I’ve always approached real railways through an optic instilled in me gleaned from years of reading model railway magazines: sidings are for industries and hence this could be considered synonymous. Looking over this list I can see that this was simply not the case in 1974 on PEI.
Of the 344 sidings 115 of them were designated as Public Sidings which is almost a third of all the sidings listed. In most towns this siding was the only option in town. This observation becomes even more evident when we remove Charlottetown’s 78 sidings from the list and then Summerside’s 26. I don’t know much about the relationship between CN and the shipper but this ratio of public sidings to total sidings seems to imply that CN was really under a lot of pressure to satisfy the customer. Where we might assume that a factory built alongside a rail line would be a strong indicator of the strength of the relationship I wonder just how tenuous the relationship between shipper and carrier could be from season to season since there was nothing really to fix that relationship to. You do kind of start to see where CN’s challenge might be what with miles of railway to everywhere and the hope that someone might order a car to load. A challenge made all that much more expensive in cost since the car typically arrived light which translates into paying to move the car twice but only getting to bill for the one movement. I’m on the hunt now to meet or read about how farmers managed this relationship with the railway.
Of course the other side of the coin shows that a siding existed to load at in almost every town CN served on PEI. Considering the Island’s small size this should have translated into a great deal of flexibility in loading points to offer to the shipper and hopefully help to reduce their carriage costs to get the load from their point of origin to trackside. For the modeller this is just more track to switch cars at…great!
While keying all of these in I kept thinking about how everyone who remembers the railway on PEI reflects back on strings and strings of orange refrigerator cars lining the railway on the Island. Considering just how many places CN would have had to load them, it’s not hard to see why we think this. During the harvest I’d bet that you wouldn’t have too many stretches where your train wasn’t running in front of a backdrop of reefers.