttle and automatic brake valve can be seen on the left of the photo.



Harry Needham (Fearless) climbs up on the 3546 in the "B" yard prior to a trip to Dauphin. The train orders can be seen sticking out of his back pockets. Looking out cab window is engineman Vince Glendenning, a great "hogger."


Left Photo: L/R: Myself with conductor Johnny Audette at Brandon about 1952. Right Photo: Waiting for our meet at Gladsstone. L/R: Fireman?, head-end brakeman Wally Parsons, engineman Bill .. . Eyre, tail-end brakeman Al Peden. Winter 1957


Left Photo: A couple of brakemen at Amaranth, L: Jim Carter R: Herb Bannatyne, 1958. Right Photo: Uncle Fred, pulling the first car load of salt out of the salt mine at Neepawa, Manitoba, about 1935? George Rush on right of Fred, Engineman Biles.



Tail-end brakeman Bill Peden has an early morning breakfast in the caboose before leaving Dauphin for the trip back to Winnipeg. The lamp is lit and the HP sauce is on the table, along with a can of Crosse & Blackwell beans. Conductor Charlie Mayor is standing at the stove preparing his breakfast. About 1950. Photo: Bill Peden



The "rock train" belching smoke on the curve at Clarkleigh on a cold winter afternoon on the return trip from Steep Rock. The engineer has his head out the window looking ahead and another crew member looks back on the opposite side for hot boxes. Either the fireman or brakeman is bailing coal at a furious pace. About 1950. Photo: Bill Peden.