Steam Train Shovel Breakfasts

Steam Train Shovel Breakfasts

Steam Train Shovel Breakfasts
My dad Connie was only five foot five inches but he was solid built like a bull dog. He did some boxing as hobby but later realized that yelling and acting real angry got the message across better and without battle scars. My dad did not drive and if you were the person who stopped to help my dad always carrying grocery items, he would promise them some of his prepared food at the end of the day which also meant he would bag a ride to the station or better yet home.
I remember there were a lot of single men who would do this just to get some of his cooking on a regular basis. Most of these fellows my dad new by name and I got to know over the next years. Arriving from Hespeler in tow with my dad this is how a typical morning at the Iroquois Hotel started and it was just getting seven am. We arrived at the alley behind the hotel which was shadowed by the Newlands Textile Mill where my mother worked 3 shifts.  At the head of the alley stood the rows of stationary steam trains in the shuttle yards next to Mill creek.
I loved watching those monstrous steaming and hissing beasts while they were getting their first lube and inspection of the day. My dad would pack the trainmen box lunches and supply breakfast fixing under contract with the hotel. The firemen were stoking the boilers and were waiting delivery of some bacon and fresh eggs to make breakfast with on that wide and deep coal polished shovel. The first time I saw how this was done I imagined that’s how all bacon and eggs were made for train men. I watched the fire man place several thick slices of bacon laid out on the shovel blade surface and the back held it up to the intense heat inside the glowing fire box. Instantly the bacon started to hiss and spit and the grease started to pool in the deep corners of this train man’s mock frying pan. I stood there motionless watching this long lost way of making breakfast. He turned the bacon over and tipped the shovel and the fat went whoosh into a big fire ball. My interest now was so acute I clenched my fists and looked on without a blink at every move this man was doing. He looked over at me and winked and said that will bring the guys here. In his next move he set the sizzling shovel on the entrance door ledge and cracked half dozen eggs into the remaining bacon grease. While these were frying he hung a few pieces of bread on a coat hanger and held them in front of the boiler fire and presto they were toasted to perfection. Sure enough out of nowhere the train workers and switchmen appeared all standing at the engines cab steps holding a clean hanky or a metal pie plate. What brought them running was the smell of fried bacon filling the air throughout the rail yard. I didn’t realize back then I was witnessing Pavlov’s law in the raw. The shovel now became a serving tray as he masterfully placed slices of bacon on one half of the bread topped with all most perfect fried egg. Using the handle like how it was meant to function he stuck it out side the cab where the work men each grabbed one and carried on with the chores at hand.
Since then I have used shovels to cook with on trail rides, camping and remote guided rafting ,hunting and fishing tours as a outfitters cook. I used shovels in food manufacturing when I had to get big amounts of rice, flour grains and food stuffs to fill the industrial size mixers and choppers. I had the genius to use 19 snow shovels to mix and form a 12,440 egg world’s largest omelets for the Guinness World Record back in 1979.
The Retro Kitchenman