CN Charlottetown – May 1973 switchlist notes

I’ve mentioned these scribblers of car notes before and thought I’d scan one in as a sample to share on here. This is a scan of the last page of my scribbler and includes notes from May 9 and 10, 1973. I don’t know the story behind these scribblers but always assumed they were written by switchman (conductors?) while the cars were being placed. Note that these are only reefers and the page includes notes about temperatures, etc. What I find so fascinating is that these scribblers show car movements on particular days. I am planning a database to capture these car movements in the same level of detail. When done I am hoping this will help to populate a picture that illustrates what cars were common on PEI – we all know that during the potato harvest CN would lease very large numbers of refrigerator cars from American leasing companies (e.g. NRC, ART, MDT, etc.) but this also would illustrate the proportion. I’m also excited to find the anomolies in this mix. I’ve seen CN express reefers in these books and wonder what else is waiting inside.

Not only do these pages show how many cars were switched into what specific sidings but we also see what cars arrived and left on what trains. This page shows an entry for train 702. It should be possible to trace a car, for example:

  1. a car that arrives on the 701
  2. car is switched to a known, based on the scribbler, location
  3. how long it takes to load
  4. where it goes next
  5. when it leaves on which 702

Should be interseting. Once all the scribblers have been entered I will also be entering the Perishable Protective Records as well to extend the reach of the model for roster information. I’ll bring in car numbers from photographs too. The end product should be a great cross section across the Island’s freight railroad operations.



  1. Hi Chris,

    Love this stuff. Often overlooked by motive power-obsessed railfans!

    Great information, and I look forward to seeing what you make available. I wonder if this book is more station-related than train-related. In other words, I wonder if these are records kept by a station agent or car checker, who’d be sent out to record which cars were on which track. I would think train crews would work with a switchlist.

    Anyway, keep posting. I often saw the 40-foot reefers heading west on CN’s Kingston Sub.

    1. Thanks Eric. I really appreciate the feedback. While driving this weekend I was thinking about the origin of these notebooks and it makes sense that these would have been the notebooks kept by perhaps a someone like you’ve mentioned. The only cars recorded in these scribblers are refrigerator cars and the notes reflect the nature of their commodity (load time, temperature, etc.). This kind of research is, for me, a way of understanding a great railway system that was mostly gone by the time I started to get involved with it. I really enjoy the subject matter and this brings in my professional skills to document and track these car movements like this – I’m hoping this all helps me to understand what the railway looked like then and how better to represent it in model form. Thanks again.

  2. Great find, Chris – I remember seeing long trains of MDT & REA cars going through Moncton on their way to the Island. Will be great to be able to track their cycle time.

    Also, like many of us, I love those PFE reefers. I’ve bought the books, collected info on modelling them, etc etc, but I’ve never been really sure which types & models came through the Maritimes. Now I’ll be able to, thanks to you.

    1. Thanks Ian. Another great resource for reefer data was Blair Koostra’s Walla Walla Valley Railway website. Sadly it looks like his site is down and with it went some really great data. He was tracking reefer movements carrying fruit but the relationship between leasing companies et al. is really similar to what we had here. I’m really excited to get this database up and running on what I can piece together on PEI’s leased reefer fleet. I think we’ll discover some really great stuff in there.

      The PFE cars.. I love ’em too. I got hooked reading all those great Robert Smaus articles in the 1980’s RMC magazines on converting them from Tyco and similar car kits. Those were some of the first kitbashing articles I tried out.

      As for modelling one great boon we will see soon is the Rapido wooden meat reefer. I’ve already found a pair of ART ones that made it to PEI in the seventies. The of course the TLT eight hatch will be a great find too. These are exciting times!

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