"Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in."
I put my Canadian Pacific career behind me when the Kitchener Fire Department hired me in the summer of 1974. At least I thought I did. However, about two months after I officially resigned from CP, I received a call from the Chief, the Chief Dispatcher that is, W.C. Baynes, my former boss wanted me back. Would I be interested in rejoining the London Division spare board and working some of my KFD off-days to help him through a shortage of operators? It was an offer too good to refuse. I was reinstated on September 20th and sent immediately to Guelph Junction, the very place where I'd started my abbreviated CP career in the summer of 1973.
All of which explains how and why I came to be working first hours at GU on Thanksgiving Day forty years ago today, October 14, 1974. The shift itself wasn’t particularly memorable, but the day got off to a particularly good start. I arrived at the Junction in time to find No. 74 — powered by FA2 4086, RS10 8596, RS3 8450 and GP35 5017 — making a setoff on the south side and blocking my way to the station.
Working the Junction wasn’t conducive to on-the-job photography, as every train had to be hooped or otherwise provided with train orders. Nevertheless, I always brought a camera to work, and with No. 74’s train between the station, and me I took advantage of a well-timed photographic opportunity. Any day that begins with an FA in the lead is a good one.
My relief was Second Hour operator Murray Dronick, who sauntered across from his company-owned accommodation — better known as “the dwelling” — just in time for me to set up for the passage No. 904. The eastbound hotshot roared through with a pair of 4700s operating elephant style. On his heels, but just far enough back to allow time to walk to the west end of the yard, was First 54. Flying green, and just plain flying, begrimed M636 4709 led FB1 4410 and FA1 4015 through the misty rain in fast-falling light that pushed the pushed the capabilities of Kodachrome to the limit.
Beyond the limits, some might counter, but every time I look at the grainy image etched into that little strip of celluloid, the racket of First 54’s 251 and 244-powered machines replays in my head, and that Thanksgiving shift pays another dividend. W.C. Baynes really did make an offer I couldn’t refuse.