Thursday, October 22, 2015

Remembering the Farm: "...than cross ties on a railway"

Diane Henders is writing a series of scary blogs in preparation for Halloween.  Her last one (here) is about adrenaline rushes and asked if any of her readers had some to share. By the way she also writes very good spy stories. There are 10 books in her Never Say Spy series and more on the way.  She is "too busy" to chase either a movie or TV series but she definitely needs to do one or the other.

My story occurred when I was in highschool, possibly 1963 or 1964.  It was a serious, as Lord Nelson is reputed to have said "Bring me my red cape AND my brown trousers" kind of scary.

The CNR mainline between Edmonton and Winnipeg runs close to our farm.  This particular summer the railway replaced all the cross ties along our section of line and piled the old ones in the ditch along the right of way.  Old railway ties are always handy on a farm for everything from blocking to fence posts, so dad contacted the railway about getting some.  They were likely free as any not picked up had to be gathered and burned.

About a mile and a half from our place we could easily access a section of ditch along the railway from a level crossing on an old municipal road allowance.  After school one October day, Dad and my brother took the '49 Merc 1 ton truck and I drove the tractor, a Cockshutt 40, Perkins Diesel, no cab and a loud muffler.  The plan was to fill the truck with the old ties down in the ditch and then use the tractor with a long cable to pull it back up onto the road.

Overview of the area
We loaded the truck in about 45 to 60 minutes.  No trains went by during that time. When we went to pull the truck up on the road, dad drove the truck and I drove the tractor.  I suggested to dad that the easiest grade to pull from would take me across the track. (There had been no trains therefore there would be no trains). Dad said no, the blind curve to the west would prevent us from seeing anything coming until it was too late and I should pull parallel with the tracks.  So I did that.

Enlargement of the circled area
I had just pulled the truck up onto the road and was running east, parallel to and about 6 feet from the tracks, when a freight from the west went past my ear at 100 kmph.


  1. YIKES! That's a major adrenaline rush. Thank goodness for dads who think ahead. (And thank you for the mention!) :-)

  2. Always listen to your father. He may not know everything, but he knows a lot more than you (and me).

  3. GOOD. LORD. Didn't Auntie Ev almost get stuck on a train track in an old truck once? Farming in Saskatchewan in dangerous business.

    1. I think your Uncle Ross also. Farming everywhere is a dangerous business. Carelessness, stupidity and exhaustion combine with livestock and equipment to make a deadly mix.


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