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.
The car siding is now attached to the car’s core. .005 corner bracing and Grandt Line door hardware added.
After finally having some time to clean up my workbench I was able to continue with my scratch-build of CN’s 40′ Wood End Bunker Reefers.
Using a nibbler, I began by cutting the doors out of the car siding. I then glued the car siding to the body using a scale 6″ spacing jig I made to ensure a uniform 6″ of the core remained visible all along the bottom of the car. Since the car siding I used was .040″ I had to lay down a .020″ substrate into the door opening before I could install the framing. I framed the doors with 2×4″ HO scale Evergreen strip. 2×3″ HO scale strip was used for the eve above the door, 1×2″ HO scale strip was used to represent the gasket between the door and the doorframe and 2×10″ was used to represent the kicker plate below the door. The door its self was cut from .020″ Evergreen freight car siding. Grandt Line reefer hinges and door latches were used for the door hardware. I’m still waiting on a few Tichy detail parts that will complete the doors but they are about 90% finished.
Close-up of the Grandt-Line door hardware.
After I finished with the door, I decided next I would notch out the sections of the under frame required to fit the coupler pockets. I installed Smoky Mountain coupler pockets in the cut-outs. I’m still not totally sold on this and may revert to the “scale” coupler pockets that come with Kadee #178, they aren’t as nice at the Smoky Mountain pockets but come closer to the look of the prototype. I will revisit this once I finish the under frame.
A razor saw was used to cut through the frame. Much care was used to ensure I didn’t cut into the car siding. In hindsight it may have made more sense to cut these “notches” out before I installed the car siding over the core.
A exacto knife with a brand new #11 blade was used to score along the bottom of the car siding. I used a screw driver to snap the cut pieces back.
Next I added the corner bracing on both the car body and the visible portion of the under frame. To accomplish this I cut scale 10″,6″ and 3″ strips from .005 styrene. For each corner brace I gently folded the strip over its self and then used my photo etch pliers to complete the fold- this way I got a nice crisp and straight fold. Using my NWSL Chopper II (absolutely essential for this task unless you want to cry) I then cut eight 10×12″ corner braces for the bottom of the body, eight 6×5″ corner braces for the visible portion of the under frame and sixteen 3×12″ corner braces for the upper portion of the car body.
A NWSL Chopper II with the guide set to the proper length was used to ensure uniform cuts of the corner braces. The bent q-tip on the left was used to hold down the corner brace between the guide and the blade to ensure the corner brace didn’t move as it was cut.
A bunch of cut out corner braces. I always make extra and use the best ones.
Next time I’ll start into the under-frame of the car, beginning with the installation of the truck bolsters. I was going to scratch build the bolsters but the Tichy ones are pretty close and already sit the car at the proper height.
After the bolsters I’ll install the Z stringers and fishbelly. The stringers will be made from strip styrene, glued together to make a Z shape. The fish belly under-frame will be cut from sheet styrene of a thickness yet to be decided.
I have some tricks up my sleeve for the brake rigging and the roof is already on my mind as well.
I’m really happy with how this build is progressing and I am picking up a lot of new skills along the way.
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.
CN Wood End Bunker Reefer #208571 (Series 3). Photo: nakina.net
Some time ago Steve Hunter showed me photos of his beautifully finished Norwest Models CN Wood End Bunker Reefer kits. This planted the seed for a small obsession with these wooden reefers built between 1926 and 1932.
Knowing that I would eventually need a few of these cars to compliment my fleet of F&C and True Line 8 Hatch Reefers (which will be regulars at the Vernon River Co-op warehouse!) I searched high and low for years for even just one Norwest Kit, to no success.
Armed with general arrangement drawings sourced from the C. Robert Craig Memorial Library and a copy of Railroad Model Craftsman (June 2001) featuring Stafford Swain’s wonderful article on this prototype I set out to begin scratch building a pair.
I began the preliminary work on the project by sourcing decals from Black Cat Publishing, trucks from Tahoe Model Works, 3D printed underslung charcoal heaters and liquidometers from Shapeways and many of the other detail parts and styrene stock I would require to complete the build.
By studying the drawings I determined that it might prove easiest to build the car body in three layers. A inner core, a main core and finally an outer layer of Evergreen freight car siding. (All layers .040″)
The inner core would provide a solid foundation for the car’s floor to sit on which would be made from Evergreen V-Groove siding. This would be the main core to which the entire car would be built off of.
The main core’s purpose would be to simulate the 6 scale inches of steel under frame and would be cut 6 scale inches taller than the inner core to achieve this.
Finally, the outer layer of Evergreen freight car siding would be cut 6 scale inches shorter than the main core. The freight car siding would then be placed around the main core using a jig made from styrene to ensure a uniform 6 inches of the main core remained visible all the way around the model.
This view shows the three layers of the car body. The holes drilled in the core’s floor are there to flow glue into when the time comes to permanently install the car floor.
A view of the car bottom with the floor installed. The car floor totally hides the inner core when installed.
After constructing the inner and main cores, the next step was to cut the car siding to fit around the car body. Once I made the cuts I marked where the doors would be cut out. Using the previously mentioned jig I taped the siding to the car to test the look and to ensure everything lined up properly.
4 car sides made of Evergreen freight car siding cut and marked for their door openings.
This view shows what the siding will look like when finally glued to the car. This also shows the 6″ of the main core that represents the visible steel under frame of the prototype. Eventually Archer and Micromark rivet decals will be used to detail it.
The spacing jig I made to ensure a uniform 6″ of the main core remains visible all the way around the bottom of the car body.
Sitting on trucks just for fun, this car is starting to look a little less like a time consuming rectangle and more like a wooden reefer!
After a few failed attempts at cleanly cutting out the doors out of the car and subsequently having to cut out new sides I decided I needed a different approach.
Browsing around on a few different model railroading forums I came to the conclusion that a nibbler seems to be the way to go in regards to cutting square, clean doors (and windows) from sheet styrene when the standard #11 blade won’t do the job cleanly. With that knowledge I ordered one from Amazon and I should see it next week.
Sometimes I need to remind myself that it’s often best to tape a step back, take some time to plot the next move and then come back with a new approach and fresh mindset.
I hope to return to this build soon- when I finally have the door openings cut out and installed I will be able to turn my attention to the steel under frame.
I decided to begin my research on Vernon River by first digging into the type of freight traffic the village would normally see.
By far my favourite types of rolling stock to model are reefers, stock cars and tank cars: so I knew that whatever prototype I did choose would need to tick off most, if not all of those boxes.
As detailed in the PEI government’s 1958 air photos, by the late 1950’s Vernon River had two potato warehouses along the public siding and a CO-OP Warehouse with it’s own dedicated three car siding. Obviously, these buildings by their nature would generate a significant amount of reefer and boxcar traffic. Especially so leading up to the potato harvest in which case the railroad would have reefer cars staged pretty well wherever they could fit them Island wide.
What was less obvious to me about Vernon River was the amount, if any, livestock traffic the village received- let alone enough to have a stock pen on site.
A dig into UPEI’s newspaper archives located the following advertisements:
“Loading hogs for Canada Packers at Vernon River every Tuesday afternoon. Trucking where possible. Ralph Lea.” [March 25, 1948]
Swift Canadian Co. LTD loading hogs at Vernon River [Feb 1953]
BUYING HOGS— I will buy hogs at Vernon River Station on Thursday the 24th inst. Alex McMillan [March 22, 1921]
Indeed, referring back to the 1935 PEI air survey of Vernon River shows what appears to be a stock pen east of the station. Comparing to the 1958 photo shows that sometime between 1935 and 1958 the stock pen was demolished. If you take into account the 1953 newspaper advertisement for Swift Canada loading hogs- which is the last livestock loading advertisement I could find for Vernon River- to me it is more likely the stock pen was torn down sometime between 1953 and 1958.
For me, this isn’t a big deal. Since I loosely base my era on the late 50s I can justify to myself including this stock pen on the layout. Since no plans for the stock pen exist, I will use drawings my friend Chris Mears made of the stock pen at Millview for the basis of a stand in model.
In my next post I plan to address other types of rail traffic Vernon River would receive.
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