Tom Pyper’s life on the South Saskatchewan Pipeline

Red Deer man looks back on his time working on the Cantuar pump station

With the current controversy over the Kinder Morgan Pipeline, a local retired man reflects on his time working on a pipeline in the 1950s.

Sitting in his living room flipping through his large scrapbook of photos from his days on the South Saskatchewan Pipeline, Tom Pyper’s mind is sharp with memories of that time.

Pyper worked on the South Saskatchewan Pipeline – Cantuar being the name of the pump station – for 14 years.

“They were huge things, 18,000 barrels,” said Pyper.

Born in Holland, one of his friends at the time mentioned they were starting a pipeline, and in 1955 Pyper set off on his journey, working his first year on what they called an ‘oiler,’ someone who took a sample of how much crude oil there was.

Because of his experience working with diesels from his time on a ship, Pyper was good at what he did.

He later became a junior operator a few years later, and then went on to being a senior operator for the remainder of his time.

When it came to spills, Pyper said he never experienced them, except for inside the ship.

The foreman at the time forgot to close the main valve to a 1,200-lb pressure line, and so due to the loosened gland of plunger, crude oil gushed out, causing a big leak inside the pump room.

You could say Pyper was a little dirty after that.

“I cleaned myself as good as I could, and when I got home my son said, ‘Who is this guy?’” Pyper said with a laugh.

With the constant discussion on today’s current situation with the Kinder Morgan Pipeline, Pyper said he isn’t concerned about there being any spills.

“There is no more danger than there was before.”

The official opening of the Cantuar pump station was in 1955, a time Pyper will never forget.

At that time, no one had a camera to capture the moments, except for of course Pyper’s wife Margaret, who took many photos, which are now displayed in a bounded binder sitting atop Pyper’s shelf in his retirement home.

Making $2.25 an hour, a pay considered good at the time, Pyper often worked in shifts.

It was either 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. or 12 to 8 p.m.

He said he often enjoyed his shifts as they allowed him to have that work-life balance with his wife, children and their animals on their piece of land.

After the pump station shut down, Pyper was later invited to the 40th anniversary party of his time on the Cantuar pump station in 1993.

At this time the pipeline was electric, and was done out of Edmonton.

With a bounded book of photos and news clippings, Pyper will always remember his time spent on the pipeline.

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