Blue Water Healthy Living
Faith

Rare Bear: THE DEATH OF STEAM

By Rev. C.J. Barry Kentner

It is hard to believe that the fuel which powers gasoline engines could once be purchased for as little as a nickel for an Imperial gallon… which is 4.4 liters. In those days, steam and electricity drove the wheels of industry, and steam engines were the main mode of long-distance hauling, as well as traveling. 

For short hauls, “way freights” carried local produce and manufactured items to the larger depots, where the cargo was assigned to big trains that carried them between the major centers of commerce. These “way freights” also carried a variety of passengers such as “drummers”  or salesmen, lawyers and other people who had a business in the communities scattered along the way. Yes, many lawyers had offices where they handled clients once or twice a week. Drummers would complete their business in one community, stay overnight, and then move on to the next community, and the next and the next.

I rode the ‘milk run’ which was the first train of the day, on numerous occasions during the mid-1950s. As I traveled from Chatham to Owen Sound Ontario, I would leave Chatham about 2:30 AM on the East Bound Canadian National, and four hours later I would leave the train at Oakville, Ontario.  I would then wait another hour until the “way freight” was ready to leave for Owen Sound. The route was North along the Credit River, and the fringe of the Niagara Escarpment…a six-hour ride to Owen Sound, with stops at not only every station but milk and fruit stands on the way as well.

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I knew the age of steam was drawing to a close…as diesel locomotives and trucks were becoming more and more popular.  On top of that, foundations were now being dug by backhoes and even the farms were no longer using steam engines for threshing and other chores, as tractors became more popular.

However, I was not prepared for a rare treat that crossed my desk in 1960.  The Northern Route of the Canadian National Railway had scheduled a number of Steam locomotives to be scrapped.  On an  April Day in l960, I accompanied a London Free Press reporter to a quarry at Innerkip, just North of Woodstock Ontario.  There were about ten locomotives, lined up one behind the other, awaiting the scrapper’s torch.  During the next few weeks, I visited the quarry several times.  It was fascinating, but also very sad to see such an important part of history cut to pieces.


There were many colorful figures along the railway routes of the l930’s. Some of them were police….railway and municipal, and others were hoboes, or worse.  One of them was a legend;  a railroad policeman named Capreol Red.

THE BALLAD OF CAPREOL RED

He was six feet tall, and heavy,
And topped with bright red hair.
A railroad cop of the thirties
With an “I’m gonna get you…” air.
He worked out of Capreol
During the great depression,
But East and West of Ontario
He had a reputation
In the boxcars, filled with hungry men
You’d hear a lot of tales…
There was a lot of time to spare
When you rode the “rods ‘n rails”
But even the talk in the lumber camps
Could fill your heart with dread;
Invariably, conversation turned
To mean old Capreol Red.
Now, you may ask “What of it?”
“Surely the man is dead!”
Well, so little has been written down
When all is done…and said.
Here’s a Canadian Legend
Who lived, and worked and died.
A “rough and tumble rounder”
With a heart of gold inside.
See…Red would take you off the train,
And cart you off to jail,
But I’ve been told,
Next morning
He’d come round and pay your bail

Rev. C.J.Barry Kentner


Barry was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1935 and schooled to Grade 10, but continued educational pursuits until age 65 when he graduated from Open Word Bible College. He started working for Spitzer and Mills advertising in 1952, then moved to the Broadcast arena where for 62 years he was News Director and Talk Show Host at several Canadian Radio Stations. He was one of 5 consultants who managed to lobby for Christian Radio in Canada, and in the last five years before retirement, he was News Director of Canadian Altar.Net News, a network of 25 Christian Radio Stations across Canada from Charlottetown PEI to Campbell River BC.
Barry Kentner is a semi-retired pastor.

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