CPR Section House

CPR Section House

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Building Up Steam

 The tension of change was devastating railway employees by the time we moved into the Mattawa Section house . Worry and stress added extra weight to the daily job . Dad returned home after work totally exhausted , easily angered and beginning to drink on a regular basis.

In 1956 , The Firemen Dispute led to layoffs and eventually to a two day strike in 1958 . In 1961 , the dispute still continued as their union fought against job loss . But it was all in vain .
 The switch to diesel was written in stone . Firemen were totally unneeded ...the steam locomotive which required so much attention and labour to run was on its way out...and so too,  the fellows who shovelled the coal and maintained the boil to produce that steam . Just an engineer was needed up front .

As the diesel was phased in across the country, firemen were faced with two choices: bump someone in a lower paying job or leave the CPR and try to find a new trade . A few trained to operate diesel , but the majority took one of the first options. Engineers who intended to stay were forced to retrain . They fought and argued the move , feeling helpless -given no choice . Eventually , they succumbed : get onto diesel or leave .

Bumping began in earnest as the system strained to adjust - accomodating many bitter firemen into the section man's network . More and more workers found themselves falling off the bottom of the list ...unemployed .

The motor car made its appearance in Mattawa before the diesel turned up . Section men travelled more quickly to the worksite and were expected to do more in a day . Over time , their ranks were nibbled away and fewer men were expected to accomplish more .

Still there was more to come . The pressure of those fading steam locomotives was building in the workforce of the CPR.

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