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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Souris, Manitoba, when everyone moved away

Date: 06/10/19 09:31
Souris, Manitoba, when everyone moved away
Author: eminence_grise

On a beautiful summer morning in 1976, the substantial Canadian Pacific station and yard are strangely quiet and empty.

Herewith a tale of how that came to be.

In the 1950's and 60's, most crew bases on both CP and CN had their own small seniority districts, jealously guarded by local chairmen of the BRT, BLF&E and BLE.

The 1960's saw the beginning of line closures on both railways, as highways and airline travel took away railway traffic.

In the US, similar changes were taking place. In an effort to revitalize the operating trades unions, a merger was proposed between the BRT,SUNA,and the BLF&E. In 1971, the United Transportation Union was created out of the merged unions. In Canada, it was rumoured that under the new UTU contracts, there would be much larger seniority districts and seniority rules.

The management of both CP and CN of course got wind of the proposed changes.

They wished to eliminate a number of crew bases before the new rules came into effect.

N.R.Crump , CEO of the CPR made an announcement that on a certain date in 1966, the crew base at Trenton, Ontario would close and the train crew members employed there would be dismissed. Their seniority district included just Trenton.  There were logical reasons for eliminating Trenton, as it involved a short main line run on fast track.

However, the concept of simply dismissing the operating employees didn't sit well with the several thousand other operating employees on CP and CN across Canada. The CN had decided that if CP was going to extend runs, they would too.

Crump's "line in the sand" date for closure of Trenton came, and he was as good as his word and let the employees go. By that date, he had announced several other crew bases that would be eliminated.

The train crews across Canada staged a three day "sick off" which massively disrupted train traffic and caught the attention of the Canadian Government.

The issue was temporarily defused when an arbitrator was appointed to study the issue.

The decision allowed the railways to eliminate Trenton and several other crew bases which were the subject of the dispute, however the railways would relocate as many of the displaced employees as possible to other locations at the expense of the railway.

Any further crew base location closures would be negotiated with the unions, and the arbitrator set out amounts and types of compensations for the displaced employees.

I believe Souris was one of the locations in the initial dispute. In the case of this branch line operating point, and in several other locations, CP did not outright eliminate Souris, but relocated most of the runs to other terminals. Hence, the single locomotive and caboose beside the steam era sand tower. CP had left a single crew at Souris to get around the arbitrators decision. They did pay several locomotive firemen to relocate which was a provision of an earlier arbitration eliminating firemen.

In 1976, the only person on duty in that big station was the operator. The yard office staff and train dispatchers had been eliminated.

The arbitrators decision from the 1960's meant that few interdivisional runs took place on CP and CN for the next few decades. Finally in the 1990's, CN negotiated and arbitrated extended length runs . However, the original arbitration still applied and the amount of compensation for relocation were updated.

When the UTU was created in 1971, much larger seniority districts were created as a result of the Trenton arbitration.

I worked for the CPR in BC with several operating employees who had relocated from Trenton and Souris and McAdam NB in the late 1960's. Although most had recieved moving expenses, they still had to sell houses at a loss. (Funny how realtors knew all about the issue).

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/10/19 09:34 by eminence_grise.

Date: 06/10/19 10:15
Re: Souris, Manitoba, when everyone moved away
Author: IC_2024

Well done and detailed story of a sad time in Canadian railroading — nice photo, too.
Phil, I just had a flashback... As a young kid in the 70’s, on summer vacation w/ my family at Minaki, ONT. I remember asking my dad if we could go down to the depot between our fishing time to watch trains. Well, we went down there and the old agent was the only one there: “Strike”, he said “ for a whole week!” I was really disappointed since I found out later that CN’s “Super Continental” would’ve been one of the trains I could’ve seen.
Your mention of that “3-day” strike brought back memories of that. I remember my dad telling me that Canadians were much more likely to strike since the government was socialist and set up differently than ours... Funny how things stick with you.

Date: 06/10/19 13:13
Re: Souris, Manitoba, when everyone moved away
Author: eminence_grise

Actually, staying at Minaki Lodge, you were very close to the source of the CN employees participation in this dispute.

Minaki Lodge was originally a railway owned fishing and hunting lodge on the CN main line in northern Ontario. Guests could travel by train from all over North America to this trackside lodge. It is in an area east of Winnipeg popular for weekend campers. Minaki was just one of several lodges on recreational lakes.

CN has created many more interdivisional runs (ELR's, extended length runs on CN).

What CN proposed was to run through Redditt ON, which was a crew change location between Sioux Lookout ON and Winnipeg MB. Redditt was not a home terminal, merely the location where freight crews from Sioux Lookout changed with freight crews from Winnipeg.

Again, CN CEO Gordon took his cue from CP CEO Crump, and chose to hammer this change through before new rules and contracts came about with the creation of the UTU.

The result was the same, the arbitrator allowed the extended length run through Redditt , and others to continue .

However, there was an interesting side issue which was allowed to continue for several more years until it was arbitrated also.

Both CP and CN had seperate eastern and western collective agreements, and on the CN, the dividing line was Redditt.
A provision in those agreements was that any crew operating between Eastern and Western regions collected a 100 mile bonus.
For several years, the Winnipeg-Sioux Lookout was a high seniority job because of the free 100 miles.

The CN created huge seniority districts for train crews, and changed the location which was the dividing line between seniority districts.
Today, most main line freight runs are extended length, with the work shared between the crew bases at the end of each run.

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 06/11/19 06:50 by eminence_grise.

Date: 06/11/19 14:19
Re: Souris, Manitoba, when everyone moved away
Author: alamedafrank

Do you mean the POSITIONS would be eliminated rather than the employes dismissed? Frank

Date: 06/11/19 17:41
Re: Souris, Manitoba, when everyone moved away
Author: eminence_grise

alamedafrank Wrote:
> Do you mean the POSITIONS would be eliminated
> rather than the employes dismissed? Frank

I believe Trenton ON train service employees only had seniority in Trenton. They could relocate on CP to other crew bases but with zero seniority.

At the local management level, displaced employees were helped to find work on CP, but not financially.

On another forum, I am discovering that Souris died a lingering death as a crew terminal, with fewer and fewer trains operating out of there.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/11/19 17:49 by eminence_grise.

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