After Wednesday’s hangout with Taylor, Chris and David I was feeling pretty pumped about the direction of things.
That feeling was only amplified after a Saturday afternoon spent in New Brunswick operating on Doug Devine’s Island Central Railway and Steve McMullin’s Carelton railway.
Even though we we’re very much in the dead of winter here on Prince Edward Island, spring was definitely in the air this Sunday afternoon. I couldn’t resist making the first of what is likely to be many visits to the prototype location.
I can look at photos all day but to catch onto the feeling of the layout I really needed to get out to Vernon River its self and get an idea of how the land lays in 1:1.
Instead of photos, I thought it would be easier to just make a short video which you can find right here:
I will return when the snow melts and again in the summer. I plan to take many photos of the right of way, trees, buildings, farmers fields and farm roads in the area to get a good idea of how I’ll model them.
Taylor, David, Chris and myself got together in Taylor’s shop on a Wednesday evening and laid the paper plan out on the modules. It was nice to have some knowledgable friends on hand to help me properly orient the plan and decide where the staging cassettes would go.
Of course, with a huge plan on the table we just had to put some cars and switches on it to give it a bit of a “look” test.
Chris admires Taylor’s True-Line boxcars on the Vernon River public siding.
Chris and I study the 1958 air photo as we put some #8 switches over the track plan.
Seeing this plan come to life is so exciting. I was really excited to see the track plan on the modules, but I got even more excited after I saw the track plan with the cars on top of it.
A lot of work lies ahead but I feel really great about how it’s all coming together. This layout really is going to be more than a nice thought, this is really happening.
I will have the paper plan reprinted to include the high-res 1958 air photo I purchased from Natural Resources Canada, after that it will be time to finalize the orientation of the staging cassettes..which means road bed isn’t far off.
Hopefully next weekend Taylor and I will be able to finish off the benchwork.
Preliminary layout plan. The plan doesn’t show tree lines or service roads.
With most of the planning of the Vernon River layout complete, or at least on the way to completion, I felt confident that it was safe timing to get some benchwork built.
Given the likelihood of a move in the not so distant future I applied the TOMA concept and based my track plan on two 2.5ft x 6ft modules and two 6in x 5ft single track removable staging cassettes- one for each end. The fully sceniced staging cassettes will use bolts and tee nuts to securely connect them to each end of the layout.
This modular setup not only allows me to easily move the layout when moving time comes; it will also allow for easier layout expansion once I have a house with a layout room. A little forethought now will hopefully suppress future tears.
It’s also important to note that the full 12ft of layout will allow me model the village with almost no compression at all aside from the neglecting of the curve of the track. There is one small potato warehouse that will be slightly cut off of the layouts edge. This provides an interesting opportunity to model the building as a cross-section. From behind the building, you’ll be able to see directly inside to a potato filled warehouse. From the front, all you’ll see is the exterior.
Taylor Main had previously offered me his help in anything benchwork related, so this past Saturday I took him up on that. We met and Kent, picked up the supplies needed, headed back to his basement workshop and got to work.
We made great progress- all that remains to be completed is the legs and the installation of 1″ foam. The foam will be recessed level with the top of the modules. We’ve made plans to complete the modules this coming Sunday.
In my previous post I used newspaper archives to determine and describe the types of traffic I thought Vernon River would normally see.
My goal is now to not only determine the amount of freight traffic Vernon River would see but to also determine the average train length, loads and percentage of originating vs terminating traffic on the Murray Harbor subdivision as a whole. Having these statistics will allow me to accurately model the car movement both through and at Vernon River.
This info is important for a few reasons, but mainly I need to be able to:
Determine in general terms the amount of switching moves per operating session
Determine to the average train length through Vernon River
Determine the usual ratio of originating to terminating cars
Use the above information to figure out how long the single track staging cassette will need to be on each side of the layout.
With the new Drive-By Truckers record on in the background, into the rabbit hole I went.
In my files I found a summary written by Shawn Naylor of a freight report CN completed in the early 1960s. Apparently this report was prepared to propose reductions in PEI’s rail service. In the report CN used carload data from the mid to late 1950s which makes it super conveniently accurate for my layout’s era.
Below I’ve created a spreadsheet of carload data as it applies to the Lake Verde, Vernon [Loop] and Murray Harbor subdivisions from this summary (the same mixed train #240N / #209S served these subdivisions.)
1958 Daily Carload Data: Lake Verde, Vernon [Loop], Murray Harbor Subdivisions
ORIGINATING CARLOAD / DAY
TERMINATING CARLOAD / DAY
Other Lake Verde, Vernon and Murray Harbor Subdivision Stations
If you’re not familiar with island railroading it’s important to note that “Vernon” and “Vernon River” are two different locations. I’ve marked Vernon with [Loop] to make it less confusing.
Using the numbers on the chart it would be fair to say the average train could include around five freight cars- a pretty low key operation. Most photos I’ve seen reinforce this, showing on average zero – three freight cars plus the baggage and coach car. [With a train so small I should be able to get away with a 5ft staging cassette on each side of the layout]. Obviously not all of these cars would be destined for Vernon River. In fact, it probably wasn’t a daily occurrence that anything would even be switched there. For the sake of fun, my layout will only operate on days where there is an originating or terminating load for Vernon River.
Knowing the average train length I now need to know what types of freight we’d see on that train. Naylor’s summary includes traffic types for the Murray Harbor, Lake Verde and Vernon [Loop] subdivisions but the figures are irrevocably lumped together with the Montague and Georgetown subdivisons. I can live with that though- the Montague and Georgetown subdivisions would have seen pretty similar types of traffic. It shouldn’t distort our reality too much.
1958 Originating vs Terminating Carloads: Murray Harbor, Vernon [Loop] & Lake Verde Subdivisions:
Originating Carloads: 67%
Terminating Carloads: 33%
1958 Originating Carloads: Murray Harbor, Vernon [Loop], Lake Verde, Montague and Georgetown Subdivisions:
Livestock: 1% (Aprox 13 carloads per year)
1958 Terminating Carloads: Murray Harbor, Vernon [Loop], Lake Verde, Montague and Georgetown Subdivisions:
Sand and Gravel: 27%
Coal and Coke: 3% (Aprox 30 carloads per year)
Animal Feed: 2% (Aprox 27 carloads per year)
Petrol Products: 1% (Aprox 9 carloads per year)
In Naylor’s summary is it said that a contributing factor to PEI’s high operating costs was the need to use different cars for originating and terminating traffic; cars used to import things to the Island tended to leave empty. As such, local moves will range from very rare to non-existent on this layout.
With these statistics I now have a great foundation to base my layouts operations around. Even though I’m only modelling a single village, I think its important to consider the subdivision as a whole in order to serve my chosen village accurately.
Now I just need to figure out how to work these averages and percentages into a car card system…
With a prototype chosen it was time to dive a little further into my research.
My first goal was to figure out the types of freight traffic the village would see in a broad sense and not just my chosen era; after having that information I could then, through logic and evidence, figure out what would be applicable to my era.
One of the primary tools for the research job was islandnewspapers.ca. – “a fully-searchable online archive of PEI’s main newspaper of record, The Guardian, from 1890 to 1957.” This archive along with a document by Shawn Naylor that Steve Hunter passed to me a few years ago provided me with a wealth of information.
June 11 1948 / Guardian of the Gulf
April 23 1948 – Guardian of the Gulf
April 15 1948 / Guardian of the Gulf
July 25 1947 / Guardian of the Gulf
December 10 1945 / Guardian of the Gulf
September 11 1930 / Charlottetown Guardian
March 22 1921 / Charlottetown Guardian
November 18 1919 / Charlottetown Guardian
October 22 1917 / Charlottetown Guardian
What I found was that Vernon River received quite a few different commodities ranging from general merchandise to mussel mud. Its main exports would have been produce (potatoes likely being the majority of this) and livestock (mainly hogs).
I have compiled the following list of inbound and outbound traffic. Everything listed is based upon direct evidence (unless marked with a “*” or “**”) found in newspaper archives or in Naylor’s document.
Produce (Potatoes, Turnips and other crops)
Livestock (mainly hogs but also cattle)
Finished Wood (*) (not likely in my era)
Fuel (**) (would oil and gasoline be pumped from tank cars into trucks to supply farmers with fuel?)
Coal (OCS and revenue)
Mussel Mud (not likely in my era)
(*) Outbound loads of finished wood is a assumption at this point and only that. This is based on the existence of a saw mill about half a km away from the station. While I have not found any evidence to back up this assumption I don’t think it would be much of a stretch to consider them using the public siding to ship finished wood at some point. I have not found much information on the saw mill and it’s hard to tell in my air photos if it exists in a operational capacity in my era. (**) There is no evidence I have found of fuel being received at Vernon River. Would it be possible that fuel would be pumped from a tank car into a truck to deliver to farmers? The farmers had to get it somehow and even still by the late 1950s not all of the roads east of Charlottetown had been paved. I am genuinely not sure how this worked.
Based upon the list above its easy to imagine the types of rolling stock the village would have received, namely lots of reefers, boxcars and stock cars.
Next time I will delve into the research of the daily amount of carloads both originating and terminating (along with their types) to try to get a sense of what a switching job at Vernon River consisted of.
Hello and welcome to my brand new blog. This blog will document the research, planning and the eventual construction of this model railway.
After researching manny different Island prototypes (Cardigan, Charlottetown waterfront and Murray Harbor to name a few), I have settled on modelling Vernon River for my modular switching layout.
Here are a few points that helped me settle on Vernon River:
Vernon River scales out perfectly for a module. Switch to switch the village scales out to just under 6ft long. Measured across it comes in at about 2.25ft. This means I can model the railway buildings, track and landscaping with absolutely no compression while still having a 8 car public siding and a 3 car CO-OP warehouse siding. A prototype so small also affords me the option to have staging on both sides of the module. This should be more than enough to keep me entertained.
Only three switches and six or seven buildings means I can really take the time super detail the entire scene without getting totally hung up on the research (which is classic me.) I could hand lay every piece of track and scratch build every building if I wanted without having bit off way to much. It’s manageable.
Vernon River while small offers a lot of different types of traffic. Some examples of equipment that would be appropriate for this c.1958 prototype would include: reefer cars, stock cars, flat cars, coal cars, boxcars, boxcars with grain doors and potentially even the odd tank car.
Vernon River still had mixed train service in this era- hauled either by a GE 44 Tonner still in it’s black steam era paint scheme or by one or two GE 70 Tonners in the classic CNR green and gold scheme.
Stay tuned as I post my research and start to dig further into this awesome prototype.
Telling the stories of the history of the port of Charlottetown and the marine heritage of Northumberland Strait on Canada's East Coast. Winner of the Heritage Award from the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation and a Heritage Preservation Award from the City of Charlottetown