Schooners at Vernon Bridge

Okay, third post inspired by having read and re-read A. Byron Burns’ The Narrow Gauge Steam Railroad on Prince Edward Island this evening. I mentioned how some parts of the book really resonated so well with other puzzles about the railway I had been piecing together. Freight on the railway during it’s narrow gauge years is certainly a big interest of mine so tonight’s addition was really cool.

Burns talks about schooners docking at the wharf in Vernon Bridge. It’s hard to really imagine that today but then that’s such a major part of the fun you get to experience reading these books. Many of these schooners came from Nova Scotia and ports along the Northumberland coast. General merchandise was obviously key but the author mentions coal arriving at Vernon Bridge. I know coal was hauled on the railway but who sold it and where and how it was moved is still largely a mystery so it’s fun to add one more location to those where I feel more confident in assuming these loads would have originated from. I assume that most of the coal that landed at Vernon Bridge stayed in the village or was carted away to nearby destinations but I wonder how much was loaded across the road at the public siding by the station? How much of this landed cargo, in general, would have been similarly handled by the railway? Were loads billed to Vernon Bridge for transloading onto waiting schooners? This is certainly an interesting detail.

As it’s always hard for me to seperate my passion for researching the PEIR and model railway layout planning I started to reflect on traffic flow through this unique station. Vernon Bridge was actually a reverse loop design and had only one stub siding. I wonder how many loads were moved through this station and if there were ever times when the station was really full and more challenging to switch. If this congestion ever occourred would loads have been held or staged further up the line in Vernon River or even Lake Verde?

Categories: Narrow Gauge, PEIR in print, PEIR Murray Harbour Subdivision

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6 replies

  1. Chris, since you like CN and you’re really into narrow gauge, how come you haven’t tried to model the Newfoundland Railway, namely CN???

    • Boy I sure wish I had a great reason to reply to this but I’ve sure spent a lot of time thinking about it too. I’ve collected a pile of books on CN’s Newfoundland operations.

      While not CN, a very long time ago I built a pile of little TTn3.5 gondolas based on the ones run by the Anglo Newfoundland Railway and started some G8 shells.

      Some stock is already available in both TTn3.5 and Sn3.5 and it sure is tempting.

  2. While I’m a big fan of the 42″ gauge Newfoundland Railway, it’s important not to underestimate the PEIR in its narrow gauge years. It was just as interesting as the NR and to those of us with strong ties to PEI it’ll win out every time.

    I’ve often toyed with the thought of building a smallish Sn42″ exhibition layout centered around the PEIR’s Charlottetown yard and harbour area, in the 1905-1910 area after the great shop fire, construction of the new shops, roundhouse, and station, and extension of the yard further along the harbour. It would include the wharves, harbourfront industries, and marine traffic.

    My grandmother, who was a teenager living in Charlottetown at that time, often told me what a fascinating area the harbour was, and described the mass of sailing vessels as a “forest of masts”. Of course there were plenty of steamships in evidence by that time as well, but the point is that Charlottetown’s harbour was extremely busy and fascinating in those years.

    Luckily, common sense will prevail and I’m not likely ever to pursue this dream. It would suck up my available time, space, and funds like a sponge, and prevent progress on my HO standard gauge, October 1957 era layout representing the CNR’s eastern PEI branches.

    Even then, the railway exhibited a strong “narrow gauge” character, with its spindly rail, narrow right of way, sharp curves, and plenty of stations and structures from the narrow gauge years. Fascinating PEI architecture was evident everywhere along the eastern branches, horses and motorized vehicles shared the roads, and old agricultural practices survived, as post-war modernization, “the break”, was just taking hold and changing the Island forever. The CNR’s shiny new CLC and GE diesels were just the beginning!

    Maybe I’ll satisfy my PEIR narrow gauge appetite by building 1/12 scale models of a Hunslet 4-4-0T and a CLC 4-4-0, probably one of the ones with the distinctive clerestory roofed cab. They’d look great in my train room…


    Steve Hunter

    • Exactly. Perfectly worded and that folks is precisely the root of the appeal of any railroading on PEI and for those of us who’ve caught narrow gauge fever it’s the only cure. Thanks Steve.

  3. Steve Hunter…don’t you have some photo’s in Allan’s book or something. The name sounds very familliar,

    Anyways, I don’t model narrow gauge, but rather CN’s operations in the early 80’s specifically the Gaspe lines but also Northern New Brunswick. The odd bit is inspired by PEI and NS though. Anyways, I’ve always wanted to build one of the three narrow gauge models seen on NFLD, but as display units only,


    • Hi, Taylor:
      Yes, that’s me. I fell in love with the CN (PEIR) 70 tonners, mixed trains. and old green coaches as a little kid in the 60s. By the time I was old enough to actively photograph the line there was no passenger service left, but I continued for the rest of the railway’s existence. I’ve been researching the PEIR for nearly forty years and it’s naturally what I choose to model.
      Steve Hunter

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