Stories and photos
by KEN EMMOND
The Moose Jaw Division is perched on the western edge of the Prairie Region, but it is squarely in the middle of western Canada's agricultural economy.
The division's trains roam the length and breadth of the territory, distributing and picking up grain cars at dozens of hamlets.
In most of these towns and villages, grain farming is the key industry and the flow of wheat, barley, and rape seed to the terminals at Thunder Bay and Vancouver is the lifeblood of the community.
HUB OF ACTIVITY
To provide service for the farmers of south central and south-western Saskatchewan, CP Rail has 1,874 miles (3,016 kilometres) of track on 22 sub-divisions, more track than in any other division.
At the hub of this activity is Moose Jaw, a city of 35,000 that, with 850 of the division's 1,300 employees, and one of the largest marshalling yards in the West, is a quintessential railway town.
Not only is the railway the largest employer in Moose Jaw, it has spawned a community of about 250 retired railroaders, who meet regularly at the depot and maintain an active organization.
Moose Jaw is the area's pivotal point in the transportation of grain.
During the "busy season", that is, the eight months from April to December when the Thunder Bay port is open, three to four grain trains are put together here every day. Some of these trains head east to Thunder Bay, but a growing proportion of them are bound for the west coast port of Vancouver.
From January to April, only a couple of trains are put together each day, one each for the west and for the east.
As the size of the Saskatchewan grain crop continues to grow throughout the 1980s, grain movements in the Moose Jaw Division can be expected to expand in lock-step.
Vital though it is to the economic activity of southern Saskatchewan, grain movement is not the only important transportation activity in the division.
About 100 cars of sodium sulphate, or saltcake, moves east, west, and south each week, potash, propane, and butane, livestock, fertilizers, lumber, anhydrous ammonia, sulphur, and steel are also important commodities.
An average of two trains a day move southeast to the United States border at North Portal, Saskatchewan., where the CP Rail line interconnects with the Soo Line that operates in the heart of the American mid-west.
Cutting through the spider's web of branch lines are 245 miles (394 kilometres) of main line track that penetrates the eastern frontier of the division at Broadview, and goes west through Regina, Moose Jaw, Swift Current, and beyond into the Pacific Region.
While the Moose Jaw marshalling center is clearly the most important in the division, much of the industrial movement originates in or near Regina.
That's why the district sales office is located at Regina, where sales manager Jack Matlock and his staff can conveniently call on existing customers and seek out new ones.
Despite the downturn in the economy, the sales staff remains busy as they seek out new business.
"It's an exciting time to be in sales right now," said Mr. Matlock. "The reason is we are looking at opportunities that we wouldn't have in the past."
Customers include the Interprovincial Steel Company steel pipe operation, the Pittsburgh Plate Glass potash mine at Kalium, and the various agriculture implement manufacturers. Smaller cargoes are generally handled by piggyback truck operations and pool traffic.
Grain movements also play an important role in Regina activities.
Most Regina grain cars are marshalled on the eastern side of town from sub-divisions to the north, then integrated with east-bound trains that originate in Moose Jaw.