Learning the lay of the land:

I decided to begin my research on Vernon River by first digging into the type of freight traffic the village would typically 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 1950s, Vernon River had two potato warehouses along the public siding and a CO-OP Warehouse with its dedicated three-car siding. These buildings, by their nature, would generate a significant amount of reefer and boxcar traffic. Especially so leading up to the potato harvest, the railroad would have reefer cars staged pretty well wherever they could fit them island wide.

What was less evident 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. Compared to the 1958 photo, it is shown that sometime between 1935 and 1958, the stock pen was demolished. Considering the 1953 newspaper advertisement for Swift Canada loading hogs, which is the last livestock loading advertisement I could find for Vernon River, it is more likely that 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 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.

I plan to address other types of rail traffic Vernon River would receive in my next post.

Until then,
CM

Modelling Vernon River c.1958

Hello and welcome to my brand new blog. This blog will document this model railway’s research, planning, and eventual construction.

After researching many 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 scaling means I can model the railway buildings, track and landscaping with absolutely no compression while still having an eight-car public siding and a three-car CO-OP warehouse siding. A small prototype 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 mean I can take the time to super detail the entire scene without getting 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 bitten off way too much. It’s manageable.
  • Vernon River, while small, offers a lot of different types of traffic. Some examples of equipment 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 its 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 dig further into this great prototype.

-CM