WE ONCE worked on a newspaper whose Advice to the Lovelorn column was conducted—and very successfully conducted—by a grubby old gent half smothered in whiskers seemingly fashioned from the stuffing of a horsehair sofa. We know authors who, never having done anything more exciting than crush a cream puff with a fork, write hair-raising tales of adventure on the Burma Road. But a real railroad story only can be written by a man who actually knows railroading.
Such a story is “Repair Track Job,” on page eight of this issue. It’s author, Edmund E. Pugsley, is a railroad man. An orphan, he was, as he puts it, “bootedaround Ontario till a final kick started me westward in 1904.” In 1905 he was carrying a surveyor’s chain over hills and valleys for the Midway and Vernon Railway. He moved to the Northern Pacific, jumped to the Yukon and back to follow the ice through Hell’s Gate with Scow Henderson. For thirty-four years he has “kicked box cars around or worn the brass on the varnished wagons.” Now he is on the Lulu Island Railway; is Vancouver chairman of the local conference committee of the Standard Railway Unions. It’s a small branch line, the L.I.R., just twenty-five miles long, and a feeder of the C.P.R. But we’d like you to know how a railroader views his job. This is what Mr. Pugsley says about it:
“It makes a man feel he is doing something worth whileEvery car we start on its way carries something that’s playing a part in the big scheme of things. A car of iron rods placed today will be rivets in a ship next week. A car of steel plates will dodge one of Hitler’s torpedoes on the high seas a few months hence. A train of lumber headed east will shelter God knows who in the bombblasted island of Britain.
“I rode across the mountains last month on my holidays, and watched train after train rolling eastward, and not one but had its quota of lumber. I stood at a station on the prairie, gazing at a freight slowly moving out. Lumber and shingles. . . and more lumber. This, I mused, could very well be some of our L.I.R. stuff. And then I saw it—my own chalk marks; three cars in a row
that I had placed for loading the last day I had worked... Here was the work of scores of woodsmen and millmen, heading for some Atlantic port to be transferred to an unnamed and unsung steamer for the long, perilous convoy to Britain, there to play an unnamed part in the rebuilding of demolished cities. And who cared? Those cars were but three of thousands that pass every month. Nothing to get excited about. Not even interesting to look at. But every logger who saw those logs roll out of the bush, every millman who had a part in slicing them into lumber, and every railroadman who moved them between the Pacific and Atlantic must have had a moment’s satisfaction that here was something accomplished, something done, come fair weather or foul. And that’s one thing you can depend on, brother. The railroadman is on the job, twentyfour hours a day, be it shine or fog, rain or snow or fifty below, keeping the wheels turning to keep industry going.”
#Oddly, the father of Reginaborn Len Peterson, whose amusing yarn, “Gup, The Stuttering Pup,” will be found cavorting on page twelve, is a locomotive engineer. Len himself went to Northwestern University, in F e States, he has worked as a waiter, theatrical scene designer, delivery boy, radio announcer, advertising writer and deckhand on a ship. He lives in Toronto.
#On page five, Richard L. Harkness, Washington correspondent of the Philadelphia Inquirer, tells the story of Uncle Sam’s stupendous war production program, and on page seven, Floyd Chalmers, Editor of the Financial Post, recently returned from a two months’ stay in Britain, tells us “What Britain Eats.”
#Your next Maclean’s will be a special Canadian Navy Number, and we mean SPECIAL. There’ll be a twelve page pictorial section showing the Navy at work, and a score of features concerning its ships and men. One of the best sea pieces we ever have read is Charles Rawlings’ graphic account of the destroyer Skeena’s long and grueling battle with a U-boat wolf-pack.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.