The Making of a Railway Man
While still a youth in knickers, George Bury—imagination fired by tales of the struggle which gave birth to a great transcontinental—dreamed of becoming one of the heads of the Canadian Pacific. Here, the man who now dreams in retrospect begins the story of a dream come true. He writes against a background that reveals a Canada in the making.
SIR GEORGE BURY
MR. VAN HCRNE, president of the C.P.R., called me into his office one day in February, 1890. For months I had been expecting to be given a chance to run a division “on my own.” I hoped my chance had come, but one could never tell in those days what a summons from the president might mean.
“Bury, do you want a stiff job, or an easy one?” he shot at me as I entered.
“We have decided to give you a division,” he went on, before I could answer. “We” inferred Thomas Shaughnessy, who then sat beside the president’s desk in the capacity of general manager.
“Would you prefer a division in Southwestern Ontario, where things are running smoothly, or will you tackle that North Bay crowd?”
I thought for a minute. For seven years I had waited for this opportunity. I knew, as did every employee of the C. P. R. then, that the Northern Ontario division, with headquarters at North Bay, was in very bad shape. A heavy traffic, more than a division could cope with under ordinary circumstances, had been thrown upon it; passenger trains had been losing hours; terminals were blocked with cars; our connections were yelling to have their loads moved; and, owing to the tough grind the crews had been through and the general demoralization, the men were almost in open revolt. It was a big job and I was only twenty-four.
“Well, sir,” I finally replied, “I’ll take the ‘tough’ division. Then we’ll both soon find out soon whether I have any aptitude for operating. Anyway,” I added half jokingly, “I am still young enough to try something else if I fail.”
Thus I became a divisional superintendent. It was the turning point of my career.
Recollections of Childhood
MY PARENTS came from Ireland Their second child, I was born in Montreal on March 6, 1866. Mother had been educated at the Ville Marie Convent, graduating with the gold medal. She was a beautiful, loyal woman of a retiring disposition, the opposite in character to my father who loved gaiety, was a bold speculator, and was fine looking, able, and ambitious.
His tendencies resulted in frequent fluctuations of our family fortunes; at times we were very well off and again not so well off. As youngsters we children had governesses; later we attended expensive private schools, then again public schools, and once after a bad crash in the “market” we moved to a small French-Canadian village for cheap living, where we attended the college, being the only English-speaking pupils. We learned all our lessons in the French tongue and acquired a command of that beautiful language essential to those in the Province of Quebec and desirable for those living elsewhere.
When I was about ten years of age, father happened to have as one of his numerous tenants a colored man calling himself a professor, who endeavored to make ends meet by teaching the manly art. He seldom succeeded and father, to assist him, ar-
ranged that his boys should take lessons. This gave me my first liking for athletics.
Father had the feeling that seems part of the nature of an Irishman that there was no more fitting career for a gentleman than politics. It seemed to him that it would ■be best that I become a lawyer as a first step and so he set his heart on that.
At the time when I was beginning to wonder what I was going to do, the press was filled with news of the
Canadian Pacific Railroad, the great transcontinental that was expected to do so much for the country, and I was seized with a great ambition to join the organization, dreaming of one day becoming one of those at its head.
My father would not hear of this, desiring that I become a lawyer instead, but the lure of the rails was too strong to be resisted and I made up my mind for once to go contrary to parental wishes.
My First “Job”
UPALKING to some of the boys I knew in the railway offices, it appeared that the best way to learn railroading was to become secretary to one of the officers, and to reach that position one had to know shorthand. There was no use appealing to my father to have me taught, so I took some of the pocket money I had saved, bought a book of instruction in Pitman’s stenography, and proceeded to learn that art secretly. When I thought I was fairly well I went frequently to the
way after school hours, to see if there were any openings, and finally was fortunate in securing a position as a junior in Mr. Shaughnessy’s office at a salary of twenty dollars a month.
I felt very much “bucked” and left the office with my head up, feeling I had the world at my feet. But, as I approached home and had to face father, who was very strict, my courage waned and I hesitated about telling him. I had intended to break the news as soon as I came in; then I put it off until after dinner, and then until bedtime. I had to report for work the next day and, not being able to delay the ordeal longer, I told. There was much storming around and, I am afraid, a few threats, but I stuck it out and finally was forgiven.
Now, the purchasing agent, Thomas G. Shaughnessy, had a capable secretary, and I was started at clerical work which did not need much experience, filing letters, copying and addressing them and pasting up invoices. A week or so later I was called in one afternoon and walked into the chief’s office confidently. The chief was of a somewhat impatient disposition, and goodness knows he had enough bother to make him so at that time. He looked up at me and said, ‘take some letters.” He rattled them off at what seemed to me a thousand words a minute and I tried to get them down. When it came to transcribing them I am afraid I made an awful mess. That relegated me to the old invoice job, a pretty bad set-back for one who thought himself a capable stenographer, but one of the other boys said, “It might have been worse. You might have been fired.”
My failure was well taken to heart and I determined that when the next opportunity presented itself it would find me ready. To that end I spent every evening practising stenography, and when, a few months afterwards, the purchasing agent’s secretary became ill, I was able to take dictation from Mr. Shaughnessy and transcribe it accurately.
After I had substituted for the secretary for several weeks, Mr. Shaughnessy, drop-
ping into the office one night about ten o’clock and finding me at work, asked why I was so late. I told him it was because I was looking after my own work as well as taking his dictation, as I did not want the office to run behind. He said, “humph—I shall see that you are promoted.” Some time afterward there was a vacancy for a junior in the office of William Van Horne, the general manager, and true to his word, Mr. Shaughnessy saw that I was appointed.
In the general manager’s ofíice I sat for several years opposite Mr. Tait, who was the secretary, performing the work of a junior, but all the time keeping up my shorthand practice to be ready, because during that time I had few chances of taking dictation. Besides plaguing my brothers and sisters to read to me in the evenings, at church I used to always have some paper in my prayer book and take down the sermon.
During the year 1886, before the time the last spike was driven, Mr. Tait was called to the colors and I was named to fill his shoes until he returned.
Enter the Typewriter
AT THAT time all letters in our office were ■ written by hand. Some time before, I had found a typewriter in the solicitor’s office and had practised upon it,so when called upon for the first letter, which was a long and important one, I slipped into the other office and put it into type, the first typewritten letter presented to the general manager for signature. I took it into Mr. Van Horne boldly. He looked it over and simply said, “I like the letters better that way,” and they were typed from then on.
On Mr. Tait’s return from military service, he was promoted to a more important position, and I continued as secretary. I held this position for four years, but my ambition was to grow up' through the operating rather than through the traffic department.
In a railway the operating might be likened to the manufacturing in a large business, and the traffic to the selling' end. The fact that|Mr. Van Horne’s former secretary had been made a superintendent encouraged me that I might be fortunate, likewise, but I felt that if I hoped for promotion I must fit myself, so I set out to learn telegraphy in spare time and after becoming fairly proficient, spent many evenings in the engine houses, to pick up practical experience.
As secretary, I travelled with Mr. Van Horne on his business and inspection trips, a wonderful opportunity to learn, and from such an expert in the management of railways. I am afraid that during these years I was a great nuisance to roadmasters, despatches, trainmen and engineers, in continually asking questions and trying to pick the meat of their experiences. When the vicepresident’s car was parked at terminals, so soon as I might be spared, I would spend my time in the yards, talking to the yardmaster, switchmen, and watching operations, trying to pick up everything. In fact I lived and slept railroading, permitting athletics only to fill what spare spaces my time might have held.
Before going any further I must give my conception of Mr. Van Horne (knighted in 1894). I had every opportunity to observe him under all conditions, being with him almost constantly. I was always treated as an equal when business was over, as is usual among well bred people who are sure of themselves.
I believed him then to be a great, courageous man,full of imagination, humor and kindliness, although I must say he had not the reputation of generosity where salaries came in. I thought him the greatest railway man ever, and he seemed to me to tower over the officers he came in contact with on operation and construction discussions; not only those of his own line but men from other roads as well. In the many years since that time, with my wide experience in this and other countries, nothing has ever made me change that hero worship. He was artistic, well-read and a delightful host. No man was able to inspire greater loyalty from those who worked with him and for him. He trusted his lieutenants and was not much given to criticism, rather being prone to direct clearly in a general way, and to allow his officers some latitude in the use of their brains. He would
take big chances himself and liked others who were not afraid to forsake hide-bound traditions. I heard him say that a man has to make so many decisions in big business that if he averages fifty per cent, right he is doing well.
He had no patience with those who hummed and hawed and were afraid of responsibility. There was no responsibility he would not take. There were critics who said he was not so strong as a financier, but not often do we find great financial ability coupled with the power to control large forces of men and to picture the future greatness and requirements of a country.
About 1888, while still secretary and eagerly looking forward to a superintendency, a gentleman who had the privilege to sell newspapers, etc., on the trains, had a quarrel with Mr. Van Horne, giving an ultimatum that unless such and such concessions were made he would withdraw his boys from the trains. Now, Mr. Van Horne was a good poker player and not easily bluffed, so he asked our friend when he proposed to withdraw his newsies. He set Saturday, two days away. His hand was called right there and he left the office in high dudgeon.
As soon as he left the office I went in and asked Mr. Van Horne if he would let me organize the news business for the railway, promising to have it in operation on the following Monday. Perhaps he thought our huffy friend would return to reason; perhaps he thought it would not much matter, in those days, if the trains were without newsies for a week or so, or perhaps he wanted to see what was in me, I do not know, but he told me to go ahead. On the Monday following the trains were all manned with men in the employ of the company and from that small beginning the railway’s news business grew to its present large proportions. As a result the profits go to the shareholders rather than to others as on some other lines.
On a trip with him some months later, I asked Mr. Van Horne when he was going to make me an operating officer and explained what I had done to fit myself. He questioned me a great deal and said “Remind me—I shall speak to Shaughnessy about it.”
Shortly after this conversation the superintendent of the Sleeping and Dining Car Department was shot by a disgruntled West Indian porter who had run amuck. There was great consternation and, the position having to be filled at once until the wounded officer recovered, Van Horne and Shaughnessy told me to take over the department. I knew quite a bit about the sleeping car end, but little of the dining. Fortunately, I found a man who supplied the experience I lacked and with the help of the organization we got along, 1 making every effort to learn something in the evenings about catering.
Some of the West Indian porters were inclined to be cheeky about that time and once when I was taking one of them to task for some failure or another he made a gesture as if to strike me. A brass ruler on the desk connected with his head and the discipline improved from then on.
On the recovery of the superintendent I returned to the office and was promised the first vacancy that occurred in the operating department as superintendent of a division.
The opening came in February, 1890; as narrated at the outset of this article, I chose the North Bay division where conditions were chaotic.
I arrived at North Bay on a bright morning in March, 1890, to take charge. Things were so bad I hardly knew what to do first, but began by asking the chief despatcher where
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the engines were, in what general condition they were, what the traffic situation was, etc. To use railway language, I met my first “bucking” there and then, and decided to take a firm hand, giving Mr. Chief Despatcher ten minutes to find out or quit.
, He found out.
I had tried to grow a beard to look the part, but it was a sorry attempt and deceived no one. Looking through my office door into the despatcher’s office I saw’ the ex-superintendent telegraphing on the despatcher’s shoulder “I wonder where our fresh kid left his nurse.”
Once I got around the “fresh kid” business, luck was with me because the weather turned and continued mild. Besides, everyone believed that I had strong backing and stopped, or pretended to stop, “bucking.” Things soon became comparatively normal and I had a chance to see what I could do.
Business on that division had picked up so quickly that the company had been hard put to obtain men for the train service and the majority had come from the farms in the East, and from the woods. A splendid body of men, but discipline irked them and, on pay days,it was sometimes impossible to avoid rows.
One of my first fights was over enforcement of the rules. On occasions I would jump over the division, hopping from train to train day or night, sometimes on the engines and sometimes on the cabooses. Although the employees endeavored to keep one another posted, I found so many infractions of the rules, at first, that the men could not have been very successful in keeping one another posted. I kept at it and almost eliminated accidents and saved many an employee dismissal. I warned them the first time and dealt more severely the second and third occasions.
The men did not take kindly to this departure from accepted methods. They had an idea that I was too strict. So, with the exception of one of the largest brotherhoods, which would not be a party to the movement, they got together and sent a committee to Montreal to demand my removal.
I remember one of the committee stated that he was in charge of a freight train running west from North Bay to Sudbury, about eighty miles. He said he saw the superintendent standing on the platform when the train was about to start; that he saw him on the platform at the station thirty miles west and again several times at stations between there and Sudbury, intimating that the superintendent must have ridden on the brake rods as do the hobos, and that that was no
way to treat such irreproachable employees as there were on the North Bay division. The fact that there was the supply car in the centre of the train in which I rode they had overlooked, but I did not enlighten them. The upshot was that it was intimated that unless I was removed the committee feared the men would cease work, a polite name for a strike. Some of my superiors seemed to think the easiest way to meet the situation, without loss of prestige to me, was to offer me a position in the head office at an increased salary. That would have meant an end to my hopes as a future operating chief, so I made a fight to be permitted to go back, saying that I believed the men were bluffing, but that if it had to be either me or a strike I had better be discharged as I would not resign or take any other position. In this instance dear old Sir William and Mr. Shaughnessy stood by me, and I returned to my division and continued my system. In later years it became standard on Canadian and American railways.
“Mick” Stalls Once Too Often
THE railway company was passing through very lean years and every possible economy was practised. Larger train loads made for more saving than anything else. Continually travelling on freight trains and watching how easily the engines were worked, I determined that it would be economical to add one third more load to each freight train.
This did not please the men because it meant that they could not run so fast; they were paid by the mile, and consequently there was much “bucking” and some delays to passenger trains by freights stalling. I was determined that the larger load should stick and thought the best way was to make an example.
So, picking out a very cranky engineer, albeit he was efficient, I had his train made up with the new loading. All the cars in his train were empty, although billed as containing flour. Coming to a grade “Mick” stalled and took his train up it in two trips, delaying the crack passenger train. I waited until he arrived with his train at the terminal when I had him accompany me while the door on every car was opened and he saw they were all empty. I did not discipline him because the “ragging” he got from the men was punishment enough.
The larger train stuck, and expenses decreased accordingly.
One of the troubles we had was that the men would flirt, sometimes ardently, with Haig & Haig. On one occasion I heard through the open window a bridge-
man telling the world of his prowess as a fighter and what he was about to do to the officers. A few minutes later he came into my office and explained that he had come “to show the Sprtendent whersh he got off ash.” I asked him what was that behind him and when he looked back, gave him a push that was hardly gentle and he tumbled down the stairs and rolled right down onto the platform. Picking himself up he forgot the object of his visit and called it a day.
Several days later when his account at the hotel was overdrawn and he had to depend upon tea for exhilaration, he came over to see me, explaining that I was not the man he had been looking for, and asked what I was going to do to him. I was afraid he was one of the incorrigible ones and told him that he would have to give his valuable services to some other firm. He pleaded to get back, and to get rid of him, and in a spirit of facetiousness, I am afraid, I said that he could not be reinstated because he had broken Rule 1000. What is that rule? he said. It prescribes that any man attempting to lick the superintendent andfailingmustbe dismissed.
A week passed and I received a letter addressed and'marked “private” in Mr. Shaughnessy’s handwriting. Imagining that it was an announcement of promotion I gloated over it for a while, speculating on its contents. Finally opening it, I saw it was a letter, on the turned-dowm corner of which Mr. Shaughnessy had written “This is no way to handle men.” The letter was from our friend the bridgeman, detailing the circumstances faithfully and asking Mr. Shaughnessy if he would not allow that rule to be overlooked in his case. He never saw the joke and perhaps others did not either and besides I should not have made it.
Each superintendent tried to have the passenger trains run over his territory on the dot and to have them clean. A train was supposed to be handed over from a connecting division in good shape. I had been receiving trains that I thought were not properly swept. Repeated promises were made, but without results. I met the superintendent of the connecting division, a fine gentleman, with an exaggerated fear of the head office, about two o’clock one morning when the eastbound transcontinental came in to the beginning of my division. Inspecting it I told the superintendent that I would not take it out until it was made clean enough to pass over my division and that he had better have it cleaned quickly because I should in my train report show the cause of the delay. Of course I had no intention of so doing and the engineer who was to take it out had promised to run like a scared deer and to make up any time lost, but the superintendent did not know this. I made no report, but the trains w'ere clean thereafter.
Hay in that part of the country brought a good price in the lumber camps and I decided to sell what the right of way produced, hoping to have the money to add to the small maintenance of track allowance the company was able to afford. But I hadanother thought coming,because when the money was turned into the auditor it went into the accounts, and I was not permitted to use it. Well, after that experience I did use the hay money because I never again sold the hay for money but rather FOR LABOR. Most of the settlers had been trackmen and I made them give me the value of the hay in labor rather than in cash, and even though it only amounted to a few thousand dollars it helped me to get a better track.
Coming over my division one day and preaching economy, which was always being dinned in to everyone, Mr. Shaughnessy, who had been made vice-president and a director in 1891, asked me if I knew’ what my expenses were and if I tried to keep a strangle hold on them, winding up by asking what I estimated the expenses for the coming month to be. I had always loved figures: at school and all through life—not adding, multiplying, subtracting, etc.—but making them talk. So, producing a sheet of paper, before him I proceeded to figure the payroll of the station staff, train and engine staff, track staff, etc. To figure the train staff I had to guess what the traffic would be as the men were paid by the mile. He folded up the paper and I heard nothing for several months, when my salary w’as raised.
To improve the appearance of the tinE I ran a contrivance over the ballast whici
trimmed it by machinery and made the line look very well. An annual inspection brought out my division as the finest looking, and I was forbidden to use the trimmer again, not, I might say, by the two chiefs; but let it go. I lived to see an improved trimmer called the “Bury” made standard on the Canadian Pacific.
The Grain Rush and “the Spout”
IN THE summer of 1899 when I had been nine years superintendent of the North Bay division and began to think I was rooted there for life, Mr. Osborne, general superintendent at Winnipeg, asked me if I would go as superintendent of the heavy division between Winnipeg and Fort William, so aptly named by Sir William Van Horne, “the spout.” I asked Mr. Shaughnessy (on the side) what he would like me to do and he said: “Do as you like, but in your place I would go.” Did I go and at once?
Well, it was good-by then to North Bay where there had been a hard struggle. The men saw me off without tears. They were jubilant when I was succeeded by a gentleman who. in the language of the “caboose committee,” was “too much a gentleman to be a superintendent.” Not very flattering to my administration, but we shall see as we go on how a strict versus an easier discipline worked out.
Arriving at Fort William I proceeded by daylight stages over the 430 miles of main line of my new division and was appalled at the backwardness of the preparations for completing the improvement for which money had been provided to meet the grain rush. Material was on hand and strung out for siding extensions, new round houses were started, but this was August lfi and the rush would be on at the end of September. There was nothing to do but jump in and make every move that could be thought of to have as many of the facilities as possible ready for the heavy traffic. It meant that I practically lived on the road, and was up all day and late into the night.
Now, there was a feeling between the western and eastern men. There is such a feeling in the States with no physical barrier dividing, but it is much greater in Canada, with a rocky vastness of hundreds of m'les between. The western officers and men of all grades felt themselves much superior to those in the East and there was always friction and always will be, though probably not so intense as in the earlier days. Mr. Osborne was a so-called eastern man, and he was the general superintendent, and I was the protege of an eastern man and brought to teach the western man. Did they like it? Hardly.
It is usual on divisions for the train despatchers to be under a chief train despatcher, reporting to the superintendent. I found on the Fort William division that part of the line had the trains moved by the despatching staff at Fort William and the western part of the division had trains moved by the despatching staff at Winnipeg, which was under another superintendent, although the Fort William superintendent was supposed to have complete say as to his end.
Of course, I could not stand for this arrangement, because no matter how fair the other superintendent might wish to be, still the staff in his office would naturally consult the interests of his division first.
I immediately asked the Winnipeg superintendent to come with me before the general superintendent and there said I could not consistently continue the arrangement and that I would set up a set of train despatchers at Kenora, 132 miles east of Winnipeg, to have complete control over the Fort William division.
This had never been done before and I am afraid it led to some antagonism. The rush came on several weeks after I had taken charge and there was much grumbling because more traffic was not being moved, notwithstanding that more traffic was going over the line than ever before. Time and again it was proposed to move back the despatchers to the former arrangement but I would not have it.
“Someone With Less Backbone”
I RECALL an occasion when the general superintendent sent me an urgent message saying that Winnipeg yard was blocked; that traffic was backed up all over the other division waiting for me to
move it, and begging for an extra effort. I think it was said there were a thousand or more cars waiting to be moved over my single track and accumulating fast. I got all my forces together and we arranged to put forth a desperate effort the next Sunday for a record. To make certain that my trains got out promptly from Winnipeg, which was on the other superintendent’s division, I stationed my trainmaster there and by midnight we had the loads all moved, but instead of the thousand or so there happened to be about half that number only. The general superintendent was pleased with what his eastern superintendent had done but was told by some of the western officers that Bury had simply taken the loads out and filled his side tracks to make a showing. Of course this was untrue. The winter came and the rush was over with the despatchers remaining as I had placed them, but I knew that efforts would be made by the western contingent to have the old order restored.
Believing I had a battle on hand I obtained leave of absence and went into the States to see a prominent railway official I knew, and asked if I could secure a place as a superintendent. I felt pretty sick of the continued fight I was always having to put up and decided I might advance just as well on an American line. With the promise of an appointment if I sought it I returned to Winnipeg and had it out with the general superintendent saying, in as polite a way as I could, that either I was to be let alone to run my division, so long as I was producing results, or it might be that he would be better off if he secured someone with less backbone. I won, and to this day the despatching officer remains on the division.
“Let George Do It”
AFTER a year and one-half on that division I was sent for one day by William Whyte, the manager of western lines, who said I was to be transferred to a mountain division at Cranbrook. This was a decided shocktome.as Fort William was considered a more important one. The Cranbrook division, known as the Crows Nest line, had just been taken over from construction and I thought it did not amount to much. I asked why I should be sent there when I felt I had done so well. Mr. Whyte insisted that I go and I knew that to refuse meant the end. After a while he said that that division was in bad shape and that something had to be done and done immediately. So it was another case of “let George do it.” Well, there was nothing left for me to do but to go, and so I set out.
That division had not been long taken over from construction and the men were the wildest I had yet had to handle, but somehow or other we managed to improve things. When I arrived, the most important producer on the division, a coal company, was at loggerheads with the road because of trouble over the moving of cars. One of the first things I did was to get an understanding with that firm. As a result the lines were never short of cars while I was on the division.
Sitting one day in my little two by four office I heard a man ask the agent when a box he had shipped by freight from Fernie would reach Cranbrook. The agent, a man who “hated himself” I believe, stated that he did not know and that he was too busy to discuss the matter. I preached and practised that the public must be catered to, and so I asked the gentleman to step into my cubbyhole of an office. He explained that the box he had shipped from Fernie contained supplies to enable him to make a trip into the interior. I had Walker call up Fernie direct on the wire and tell that agent to place the box on a passenger train, telling the gentleman that he would receive his box in four hours. That man never forgot and every time I moved up the ladder he always wrote to me. Later, I sent for the agent ar.d asked vhat he meant by treating the public in such a manner. He said that was his disposition; that he was supported by a high officer of the company and that it was time that I knew where I got off at. I said: “The only place I know where you would be suitable is Fort Steele, where there are none but Indians; they will not understand your peculiar manner. You will be replaced in ten minutes.” He was.
It had been customary for the trains between Cranbrook and Sirdar, ninety miles west, to haul the train they could take over the four-mile grade out of
Cranbrook. I insisted that they take twice the load and had the switch engine push the trains up the four-mile grade and thereby reduced the expenses of that section by a third.
The men, while a fine lot of fellows, were more determined than any of the others I had managed, and determined to continue in the way they had been going, and I was equally determined that they should go my way. About a hundred miles east of Cranbrook was the summit and from there to the next divisional point east was a down grade with the exception of an up grade of six miles. By taking the train in two pieces over this small length of grade the average size of trains might be doubled, and I so ordered.
Another Would-be “Bucker”
THE men were determined to “buck” this and waited for a suitable opportunity for a showdown. A cocky little conductor wras in charge of a freight train, and arriving at the summit at Crows Nest was ordered to add a number of cars to his train and double the grade-—that is, run his load in two sections. He said to the despatcher over the wire that if he was required to double he would require eight hours’ rest. I told Walker to tell him to take the rest. He replied that the engine crew did net want rest just then but that after the train crew had had their eight hours’ rest the engine men would require eight hours’ rest. He was told to let them have it. Then the conductor led trumps saying that there were eight cars of cattle on the train, and that the owner said that if his cattle were to be delayed he would make a claim on the company. Without having the authority, and remembering Sir William Van Horne’s lessons, I told the despatcher to order the conductor to turn the cattle over to the agent and that the railway company would buy them. This was too much for the conductor and engineer so they proceeded, saying to the agent, ‘ Oh, hell, what’s the use?” and thus the operating costs on that part of the line were greatly reduced thereafter.
I clearly recollect a pay day when we were unable to secure men to man an engine. The mines at Fernie required by morning, fifty more empty cars than were in the yards. They had never been short of cars since I had taken hold and I could not fall down then. So I ordered out a large engine, had the train made up, and with Walker as a fireman, ran the train to Fernie and the mines did not run short.
I had the division moving smoothly when I was offered the management of a large industry in that section that had been fighting the railway, at four times the salary the railway was paying me. intended to decline it any way, but received a message from Sir Thomas Shaughnessy to come to Montreal. He said I had better stick to the railway and while he could not pay anything like the salary, as it would disrupt the other salaries, I should have the first vacancy there was for a general superintendency, the next step toward my goal.
Now, two years before, Sir William Van Horne had retired from the presidency and accepted the chairmanship of the board, and Mr. Shaughnessy had been selected as president. At the time of this incident he had just been knighted, and never knew of a recognition that was more deserved. Sir Thomas had made David McNiccll general manager and Mr. Leonard was my general superintendent.
The “Owner” Takes a Hand
THAT summer—1901—the trackmen over the whole system struck. A prolonged trackmen’s strike is troublesome, especially on a mountain division. The trackmen’s organization took in the bridge men and the pumpmen as well as the coal handlers. We were all determined to keep our lines running if at all possible and, as a start, in my territory, we induced a number of extra gangs composed of Doukhobors and Italians to remain, trying to convince them that they were not parties to the strike, as they were not unionists and had no grievance. They stuck for a while and I remember an occasion when I received a message that a Doukhobor gang wanted to see the “owner” of the road.
For some weeks under officers and I had been patrolling the road on velocipedes, doing about a hundred miles daily, and net in humor. I
met the Doukhobors in a large boarding car with my general roadmaster, a large, handsome gentleman who had come from Sweden originally and whose first name was Gus. When we met them I supposed that nothing would result as, of course, a raise could not be granted under the circumstances. Gus and I stood on chairs with all those Doukhobors facing us.
The interpreter named “Seven Persons” stood out to address us and rolling up the sleeve of a powerful Doukhobor said
‘Bigada man ;strongada muse; more pay.”
There was nothing to say, but in a spirit of levity I turned to Gus and said “what are you paying these fine men?”
Gus was nonplussed but I winked at him, and he said $2.00 per day.
They were working ten hours, so it figured out to twenty cents an hour.
“Gus, ’ I said, “you should be ashamed to pay such fine men that wage. They should have twenty cents an hour and allowed to work tw’elve hours per day.”
I said it only for a joke but I was taken up in earnest and the men continued until the end of the strike. They had been perfectly satisfied, but agitators had tried to stampede them.
Between the Doukhobors, seven section gangs and some Italians, aided by my usual luck, for we had the dryest season of years, a fact which made maintenance in the mountains easier, my division was running without mishap.
Bury Versus Jumbo
EARLIER I mentioned the Italian gang. They were moved from point to point in a boarding car with their foreman, a large man named Jumbo. The train and engine men acted as neutrals in the strike, simply doing their work and no more. On one occasion the boarding car with the Italian gang was moved to Goat River Canyon to clear a little slide. They got off while the foreman went into the woods a bit and came running back stating that he had been shot at, showing a hole in his hat, and he refused to work or to let his men work. I had him place his hat on his head and taking a pencil, shoved it through the hole, striking him in the centre of the forehead, proving that he was only bluffing, and had put the hole in his hat himself.
Then the gang went into the car and refused to move. I was in a desperate way so, taking a chance, I started to Climb up into the car to make them come out. As I was climbing up, the conductor and brakesmen were looking on. As I reached the floor of the car Jumbo pulled out a long knife and proceeded calmly to sharpen it on his boot. At this the trainmen could contain themselves no longer, and the conductor and brakesman jumped into the car saying: “We are supposed to be neutral, butblankety blank, if you have got to go up against these wops you will not have to do it alone.”
I am happy to say as years went on I had opportunities to make up to these men for their kindly help.
During the strike at Sirdar we had an Italian whose job was to fuel the engines. The strikers tried to make him quit but we got him to stick. One day arriving at Sirdar he met me in great excitement and waving his arms said:
“The damada car rippa (car repairer) ruñada wit ma wuf an I quit.”
“No, no, you won’t; you remain until the strike is over and you shall have a pass to Montreal and return, and you know there are plenty of wives in Italy,” I replied.
I forgot the instance until months later when in the head offices in Montreal I met an Italian and an Italian woman in the corridors of the head office. Seeing me the man rushed up, kissed my hand, and said: “See da newada wuf, no giv pass you promis.”
He got the pass.
The last I heard the old wife had returned and was acting as servant to the new.
This story of Sir George Bury's struggle for advancement will continue through two more instalments. In the second instalment, appearing in the January 15 issue, he will describe his experiences as general manager of the C.P.R. lines in Western Canada and tell how he arbitrated between himself and the labor unions. The instalment will close with a vivid description of a sensational jiftcl battle with a mob of ;tr~k