Kensington on Island Narratives

While a bit tricky to navigate and maybe that’s just me, the Island Narratives website can be a real gold mine for PEI history. A while ago I remembered seeing photos of coal hoppers placed in Kensington just in behind where the Frosty Treat restaurant is located now. I’m not sure what their policy is on re-posting images so I’ll post links below with a descriptions of the images quoted from their website and in some places my own witty narrative. I’ll apologize now for my parts.
This is the photo that started it all. Two coal hoppers and a tank car parked behind the gas station on Victoria Street. A date is printed on the photo too: June 63. Note the car collection in the photo. Great early VW and is that a little Renault Dauphine poking it’s adorable little nose in on the right? Guess my love of French cars is showing a little here eh?

This image faces MacKenzie’s Store and the railway crossing on Woodleigh Drive.
I’m not sure where the above shot is in Kensington, but it’s a great station shot with a boxcar ready to be loaded in the background. Recognize any of the boys in the picture (I don’t)?

Last train through Kensington, PE 22 December 1989.
Gerald McCarville photo of the van, from the set he took of the last train through Kensington – the tail of the train in the previous photo above.
Another of Mr.McCarville’s photos of the last train.

The following links show panels of a map commissioned by the Canadian Government Railways of Kensington in 1920 drawn at 1″=100′-0″:
Title block
Margate Road, Merrill Street and Broadway Street road crossings and area within this zone. There’s a pile of businesses that backed up against the siding here. Were they all rail-served and if so they must have been really challenging to switch efficiently. This would be great for a model railway.
Broadway Street heading westward toward the station property
Shows the station area and the Schurmann property. There was quite a bit of trackage and industry to serve in this area, with the rail-served coal shed opposite the station, warehouses on and around the Schurmann property and three additional sidings in the area. Of course, that massive siding that began near the Margate Road crossing carries through this map too (the coal shed is located here).
From Mr.McCarville’s collection, this photo shows a CN 4-6-0 at the Kensington station and would have been taken around the time the maps above were drawn. It really compliments the maps nicely.
This photo is taken from the top of a boxcar parked near the railways station. I’m willing to bet this was taken around 1920. It’s a neat shot from a different perspective and it’s quite rich in detail including roof detail of the box car in front and the surrounding scene.
Neat photograph of a building located near Victoria Street. While I’m not sure, this one really looks like a PEIR section house and I’m willing to bet that it is. If so, it would be really worth politely asking if one could measure it and put some drawings together. These buildings were common on the PEIR and of a standard plan so lessons learned here will serve the modeller well.
Photo on the Schurmann property. The corner of a wooden CN flat car appears in this one too and alludes to the length of this siding and it’s location.



  1. Nice collection of info!.. A gold mine. Sort of like a gfeneology of a town or village. Great idea to keep the history of those very small places…. grweat resources for all sorts of buildings. Especially like the passenger terminal… all done up in ice age rock…. WIll last forever!

    1. I completely agree. We’re really lucky in PEI for all the different ways that Islanders are trying to preserve pieces of PEI. Sometimes I feel like researching the railway stitches together these community history projects in much the same way that the railway itself connected the actual communities. What we all need to be doing more of is promoting each other’s work not only to compliment it but also to show how it integrates into a broader historical landscape.

      Great to hear from you. Happy new year!

      1. Very addictive stuff, Chris. Searching for the next photo that shows something neat. Sharp eye to catch corners of flat cars, roof of boxcars, etc. I liked the very first shot because it showed large and small lettering on those CN covered hoppers. Also liked the snow-battered 1700-s and caboose on the last train with its ditchlights on.

        Thanks for digging these out of the historical snowbank and propping them up where we could see them, Chris!

      2. Thanks for the feedback Eric. There’s so much great archival stuff out there just waiting to be found. I’m now realising that in addition to finding the data there is also a challenge of presenting it and associating it. I thought that this blog post really reminded me of one of the reasons why I started Prince Street in the first place: that I wanted somewhere to use as a cloud on which to hang bookmarks. By picking on the Island Imagined website and the single location of Kensington I was able to search through all their images and then list out what worked. I really believe that we have an exciting role to promote the material that is already in circulation and make sure that people find out about it. I’m ever so pleased to see that people are clicking on the links I provided and they are checking out the website. Hopefully they continue to share what they discover.

        As for the pictures themselves…

        I’m now as familiar with western PEI railroading so I’ll freely admit that Kensington was somewhere that I just didn’t know much about. I’m really lucky though to have friends who grew up in the town and remember railroading in that location. I was searching for images to help illustrate the stories they’d related to me and to help me to visualise their memories. Comparing these photos to maps I have of the town and operational details I’m really getting a sense of how busy a place it must have been. I’m a really big fan of the model railway design approach popularized by Lance Mindheim and looking at the track layout of Kensington I can’t help but think about how well you could build that style of layout but based on this location.

        The RSC14’s in those “last train photos”. I watched that train from a few locations and remember seeing it. It would have been the last time I saw any train on PEI and I wish I had taken some photos of my own to mark that occasion.

        Those hoppers are really cool. The mix of lettering and the general composition of the photograph. It’s “anywhere in Canada” railroading but all the better as it is here on the Island.

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