I Love the Smell of Fuel Oil in the Morning Memories of CPR’s Revelstoke Shops

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“Napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of napalm in the morning ... The whole hill. Smelled like ... victory. Someday this war’s gonna end.”

Apocalypse Now (1979)
Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore (Robert Duvall)

Then off he goes, the officer who loves making war and regrets its inevitable conclusion.

The former CPR shops in my hometown of Revelstoke are like that for me. I worked there two summers as a university student in the early 1970s. I was a hostler’s helper – helping fuel and sand locomotives, assembling them into consists, and positioning them for outbound crews. On graveyard shifts, I loved watching the Columbia Valley lighten at dawn, hearing the occasional birds that sang in that industrial sinkhole, and strangely, smelling spilled diesel and its hot exhaust while I stood on 5500 (SD40) loco noses, guiding a flexible downpipe to fill their tanks with sand.

I wasn’t tempted to make railroading a career, and maybe only in reminiscence does the heart grow fonder.

Still, I’m glad to tell you a bit what the historic railway shops at Revelstoke were once like.

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