Employee Profile: Robert Corfield
Manager, Car Loading Rules
Robert Corfield’s family immigrated to Canada from Shropshire, England in 1959. And he’s seen more of the country than many people born here.
The third of six siblings, Robert came of age in Montréal. Then, 10 years after moving to Canada, the family went west to Vancouver.
After working at CN Telegraph as a groundman (working his way up to lineman) in northern British Columbia, Robert moved back Burnaby, applied, and was hired by CN as a car mechanic apprentice in June of 1969.
Robert started in management shortly after coming out of his time at Port Mann. To further his career, he moved his family to Prince George – a smaller terminal than Vancouver. There, he got to do everything that the smaller terminal offered.
“It was a great learning experience,” says Robert. “Beside the everyday challenges of a shift supervisor, there were other opportunities such as wrecking (clearing derailments), dangerous goods response, and dimensional loading where he got to work with customers. These extra duties gave him an entirely different view of his responsibilities within the railroad.”
He and his wife Margaret moved their four children to Edmonton as, even then, housing affordability was a concern in Vancouver – where his career would have otherwise taken him next. On the Prairies, the family settled into St. Albert. (The nearby West Edmonton Mall, and all it offers, was a frequent draw for Robert’s wife and four daughters.)
After two years of working in Edmonton’s planning department (for the same respected manager he had worked with in Port Mann), Robert and the Corfield clan were on the move again. Robert went back to Port Mann, ultimately as dangerous goods officer.
Robert credits CN with excellent professional opportunities, and Margaret with “stubborn” endurance. “She never got fed up with me and our moves. We used to boast about being mortgage poor,” he says with a chuckle.
It was as a mechanical supervisor that Robert would hone the car-loading skills that would ultimately serve others across the country.
Since 1998, Robert has been RAC’s resident car-loading expert seconded from CN. He teaches, trains, and troubleshoots for members from coast to coast. He’s developed training courses for loaders and others at mills and reload centres. He’s equally comfortable sitting across boardroom tables from Transport Canada.
“Almost everything around a railway is unforgiving. Everything is big and heavy; you don’t usually get a second chance if something goes wrong. If you do, you may be missing a finger or a limb. So, safety must come first. And that’s really the base of everything we teach,” says Robert – fully serious.
Robert is also seriously passionate about his two vintage cars: a 1960 Austin Healey he calls “Fergie” and an E-type Jaguar he’s named “Just Blue.”
When not behind the wheel, you might find him mountain biking through the bush or flying one of his dozen or so remote-controlled planes. (Fifteen minutes of piloting, he says, is enough to get through any bad day.
When the toys are put away, he and Margaret might settle in for a Bond movie. Though they also like sci-fi and comedies.
The couple are looking forward to end of COVID-imposed travel restrictions, and a possible return to one of their favourite international destinations, New Zealand. Some 51-years on, the couple is still on the move.
Find out more about other RAC Staff Members.