Pioneers of the Steel Trail

Another chapter of adventure from the lives of the men behind the throttle during the heroic days of Canadian railroading

EDMUND E. PUGSLEY September 15 1930

Pioneers of the Steel Trail

Another chapter of adventure from the lives of the men behind the throttle during the heroic days of Canadian railroading

EDMUND E. PUGSLEY September 15 1930

Pioneers of the Steel Trail

Five: The Oldest Engineer Tells His Story

Another chapter of adventure from the lives of the men behind the throttle during the heroic days of Canadian railroading


TO HAVE pointed out to one the oldest member in Canada of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers may not appeal to the average citizen as an event of unusual interest, but when one stops to consider, the oldest engineer deserves more than a casual glance.

On second thoughts one would certainly ask what manner of man is this who served his country for fiftytwo years on its railways, most of that time in the cab of a locomotive. How many millions of tons of freight has he successfully piloted from one division to another? How many hundreds of thousands of Canadians has he safely transported to their destinations?

And when it is added that he closed out over half a century of such service with but one serious accident, there is ample reason for pausing to consider the record of Sam Macintosh. Unpretentious, quiet in both voice and manner almost to a fault, it is with difficulty that he can be persuaded to mention his part in the operation of Canada’s early railways, and only then in an apologetic sort of way; yet anyone who knows the rudiments of railroading knows well that the man who can get by for fifty years without one demerit mark need not apologize for his record.

And such a one is Sam G. Macintosh, a man who was born in a little log cabin at St.

Marys, twenty miles north of London, Ontario, away back in 1851, when the whole country was little else but bush.

Boys matured early in those days, and at the age of fourteen young Sam secured a job as porter around the station at Granton on the Grand Trunk main line west of Stratford.

“I was very fortunate in getting such a good job at my^age,” is Sam’s only comment on his modest beginning.

Three months later he was taken on as brakeman on the Sarnia division, and stayed with that for two years, when he went into the shops to work about the engines, cleaning and helping as required.

The power of the locomotive appealed to his young imagination at once, and a few months later found the youth out on the road again, this time feeding the fire box with four-foot, lengths of wood. He followed this work so diligently that in 1871, at the age of twenty, he made his first trip as engineer.

In 1873 the young engineer decided to try his luck with another line and went over to the Great Western Railway of Canada, known as the Air Line from St. Thomas to Niagara Falls. For seven years he worked as engineer on this road, and it was here that the only accident of his career occurred—an accident which Mr. Macintosh could never account for.

“I was pulling freight at the time and on leaving

St. Thomas we got an order to meet a ten-car passenger train at Aylmer, the second siding east of St. Thomas. The passenger train was an excursion to the annual London Fair, which had gone east the night before and was coming back to London loaded wdth excursionists.

“It was a bright, sunny morning, and as I swung around a long curve I had a clear view right into Aylmer while we were plugging along with our heavy train of twenty-eight cars of wheat next to the engine and other material behind. Of course our engines weren’t so big those days as nowr; neither were our trains.

“I could plainly see the passenger train stop at Aylmer by the way the smoke came from the engine, and I was greatly surprised to see that fresh black smoke was again coming from its stack, indicating that the train was starting up once more. The first thought that I had was that the other train was going into the siding for us; but soon, as I watched closely, I knew that they were coming right on, for fresh fires were being fed by the heavy black smoke belching up. I shut off my

engine and we drifted about ten miles per hour, slowing up as fast as we could with hand brakes set, for there were no air brakes on trains in those days.

“My fireman and I watched that train coming on at a rate of about thirty-five miles per hour, and it was a terrible feeling to know that we could do nothing to stop it. Of course we expected to see it come to a stop at any time, but soon we were certain of a collision and both stepped off our train, which was now almost stopped. I stepped back behind a pole and hung on in a sort of fascination, watching the inevitable wreck. The engineer never shut off steam at all and both engines came together with a terrific impact, seemed to rebound a moment, then climb up in a heap and the cars piled up on top.

“It was a father and son on the passenger engine, and neither were found for many hours. It was evident then that the fireman had been stoking right up to the moment of impact and had not the slightest inkling of the impending disaster, for he was found dead lying head first to the fire box.

“The supposition was that they had been tired from the long run of the night before and that the engineer father had dropped asleep on leaving Aylmer. They were both mercifully killed outright, no doubt, and saved the added horror of their mistake which, unfortunately, caused the deaths of seven passengers as well.

“The conductor disappeared after the accident and it was some years later that I met him in Minneapolis. He shook hands with me, but he couldn’t find the voice to speak for some minutes. At length, with tears streaming down his face, he blurted out;

“ ‘Sam, I just forgot my orders entirely. I never once thought of that meet !’

“I felt very sorry for him. He had been very busy with his passengers on a heavy excursion trip, and there was far more excuse for him than for the engine crew that could look down a straight track and still come right on to hit. Four of the passenger coaches piled right up in a heap.”

The Lost Locomotive

LIKE many another young man, Macintosh eventually looked longingly to the West, and hearing of a road in Minnesota he drifted out there and hired with the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba, now the Great Northern Railway, firing for three months out of Fergus Falls, Minnesota. He was then promoted to engineer and stayed with that work for three years, hearing the call of the wanderer again in 1882, this time at Winnipeg, with the C.P.R. And he was with the

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Pioneers of the Steel Trail

Continued from, page 12

C.P.R. for thirty-five years, until 1917.

“I started to run an engine on a Friday morning and on Saturday morning I was called to go west. The road was built west of Broadview at that time and I put up at a house full of engineers. I don’t know how I came to be placed ahead of so many others.

“I stayed on the job, running between Regina and Broadview until May, 188,'?. The only time I ever broke a pilot was during that period. I was running between Brandon and Regina and spent my spare time in the bunkhouse at Regina. There were only the two regular trains running at that time one each way—numbers One and Two. It was a bitter cold, hard winter, and it was only with the utmost difficulty that trains were operated at all.

“Number One came in from Winnipeg that night, and they started Number Two out at seven o’clock in the morning with two engines and a full list of passengers. At seven that night nothing further had been heard from Number Two, so the dispatcher ordered the engineer who had brought in Number One the previous night to go and look for Number Two. The man refused to go, so they asked me if I would. I said yes. Anything was better than staying longer in that bunkhouse with its unwelcome, creeping company.

“I had no conductor, so I went to the dispatch office at Regina for running orders.

“ ‘You’re going to Broadview with Number Two when you find her,’ I was told.

“I got about fifteen miles out and knew

I was close to Balgonie siding, but I

couldn’t see anything but snow. I was sure that, the siding was full of cars, but the snow drifts were as high as any boxcars, so the whole prairie looked alike. Just snow; snow everywhere and nothing else. I wasn’t greatly taken with the country and didn’t at all like the idea of getting snowbound with a light engine, so 1 said to my fireman:

“ ‘Bill, we’ll have to go through that snowbank. If we stop we’ll never get started again.’

“So I kept the throttle open and we plowed right into it. And that’s where we found Number Two. The two engines pulling her, or rather that started pulling her, had cut off to try to find water, but everything was frozen up tight, so they pulled their fires and just set there waiting for whatever might take place.

“When we struck Number Two my engine pilot collided with the buffer beam of the sleeping car, and that’s how I broke my only pilot. And that sleeper was full of men.

“But we couldn’t stay there doing nothing so I started in to carry out my train orders: take Number Two to

Broadview. We worked around in the snow until we found some ties, and with those for pushers we got that train moving again and shoved it to the next siding, McLean, about nine miles, where we ran around it and coupled the engine on in front. From there on it was clear sailing right into Broadview, about seventy miles.

The Waterless Boiler

RESIDENT VAN HORNE was a man who always wanted speed when he was going over any portion of the road. I think that I hold the record for taking his train over a division—the record for slow speed, I mean. We were twenty-four hours making from Regina to Swift Current, less than 160 miles, which is at the rate of less than seven miles per hour.

“Snow was drifted and piled up everywhere. We were lucky if we got a straight mile run without stalling. My fireman ate all his lunch and soon got pretty hungry. We passed a boarding-car lying in a siding and he went in for something to eat. All he could get was salt pork, mostly salt, and that only aggravated the situation, for he was eating snow for the rest of the trip to quench his thirst.

“Then we got into a bank of snow and lost the water from the boiler. The old style injectors of that time were nonlifting, and if we ran into snow the injector would get plugged and break off and we couldn’t get it on again. I was running with a wide open throttle, just guessing at the amount of water in the boiler, for we hadn’t seen any sign of it for a long time. When we got on to a clear rail again we fixed the injector and moved on. At the next stop J. M. Egan, superintendent, jumped on the engine and asked:

“ ‘What’s the trouble? Where have you been?’ ”

“I just pointed to the glass. There

was no water in sight, and I never saw a man run so fast as Egan did after he jumped from that cab in one leap. He was afraid that boiler would blow up before he got a safe distance.

A Washed-Out Bridge

IRAN out of Winnipeg later, right up until 1890 on construction. East of Kenora the country was either all rock, lake or muskeg. We just bridged and piled, and it was filled in later.

“At Hawk Lake the water was good and they would go for long periods without running us in with engines to be washed out. I was four w'eeks away from home one time when I saw a tie train going west to Winnipeg, so I just told the conductor I was going with him. Foolishly I went up and climbed on the engine to ride in instead of going back to the caboose. We were coming to a big fill around a lake where the bridge was not considered very safe and a watchman was on duty.

“The orders for train crews were to stop there and get a signal from the watchman before proceeding. If a watchman wasn’t there, the conductor was to walk out over the bridge and inspect it before giving the signal to proceed. This night the watchman didn’t show up when we approached because, as we learned afterward, he had gone to the nearest telegraph office to report trouble.

“I hadn’t been working over this piece of track, so didn’t knowr of the bridge orders. I heard the conductor say to the engineer, ‘Oh, I guess old Taft is

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The Operating Room Mystery

Continued from page 42

you on your acumen. I simply examined the ether for the usual impurities you may get in that anaesthetic. Never thought for a moment of chloroform.”

“But,” exclaimed the agitated anaesthetist, “all this proves nothing, Power. The nitrous-oxide oxygen does not pass through or over the contents of the ether jar unless the special stopcock on the controls is open. It was not open yesterday morning at any time during the anaesthetic. I distinctly remember closing it tight.”

The detective took from the pocket of his white lab coat a nickel-plated gadget. It was the connection he had removed from the hospital gas-machine and to which the ether jar had been attached.

“I daresay you are right, doctor,” he said, “but take a look at this. First of all, you’ll notice that the lever controlling the entry of gas into the ether jar is shoved over as far as it will go toward closure. But notice that it isn’t quite in alignment—ought to go a half inch farther according to the indicator dial. Now take a look at the other side of it. Here we are.

“Interesting, isn’t it?” he went on as the anaesthetist let out a low gasp. “Instead of being completely closed the slide-valve is open. And it’s open because of that little bar of steel that has been stuck in its way with common or garden chewing gum. Darned ingenious, isn’t it? Enabled you, doctor, to press the control lever tightly shut, and it also enabled the nitrous-oxide oxygen to flow over the mixture of chloroform and ether in the jar, thus liberating enough phosgene to kill James K. Mahoney.”

DR. HOLMES made a faint strangling sound as he swallowed.

“Supposing we sit down and talk it over,” said the detective, leading the way to his desk. When they were seated opposite him he leaned back in his old sv ivel-chair, and went on:

“What we want to know is who put the chloroform in the ether jar. Obviously it must have been someone in the hospital, someone who understands anaesthetics and the chemistry of anaesthetics, someone whose presence in the vicinity of the gas machine yesterday morning was perfectly natural. Then we must try to discover a motive. Why did someone in the Montreal Vic want to kill James K. Mahoney? For some time before he died Mahoney had been receiving threatening letters. It seems that he was working toward a prosecution in some case and that the men implicated knew it. Those letters were all typewritten and all typewritten on the same machine— which was not a new one and therefore had its easily spotted idiosyncrasies. It was necessary to find that typewriter.” The swivel-chair squeaked noisily as he let himself further back.

“Who wanted to kill James K. Mahoney in order to escape prosecution? Through his secretary I was able to examine his private papers. I found among them a very interesting book with a lot of names in it. Three of them struck me as leading somewhere likely, and there was a fourth I already had. I finally discovered the typewriter in a shady night club run by a gang of dope smugglers around whom Mahoney had been tightening his net for some time.”

“But how the dickens,” began John Corday, “could these—”

“I know the question you’re going to ask, Jack,” the detective said with a grin. “And I don’t mind telling you it was a puzzler to me. What connection could this gang have with the staff or any member of the staff of the Montreal Vic? Tonight—” and here his grin deepened— “a gentleman named Tony Carducci happens to be missing a private cashbook

in which there are some highly diverting entries. All kinds of surprising people seem to have had dealings with friend Antonio. It appears that in connection with his dope-peddling he had need of expert scientific advice; probably wanted to know just how far he could go in diluting the pure smuggled drugs he was dealing in for retail distribution. He seems to have paid well for the advice.” The detective swayed forward and dropped his left hand—the hand farthest from the other three—on a certain bundle of papers on his desk, beneath which lay hidden a push-bell.

“The expert advice he got from the Montreal Vic, gentlemen!” His voice, which had been steadily losing its drawl throughout this recital, suddenly rang with challenge and his queer blue eyes became glacial.

“Tell us—for God’s sake tell us—whom you are accusing!”

It was Dr. Holmes, almost beside himself.

“Yes,” came the sharp voice of Carl Myland, “have it over with!”

The detective gave his right forearm a flick. When he lifted his hand there was a gun in it.

“Keep your hands out of your pockets, Myland!” he said curtly. “And, for your advice, let me tell you there are three detectives waiting outside that door!"

The big scientist started to his feet, his dark eyes wild, his lips twitching beneath his beard.

“You’ve got nothing on me!” he shouted. “This is an outrageous holdup !”

As Corday and Dr. Holmes stared at him goggle-eyed he foamed on:

“You were at that operation yourself. Power! How do we know you didn’t do this thing?”

“Because,” drawled Kent Power, “we know that you did. Because we’ve got your name in Tony Carducci’s private cashbook for a payment of five thousand dollars in cash last night. Because an operating-room nurse at the Montreal Vic whose favors you’ve been courting lately under a false promise of marriage confessed tonight that you were alone with her in the theatre yesterday morning. You told her you went into the anaesthetic room to make some tests of the new stock of ether, but she saw you fooling with the gas machine.”

Once more the detective’s hand pressed against the sheaf of papers. The door opened and three men entered. When they went out, they had Dr. Carl Myland handcuffed with them.

rT'HIS is a great relief to me, Power; a L great relief!” breathed the anaesthetist a few minutes later. “Perhaps I have been oversensitive but it has seemed to me that my friends have acted oddly since yesterday morning. I didn’t want to give the anaesthetic. As you know I was a great friend of Jim Mahoney— and his wife. It was only at her urgent solicitation I undertook the case.”

The detective half-closed his eyes. He knew now that Dr. Holmes’s agitation had been due to the fact that the anaesthetist had long loved the dead man’s wife and was suffering a guilty conscience. He said nothing.

John Corday’s eyes were glowing with admiration.

“You’re a wizard, Kent!” he cried. And then he said suddenly: “But how in the world did yoi. know Myland was guilty this afternoon when you invited us all here?”

“I didn’t,” the detective drawled with a grin. “I only knew he was one of three who could have been guilty.”

“Great Scott, you didn’t suspect me?” “I’ve got an awful suspicious mind, Jack,” Kent Power chuckled.