CPR Section House

CPR Section House

Saturday, January 29, 2011

No electricity/No plumbing

Section houses were all built around the same time in CPR history -the last two decades of the nineteenth century after the company received the Government Charter to build the coast to coast railway to unite Canada . Homes sprung up along the line to house supervisors /foremen with families , overseers of local ( section) business . Some spurline homes were built later , but most were completed prior to WWI.

The basic floor plan was the same for almost all Section Houses - take a central-hall plan ; split it in half ;
 put stairs to the second floor on the right as you enter the front door ; put parlour/livingroom at the front -first floor ; put the kitchen at the back-first floor ; put a small bedroom at either end of the second floor with a large open landing between . Road Masters got a full central- hall plan in larger centres .

A section house was approximately 12 feet wide and 24 feet long . The stove pipe  for the kitchen stove exited the back left corner ,  and the front right corner of the parlour for a Quebec Heater .  The stove pipes heated the second floor in winter along with ambient heat that floated up the stairs . If there was a cellar , it was accessed from the kitchen , under the stairs . The backdoor was located on the left side wall in the kitchen .  There was a double window in the parlour , two windows in the kitchen , one in each bedroom and another at the top of the stairs to service the landing . 

The house was built of rough lumber , readily available at the time period because of the fast growing Lumber Industry . Boards covered the frame , which were then painted . The inside of the house was covered with lath and plaster then painted . House paint came in two interior and two exterior colours: white or light green inside , and dark brown or cedar brown outside . Later , the houses were covered in CPR -issue asphalt shingle that gave it the look of brown brick . All houses came with a set of removable storm windows .

Some houses had a front veranda and a back porch , and occasionally an addition off the parlour , creating both a dining room and livingroom  . This was rare and only happened if the highest official of the section was going to live in it . There were no frills for the regular section man . But , they did benefit once the 'boss' moved on with
 business down the line .  The house was left for the foreman in larger towns  and the section man in isolated  places .

 The Section House at Tabarette was one such house . It had no electricity  or plumbing , a standard for the time . Few people outside of cities/towns had such luxuries . 

Drinking water and wash water was hauled from a spring some distance from the house . On 'Wash Day' (Mondays) , Mum hauled pails of water to fill the water resevoir in the cookstove , where it would heat for the laundry chore . Then she would fill the wash tub that perched on top of the stove as well . Using a scrub board , a bar of Sunlight soap and the tubful of water , she scrubbed and rubbed and wrung all the items by hand . Then , she would empty the tub using a pail ; haul more water ; heat it enough to take off the chill , and rinse then wring everything again  . The washing had to be done and hung on the clothesline by early afternoon to catch the sun before it sunk behind the trees . In winter , the clothes were hung outside to freeze  stiff . A few items at a time were brought in for drying beside the woodstove on a drying rack . Sometimes , Dad's heavy work clothes would take two days to dry . 


The wringer was an addition at Snake Creek Section House . Tabarette was all done by hand.

On ' Ironing Day'( Tuesdays) , all the cotton items were sprinkled with drops of water , then rolled into sausages until the cotton fibres softened enough for ironing . Mum used flat irons with a detachable handle for the ironing . They came in several weights and sizes from a five pound for heavy clothing  to a half-pound for delicate items .  Three irons heating on the stove allowed her to rotate through , giving time for an iron to reheat between items . In those days , Mum ironed everything , so it was a major event in her week . 

On 'Bath Day' - every Friday evening- the laundry tub became the bathtub . It was placed near the woodstove and filled from the resevoir . Then Mum and Dad each had a full bath sitting in the tub , with knees up around the ears , while the other scrubbed him/her down . A good morning and before-supper wash did the job during the week but bathdays was a much appreciated special event .  

The outside toilet , outhouse , provided relief when 'nature' called . In deepest coldest winter , timing was everything in order to not race outside into the dark and cold more than once , just before bed . It got dark at 4:30 pm , and no one could hold their water until dawn .  CPR came to the rescue with their white enamel commode pail ,  with lid trimmed in black to  discreetly cover the contents , and a carrying handle to transport it for emptying in the outhouse each morning . Spring and summer  visitations to the facilities were quick since blackflies and mosquitos made for very uncomfortable outings . There was no time to read the Eaton's catalogue before use - "what with all the swatting".

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