CPR Section House

CPR Section House

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Front Yard

When one family transferred out of the CPR section house in Mattawa , we were able to move from New Street . This was in late 56 or 57 . These photos show what the front yard of that home was like . It wasn't a quiet siding but a busy station and maintenance yard for for steam locomotives traveling the CPR mainline.

  The CPR mainline runs east-west in front of the station . In the background , there is a tall building - a stilt structure- which is the coal chute . Forward of it , to the left of the mainline are pipes that stick out of the ground. That is a water chute . Directly left of this , out of the picture , stood the duplex section house .

 Locomotives (east/west bound) pulled to a stop on the mainline track beside the coal chute. The fireman on the locomotive climbed onto the hopper and pulled down the side chute to fill the hopper with coal for the fire .

North bound trains ( Temiscaming run ) and other freights working the area pulled to a stop under the chute (between the legs) to fill their hoppers there . A yardman climbed the ladder up the outside of the building to the control room at the top of the coal chute. When he levered the doors open, the coal poured with a great rumble in a cloud of fine coal dust that engulfed the area- taking as much as an hour to settle in the vicinity .

This was the dust that infiltrated the section house , covered the yard and my father when he came home from work . The coal that spilled onto the ground was gathered in buckets by the occupants of the section house to feed the winter coal heater .  At night , unknown others came to gather chunks of coal off the tracks leaving the area clear of the soft black rock by morning.

The steam locomotives needed water to feed the boiler that maintained steam pressure .  There was a large water tank across from the station that fed three water chutes in the yard: one east of the station , one between the coal chute and the station ( in front of the section house ) and one down the north track at the shop (where train repairs occured). Before the trains filled with coal, they stopped to top off their water at these chutes . West bound trains would usually fill water only and take on coal at North Bay , while east bound trains filled everything for the trip down the Ottawa River valley. All freights took every opportunity to fill up .

The water tank provided  for the station master's apartment and station washrooms for the comfort of passengers . It also provided a source to the section house as a pump out back . Later , small pumps were installed in the kitchens of the section house to make life easier for the section wives .

 It was not until the end of steam that a trench was dug from the water tank to the section house to provide free-running water. Proper taps appeared on the kitchen sink beside a brand new propane hot water heater , although the woodstove stayed . 

Dad separated a part of the dining room to form our first bathroom complete with a claw-foot cast iron tub , a sink and a flush toilet (all second hand) . This was quite a special thing to us , which we showed off to our visitors proudly. Little did we children know that most people had such things. Some politely took the tour while others openly mocked our 'stupidity'. Oh well , what would they understand of how much it meant to us , how hard it was to achieve  , or as in my case how their responses cut to my core. It took me a long time to laugh at the situation .

A water chute can be seen clearly in this photo of the shop . The little building with the
open door is an outhouse...a conveniently located necessity.

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