From the Archives

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Photo: Courtesy of Galt Museum & Archives

What was the “Frog Shop”? 

a. A place that housed amphibians?
b. Canadian Pacific Rails shop for making track components?
c. An old convenience and grocery store?

If you guessed “b” you’re right! 

Sign, “Frog Shop”, 1992–2002

This sign formerly hung on a shop door at the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) yard in Kipp, Alberta. The sign was collected by CPR employee John Sumption, who was laid off from the yard’s “Frog Shop” in 2002.  According to Sumption, a frog is “a track appliance that is a portion of a [rail] switch…the portion which is immobile and allows a train to travel on both the mainline and the diverging track.”

Sumption began working seasonally for the CPR in 1975. By 1992, he had a job at the railway’s new regional yard at Kipp, in its Frog Shop. Coming from a seasonal work crew, his new full-time, permanent job was a step in the right direction; however, while the work environment in the new shop was light years ahead of the old one in Lethbridge, the new shop still wasn’t a nice place to work.

“It was very dusty, very noisy, and despite a relatively decent welding fume ventilation system, it wasn’t a good place to be. In the course of reading the MSDS [Material Safety Data Sheet] on the welding wire and the welding rod we used… I saw that the welding rod manufacturer suggested that people have annual blood tests to determine their blood levels of heavy metals, in particular manganese,” recalled Sumption.

Manganism, an excess level of Manganese in the body, presents itself as Parkinson’s disease without actually having Parkinson’s disease. Consequently, Sumption and his peers spent two days in Calgary, received MRIs, blood tests, and thereafter were regularly subjected to urine tests.

The railway responded by improving the shop’s ventilation, the dust capture system was improved for grinding procedures and shop employees began to wear power-purified air respirators. The shop’s work environment had become safer.  And then the CPR closed the Kipp yard frog shop—the last surviving example in Canada. “There are those who would tell you that the shop was closed because of [safety]. In fact, it was at a time when there was a prevalent business ideology to shrink [costs],” concluded Sumption.

Collection of the Galt Museum & Archives, P20160008002

 

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