Almost a time machine


You could not have asked for a nicer Saturday. With some of the regular errands out of the way we headed east to the Elmira Railway Museum. In addition to a great community museum, the site includes the a complete wye just west of the site. Where the museum has seen steady change over the years, the wye remains untouched. What a great resource given my interest in pursuing a model railway set during the spring and also to gather some more data for my track files.

DSC01678Standing here and looking across to the other leg of the wye it’s not that hard to imagine a pair of 70 tonners shoving another half dozen reefers into place. Setting aside some pretend nostalgia, it was great to study the railway in this landscape during this time of year.

DSC01688With camera and notebook in hand it was great to really study the details and record them, as I described earlier in my post about a track database:

  • Elmira’s wye was built adjacent to the main track. It was designed for turning trains and not to join branches so there are two turnouts on the main track and the third leg, is a stub.
  • The two main track turnouts have 1:8 frogs. The third turnout is a wye with a 1:6 frog.
  • I measured rail height in at least two dozen random locations within the station proper and then out on the main. On the main the rail ranged in height between 5 and 5-1/2″ tall from base to the running surface. In the station, one of the sidings was laid with rail that ranged in height from 4 to 4-1/2″.
  • Tie spacing seemed to range between 24″ and 28″. Naturally, with thirty years since the last train ran through this station many of the ties are rotten and have shifted. This measurement is based on those where the ties felt like they were still in their correct location.
  • Tie plates were still present on the main track but not on many of the station sidings and the stub-ended tail track on the wye.


  1. One of the biggest challenges in modelling the PEIR is matching the colour of that sandstone and shale.. real Island soil bleaches when dry, so it doesn’t work well as scenic material.

    Ideas, anyone? I’ve always struggled with this.

    Steve Hunter

    1. I agree but don’t know either. I suspect part of the problem stems from a need to represent the red colour too strongly. Perhaps work out from rich browns for wet dirt and sandy yellow tones for dry, dusty areas?

    2. Further, maybe another part of the problem is that we want the landscape to read, visually, from a more even toned palette. Our Island is instead one drawing from a much stronger range of colour with perhaps more contrast than we might realise.

  2. You mean if I go there tomorrow, I could see trains on the tracks? Really? Now I know where I’m going the next time I head to the Island.

    1. There are no operating trains left on the Island. At a couple of places, there are displays such as the locomotive on display at Kensington.

      At Elmira, they do have a complete yard at the station and the wye that is in this blog post. It is original and exactly as it was when CN last ran a train to Elmira. The museum that operates on the site owns an inspection trolley (“speeder”) and a couple of times during the year they run trips along the line so folks can get a feeling for what train travel would have been like (almost).

      For more information on when the museum is open and their events, check out their Facebook page or their website:



      1. Sure would be great to see something running here again. There were several attempts to establish something but even these have become part of the history of the railway.

        In the meanwhile, we’ll celebrate what we sort of still have left in two miniature railways and the occasional speeder trips.



      2. During the mid to late 1980’s several different groups made serious efforts to preserve different short sections of the line and then operate some sort of excursion service.

        One group was working on saving the Montague Subdivision.

        Another was working to save either a short section of the Murray Harbour subdivision or the trackage immediately at Elmira.

        Regrettably neither group was successful though both had garnered support from CN and some of the government bodies that were part of arranging these operations.


      3. I know this reply is late but… Must confess the more I learn about it, the more I understand how short sighted any of it was. Too bad I was born in December 1989, the year it all disappeared.

      4. Though I would have been young, I was very involved with one group that was attempting to save things. From what I remember, CN was fairly amenable to the idea of offering track for re-use but, save for the bit at Elmira, non was.


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