Elmira Railway Museum - End of the Line
Elmira Musée ferroviaire
Welcome to Elmira Railway Musuem.
1Elmira Railway Museum End of the Line and Rails to Trails
8 septembre 2002
Elmira, Prince Edward Island
2Welcome to Elmira Railway Station.
Elmira Railway station was built in 1912, and served the Eastern Kings community for many years. The storyline for this exhibit includes the stories of individuals who were interviewed in 1994 and 1995.
Sadly, some of these voices are now stilled. We have their recollections basically, unedited. There may be differences in the stories in the dates and the names.
The accompanying photographs are from a variety of sources, and include current photographs from the museum, situated in eastern Prince Edward Island.
We hope you will enjoy your visit through this fascinating part of our Island's past.
On April 5th 1871, the contract to build the N.R. from Alberton to Georgetown was given to W.H. Pulp and in October the work began. There was no limit set as to how many miles, this meant that they could go around hills and
There was a limit of five thousand pounds per mile ($20, 000). It was not always feasible to go over a river and the cost soon added up. By 1873, the railway debt was $3.8 million. The debt drove P.E.I. into Confederation in 1873 and the Government took over the debt.
The railway opened in 1875 from Alberton to Georgetown with branches to Souris and Tignish. It was to take another forty years to complete, the last major extension to Elmira was completed in 1912. Elmira Station was the most eastern station.
In the winter of 1931 a train went through the end of the track in Elmira. It was thought the driver was from Nova Scotia and was not familiar with the area.
Arriving in a snowstorm he did not see the lights that marked the station and the end of the track, causing him to come crashing through the barrier into the snow and crossing the road, only to come to a stop in the ditch. Those waiting for the train and those attending a farmers meeting heard a deafening noise. The wreckage crew from Charlottetown and the Souris crew we called in to untangle the mess.
A horse shed across the road from the station was missed, only to be saved by the ditch. One horse at the far end belonging to Jim Campbell, was the lone occupant that night. This mishap brought about a new rule in 1935. Drivers were assigned to designated routes that they were familiar with.
Each station was built to accommodate the area, i.e. size of population, amount of freight being shipped and received etc. Elmira had five sets of tracks running off the main line. Since Elmira was the end of the line, a turn table was
used in the early years. A pit located below the turn table was used for changing oil, grease and for doing minor repairs. Across the turn table was a two room engine house where the engines were put at night, especially in the winter months.
In very cold weather, pots containing seal oil were lit and placed under the engine to keep it from freezing. A two hundred foot coal shed held enough fuel for both railway and local use. A barn to shelter horses, a bunkhouse for crews and sectionmen and small shacks for the conductors and engine crew were all a part of the Elmira station.
Elmira had only one full time employee, the station agent. The station was probably the only one with two waiting rooms, one for women and one for men. It has been said that the women's was used for card playing and later used as a baggage area.
Wet cell batteries were used to light the station. Elmira had fifty batteries and as many as two hundred were used at the larger stations. The batteries were filled with water and a bit of soda to keep them from boiling over. Although they charged themselves, the station agent added water as it was necessary.
Batteries were also used to light passenger cars. Railweights were 56lbs, 65lbs and 110lbs (off Island being 220lbs), weights changed over the years to accommodate larger freight cars on the wide gauge. The spikes used to hold the rails in place were numbered using the year date. The date was one way of knowing when the rails and tie should be replaced.
Although water towers were located along the route, the engines would sometimes stop at brooks and streams. While passengers waited, they would get off the train and pick berries.
Each conductor had a different design on his ticket punch. By looking at the design on your ticket he would know at which station you boarded the train and who the conductor was. Those who boarded the train without a ticket would buy one from the conductor.
Greenvale residents would stand beside the track and wave a red hat or scarf to flag the train to a stop. Frequent or daily travellers could buy season passes for a cheaper rate. Clergy travelled for half fare and wives of the employees were given free passes. All tickets sold were entered in a book by the station agent and conductors.
By 1912, expenses were high and 580 people were employed. Snow shovellers were kept busy in the winter. One train was stuck for three weeks as snow shovellers worked on two levels. Men travelling on the train had to step up
onto the snow when the train was "stuck solid" east of Harmony in 1940.
The first snow plow was bolted on and had no flexibility. The driver ran the risk of overturning the engine when hitting a large snowbank at high speed. Later, the plows were made more flexible lowering the risk of derailment. Snow had to be cleared from between the rails and a machine called a "flanger" was used. A wing plow pushed the cuttings further back from the rails.
When called to work, plow drivers, sectionmen and snow shovelers had to get to
work any way they could. Some rode and pushed trolleys, others walked or rode on horseback.
While at work, sectionmen used torpedoes as a warning signal of danger, the torpedoes held just enough powder to make a loud noise. Snapped to the track to hold them in place, the train wheel would run over them setting of an explosion. The noise warned the driver to slow down or stop.
A hoop located at the end of a bamboo stick was used to pass a message to the driver without having to stop the train at whistle stops. As the agent stood on a platform the hoop with the clipped message was grabbed by the driver as the engine passed. On occasion the driver would pretend he couldn't reach it forcing the agent to run alongside of the engine until the hoop was grabbed. The hoop would then be returned on the next train. It was similar for the mail bag as well, only the mail bag was hung on a hook from the station's eve and the driver would grab it as they passed.
In 1875 the Souris Station was built on the southwest side of the bridge. The tracks ran across the Souris beach and at times caused some problems. Sand had to be swept from the track every morning and at times were submerged underwater. In 1877 the station was relocated to Souris.
Trains were the main means of transportation, they moved freight for export and import opening up a whole new economy for P.E.I. Although business was good, the railway never made a large amount of money. With the demise of the railway, stations were sold and were used for houses, cottages, and garages. Those that were never sold were left to fall into the ground.
School children were taught about the railway and had to know each branch. Beginning at either end, they were required to recite and spell the names of each branch in sequence.
The railway provided time tables for all trains on P.E.I., as well as stage coach and ferry schedules and a list of hotels and their rates.
The Seacliff Hotel in Souris cost $1.25 per day or $5.00 per week.
In the fall a farm excursion train went to Western Canada. Island farmers would go west for the harvest and return home at Christmas with money in their pockets.
When the train pulled into Elmira station and stopped before the Y, it meant that someone was bringing home the remains of a loved one. As a sign of respect, all passengers stayed on the train until the family was safely off.
In 1949 the first diesel engine came to P.E.I. and within the decade the steam engine became obsolete. The more powerful engines held a greater potential for disaster. The Island's worst accident killed four people.
Passenger service was discontinued in 1969. In 1972 Elmira was one of sixteen stations to close. In 1973 it was acquired by the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation and opened as a museum in 1975.
April 8th, 1875
Prince Edward Island Railway
Mr. Swinyard, chief engineer of the Department of Public Works, was sent to the Island to investigate the construction of the railway. In two reports about the construction of the railway, Mr. Swinyard said "the Local Government has been far from evincing a generous spirit of fair play and good will towards the general Government in the legitimate inspection of the railway which it had been deemed necessary should be made before it was finally assumed by the Dominion."
Many obstacles were put forth to prevent a timely and proper examination of the railway before it was taken by the local authorities off the hands of the contractors. Delays in the railway were not due to the contractors but to the Dominion Government.
Contracts had limitations about how long and where the railway should go. The location of the branch lines was performed by the Government engineer; but it is shown that the Island Government, in some cases exceeded the utmost limits as given in the first contract, so that sharp curves and heavy gradients are the ruling features of the railway.
It was not until the middle of November that Mr. Swinyard finally got to inspect the railway. Through the courtesy of the contractors and not the provincial authorities was he able to do his job. His inspection concluded that "it was only too obvious that the railway had not been completed in a satisfactory manner, that the terms of the contracts were not followed, and that omissions and deficiencies exist to a very grave extent resulting in the amount of one
hundred thousand dollars. The designs and specifications have, in many instances, been totally disregarded, and it is impossible for any one to read the very able reports submitted by Mr. Swinyard without being convinced that it would have avoided great trouble, difficulty and expense if the assumption of the railway by the Dominion Government had not formed a part of the compact by which the Confederation of the Island was secured."
8"Island Argus" - November 28th, 1875
Railway Meeting At East Point
Lot 47 and the vicinity, assembled in Lakeville Schoolhouse, on the 11th inst., for the purpose of agitating for an Extension Line of Railway from Souris to East Point. The meeting was organized by appointing Samuel Hooper, Esq., to chair, and the undersigned Secretary.
The meeting was addressed by many individuals weighing the advantages and disadvantages of a branch line to East Point.
Alexander Beaton, Esq. talked about the advantages of a branch line through this much neglected portion of Kings County. He said it would be constructed with less expense than other parts of the Island that were intersected, and to avoid which graceful curves and costly culverts where necessary.
Laughlin MacDonald, Esq. stated the extension line will benefit people, especially farmers who had to take his produce over roads, hilly and dangerous. Although it may be picturesque to tourists, it presented to the farmer an unwelcome and serious hinderance to the rapid transportation of his surplus commodities.
John A. Morrow, Esq. also spoke. Many who had opposed it's inception on the ground that social disorganization and financial ruin would be the inevitable consequence were present this evening, earnestly recommending the present agitation for immediate construction of nine or ten miles more. He was happy to say that bitter prejudice had almost, if not entirely, disappeared. He always believed in narrow gauge roads and felt confident that with more powerful engines and experienced officials, they could be worked successfully.
Lawrence Kickham, Esq. had no hesitation in saying if any people in P.E.I. had a right to a railroad, it was the people of East Point.
Dr. Muttart (in photo on the left) said he was always a railroad man and had travelled, to long, over the crooked and hilly post road to East Point, not to be in a position to appreciate the conveniences afforded by railroads. If there were any two political acts of his whole life to which he could revert with feelings of self-congratulation, they were, having recorded his vote in favor of the Railroad and Confederation.
Whereas: The inhabitants of East Point and vicinity being denied the natural advantages of harbor accommodation with which many other portions of the Island are favored, thus living in a comparatively isolated state, possessing no facilities for the rapid transit of their surplus produce to market, a circumstance highly detrimental to the development of the latent resources of the community;
Therefore Resolved: That it is the unanimous opinion of this meeting that immediate steps be taken to urge upon our Local and Dominion Governments the propriety of adopting such legislation as will be calculated to secure the passing of an Act providing for the early construction of an Extension Line of Railway from Souris to East Point, and that petitions be presented to the above mentioned Governments with the view of securing these results.
9Canadian National Railway Telegraph and Cable office, now situated in the Elmira Railway Museum.
31 août 2002
Elmira, Prince Edward Island
Mary Margaret Jarvis, nee MacPhee, was a station agent during the war, she ran the station for a year and a half. Margaret often went to the station with her mother, the station was a very sociable and exciting place for a child.
You know everyone, where they were going and why, you were first to know who was home on leave from the war etc. One of the duties of a station agent was to walk the track and write down the number of each car waiting on the siding. This had to be done everyday and the list was given to the conductor, followed by delivery to the office.
Near the station there is a mill dam (it is still there today) which was home to beavers. The beaver blocked the stream which caused the water to rise and the overflow ran across the tracks.
The water under - minded the railbed making the line unsafe. The track had to be shut down for several hours while section men made the repairs. The station was opened only when a train was due, and stayed until the freight was picked up.
The Jarvis family never lacked when it came to company. Men hauling potatoes by horse and sleigh would come to the house to boil the kettle for tea. Friends taking the early morning train would arrive the evening before and spend the night. Horses were terrified by the hissing steam and smoke, the whistle and grinding of the iron wheels on the steel rails. They would find comfort at the family barn until the train left.
Margaret and her brother Bernard trapped rabbits one winter and sold them to the engine crew for .10 cents each. The young entrepreneurs provided the crew with supper and earned good money for their efforts.
The rails provided people and communities with a lot of enjoyment. Picking gum from a spruce tree was a favourite past time for the children. For this work to go easy you needed a flat sharp instrument. The problem was solved by putting nails on the track, when the train ran over the nail they had a nice flat pick.
Sunday afternoons were spent running on top of the freight cars left on the siding. Walking along the track to go fishing at the Black Hole, located between East Baltic and Fountain Head, was a favorite past time as well.
The track was the route taken for berry picking; wild strawberries, blueberries and raspberries were found in abundance. To make the trip more fun it was a must to do a balancing act by walking on the rail.
A trolley was borrowed one time by two young boys. The two wanted to go to Souris and decided that the hand pump trolley was the fastest way to get there. Knowing they would be in trouble if someone saw them they left the trolley at Harmony Junction and walked cross country on the final lap to Souris.
Jack Pierce from Elmira bought pigs and shipped them to Charlottetown. Before leaving they had to be stamped, this procedure was watched with great interest by the young ones. Jack always had time to and entertain the children.
It is said that strange noises and whistles were heard along the stretch of land that later became the railway. At Campbells Cove lights were seen, the sound of voices laughing, and crying and a short time later a provincial park was built. These were thought to be forerunners by some in the area.
While living near the railroad Margaret dreamed about taking a trip on the train. The dream came true when she was seventeen. Leaving the Island to find work in St. John N.B., the entire train was put on the ferry in those days.
From St. John, Margaret moved to Montreal, vacation trips home were always by train. She was very disappointed when the train stopped running. Margaret feels that the tracks should have been left. Train rides would have been a drawing card and a fun thing to do for tourists and provided they provided many jobs for Islanders.
11Telegraph desk and equipment, at the Elmira Railway Museum.
31 août 2002
Elmira, Prince Edward Island
Many people were connected with the railway in some way, whether it be those working for CN or those who just enjoyed the train and the excitement brought with it.
Margaret's brother, Garfield Carter, shovelled snow for the railway and would often wish for a storm so he could make some money. Rock Cuttin' was a bad place for holding snow. The plow was usually in front of the train with shovellers in front of the plow.
Picking up the mail at the station with a horse and wagon was a duty that Margaret's step, grandfather undertook. It was not unusual to see many children riding with him instead of the mail, except at Christmas when he often spent the better part of the night sorting it for delivery.
The railway workers and station agents were friends to everyone. On entering a station the first thing you noticed was the smell of pipe tobacco. The station was a wonderful place to meet friends and catch up on community news. A favorite thing Margaret used to do on the way home from school was go by the Souris Station and peek in the windows just to see who was there.
During the Second World War, messages came in on the key notifying families of the missing in action or those killed in action. Soldiers who lucked out and came home on leave could be sure of a welcome, everyone would be at the station to see what he looked like in uniform.
Like many Souris people, Margaret would take the train to Harmony to go berry picking and in May they picked May families. Entire families would travel on the train just to go to some nice spot for a picnic.
Margaret liked the trains and rode on them as often as possible. After work she would take the train from Souris to Harmony to visit her sister who lived on the Souris Line Road. When she moved to St. Charles, after she was married, she used the train to go into Souris to do some shopping.
On one occasion, her husband Henry, put their daughter and 2 1/2 year old niece on the train and left. The train began to move, puzzled by the fact that her uncle who she called "daddy" wasn't with them on this trip, she looked at her aunt and asked, "daddy push the train?"
In closing, the trains should have been left on P.E.I. The roads were never built to handle big trucks and the amount of traffic the Island now has.
Train travel today, is still a great way to go; you are treated with kindness and courtesy; meals are very good and are part of your fare. One thing missed in a recent trip to Ottawa was the conductor going through the cars calling out the stations in a sing-song voice. Now they put up a sign at the front of the car for the next station.
On May 24th in the 1920's, a young man was killed when he jumped off the train, slipped and fell under the wheels. Willie Praught was in his twenties.
After a brief stint with the navy, Vernon returned home to P.E.I. in 1964 and spent seven years as relief agent for the railway, working in stations from Elmira to Summerside, but mostly in the eastern part of the province.
Getting a job with the railway was not so easy. These jobs were much sought after as they paid well and were continual, with room for advancement, as the older employee's retired.
As new positions became available employee's were offered to compete for these positions, but they usually went to the person with the most seniority. As well, good old politics played a roll in getting railway jobs although this did not eliminate the applications to be filled out and the exams to be completed.
Exams were held in Moncton, N.B. and for those that were accepted, course's were taught on all aspects of running a railway. Morse code was one thing you had to know, and although Vernon was already taught this with his Navy experience, the railroad version was different, "backwards" was the way he phrased it.
All orders and messages were sent by key, as it was called, and the station agent had to be able to understand and write the message first.
Agents took great pride in their ability to send quick and accurate messages and their feeling's were badly hurt if something had to be repeated. With safety always being top priority, the agent would report the time of arrival and departure of the train, also any changes in orders for the train crew were received on the key. This was an open line and all stations received messages at the same time that way each station up and down the line knew where each train was at all times.
The agents were responsible for all the bookkeeping for the station.
Ticket sales and C.N. money orders were also sold at many stores in the area. All freight had to be weighed and prepaid, the agent would take the cash, money orders, etc to the bank and get a bank draft which was sent to the Moncton Office.
Parcels from catalogue orders as well as goods for the stores in the area were received and sorted. Freight cars for potato growers were always requested for by the agent. This was not always easy for if he requested ten cars, he may only get six, which had to be divided among the farmers. Many farmers were rather angry and the agent had to take the brunt of the anger from irritated customers. Vernon considered himself very lucky for he always seemed to get the number of cars he requested.
The railroad was also very accommodating and would hold up the train for someone coming in late with a load of potatoes. Some of the people shipping potatoes during this time were; Freeman Mossey, Willie Fraser, Norman and Kermit Bruce, Joe Fay and Arthur Dixon.
As Vernon was working down in St. Peters one day, he received a call telling him that a motor trolley was spotted headed for St. Peters
without a driver. Taking his yellow key to switch the tracks, he made his way out to the tracks. Not satisfied with that, he ran up the track and placed two bars across it so when the trolley struck the bars it would jump the track. It was then he saw some children playing in the trolleys path.
Sprinting up to them he removed the children and seconds later the trolley went by at about 25 mph hitting the bars and flying off the track before coming to a stop. The answer to this bizarre mystery arrived a short time later. Very worried, badly shaken and with many cuts, scrapes, and bruises, the roadmaster, who was on his way to Souris from Charlottetown, had leaned from the trolley looking at the tracks, overbalanced and fell out, rolling down the bank into the woods. Needless to say, he was happy to learn that no one had been hurt and the runaway trolley had been stopped.
Being a station agent was rarely dull and very interesting, you were the first one to know who was coming or going. Telegrams were sent and received by the agent so he or she knew who was getting married or who had died.
Telegrams were received from Ottawa for congratulations to the winners of the latest elections. People came to the station to get weighed and one of the fun things the agent would do was to set the scales ten pounds heavier for the women. Folks also came just to visit and sit around the pot belly stove where the tea pot was always on.
Stations were often host to visitors from the railroad offices, supervisors and heads of departments. On one surprise visit to Elmira near the end of the freight era, Vernon was caught building lobster traps in the station, the first signs of worry quickly disappeared as his guests began to laugh and ask all sorts of questions about building traps and lobster fishing.
During the last year that the freight train ran to Elmira, G. MacIsaac from St. Peters ran the station at Elmira and the station was only opened as needed. Passenger's travelling a long distance were able to arrange for a compartment or berth at their local station.
These cars were either boarded in Charlottetown or the Mainland, cars boarded in
Charlottetown were put on the Borden ferry for Amherst where they were picked up to continue their journey. Passengers returning to P.E.I. could be held up in Moncton due to storms, Vernon was held up for three days while trying to get home on leave from the Navy.
Since Elmira was the end of the line for the east run, a section of track was built into a "Y," so the train could turn around and make it's trip back to Charlottetown.
Coming from a farming family George can recall the days when his father, Reuben McCannell, used the train for shipping cream during the winter months. In the other seasons, his father would truck the cream, this was after the independance of the domestic vehicle came about (around the early 1930's or so).
As for George, he was a very dedicated railway operator. His service was at the base of the operations, he worked as a station agent or sometimes referred to as station master or agent operator. In his younger years, before his railway career, George worked the family farm a bit and recalls going to Nova Scotia to work the lumber camps, one winter. In 1942 he went on to Kitchener, Ontario for army training in Communications.
It was there that he met a gentlemen by the name of Ken Fraser who influenced him to become a railway communications operator or something in that line. Ken Fraser was also an Islander but George never met him until he went to the army. Ken told George to look him up after the war was over and he would train him himself. George moved back to the Island in 1946 and farmed for a year. Ken returned the year before and was already an established station agent in Breadalbane.
In 1947 George went with Ken for an informal training session which helped him qualify for the test which he wrote in July of 1948. George recalls writing the test in Charlottetown. It was based on safety rules andcommunications, that is a practical test on the key. Once you were successful in the test you were then considered an official Station Agent Operator. You started out working part time or on holidays until a full time position became available. George explained that in a station you would most often have:
Station Agent Operator - who did all the works
Operator - who worked with communications only
Assistant Agent - had all the qualifications of a station agent but with lesser pay. He did not have the same responsibility as the station agent.
In the communications area there was a standard level by CN's pay scale. However, the quality of work and ability to administer such skills was all put on special levels, you could be a level 1, 2, or 3.
You were not promoted but you were recognized for such proficiency by a specific level. Although George was successful in the exams and now was officially a qualified Station Agent Operator he did not get his first posting until 1951 at Montague Station as a station agent assistant. George was stationed in Montague until 1959 when he took advantage of an opening in the Mt. Stewart Station where he remained as station agent operator for 13 years.
He continued to explain the daily routine of the station agent. A work day was either 7:30am until 4:30pm or 8:00am until 5:00pm where there were always two people, agent and assistant.
They used to share a shift so they could keep the station open longer. Firstly there was tending to the daily cash and documents (which were kept in a safe that only the agent could open). You could judge your cash pretty accurately as to what you would need for the day. You also anticipated how many business people you would be in contact with during the day at the station. Secondly you had the role as yard supervisor.
You had to keep a daily check of what was in the yard , where it was packed, how many cars were empty, what would be leaving, all of this had to be finished before the trains began their daily run. Daily orders were also given by the agents to the brakemen to switch cars to the proper track, get them ready for departure etc.
The station agent had keys for the safe, cash till, where the records and blank tickets were kept etc. If you knew how to fill out a ticket properly, it could have been a free ride for someone.
If someone was travelling off Island or out of the country to the U.S., you could transfer to several different railways. All of this information had to be figured out and written up on the blank ticket. Later the conductor for each destination would punch the ticket to confirm i.e. Charlottetown to Montreal could have 3 or 4 different conductors.
Along with this travelling off Island or abroad the station agent had to be accurate. Proper routing was something the conductors had to be very accurate about. A routing tariff book was to be followed which management people for CN, in Montreal, had to arrange and have standard copies made. This tariff book was about a couple of inches thick, "this was our standard routing," George says. Calculating ratings for passengers and freight that was being shipped was also a job the conductors had to do.
Along with having all of this work to do as a daily routine, there was always a lot of noise. There would be people coming and going or people just there to hang out and get the latest gossip. The station was considered a socializing place and was always bustling with activity.
Back in the Montague years, George recalls how this place truly depended on the train. The station agent would hire a porter (who was strictly a labor worker hired for loading and unloading freight). In the early 1950's this was year round employment.
There was a combination of a coal freight shed located here. The coal was for the old steam engines and was not for sale to the public. Horse and sleighs or buggy's would also back right up to the freight shed so you didn't have to walk far to load and unload. Some people would try and get away with weighing in less than the freight actually was. Most were pretty honest though.
After George left Montague and got posted in Mt. Stewart in 1959 he remained there until 1972 serving as a Station Agent. The day to day operations were much more hectic than the Montague posting. In fact, George recalls his first day at Mt. Stewart Station.
With all of the confusion of starting a brand new job, the previous station agent would only stay with you for 3 or 4 hours to show you how to do the books and learn the ropes. One would have to be a fast learner because once he was gone you were on your own. With the new job came approximately a 20% increase in pay. George served in Mt. Stewart for 13 years.
In the years at Mt. Stewart George recalls many frustrating things that went along with the job. An example would be the fear of giving the wrong information to the sectionmen about the where abouts of the trains, where they were supposed to go etc. "In the late 60's I didn't give the complete correct information to the sectionmen who did not wait until I completed the call" (This call was done by phone). There would have most likely been an accident, but the oncoming train had to go around a sharp turn so it slowed down enough to see the other train approaching and was able to stop.
George can also recall many railway crossing accidents especially when cars were first allowed on P.E.I. roads. He explained how the level crossings were the most likely to pose a problem. He commensed to explain how there are:
Level Crossings - where the track and the road are at the same level and meet at the same level. There were many of these on P.E.I. as we can still see the remains of them today.
Over Crossings - where the trains crossed the road overhead. The road would be under the railway bridge. The only place George could think of was in western P.E.I. near Summerside, Wilmot area.
Under Crossings - were of course under the road bridge. There were quite a few of these on P.E.I.
Leaving Montague to take a new post in Mt. Stewart, George noticed that the railway was beginning to disappear. "CN office people and owners, I believe, were intentionally diminishing the individual stations," says George. Livestock shipping was the first to disappear, then other freight started to as well, due to transport trucking. When George left Mt. Stewart it was still a junction point, "this was more or less kept on by the pressures from the big wigs, for safety purposes."
After his years as a station agent George worked as a consultant supervisor over these junction points, as a service representative from 1973 until 1976. This was basically the same line of work that came with the job of being station agent only they gave it a different title. "You were also scattered all over the Island with those last years of service," says George."
With the closing of the railway George feels that we took a step backwards. P.E.I. roads are not equipped for heavy trucking. "Who can justify putting transport trucks on the highway with the exhaust, oil spills etc. polluting the air. 100 freight cars could be done at one time using only one or two engines." George says people were not using there heads when they closed the railway.
"As a service person and station agent I enjoyed the railway work. You were a group of people at the station who pulled together to get the work done. In those days you did not need an extra dollar for doing extra work."
An average pay for the week working as a station agent was $162.00.
A torpedo was used by the brakemen to signal trains for specific purposes.
The steam engine changed to diesel in the mid 50's. Steam engines had one extra person on the crew for firing the engines. The coal for the fuel was carried and stored in the tender.
In the early years before refridgerated cars there was ice cars. This was the responsibility of the shipper who would make sure the car had ice, would order the ice when needed etc. When travelling off Island you generally had more icing stops.
Key, sometimes referred to as a Bug as a newer verion of the key. This was a standard piece of equipment that had a switch you would tap to signal messages to a receiver. If you wanted one you had to purchase it yourself.
17P.E.I. poster, near the Clerks office at the Elmira Railway Museum.
31 août 2002
Elmira, Prince Edward Island
Gus worked on the railway as a sectionman. He does not have a lot to say about his job, but he did have other interesting information.
Al Campbell worked at the Elmira Station and one of his duties was to clean the engine every night. Ashes from the tinder had to be dumped, which were then saved and used on the railbed. Coal had to be loaded for the train to burn, this was done by loading small cars, each car held one ton of coal and ran on a smaller track. Once loaded the cars were brought to the side of the engine, using a cable and hook they were lifted to a table on the engine where the car was tipped, spilling the coal into the box. About three tons were loaded every night. The train was turned and freight cars coupled on ready for the engine crew in the morning.
Two fires broke out which may have been caused by a spark from the train engine. One was in the coal stock pile at Elmira Station which smoldered for days. The second fire was just west of the station and south of the Trantum Road. The land was owned by a Malcolm Campbell, a large area of woodland was burned. The land was then sold to Stuart MacGregor that fall, he harvested what was left of the trees for pulpwood. The train stopped at Munns Road only on request. Passengers wanting to board here had to be on the platform and flag down the train. Chester Pratt bought and sold western horses, they were shipped by train to St. Peters.
Gus bought one of these horses, all had been branded, which was quite a novelty on P.E.I. where branding is never done.
The Elmira branch from Harmony Junction to Elmira was completed in 1908. The railway buildings at this time consisted of a station, a two stall engine house with a turn table and a small freight shed. A work train was stationed at Elmira to complete the work of fencing and ditching along this branch before regular train service could begin. The work train went to Souris every day for coal to run the engine and supplies for the work crew.
The turn table that was built in the beginning was very easy to operate. The engine would be driven onto it, resting on rollers the table had several wooden handles and could be turned by three men.
After the Y was made, a garage to service the engine was built and the turn table was covered. Boilerman, Jack Cameron was foreman for the project, he picked Bill Monroe and H.E. Morie, two locomotive firemen, both idle from their regular jobs.
They brought their tools and used old light rails for the frame to carry the wooden top. Holes for bolts and rivets had to be done by a hand ratchet as there was no electric power. The Y was large, running from the station almost to the Tarantum Road. The whole train could be turned for the return trip to Charlottetown.
In the early years the train stayed in Elmira every night. The train and engine crews boarded with a couple by the name of Mr. & Mrs. Malcolm Campbell. When conductor Cliff Cox was assigned to this run he built a small bungalow for his own use. Later a bunk car was provided for the engine crew.
Aeneas MacPhee worked nights at the station and had the job of cleaning the engine for the next day of travel. Cleaning the engine was not an easy task, for the boiler plus all the tubes had to be thoroughly cleaned. In addition to this, the firebox and tender had to be cleaned and filled with coal preparing it for morning. Working with coal and ash was not always pleasant, the coal gave off gasses that had long term effects on one's health.
There was a magic with the steam engine, something the newer engines never had. An engineer was assigned an engine and it became his pride and joy. C.Y. Partridge was one who took pride in his work. He came to work each day wearing a fresh white shirt and tie, striped overalls clean and pressed and boots polished and shining. His engine was clean and the brass valves and knobs had a sparkle before his train left the station.
Inspecting the tracks, at any time during the year, kept the sectionmen quite busy. Every mile of track had to be checked before each train came in. In the winter frost would cause ground heaves which would lift the tracks. This could cause considerable damage, for if left alone, the engine running over the rail would break it leaving the end sticking up to catch the next car.
Washouts in the spring and heavy summer rains were also a hinderance. Summer also brought with it the flies, not a hazard to the train, but to the sectionmen it was almost unbearable. A mixture of pinetar was used to try and keep black flies, mosquitos and moose flies at bay.
Harry's father worked as an extra, on call, for a short time but not after the 1920's. His uncle Joe Harris spent many years on the railway. Joe was often called to go for a doctor in an emergency, day or night. If it was during the day, he would have to get permission to be on the track. The trip to Souris on the open trolley and returning with the doctor could be a cold one in the winter. Neither Joe or the doctor ever refused someone in need of help. Dr. W.H.P. MacMillan, a surgeon, came ny train to Elmira to see patients. While in Elmira, doctors would board at farms near the station. The Harris farm was one such place.
A large store located in Elmira was taken over by a lady named Estella (Aeneas) MacPhee and previously owned by the Hughes. All goods for the store, as well as other stores, came by train. Different types of fuel came in barrels, lime and fertilizer came for farmers and mail and parcels could be picked up at the store.
Many people travelled the train to do business or for pleasure or just to socialize at the station. Sales people travelled by train and boarded in Elmira until their business was finished. Christmas shopping trips to Charlottetown was an enjoyable time for many.
The trip home was often turned into "The Best Party" as some people phrased it. Fiddlers would play, everyone would be singing, some would be jigging, which would continue the whole way home. On train nights as many as 40 to 50 people would be at the station. They came for the mail, to pick up goods at the store, socialize or yes, to pick up passengers.
The people and the railway workers had what you would call a close knit relationship. Conductors, would at times, allow passengers on who could not pay the fare. His kind heart could have gotten him fired or suspended if he was caught.
Very often railway detectives or other personnel, unknown to the crew, would ride the train watching for infractions by those who worked for the railroad. When one passenger fell asleep and missed his stop, Munns Road, the conductor found him when they arrived in Elmira. The train had to back up all the way to Munns Road to let him off.
As Harry's recollection came to a close he concluded by telling a funny little story. A special train brought a large group of people from Elmira to attend a Tea Party at Susan Ford's on the East Point Road (now Joe Cheverie's). It turned into quite a time as the cider being served had fermented.
21Building the line from Souris to Elmira.
Between Harmony Junction and Elmira, Prince Edward Island
The first survey for the railroad from Souris to Elmira was done in 1907. The decision as to where the railway would go, on a second survey, was completed in 1909 and the line was to go through Harmony.
A 100 foot wide strip was cut through the forest using cross cut saws and axes, two steam shovels were brought from New Brunswick by scow to grade the land and dig out banks around streams for bridges and culverts . One of the large steam shovels had to be taken apart and loaded on a truck wagon pulled by horses, to where it was needed.
Men working on the line lived in tents sent up at Munn's Road. Wages were $1.50 per day and you could buy dinner for 17 cents, room and board was $3.50 per week.
Sand and gravel had to be tested carefully for use on cement culverts. It was decided that gravel from North Lake and the white sand from South Lake was the best, it was then transported by horse and cart.
The line was completed in 1912 with stations at Harmony Junction, Connaught, Fountain Head, East Baltic, and Munn's Road. The Harmony Junction Station had a 10,000 gallon water tank and a 200 foot shed for coal, was built at Elmira Station. In 1926 the narrow gauge track was widened to accommodate trains coming in from the mainland, it was 4 foot 8 1/2 inches long.
A first class ticket from Elmira to Souris was 70 cents and 45 cents for second class return. Passenger trains ran everyday with the freight cars running about twice a week. During the Charlottetown Exhibition a special train ran and you could go and return for $1.00. At Christmas time the return train was held up for an extra two hours or so to allow passengers more time for shopping.
During heavy snowstorms the train would get stuck and have to be shovelled out by men, it would also occasionally slip off the track and would have to wait for the work train. The tracks were checked on a regular basis by a work crew, usually four men on a open trolley which was pumped by hand to move along the track. In 1914 the motorized trolley was introduced.
The East Baltic and Elmira train stations were popular spots to meet and talk around a pot belly stove, to pass away a cold winter's evening. It was not uncommon to see the young people peeking in the windows to see what the afternoon freight train had brought.
Those meeting the train would rush out to calm and hold their horses and assure them that the hissing monster was harmless. A few students travelled by train to Souris to complete Grades 9 and 10. Even though the distance from Elmira to Souris was short, they had to stay the week and come home only on the weekends. If it happened to storm they would have to stay in Souris. On one such occasion the train was held up for 7 days.
Farmers would often send cream to Charlottetown by train, the empty cans would be returned on the next freight train. In 1907 a Starch Factory was built and owned by Harvey McEwen from St. Peter's, it was built just north of the East Baltic station.
It later closed for a number of years and was then reopened again. Just south of the tracks there was a copper shop where tanks and barrels were made. The last passenger train to Elmira was in 1967.
23Construction on the railway
Between Harmony Junction and Elmira, near East Baltic, Prince Edward Island
Francis started with the railway in 1924 at 15 years of age. He began as an extra, a laborer, for the railway for 23 years. Francis was a smart and talented man in the area of building and constructing, especially railway bridges and track laying.
In later years of working on the railway, the supervisor of the railway said he was capable of advancement to the foreman's level. When asked to advance, Francis declined the position and continued to be a labourer (cook), travelling with the cook car and living right on board.
Since Francis had no education, he only learned to sign his name probably for signing cheques, he felt he was not worthy of the position. He was a proud man so was quite content where he was. How unfortunate and what a great loss of someone with so much talent.
A young man who felt he was not educated enough to take advantage of climbing the ladder of advancement. In 1947, just after the war, things began to develop and grow everywhere, even here on P.E.I. Francis had retired with the railway in 1947 and took it upon himself to start up his own construction and doing private contracting.
His talent was not completely at loss, for not only was he talented in this area, the desire to do this type of work was enough to have him take the initiative to build his own business and have his son apprentice and eventually take over the business years later.
25Construction on the railway
Between Harmony Junction and Elmira, near East Baltic, Prince Edward Island
26Hughie Joseph MacDonald
Although the railway greatly improved transportation of people and produce and brought more people together for social activities, the building of the railway was debated. At the time everyone had a farm, during the summer months the livestock were allowed to roam free and fend for themselves, foraging on grass, young sapling, drinking from the streams, and taking cover for the night amongst the trees.
Most people were concerned that their wandering livestock would be frightened off to places that they would never find them or, still worse, be killed by the trains.
There must have been some agreement of this because when the railroad was built, some sources refer to the fencing put in place by the railway and the money given to replace an animal that had been killed by the train.
The section of railway from Harmony to Elmira was built much later than that extending from Mt. Stewart to Harmony and Souris. Crews worked on this area, surveying and clearing the land, laying the railbed, building bridges and finally laying the track.
This involved a lot of work as this area was a very dense forest and required a lot of time and energy to clear. When that was completed, loads upon loads of fill were brought in by horse and cart to make the track bed.
Because of the huge amount of work, many of the men stayed on site for the week, returning to their families on the weekend. Old box cars were used for sleeping quarters and the cookhouse.
The cook for the crew, Allan MacKinnon, lived in Selkirk and used to walk on the tracks to Elmira on Monday mornings to work for the week. The train always went west in the morning and he could not take the horse for the whole week so the only other way was to walk. Mother nature often took its toll on the trains passage from station to station.
Snow storms often piled snow as high as the train on the tracks. In 1923, the snow was so deep that the train was stuck there for days. In 1930 a fierce storm washed out the track bed in St. Peters. Rock from Nova Scotia and or New Brunswick was used to make a more sturdy bed for the rails than previous Island clay foundation had provided.
New sources of fuel made way for the shift to diesel engines in the late 1940's or early 1950's.
The new trains were found to have less power than the coal driven steam engines. It was discovered belts were slipping in the diesels and new gears replaced these belts and provided the power needed.
Few stories about ghosts, forerunners, etc. associated with the train were recalled. However, a few scary incidents with reasonable explanations occurred.
Before the train existed in the eastern end of the country, those who were unfamiliar with the sound of the train, often heard a low, eerie noise as they walked at night. Imaginations got the best of them most times and stories arose about this noise.
It was later discovered that on calm nights, the trains running west of where they lived could be heard for miles hissing and blowing their whistle. Another incident involved a man walking home on the tracks one night and a clicking noise could be heard. Knowing there was no other way home, the brave man walked on towards this noise, expecting to meet the devil himself. As he got closer, he discovered a horse had become loose and was clicking her shod hoofs on the ties and rails as she ate grass along the track.
Allan MacKinnon, born at Selkirk, son of Mr. and Mrs. John Allan MacKinnon and except for a few winters spent as a cook away in lumber camps, lived his entire life in the district of Selkirk.
After his marriage to Mary (Minnie) Burke, he bought a homestead and farm property close by his old home. He operated a farm and in 1926 took over the rural Mail Route there for which he drove with horses only until September 1960.The roads were rugged and tough in those days, especially in the winter months before the widespread use of snowplows and heated cars made the work more bearable.
"I remember well, one blustery mid-winter day about 1935, that his sleigh was hit and he came close to being killed by the westbound afternoon train at the Selkirk Railroad Crossing."
The horse had broke away from the sleigh and headed for home and Allan laid on the cowcatcher, at the front of the train, for some 100 yards. As the train came to a stop, Allan stepped off the train unhurt. Mike MacIntyre boarded the train at that time and with the snow drift, did not know of the accident. As the train pulled away, he saw the fur cap on the snow and felt sure it was Allan's for Mike kept the post office at the time and saw Allan with the cap daily.
27Collection of photographs of the P.E.I. Narrow Guage Railway, at the Elmira Railway Museum.
31 août 2002
Elmira, Prince Edward Island
28Jack and Patricia Dunphy
Jack Dunphy remembers well when the railway used to occupy P.E.I. For Jack, a worker with the railway, tells us his father before him, also used to work with the railroad. Joe Dunphy was a sectionman in the 1940's for the Souris Branch. He was also one of the crew that put in culverts and built the bridges.
Jack recalls one winter in 1972 when he and Charlie MacDonald used a snowmobile to travel from Harmony Junction to Elmira cleaning the switches along the way. On the way back Jack was driving, hitting an ice patch the snowmobile flipped sending the men, picks, axes and shovels flying in all directions. Luckily, neither man was hurt.
Getting the train through the snow was often a case of ramming into snowbanks, backing up and ramming it again. Jack was watching this procedure one day, the driver gunned the engine full tilt into the snow when a ball of fire shot from the stack sending sparks and ashes over an entire field.
Snow shovellers kept their shovels in shape by heating them on the stove and putting wax on so that the snow wouldn't stick. Patricia's (nee MacDonald) father shovelled at Joe Allan's Cuttin' near their farm. At lunch time they all came home with him to eat lunch. In May, around 1943 a storm hit, men spent all day clearing the track but the following day it rained and not a flake of snow was left.
Patricia spent many hours walking on the tracks looking for cows. Walking from Souris Line Rd. to Crane Hill she would sometimes drive them home along the track. She can recall a time going by horse and wagon to take the cream to Souris. The train came along and blew the horn, scaring the horse who bolted, giving Patricia a wild ride before he was brought under control. She and many people would walk along the track in winter and spring to church in Souris and New Zealand.
Maintaining the railway proved to be hard work for everyone. Replacing ties was hard back breaking work. To get the old tie out they drove a spade in and pulled it out. Ties were heavy and water soaked, in a short time a man had to wring the water out of his shirt.
Blocking the rails was also hard work. When a piece broke off a rail it was repaired by cutting a block to fit. The iron had to be cut by hand using a hacksaw. It was attached with a plate and bolts.
Near Harmony Junction there was a shack where the men went to sharpen their axes. Hours were spent getting the edge perfect. When the axe was sharp enough to cut the hair on your arm, it was ready. It probably took hours because of the homemade beer kept at the shack.
Harmony Junction had a large station, one end was used for storing tools and coal. Sectionmen gathered around the stove in cold weather to eat their lunch. The station was also a place for people to meet and talk.
A mishap and a tragedy were recalled by this source. A gas trolley went off the track in the Harmony Junction area, one man sustained minor injuries. It is believed that the frog was filled with ice, sending the trolley onto another track and unable to make the turn, it simply flew off the rails. The tragedy occurred when a man by the name of Joe Sweeney, engaged to marry a Chaisson girl, was killed by a train. It was thought he was trying to hitch a ride, made a grab for the car, missed and fell.
In closing, Jack said the railway saved the highways. All freight went by rail and there was no need for large trucks with heavy loads, "Maybe the railroad should have been paved for the trucks."
People would walk from the Glen Rd. to Harmony Station to catch a train or mail a letter. A stamped letter could be given to any member of the train crew.
Harmony Junction Station was torn down. George MacAulay got the water tank. The tank was made of a very fine wood and was taken apart and used for windows, trim etc.
In 1925, Clive began working with the railroad. He obtained his job at the age of 15 by visiting a work site just to see what they were doing. When asked if he wanted a job for the summer, since the crew was one man short, he said yes without hesitation. The work week was made up of five days and after insurance and taxes, he cleared $2.98 a day.
There were several dumps between Souris and Elmira, which were gullies that had to be filled in to level the ground. One dump, just west of East Baltic Road had to be built up 25 feet. A second one was one mile east of the East Baltic Road.
A temporary narrow track was built to carry "go carts" which aided in the filling of the dumps. They were small open cars which were cranked with a crank and cables in order to dump the contents. A steam shovel was hauled by train to do the digging and putting the clay in place.
The train also brought the rails and ties as they moved along. Some of the men on this crew were: Jack Howlan, his son Harold and his nephew Jack Locke from Charlottetown, Ivor Stewart, Fred Carew, Bernie Holland, Temple Dunphy and Fred Dixon. Fred Dixon later moved to Truro, Nova Scotia.
An interesting story about Fred Dixon proved to be an excellent job opportunity. While working at the yard one day a train came in from the west coast with frozen pipes. A supervisor at the yard asked the men if they could thaw the pipes, which had to be finished in twenty minutes.
Fred knew how to do it so he went to work. He wrapped all the pipes in burlap and fired the boiler, using the steam he had them thawed in less than twenty minutes. The supervisor was so impressed that Fred soon became a supervisor in Moncton. Fred had learned how to thaw the pipes by watching his father do it in the mill using water and steam powered equipment.
Clive remembers the railway being used to ship fish only once a year, it was when a company boat was not available. Salt for fisherman came by train, it was then hauled to the different individual ports. Clive believes Jerome Chapman shipped the salt and it was hauled by Southern and Campbell.
Clive also worked on the crew that put in the wide gauge track. To finish the work quickly they only drove every third spike. It took two months to go from Elmira to Souris, once this was done they finished driving the spikes and replaced the ties.
A "Y" was put in at Harmony Junction for the train to turn. It was so hot during this time, that they worked early morning and late afternoon and evening. Black flies and mosquitos were so bad, they had to use vaseline and sheep dip. The vaseline was used to protect the skin and the sheep dip was to fight off the bugs.
Clive's wife Pearl used the train from Souris to Harmony Junction to pick blueberries, the cost was ten cents. For those travelling from East Baltic to Souris, the cost was twenty five cents. Lumber was hauled from Souris to Connaught Sawmill, two mills in this area were Acorns and Knights. Some of the finest sand for glassmaking was found at Norris Pond. Joe Neil shipped the sand by flat car to Quebec. It was also good for making fine cement.
During the winter Clive would go to Elmira Station and light the fire at 4 a.m. At this time a car was kept at the station for the train crew to sleep in and a dining car for eating their meals. The cook stove wold be lit for breakfast which the men shared with Clive. It was Clives job to clean the switches at Elmira, Munns Road, and East Baltic.
A passenger train came every day all except for one. Freight day was Wednesday, and potatoes were loaded on Monday and Tuesday. Heaters for potato cars had to be lit the night before loading. A cook stove at the end of each car had to be lit by pulling it through a hatch in the roof. The stove sat on a tripod and had to be kept out in the open until they were sure it was lit, followed by lowering it back into the hole.
At times the stove would go out after all this work, then some brave soul would climb into the hole to restart it. Clive did this once and was nearly overcome from the fumes, which could kill you in a confined space. Extra fuel was put in the car and the stove would be filled as needed by the train crew.
Six or seven church parishes would get together from time to time from Charlottetown for a Tea Party. To accommodate them, a special train was sent out and upon arriving at the station, special truck wagons pulled by horses would take them to the Tea Party.
31Tools and equipment used for track maintenance, on permanent display at the Elmira Railway Museum.
31 août 2002
Elmira, Prince Edward Island
During the railroad years, many men found summer and fall employment as part of the extra gangs.
Among them was Bobby White, a rugged young man, too young to go to war in the mid 1940's but willing to work hard. He recalls many of the duties that were required of these gangs, people that worked with him and a few stories about his time with the crew.
The extra gangs started working around the first of May and finished up November 1st, earning $1.25/hr for their first year and $1.50 the second. Their work in the spring involved going to Charlottetown for 10-14 days to shovel coal ashes from the sheds there. They were loaded onto flatbed cars and spread over the tracks to stabilize the railbed.
The summer and fall seasons saw the men doing maintenance work on the tracks. The ties and spikes had dates on them so the workers would have an idea of when they should be replaced.
In many cases the rails themselves needed replacing. When the rails are laid, a small space measuring a few inches was left between the rails to allow for the expansion of the rails caused by the summer heat. An audible click was heard when the train passed over these spaces in the winter.
Mr. White remembers seeing places between Mt. Stewart and Royalty Junction where this small gap was not big enough and the whole rail bent and curved like a snake under the hot summer sun.
Spikes were pulled out of the ground and ties were shifted as a result of this bending. To fix it, a large chisel and hammer were used to cut a piece out of the track to release the pressure and straighten the track.
It is a well known fact that the tracks on the Island wind around the countryside like a friendly cat wraps around your legs. Since the rails were straight, putting them down around curves created some special problems.
The rails were laid down straight but a few strapping young men with bars were needed to bend the rails to create the proper curve. Andrew Leslie, Tommy Gallant and Bobby White were picked for this task, being the most able of the gang. This process was referred to as "lining" up the track.
One of the other duties of the extra gangs were to fill any hollows or holes that had formed underneath the track. The track was jacked up and fill (i.e. clay, crushed rock etc.) was packed into the hole to build it up, making the railbed level and more stable. This was called "raising the track and packing it."
The work done by the extra gangs often took them some distance from their homes. As a result, they stayed at the site sleeping in sleeper cars and having their meals in the cook house (a box car converted into a dining area).
Usually, one of the men on the extra gang was appointed cook for the crew. Mr. White and his fellow gang members were fortunate to have Chester MacDonald, a Bear River native, for their cook, as he was able to make just about anything taste good. The men were required to stay for a week and were allowed to go home for the weekend.
Travelling home at the end of the week was done by train but the train did not leave early enough on Monday morning for the men to get to work on time. Some went by trolley Sunday evening or early Monday morning.
Much fun was had on these trolley rides going down the "Ashton Straight," a 4-5 mile stretch of track that was very straight and along which the trolley would just fly. Mr. White said he and Frank Whalen could get that trolley going pretty fast down "the Straight" sometimes and had quite a lot of fun with it!
Each 30-35 member crew had a boss to oversee the workings of the men. Sam Hood was the boss for the gang Mr. White was a part of. He was well respected by his gangs, being a very fair and level headed man who never seemed to get rattled by anything.
He looked after his men and saw that they were fairly treated, even standing up to authority when necessary. One day, the crew were to replace rails between the Mt. Stewart and Royalty Junction.
Mr. Hood went to the station close to the area and asked if there were any trains scheduled to come through their work area. Upon finding out there were no trains scheduled, he told his men to proceed.
A common practice for work crews was to lace torpedoes - small fire crackers clipped onto the track that would go off when the train hit them - along the track 1/4 mile from their work area. The noise they would make alerted the train that there were men on the track ahead of them.
Flags were also put up farther down the track - in case the torpedoes didn't go off or were not heard. Not long after Hood's gang started working, they heard the torpedoes going off. The men looked around, bewildered, since no train was scheduled and the rails had already been taken up.
Hood, however, remained unphased, so much so that he did not even get up off the track he was sitting on when the train pulled up and stopped. The engineer came out and asked what was going on. Hood replied that he checked with the station and no trains were scheduled through there and they could wait 'til the men finished or they could back up to wherever he came from. Simple as that.
In those days, superintendents or track masters performed random checks on the extra gangs. Mr. Hood was not very fond of these men snooping around and did not hide the fact.
On one occasion, the men saw a superintendent by the name of Jack Howatt preparing to jump off the back of the train as it slowed down for him. However, the train did not slow down enough.
When the man jumped, he lost his footing and did three somersaults, landing in the woods with the backside tore out of his pants. One of the men shouted to him to see if he was alright. Sam Hood quipped "I hope he broke his neck!"
Usually there were few mishaps to report during the gang's work term.
However, one did occur in Souris involving a flatbed car full of ties and the cook house. Both these cars were on the siding and someone wanted the flatbed moved.
This was a relatively simple procedure, place a bar under the wheels to get it rolling and a brakesman turns the wheel to put on the brakes. However, this time the wheel was turned the wrong way and the flatbed didn't stop. It smashed into the back of the cook house, sending all the dishes and cookware crashing to the floor!
Mr. White also remembers the railway buildings in the Souris railway yard.
The turntable consisted of a large revolving platform with two long handles onto which an engine was driven. Four men on each of these handles would turn this platform so the engine faced the way in which it came.
This apparatus was located on Pond Street on the present site of Ching's Warehouse. The Roundhouse, which housed the engines during their overnight stay in Souris, was situated where the Souris Consolidated School's parking lot is now.
A freight shed was also part of the scenery in the railway yard. Part of it was hauled to the race track 12 years ago and used as a horse barn. The roof was replaced but the walls were sound enough to make a strong, solid barn.
Very little evidence of the buildings and sheds belonging to the railroad can be seen in Souris today with the exception of the freight shed. In fact, the only sign of the train ever being in Souris is the railbed. But Mr. White's fond and vivid memories of the railway can help one picture a time that some of us can only
Passing Track vs Siding
- A passing track was a section of track off the main railroad where trains or cars could be pulled off to allow another to pass. These passing tracks were open at both ends with a switch at each end.
- A siding is the same thing but is open at only one end with one switch.
33Tools and Equipment used for track maintenance, on permanent display at the Elmira Railway Museum.
31 août 2002
Elmira, Prince Edward Island
Blair worked with C.N. as a trackman, also referred to as sectionman, beginning at the age of 21. He started working in June of 1966 and retired in 1994. From 1982-1994 he worked both on and off the Island. His area of responsibility extended from Mt. Stewart east to St. Peters.
As a young lad Blair recalls the coal cars coming into Morell, which always guaranteed work, for it would take two to four people three days to unload the car by hand. The coal was shovelled into a nearby warehouse located near the existing Morell Co-op. Potato cars also required loading, which again would take three to four people, depending on how quick they needed to be loaded.
It was 1966 when Blair actually started to work for C.N. Railway. At that time there were only three section headquarters, one at Mt. Stewart, St. Peters and Souris.
At the peak of times for C.N., four or five section headquarters now occupied that stretch with about for men to a section. This was a result of crew cutbacks probably dating back before Blair started in 1966.
Blair recalled a stretch of six to seven cars called the "White Fleet." Each of these cars looked similar to a mobile home but all contained a different type of room. A diningroom, recroom, washroom and bunk car were provided by C.N. to accommodate the men away from their homes, called to the duty of working for C.N. to service the railway.
The fleet would be put up on what is called "off track siding." Every station had one, with some areas having one to five off track sidings. Some of the off tracks were privately owned, but C.N. would take care of the maintenance and services. The off track siding would also be used for unloading such cargo as automobiles.
Blair's work as a trackman or sectionman generally covered the Mt. Stewart to St. Peters area however, when deemed necessary, the crews would be called to another location to assist in an emergency. There were times that men worked from daylight to dark trying to make accident sites passable. Blair recalls the crew size diminishing from six to three men per crew. There would be an extra eight men on call for each area during the extra work load times. There were times when you could see burned coal remains on the tracks. These coal remains were distributed from Charlottetown and used on the tracks as extra bedding.
As a trackman, there were many incidents he could recall of trouble on the rails. Snow troubles for example were a constant hindrance to trains, Mt. Stewart and St. Peters being the most troubled areas. Blair can recall wing plow derailments happening quite often.
In 1980 there was a wing plow derailment at Harmony Junction, it took three days to make it passable, cars and engines were in the woods, with wreckage everywhere. The spring season brought with it washouts that destroyed the tracks. From St. Peters Bay to 1/4 mile west of MacKinnon's Irving at St. Peters, due to high winds and tides, a serious washout occurred which took four days to make the stretch of track passable.
A lot of hard work was involved as crossings and ties had to be repaired and land underneath the tracks had to be built up. After the track was jacked up, rock and ballast, shipped over from Foley Lake, N.B., was packed under it. The track would then be laid back down and aligned and the ties put back in placed. P.E.I. had a lot more manual labour, where off Island heavy equipment was available.
In the last ten years of service, P.E.I. was allowed to lease heavy equipment, which came from Moncton, for a couple of months in the summer to lift and align the track. If the equipment was not available, the rails were lifted by hand, with four men at each end of a rail, using rail thongs to lift the track.
When the spikes would rust underneath the head, it was called "cut throat" which would throw the tracks out of alignment. The spike was removed by a "draw bar" and replaced. If you walk along the tracks today, you may find some of these old spikes.
Railway tracks had speed limits which assisted in decreasing the number of derailments and other accidents. Limits of 10 to 30 miles per hour were allotted to places depending on the area you were in. Controlled by signs showing the permitted speed limits, there was also a time table stating train departure and arrival times.
An unusual story was recalled by Blair which took place back in the winter of 1984 after a heavy snowfall. Wing plow operators, Andy Leslie (Souris), Omer Ferguson (Montague) and Ronnie Gillis (Miscouche), had orders to clean the track to Montague. Sammy Birt(Mt. Stewart), Blair Weir (Morell) and Mike Egan (Mt. Stewart) were told to follow the wing plow with a motor trolley, their job was to clear and salt the crossing and clean the switches.
The plow was ordered to go to Montague but when they came to Cardigan Junction they seen it fit to go back to Mt. Stewart. After turning the plow around and heading back at full steam ahead, they forgot one thing, "to signal the motor crew!!!"
Heading back at such a high speed, there was no way to stop when they caught site of the motor trolley. Blair recalls not knowing the train was heading back, until they actually saw it. The car was smashed to pieces as the plow certainly couldn't stop.
Blair proceeded to explain that you can't jump right away, you have to wait until the train is almost ready to collide, for everything goes flying. This information was passed down from older rail workers for there is no type of training for this type of accident.
Luckily no one was killed in the collision however, Sammy Birt at the age of 55-60, suffered a broken foot and some other minor injuries. He was hospitalized for some time and did not return to work for the railway.
Blair recalls the C.N. Strike's and how the workers always received what they demanded. I guess this was like the beginning of the end. C.N. started to make major cutbacks and people started to find other modes of transportation for themselves as well as their goods.
Blair now displays a black and brass clock on his mantle. B.J. Weir 25 Years of Service is inscribed on it. This was given to him in recognition of his many years with the railway.
In the late 1950's early 1960's an engine and two cars loaded with potatoes went off the track about one mile east of the East Baltic Station. This happened during the winter in the middle of the night. To get the potatoes, they had to cut away the brush and shovel the snow.
Alvin was part of the crew that shovelled the snow off the tracks in Souris during the 60's. The train went under the road they had made to relay the snow up the bank.
Peter Mossey was the station master for East Baltic, and Wallace Rose had the post office. Wallace's children would often pick up the mail for him.
Theodore Robertson, who had a store in Red Point, picked up items for his store at the East Baltic Station. Some items included 90 gallon barrels of molasses, which he rolled onto his waiting sleigh by himself. By the time the bottom of the molasses barrel was reached, it would be very thick, and this was used mostly to
make candy (taffy). Columba Jarvis was a great story teller and was often sitting by the old potbelly stove, ready with a good yarn to tell.
Railway cars were left at the East Baltic Station for the nearby sawmill. During the day the cars would be shunted to the mill and later in the afternoon they would be loaded with lumber and returned to the station, where they were picked up the next day.
It was exciting to meet the train, everyone came early to hear the latest gossip. Many young people would often walk to Souris and take the train back. This was considered fun, money was scarce so they could not afford to take the train both ways.
It was easier to walk down and take the train back because most times you would be tired from the long walk, and the train ride home was very relaxing and especially easy on the feet.
In addition to riding the train, small open cars about eight feet in length were borrowed by young people to go for a ride on the rail track, this involved a lot of pushing as the cars had no power, not even a hand pump. The cars were always returned to the siding when the fun was over.
Alvin's mother-in-law Helen remembered as a child running through the Mussel Mud with her good shoes. In later years her son George jumped off the top of a freight train car and broke his leg, he was 12 or 13 at the time.
She use to have to get up several times during the night to bottle feed baby pigs, and to put wood in the stove to keep the baby chicks warm. In the spring the roads were scraped with a team of horses. This was a way of paying your taxes, instead of receiving government money for your work, your tax bill would be credited.
In the spring women often took the train to Souris to get wallpaper and paint for their spring cleaning ritual.
Telephones had nineteen or more homes on the same line.
The rail line was fenced with a mesh wire to keep animals, cows, and horses off the line. Some of this fencing is still visible in some parts of the woods today.
Alvin feels that the land probably should have been returned, however he said with a smile, " I do enjoy riding on the trails with my snowmobile."
38Hon. George Mullally
Before the train came into existence on P.E.I, people lived rather isolated lives. The only mode of transportation was by horse and cart or by foot and the closest urban centre was often a couple of hours drive away.
This, coupled with the fact that most items needed to survive were supplied by the family farm, meant that trips into town were few and far between. When the train came along, much of this changed.
People could now travel to Souris and even Charlottetown more often. Young people could attend St. Dunstans University with fewer worries about transportation and living arrangements.
People even used it to travel to Boston to visit relatives or to work and also out West on the Harvest train for a couple of months work. It opened up greater opportunities for farmers to sell their produce and to bring special items like mussel mud, lime and farm machinery to their farms to produce higher yields.
The train now became important for a wide range of reasons. A special train could be called upon for serious medical emergencies. In the late 1940's, a man from Gowan Brae sustained a puncture wound to the stomach during a farming accident. In order to save him, a train was called to take him to Charlottetown. In another case, a young boy from Gowan Brae was taken to Charlottetown with a severe case of appendicitis.
On a lighter note, the train was used for things as simple as telling time. Years ago, clocks did not keep their time very well. To the time people used to listen for the train whistle which invariably blew at the same time every morning or afternoon.
Because of the train, people also had a chance to socialize. The station was a meeting place for many people whether they were meeting people at the train or just dropping by to see who was coming or going.
Travellers on the train also took the opportunity to have a good time. Often the trip home consisted of purchasing some spirits before the departure and partying all the way home. There was almost always a fiddler on board which added to the merriment.
While those up to Harmony and Souris were benefiting from the railroad, the people living further east had yet to experience it to the fullest. The section from Harmony to Elmira did not exist until 1911 or 1912. In 1908 James J. Hughes, during a election, promised to get this section built.
Although he was defeated, he expressed his interest to Prime Minister Laurier. The Prime Minister, surprised but impressed with the defeated mans request, sent Mr. Hughes to see the finance minister who found the money to fund the project.
The station house was based on 1860's to 1870's architectural design. Station houses built back then had separate waiting rooms for men and women at either end of the building as was called for by the etiquette of the era.
But it had since then become socially acceptable to have a mixed waiting room and one of these waiting rooms was used for storage. It was because of this design and the fact that this was the end of the eastern line that Elmira Station was offered to the Heritage Foundation by the railroad for preservation.
Two station agents were remembered working in Elmira. Mr. Large was the first station agent hired for this station and it was believed Peter Holland took over after him, remaining there until 1932 or 1933 when he left to work in Souris. The exact date Peter started is unclear but he was known to be there during World War I.
The station house in Souris was a large building with a mansford roof, providing a dwelling for the station agent and his family and also housing a waiting room, parcel room and a station agents office.
When it came to getting work on the railroad, politics played a role. It always helped to be on the right side of the fence, so to speak, when looking for this particular job because, with the government owning the railroad, they were government positions. Permanent jobs like station agents, engineers, fireman, baggage men, etc. more than likely had political connections attached but it also seemed to have run in families.
Sometimes a father would be succeeded by his sons or the son would at least have a jobs of some description working on the railroad because of the family connections. Although this may seem a little bit prejudicial, these arrangements probably worked well as sons, nephews, and brothers would have first hand knowledge of the railroad from their elders.
These were very secure jobs as a regular paycheque's were received and it would only be natural for a father to show his son, nephew, or brother the ropes in hopes he could carry on and have a secure job.
Margaret's husband Bun began his employment life working as a farm hand. In 1940 he bought his own farm, still worked as a farm hand and was now working as an extra with the railway.
As years passed and he continued to get more work with the railway, he quit being a farm hand and farmed his own land for 10 years. Although Bun was considered an extra he continued to get full time work and could no longer farm his own land, he did get some young boys to do the work for him but this did not work out.
He eventually sold the farm and he, his wife and children moved to a house in Morell East where they lived for one year. The house Margaret now resides in, is where they spent most of their family life.
"We were lucky we didn't have to move around much." Bun would have to sometimes work out of town for a while but he would board with someone in the area he was working in. At times he would be gone for the week, come home on weekends and be off again on Monday. A lot time was spent raising the children alone, Margaret recalls.
As the children got old enough and started school, Margaret went to work at the fish plant. She recalls fish (lobster) being shipped in from Shediac but they did so by truck, it was more convenient than train at the time.
Bun was also working full time in Mt. Stewart, St. Peters, Farmington, Souris, Harmony and Elmira. He worked with many crews and in later years he was home almost every day. Margaret recalls how hectic it used to be getting up at 5:00am to pack lunches so Bun could be off to work at 7:00-4:00pm. She would then get the children off to school and have herself at work for 8:00am. This was quite the routine every day.
There were times when Bun would certainly get his exercise. "I can recall mornings he would walk from here to St. Peters." Sometimes Bun would have to leave St. Peters and walk back to Farmington. He would then catch the train back, getting a little rest.
Margaret says they never made much use of the free passes that were given to them from the railway, "although I have travelled on the train to Charlottetown to do business and shop." She would leave in the early morning and be back by the evening.
Margaret travelled to Toronto once aboard the train with a friend, Donna Kelly, about 25 years ago. The children were old enough to care for each other and Bun would be home in the evenings so she decided to go and enjoy the trip, and they did, she chuckles. It took two days to get there, they stayed for two weeks and made the two day trip back.
When she would go to Charlottetown she would board the train in St. Peters, when they lived there and in Morell when they moved. You could get your ticket before you went on the train.
Edgar MacKinnon was station master in Morell at the time. As you boarded you would find a seat and wait for the conductor to come and punch your ticket. "I enjoyed the very relaxing ride. It is a shame that they ever took it off, " Margaret says.
"I remember once in his later years with the rail when Bun was injured pulling out spikes. One broke and he toppled back landing in the hospital for a week with a double hernia."
Margaret does not recall Bun getting paid while he was out of work with his injuries. She does remember the railway workers getting straight pay during holidays, Christmas, New Years, Easter, they would only get one day at a time.
Bun missed the crew he worked with when he left the railway. After retirement he spent a lot of time around the home. He never really wished to go to far from the home when he was working or when he was retired. "You see, he had asthma and he had it so bad that he never wanted to journey to far."
When he worked he took medication with him and as it got worse he had to go on a machine when he got home. "That is what claimed Bun in the end, the asthma was just so bad." He was usually O.K. while he worked, when he got home is when he had trouble.
"They were good ol' days and it kept them out of mischief," Margaret laughs.
"They had to work hard, that's for sure," as she talked about how hard the rail crew worked.
"I believe they did the wrong thing, they never should have taken up the tracks or taken the train off." A lot of people were employed by the railway even the shovellers that were only called in the winter. "Money was money."
Bernard James (Bun) Tobin was born on April 27, 1913. He worked as an extra then a sectionman for the railway. Bun married Margaret Jane (MacKinnon) Tobin in October of 1942 and they had three children. Bun died on November 3, 1989.
While Bun worked as an extra for the railway, these are the men he worked for.
Tom Ledwell, Souris
Charlie Leslie, Souris
Stanley Brown, Morell
Bill Power, Tracadie
Emmett MacDonald, Morell
Long before anyone owned a car and plows cleared the roads for them to travel, the only way to go places was by train. For some it meant walking only a short distance to meet the westbound train at Selkirk Station around 8:10am.
For others coming from places such as Little Pond, travelling by train meant staying overnight at a Selkirk home, where the wife was a native of Little Pond, and catching the train from there the next morning. In 1937 and 1938 the train fare for a round trip from Selkirk to Charlottetown was $2.50. A trip from Selkirk to St. Peters cost 25 cents.
Many people also travelled to Souris on the freight train, leaving Selkirk between 11:00am and 12:00pm, shopping or doing other business until the train left Souris around 2:00pm. A trip from Selkirk to Souris in the late 1930's was 50 cents. Although these prices seem low to people in the 1990's, a quarter back then was worth a great deal more than it is now.
For the comfort and convenience of the travellers on the passenger train, a "smoker" was available. The smoker was a compartment, separated from the rest of the car, where people could smoke. It was also the spot to go and have a drink, although it wasn't meant for such.
For a short time in 1937 there was another form of transportation in Souris - the autorailer. This was a small "train" that could be run on both rails and the road. It held up to 30 people and often made trips from Souris into Charlottetown.
It was thought these cars would be useful for running people around Souris, almost like a taxi, but they weren't used that much and as a result were taken off the rails.
Travelling by train was, indeed, an important mode of transportation. However, Mother nature often decided when the train travelled. This was the case in the winter of 1961, an especially bad year for snowstorms. The train was stuck in snow drifts every time you turned around.
That year the train was shovelled out near Mt. Stewart, St. Peters, Five Houses, Harmony Junction and other areas when major storms blocked the tracks, often for days at a time.
Many people, including women with newborn babies, endured the long wait while men shovelled feverishly to clear the track. A derailment also occurred that same winter just west of the railroad bridge near Selkirk Station. One man travelling on the train that day got such a scare that he never set foot on a train again.
In the days before the railroad, farmers grew enough food for their families and the farm's livestock. With the railroad came the opportunity to ship their produce, bringing them extra money. They could also easily obtain fertilizer, such as mussel mud, for their land which helped them produce higher yields and better livestock.
As a result, cattle, pigs, sheep, etc. were herded to the nearest railroad station to be shipped to town to the meat packers. For some, the journey to the nearest station started very early in the morning. For example, people from the Little Pond area would leave there with their livestock at 3:00am in order to arrive in time for the noon train in St. Charles or Selkirk. Men would stamp the livestock and then load them in the boxcars.
It was also stated that wood was shipped by train. Wood was cut in a small area called Kirkwood, located between Ashton and Aberdeen, and was loaded on the train at the road crossing in Aberdeen. It was unsure what the wood was sold for i.e. firewood, lumber.
Eggs were another commodity shipped by train. Because they were very fragile, the eggs were placed in the baggage car where they could be better cared for. They would end up at Brookfield Ice Cream in Charlottetown where they were graded and distributed for sale or used in making ice cream.
One farmer in Selkirk, who was also a store owner, shipped his eggs this way and instead of being paid cash he took groceries for the store in trade. John MacPhee, like many other farmers, shipped his eggs in crates that held 30 dozen eggs. His shipments were especially large, with 15-20 crates being shipped from his farm at any given time.
Mr. MacPhee, a member of the Co-op store in Selkirk, acquired the contents of the Co-op in 1942 when it closed down. Another member, Art Cahill from Gros Haut, was also co-owner of this new store which was set up in a spare room in Mr. MacPhee's home.
Many items for the store came by train, so many in fact that the engineers used to blow the whistle as they passed by to let them know the train was in with their wares.
Some of these engineers and other trainmen were remembered by Mr. MacPhee's son Kenny (Johnny Roddie). They are Jack McCormack, engineer, Bill Doyle, conductor, Corneilus McCormack, baggagemaster and mail clerk, Jack's brother, Merlin Murphy, one of the best engineers on the train, and a Mr. Trainor, engineer (first name unknown).
Kenny MacPhee recalls the first days of the store when all the items were moved by himself, his father, Mr. Cahill and various other people into the small spare room until an addition could be made to house the store. Ration stamps were a common sight in the store until 1945 when the war ended and the rational items - tea, sugar, molasses and butter - were no longer scarce.
Mr. MacPhee lives in the old home in Selkirk where he grew up seeing his parents run the store from what is now the front porch. Selkirk is a quieter place since those days, when people bustled around the store, the post office, the blacksmith shop and the station located in this community. The absence of the train is also strongly felt here, as it was the train which brought all the bustle here in the first place.
Natives by the name of by the surname Sark lived near the railroad bridge in Selkirk.
P.C. MacDonald, the man who tied his horse to the train in Selkirk, was Kenny MacPhee's uncle.
People had a great time on the train, especially around Christmas time when people would get their Christmas liquor and party on the train on their way home.
Kenny knew railway men such as Ronnie McInnis, Jimmy (Johnny Alan) MacKinnon, Tommy Ledwell, Artie (Johnny Vie) MacDonald, Charlie (Hughie Alan) MacDonald.
Daniel McInnis took mail off the train and took it to the post office at Mike MacIntyres. His brother Joe (Danny Alan) McInnis had the post office after the MacIntyres.
Extra trains were put on for tea parties.
Kenny remembers pump trolley cars and motorized ones in Selkirk Station. Mr. MacPhee recalls the men pumping the pump trolleys and coasting down a slight grade into St. Charles Station.
44Art and Laura Coffin
Art, as well as his wife Laura, recall how the train influenced many people's lives. Although it did not influence their lives a great deal, they still had a lot to tell.
Art lived by the railway most of his life, however, he only travelled on the train once, from Pisquid to Mt. Stewart. He used the railway when he ran a mill in Mt. Stewart, the feed for the mill was delivered by train. As well, Laura said while she lived in Covehead she only used the train to travel to Charlottetown.
Art was never employed by the railway itself, but he and his brother Roger did work pulling spikes from Cardigan to Mt. Stewart, from there to Morell and on the St. Peters to East Baltic run.
By the time they completed this job, they knew every inch of track and trees along the trail.
Two of Art's uncles were employed with the railway, Doug and Willard Coffin. Willard did not have much luck when he was a driver, for he had many derailments and one January he ran into a plow that was driven by Doggie Cameron. Luckily no one was hurt in the mishap.
The winter was not always an enjoyable season for the trains. They could be stuck for two or three days or even longer, with men clearing the line, away from home for at least a week. Although the men were glad for the work, they used to get their exercise, for they had to walk the whole way and back again. It was said, that the Georgetown train used to get stuck a lot on the turn in Mt. Stewart, before the bridge and would be there for a day.
Many things were shipped by train, including goods such as potatoes. Art recalls that Clark's (Russell Clark's) and Keenan's used the train for shipping potatoes. On one occasion Clark's loaded 600 cars full of potatoes and when the train stopped running in Souris, Keenan's shipped their potatoes to Mt. Stewart where they loaded 21 cars. Pulpwood was also shipped by train and became a big business for the railway. One of the first carloads of pulpwood was loaded in 1949, Art's brother Junior worked loading the car.
Art recalls a few accidents that happened during the time of the train. The Georgetown crossing used to be a dangerous spot and many accidents occurred there. A derailment occurred in later years on the bridge of the Georgetown line.
Roy Leard hit a train at the crossing that carried him 50 yards down the track. When things were all cleaned up and the train was back on it's way Roy said, "That was close!"
Basil Jay also hit a train at this crossing that threw him out of his car and a train hit a snowplow that Sterling Gunn was driving. It was amazing that there were no fatalities.
The tracks were used by people for other means of transportation besides the train.
People would travel on the tracks with horse and sleigh or buggies which would quite often get stuck in the bog and they would panic trying to get them out. Even though most horses didn't mind the tracks, some would go wild around the train and tracks, Art believed it was the hollow sound the tracks had. They once owned a horse that would not walk across the tracks, he would jump them but never walk.
Art talked about a time when he, Junior Coffin and Everett Jay went driving on the tracks one day. Art recalls it being a Sunday because people going to church had seen them. He said as long as you were going forward you would be ok, but if you tried to back up you would go off the tracks. They use to stop at the crossings and go fishing, but never said if they ever caught anything.
Some of the young fellows would get enjoyment from borrowing the trollies that came into Mt. Stewart. Four men were required to pump these hand trollies, they were not so lucky as to find the powered ones, which would have been a lot easier. Art remembers a saying that his mother often used, "Riding a bike was moving your legs to give your ass a drive!" Art used the same saying when people would ride the trollies, "Riding a trolley was moving your arms to give your ass a drive!"
As they sat and recalled the past, Art and Laura said that 100 years ago they probably never knew the railroad would not be here today. Laura does not here the train whistles anymore and misses them, for she would hear them everyday. My how times change!
There were four junctions on the Island, Emerald, East Royalty, Mt.Stewart, and Harmony.
The train had to back into Montague but they could turn and drive into Georgetown.
In 1929 or 1930 the new line to Lake Verde was put in, it was the last line to be put in.
Billy Coffin was the last railroad man on PEI.
It was Moveall Construction that moved the Mt. Stewart Station to Savage Harbour.
When Art was involved in taking up the tracks, the oldest bridge they noticed was the bridge in
Tracadie, it was dated 1917.
Art also mentioned there was an average of 3000 railway ties per mile along the track.
About four or five years ago when they were taking the tracks up at the Mt. Stewart bridge, it caught fire from the torch they were using to cut the joint plates. The elderly people were told to leave because of the heavy smoke. Art recalls it being July 19, he was at a birthday party and the smoke lasted for three days.
When the boxcar of coal would come to the station, they used to have to unload it right away. During the night people would come to the car and help themselves to the coal.
Eileen began her recollection about a near fatal accident that could have occurred back when the train used to travel right by her house.
One day she went to the store up the street with one of her sons. Walking back she noticed that her young son, only 18-19 months at the time, had got out of the yard somehow and started to walk up the road to meet her. As they lived only a short distance from the tracks, she became very upset when she noticed the train coming.
As she screamed to her son to stop, he kept walking, as he could not hear her over the noise of the oncoming train. It was then that a young lady, coming up the street, heard the frantic mother's screams and ran up the road to stop the child.
Needless to say, Eileen was a very happy mother. After this occurrence Eileen said when you live so close to the tracks and hear the train whistle blowing, do a quick head count to make sure all your children are safe. She now worries about her grandchildren playing around the tracks.
Even though trains do not occupy them anymore, cars travel right on the railbed and go by her house. Eileen's recalls her family using the passenger train quite frequently. Her husband, using horse and wagon, used to haul the freight that came by train for the stores.
William MacDonald, Eileen's father, used to ship potatoes on the trains. She also recalled a couple accidents, one when Basil Jay hit a freight train and one when the snowplow hit the train. No fatalities occurred in these mishaps.
After a day in town for some tests, Eileen and her sister Bertha missed their train ride home. This did not stop them however, for they just started walking home. It took three hours to get from Charlottetown to Blooming Point, which was pretty good, seeing as the train ride takes about the same amount of time.
One Halloween night a group of young boys got together and decided to push the freight car down to the main street. As they went by Eileen's house she thought, how good her two young boys were to be home in bed and not out with this group of boys causing trouble. To her surprise, as she learned a while later, her boys had crawled out their window to be of assistance to their friends. Later on that night, the boys were caught and had to push the car back down to the railway yard.
Eileen said she does miss the horse and buggy days because they were happy times however, everything today is more accessible and convenient.
Compared to the railroad in the United States, the one on P.E.I. was considered to be fairly young, beginning operation near 50 years later. When it was decided to build the railway here and the process was started, the province found they could not afford to complete it.
At this time P.E.I. was being pressured to join Confederation as having the Island was important in maintaining shipping access with Great Britain. Joining Confederation would mean the railway on the Island could be completed. The Island agreed to join and in 1875 the railroad began it's operation.
Joe McInnis related that the St. Peters Station was situated at the south end of the causeway across from the site of the present Irving gas station. The station and toolshed, which housed the trolley car, were located about 200 feet east of the road, directly below St. Peters rink.
When the rail lines were no longer providing passenger travel, the station was left unused. About 16 years ago it was moved closer to the road and became the St. Peters Circle Club, a seniors activity center. In a way, things did not change much for the station so it was always a hub of activity, with fiddlers playing for dances there and people meeting the train.
The station yard, as the area was often called, had an extra section of track called the passing track. If two trains came into the yard at the same time, one could be pulled off onto the passing track to allow the other one to pass through.
This track could also be used for loading freight cars, allowing the car to be loaded without holding up the freight train or hindering the passage of the passenger train.
At the east end of the station yard, there was a cattle pen, used to hold cattle and other livestock before they were loaded onto the freight cars. Behind this point, the land was quite marshy as it was very close to the edge of St. Peters estuary.
When the steam engines were running, they required regular fill ups at water tanks located at various spots along the railroad. One of these water tanks was located on the north side of the highway near Pinebrook, a stream located east of the United Church in St. Peters. This stream was damned as a starch factory was in operation on the south side of the road and provided enough water for the water tank.
In addition to the railway buildings, the water tanks and the station yard, the people who worked for the railroad were also permanent fixtures, seen on the train or in the station.
Three station agents were recalled by Joe were Peter Power, Will Cox and Vince Murphy as well as a variety of relieving agents which occupied the station from time to time.
One of the conductors recalled was Mr. Hughes. He was a big, burly man who prided himself in having things go straight forward and on time. On one trip he was on, the train got stuck in Elmira for 3 weeks. A couple of fellow workers, knowing he would be upset at the extended delay, sent Mr. Hughes word to bring some May flowers back with him when the snow melts enough for the train to leave Elmira!
Another conductor was fondly remembered, Ronnie MacDonald, Joe's uncle. When his nephew and his son heard the train coming, they would run to the tracks and catch candy that he would throw at them. The men that worked on the railroad were all remembered as very hard working, dedicated men who worked as though the railroad was their own.
The same dedication was shown by the men who shovelled out the train when the snow proved to much for it. There were some winters where so much snow was dumped that the train could be stuck for weeks with men shovelling for $2.00/day from daylight to dark. Shovelling alongside the train to clear the wheels was especially hard because the steam from the train would soak the men's clothes, making for a cold miserable day.
Two snowbanks gave the shovellers from this area work every year. "Betsy's Cuttin'" was located on a hill on the west side of the Midgell bridge. It was named after the landowner, Betsy Battersby who's land this snowbank formed on each year.
Another bank, "Porter's Cuttin'" was named for the landowner, Porter's, who owned land between the eastern outskirts of the St. Peters community and the dirt road leading to Forest Hill called Sparrow Road.
Bad storms battered the section of the track that runs along the south shore of St. Peters Bay. In the early years, the bridge foundation was wooden timber breastwork. High tides combined with fierce winds during a storming 1939 washed all this breastwork from under the railroad track.
Tons of fill was brought in along with crushed rocks and boulders from the mainland to build up the railway bed after this storm. This proved to be a solid foundation although the railway spikes were replaced often as they were found to be rusted near all the way through by the salt spray.
In the days when there was no TV and few radios, people made their own fun by visiting others and often telling ghost stories. It seems like every little hollow tree the train passed through had a spook of some kind haunting it. Although there were many stories repeated in his time, Joe could not recall any for the simple fact that he knew they were just stories.
There were a couple of real "spooks" haunting the starch factory in Pinebrook, next to the tracks. The night watchmen for the factory, from the Cardigan area, seemed especially fearful of ghosts and other spooks. His job was to check all the pipes in the building to ensure everything was in working order. These pipes made the building very hot and, because he was alone and know one would see him, he took his clothes off and proceeded with his check.
One night a bunch of local boys snuck in and picked his clothes up one by one with a fishing pole. They even hooked onto the lantern he was carrying and made off with that! Needless to say, the man was terrified and ran outside. The next day he was telling someone of the experience saying the devil was there last night and took off with his clothes!
On another occasion, the boys picked up a long pipe and put it through a broken window. They made an eerie sound into the pipe, which made it sound twice as horrible and startled the man so bad he fell into one of the tanks. But these were good guys and they went in, fished him out of the tank and brought him some dry clothes.
A ghostly experience did happen near Sutherland's lobster factory near St. Peters. In 1914 during the first World War, a large steam ship was seen near the harbour during a foggy night, but no one came ashore. The ship was gone by morning.
To try and solve this mystery, Bill Cox, the station agent, knew the ship had a wireless telegraph and tried to contact it. The agent could not decipher the message that came back, leaving the identity of the ship a mystery.
Excursion trains took hockey players and fans to local rinks. It was said that this was near as big as the NHL.
A return ticket to Charlottetown on Saturdays cost 90 cents.
Telegraph wires had to be raised because they were getting buried in the snow.
Rails up west were replaced with heavier rails, fewer heavy rails occupy the eastern section. The reason for this is unknown.
Any minor derailments that occurred were handled with a portable set of tracks. Once the train was righted, if it did flip over, with the use of cables, the wheels were guided onto the portable track and back on to the main rails.
50Ella (MacDonald) Wilson
Ella worked at the Bayview Hotel in St. Peters as a young woman in the mid 1920's. Being a native of Selkirk, she took the train to St. Peters where she remained for 3-4 weeks at a time to work. She remembers that the majority of the people staying at the Bayview Hotel were train travellers, bringing business to the community. When she had time off in the evenings, Ella and some of the other workers at the hotel or stores in the area, would go for a leisurely stroll down the tracks.
One of these strolls was taken to see the men and the "fighting train" do their work on the blocked track, caused by a fierce late December storm. They walked to Pinebrook, just west of St. Peters, to watch this train back up and drive full tilt into the snowbank until it got stuck and couldn't push the snow any further.
The men would then dig the train out and the train would try to "fight" the snow again. The snow "fought back," keeping the railroad blocked for a week or more.
One of Ella's strolls was not for leisure, however. The clock in her home stopped during the night, causing her to miss the train. As that day at work was to be a busy one, she walked the distance of 8 miles from Selkirk to St. Peters. The walk took her two hours to complete.
Ella was working in St. Peters when the wide gauge track was being laid. "Every man with two hands" was working from the time the last train passed on Saturday evening, through the night, until Sunday evening when it was completed.
When she married and settled in Selkirk, Ella used to go to St. Peters by train to do her shopping. She recalls managing to always go on the days when there was a teacher's convention, trying to jostle her way through the noisy crowd to get a seat with all her parcels!
To further her knowledge of the railway, Ella's father-in-law, Johnny Wilson was a railway man, but she is unsure of what his job used to be. His pay for the work done on the railroad was $25 per month. Her husband Jim Wilson was a shoveller.
When she heard that the passenger service was to be discontinued in the mid 1960's, she made it a point to take one last ride on the train to St. Peters, a trip she is now glad she made.
She has noticed a lot of changes in St. Peters since the train left. The Station was moved closer to the road and is now being used as a seniors club. All of the stores and the hotel that flourished during the early years of the railroad, are now gone.
She also misses being able to go places by train, as it was very convenient for everyone.
In 1917 Canadian National began buying up the railways obtaining the Canadian Northern. A board of Directors that extended over the Canadian Government Railways was appointed chaired by D.B. Hanna. With fifteen lines in
all, the main lines were InterColonial, National Transcontinental, Hudson Bay Railway and the P.E.I. Railway.
Herbie worked as a snow shoveller. When the train became stuck in the snow the driver signalled for snow shovellers by three blasts of the engine's steam whistle. A crew of about thirty men would walk through the deep snow to wherever they were needed.
In 1926 the snow was so deep at St. Clair Crossing (near Chapel St.), men worked on six levels to clear the rails. The same year a tunnel was made from the Co-op corner to the school. Snow had to be cleared from the pit under the turn table and there were times when for every shovelful removed, two more blew in.
Three of the cleaners for Souris over the years were: Warren Cheverie, Leonard Walsh and Reggie (Jerome) Cheverie, they were responsible for taking care of the engines on the nights the train did not go to Elmira.
The engine and tender were cleaned and coal was put on for the return trip. Warren also spent a short time working for the railway in Boston.
With the arrival of Diesel Engines, drivers were sent to Boston where they were taught how to operate the new and powerful engines. Herb Cheverie (Warren's brother) taught some of the courses.
In 1939 Herb's teacher Gert MacLellan, took her class to Charlottetown by train to see the King and Queen. Excitement ran high as the group set out, and for some the train ride was the best part. Unfortunately, some of the children had motion sickness which put a damper on some of their fun. For Herb, he had such a good time he doesn't remember seeing the King and Queen. He does remember the crowds lining the streets and the excitement he felt just being there.
Joe Burke was responsible for looking after the coal shed in Souris. He unloaded coal from the cars and made sure the sheds were always full before he went home at night. During the winter he often found much of the coal missing come morning.
Folks would arrive at the shed during the night with bags, hand sleighs and anything they could put coal in. The "borrowed coal" was put to good use, by morning black smoke poured from many flues.
The Police would come to look for the "borrowed coal" by following footprints and knocking on doors. One man with unusual footprints would tie a tree branch to his sleigh to hide the evidence. Another man warned his mother not to say anything if the Police came calling. She was to speak French and pretend she did not understand English.
When the Police came inquiring about the coal, she opened the coal bin and said, "there it is!"
Railway men were not without a sense of humour. Lester Cheverie was one of them. One Sunday morning while working at Borden, he and several men were preparing for church. Looking out the window he saw a dead crow on the track.
Saying nothing about the crow, he told the others to go without him and he would have dinner ready when they returned. Retrieving the crow, he placed it in a pot feathers and all. Returning from church, his friends remarked about the wonderful smell of the cooking bird. It was then that the wing popped out of the pot feathers and all!
Souris Station Agents:
Jack (Jack the Lake) Macdonald;
Michael Fitzpatrick and son Bill Fitzpatrick.
(Jerky) Joe Campbell;
Charlie (Hughie Allan)
Artie (Artie Johnny V.) MacDonald.
Frank Grimes picked up and delivered mail to the train every day. Everyone knew when the mail was on the move for he drove a white horse with a bell.
A special train was used by the Hockey teams and fans. Herbie remembers trips to Montague with the Police on board and no spirits were allowed. That did not stop a bottle or two from being passed around. On one trip home someone pulled the emergency cord bringing the train to a screeching halt.
St. Charles was also called "Groshaut" by some. Why was unclear to Herbie, it was not a name used by people who lived there.
Two girls, returning from Boston after a years stay, asked the Conductor in a thick Boston accent to let them know when the train was arriving at St. Charles. Knowing who they were but saying nothing, he went about his duties. When they were near St. Charles he entered the girl's car and yelled "Groshaut" next stop.
A small child was killed on the tracks at Souris River. The child not yet walking was carried to the yard while the mother hung clothes on the line to dry. Unnoticed, the child crawled onto the rail track, the driver of the train realized to late that what he thought was a paper or something was in fact the child. The mother found the baby and carried it to the house in her apron-in two pieces.
For some people the fascination with the train never wore off, even when they lived along side of the railroad tracks for most of their lives. This is true for Ada MacDonald, who grew up on the east end of the Souris Line Road where the railway enters the town of Souris. From the time she was a little girl and on into her adulthood, Miss MacDonald made a point of always seeing or hearing the train pass whenever she could. As a result, she has many memories regarding the train.
Because she lived so close to the tracks, about 60 feet or so from them, she and her siblings became familiar with the railway men. The men, such as engineer St. Clair Paquet, baggage master Wilfred Wright, and conductor Cliff Cox, would wave to them from the train. One of the sectionmen, Artie Johnny V. MacDonald, seemed to be especially good to the children, giving them rides up the track on the trolley car.
Another one of the good guys was Cliff Cox. He heard two young men talking about joining the service during the time of the Second World War. The only thing stopping them was neither one of them had two cents to rub together to make the train trip to Charlottetown to enlist. Moved by the boys dedication to the war effort, Mr. Cox said, "If you fellas are willing to serve your country, I'll see that you get to town." And so he did.
Living so close to the tracks the siding was just opposite her house and she would often watch the brakemen man the switches. These switches were under lock and key and seemed to be the responsibility of the brakemen to unlock the switch and make sure it was locked before they boarded the train.
Like many other people, Miss MacDonald remembers going to get the mail at the station house in Souris. On her trips to the station, she would see Frank Grimes who, to the young girl was, "the old man with the white horse who took
the mail from the train to the station house." She recalls mail service as being more reliable then, with a letter getting to Charlottetown or points in between the same day it was mailed.
Living where she did, Miss MacDonald also witnessed the train getting stuck as the Raw Cut was practically in her back yard. Different whistles would signal that different plows were coming (i.e. wing plows, regular plows, etc).
These plows had 2 and even 3 engines to provide power to drive full force through snow covered tracks. During one of these forceful run-throughs, a heavy chunk of snow was flung over the plow and tore the cab of the plow. Luckily the driver, Andrew Leslie, was not hurt.
Another near miss occurred while the train was being shovelled out of the Raw Cut near the MacDonald home. A young Ada MacDonald was going home from school for lunch. The shovellers, who were a piece away, saw her coming and shouted to her to stay back as the plow was going to make a "run for it."
For some reason or another, she didn't hear the men or see the train coming up the steep hill. She was just about to step on the track when she felt herself being thrown across the track and up on top of the snowbank on the other side. In almost the same instant, a man landed against the snowbank below her and was handed an end of a shovel by which he was pulled the rest of the way up the bank. Just as he was pulled clear, the train rushed by them.
One of the shovellers had thrown her up n the bank and jumped just in time to save Ada and himself from the oncoming train. A very shaken little girl was taken home safe and sound by the men. To this day, she does not know who the man was that saved her.
Other than these events and some other close calls in Souris with the people crossing the tracks with horse and sleigh, few serious accidents were reported in this area.
There was something magical and mystical about the train, especially the steam engines which were said to almost possess a soul. It was these qualities that Miss MacDonald said caused her to have such a fascination with the train.
In the early days of the railroad, Bear River was somewhat of a "booming town" among the rural communities, boasting a couple of stores, warehouses and a hotel in addition to the station buildings around which many people bustled and waited for the train.
The hotel, owned by Dennis Costello, was a large building. There were four large bedrooms upstairs, each with washstands including bowls and pitchers for the visitors as there was no indoor plumbing in these early years.
A large parlour downstairs allowed the travellers to relax and visit with their fellow travellers. A kitchen off the large formal dining room, complete with cooks and servants, provided meals for those staying at the hotel.
The hotel was a stopover for many dignitaries, especially religious dignitaries such as bishops who made visits to the local parishes. So impressed was one bishop with the hotel and the hospitality he received that on a return visit, he presented Mr. Costello with a picture he obtained while on a trip to Rome. The picture is divided into four sections each depicting a different scene. As is typical of Roman art, the picture included humans in the nude.
When the hotel was bought by a local man, Robert Gallant, as a residence for he and his family in the 1930's, this picture was included in the sale. However, both he and his wife Emma thought this picture was a bit explicit for their children. Whenever it was expected the children would be in that room, the picture would be turned over to face the wall so as they wouldn't see the nude figures!
The picture still exists and is now owned by Leo Gallant, one of the children of Robert and Emma Gallant, from which it was hidden.
The railroad brought many people together. Going to meet the train was more than picking up the mail or picking someone up who was travelling by train, it was an excuse to get out of the house and see some people. Excursion trains were often put on when tea parties and picnics were held to give other people from neighbouring communities a chance to have some fun.
For example, annual picnics were held in a large open field just north of the tracks (across from the present home of Leo Gallant). This field is now woodland but those who remember the picnics can feel the excitement yet.
The children in the area, who were always fascinated by the train, were dually blessed as a long sheet of ice that ran right alongside of the track would form over the peat bog each winter. They would skate contentedly for hours, watching the trains come and go. A few of the railway men used to challenge the children to a race with the train, while it was picking up speed upon leaving the station, much to the delight of the children.
The peat bog in this area was remembered for another reason. In the 1940's, the peat moss which covered an extensive area around the vicinity of the tracks caught fire. What was so unusual about this was the fact that this fire burned underground, using the peat moss as fuel with enough oxygen seeping in to keep it smoldering. This underground fire lasted for a couple of years, even during the winter, kids skating had to be careful to avoid sections of the ice where small bushes poked through as the heat from underground used to come up around the bushes and soften the ice.
Few railway accidents occurred on this section of track although two mishaps were recalled. During the time of the steam engine, the snowplow derailed near the Bear River Station by the home of Roach McGaugh. Using a large tree in his yard for leverage, the railway men attempted to right the train. The weight of the train proved too much for the old tree and the tree broke off, much to the dismay of Mr. McGaugh's children who played in it often. A crane was then called for, coming from Charlottetown, to right the train.
The second accident occurred during a morning run with the diesel snowplow. The plow caught a rail, causing two or three more rails to be sent flying towards the home of Lazarus McGaugh. Luckily a row of trees in his yard took the brunt of the impact, sparing any damage to his house. As one could imagine, the sound of railway ties crashing into the trees and clanging to the ground made a terrible racket. No one was more scared than a Cheverie man, a guest at the time, who was shaving in a room close to the accident scene and took the brunt of the noise, scaring him half to death.
It took roughly ten minutes to travel between New Zealand and Bear River, Bear River and St. Charles and St. Charles to Selkirk.
A Brothers man from Cardigan ran the telegraph machine at Bear River Station for a short time.
Leonard Peters and Lazarus McGaugh were the last station masters in Bear River.
As the railroad wound it's way through the Island, it also wound it's way into the lives of those who lived around it. Cyril MacDonald is no exception. Living just north of the tracks on the land that has been in his family for over 100
years, Mr. MacDonald certainly has knowledge of the railroad.
His father, George Johnny MacDonald, a farmer by occupation, did his duty for the railroad. He looked after the water tanks for many years for which he was paid $10 per month. He also drove those heading towards the Northside or "Up East" (Elmira section was not yet built) to their destination by horse and wagon or horse and sleigh.
One of his most frequent customers was a priest by the name of Father Gillis who often said if he had the stone he'd say any mass in Harmony on his way through. In addition to this, George and his wife also opened their home to those who, for some reason or another, needed a place to stay while they were travelling by train.
Besides his father, Cyril's brother Mitchell also worked on the railway. Mitchell, an engineer, died suddenly on a run to Borden at the age of 52. When he stopped the train for a water fill-up, he suffered an anurysm. The sad fact was discovered by the fireman, George MacIntyre, whose calls for Mitchell to pull the train ahead (so the water spout could fit in the tank) went unanswered.
To make matters worse, a storm blocked the tracks which hindered efforts to bring Mr. MacDonald's remains home. The snowplow operator sent to clear the tracks was a neighbor, Andy Leslie.
Cyril MacDonald worked on the railroad himself as a young man. He too drove people to their destination by horse and wagon\sleigh from the train station in addition to shovelling snow and coal ashes. He remembers two especially large banks in his area, one being the "Raw Cut" located just west of St. Catherines Souris Line Road intersection, and the other called the "MacDonald Cuttin'."
The Cuttin' was nearly a mile long and was named such due to its location near the MacDonald property. He remembers snow so bad in places that there were 50 men working on the one snobank at one time. Another snowstorm 40 years ago caused a train to be stuck for quite some time near Morell. The train ran out of water and resorted to using melted snow.
"Snowplows," consisting of an engine or two with a plow, were used to clear the track when the snow was not too deep. These plows often had a plow on both the front and the back of the engine so it would not have to turn around. In
the early years of the railroad, the engines were small and didn't have enough power to either get through the snow themselves or push it away as was the plow's job. As a result, larger, more powerful engines than number 15, 16, 17, 18, or 20 engines replaced these.
Cyril also worked for a time shovelling coal ashes and other jobs around the tracks. He was working at this around the time the Praught man was killed but was not scheduled to work until later and did not witness the accident. It seems that the two men, Billy McInnis and Willie Praught went to jump off one of the cars. Billy jumped and landed on level ground but Praught landed on a pile of coal ashes that were a common occurrence along the tracks, fell, and rolled beneath the train. This occurred many years ago.
Over the years many many railway men worked in and around Harmony. A man by the name of Plug Donovan, Cyril remembers well. Cyril had a farm like countless others in the area. His ducks liked to roost on the railroad tracks after the commotion of the day had come to an end.
One frosty morning as Mr. Donovan was slowing up to make his regular stop at Harmony, he noticed the ducks flapping and flailing but couldn't get off the track. The engineer stopped the train, noticing the duck's feet were frozen to the tracks. He jumped out, pulled the ducks off the track and continued on his way.
The area around the mill pond and streams in Harmony was full of wildlife. Many people fished there and were by no means disappointed in their catches. It is claimed by local fishermen to still hold some fish, although probably not in the
numbers seen in earlier years. Others used to trap mink and foxes which inhabited the areas surrounding the pond for pelts.
In addition to the wildlife flourishing in the area, there was another wonder of nature in the form of an Artesian Well. Located on the west side of Rte. 305 along the railroad track, this well bubbles and spurts water like a broken pipe,
especially in the spring when the water table is high.
Like many other rural communities through which the railroad passed, Harmony had its share of buildings and businesses associated with the railroad. The stationhouse was located on the west side of Rte. 305 near the head of the pond. Included in this building was a ticket office but no tickets were sold from this station. Next to this building was the water tank used to supply the train with water. The stone foundation for this tank can be found on the south side of the railway bed underneath some forest growth.
This was seen by Cyril in July 1993 while on a stream enhancement survey.
A water powered mill was in operation during the time of the railroad. The mill, operated by Rod MacLean and Dave McLaren, was a saw mill and often sent the logs it cut by train to be sold. The mill had previous owners, as it appears that it was in operation at the time of the publication of Meecham's 1880 Atlas.
A lumber yard owned by Acorn's was also running near the station. Lumber from this mill was also shipped by train. A store was also present in this community to satisfy the needs of its inhabitants and those travelling by train. The
store was owned by Tommy MacMillan but there are few details about this store.
For the kids living close to the tracks in Bear River, the railroad was a major element in their young lives. The train and other things associated with it was something they just couldn't ignore or leave unexplored. Some of the biggest pastimes they had involved the railroad in some way.
The high wooden snowfence, constructed by the railroad to prevent snow drifts from forming on the tracks, was one of the best playgrounds. They would jump off the fence and into the snow banks below for hours on end. Hours and hours could also be spent in a large culvert under the tracks during the summer months, catching frogs, playing hide and seek and other such games.
The ramp and platform used to load and unload cargo from the box cars was also a favorite spot to climb on and jump to the track when the train was about 1/4 of a mile away, they could hear the train as the rail vibrated with the weight of the oncoming locomotive. For an even bigger kick, they waited for the train to rattle by them and then rush to the track to feel the really big vibrations the rails produced when the train was extremely close.
The trolley car used by the sectionmen was another fascination for the curious observers who saw it go up and down the track every day. That little pump trolley in Bear River made more trips than anyone ever imagined. The kids would sneak it out of the trolley house and take it for a ride up the track when ever they could get away with it.
Most of the children who lived closest to the railway station were the sons and daughters of postmasters, store owners, and the like. As such, they made frequent trips to the station and the post office and remember much about these places. The station, for example, had a bay window from which the station agent conducted business.
The waiting room was a long room having benches along three of its walls with a pot-belly stove in the middle. During the winter, the station would be full of people waiting for the evening train whether it was to board the train, pick someone up, get the mail or just watch people come and go. It was said that if you weren't there by 4 o'clock, you could pick yourself a spot along the wall to lean because thee wouldn't be a seat left as people waited for the 5 o'clock train.
In terms of the mail and the post office, numerous things were noticed. In the mornings, the post master would take the outgoing mail from the post office to the baggage car where it was sorted en route to Charlottetown. This baggage car also had a slot on it so individual letters could be dropped directly into the car. In the evenings, the mail would be taken off the train to the post office.
During the Second World War, letters edged in black could be seen in the post office. These were not welcome letters, as they notified families of the loss of a loved one fighting overseas.
Older children in Bear River, and neighboring communities, travelled by train to high school in St. Peters, giving them yet more experience with the railroad. The courthouse in St. Peters doubled as a school and is still standing, though now it is the Quigley Memorial Hall. The train would arrive in Bear River at 8:20am.
The conductor would punch the students pass cards and ask if they were all there. This showed great leniency on the part of the conductor who was supposed to keep to the strict train schedule. In fact, if someone was missing, the trainmen would wait for that student, who would invariably come huffing and puffing along.
St. Peters Station saw activities similar to those at other rural railway stations. Boxcars could be seen being loaded and unloaded with potatoes, wood, coal and other items. Freight trains were pulled over onto the passing track to allow the passenger train to continue on its way.
In the winter, men shovelled snow between the eastern outskirts of St. Peters and the Sparrow Road. The postmaster, Glen MacKinnon could be seen taking mail from the train to the post office or if parcels were from outside the country, the customs office.
The children were no different than others, with their curiosity taking them to explore the railway yard and the tracks themselves. A favorite haunt was the Black Bridge, located just east of St. Peters Station. It was a great fishing hole, a place to pick berries or have a small picnic with friends. The date 1925 is still visible on the concrete foundation of this bridge.
Also like many other stations, the increasing usage of cars and trucks caused transportation by rail to become obsolete. Station agents were no longer needed to monitor the flurry of activity that was once seen in the railway yards. The last station agent in St. Peters was George MacIsaac, thus ending an era of the railway in this community.
Elliot's first experience with the train came at the age of 16 when he went with his sister-in-law to Souris. He said he remembered the freight train backing into Souris from Harmony which was a treat in itself. In the summer of 1948 he became a little more familiar with the railroad as he got a job spreading ballast (gravel) on the tracks. Part of his duty was to be fireman for the engine that hauled the hopper of gravel.
Another man, Johnny Mitchell also did this job from time to time. The fireman's job was to keep the fire going in the engine by shovelling coal into it, often as fast as they could lift the shovel.
Although there was just a few cars on the engine and, for the most part, the travelling was smooth, there were times when the train used a lot of energy. Sometimes the opening of the hopper would become clogged with gravel. The train would then begin shunting - stopping and starting quickly - to shake up the load and clear the blockage. This shunting required a lot of fire to keep the train in motion.
As basic as shovelling coal might seem, there was an art to it. There were two small doors on the oval shaped fire door opening. These doors were to be kept shut as much as possible to prevent valuable heat from escaping. For this to be practical, a small foot operated lever allowed the men to open the door, shovel the coal in and shut it without losing much time, effort and heat.
A person had to have good timing to open the door as the shovel-full of coal was flung towards the fire as they could get quite a fetch up when the shovel hit the door!
When the train had to back up in the early days of the railroad, the engineers would have to stop the train and move the pistons so they would go backward and then resume their journey. Later on, new technology referred to as the Stevenson Link Motion enabled the engineers to perform this procedure by way of a lever in the cab of the engine.
When the railroad was being built on the Island, many local men could be found pounding ties and rails onto the track bed. One of these men was Patrick Cahill from Groshaut (now the southwestern end of St. Charles, close to Selkirk).
He was in charge of clearing the land for the railroad and laying the rails and ties. It was said that the section he worked on, from Five Houses to the station at St. Peters Bay, was the straightest on the Island. He used no measuring devise to do this, he just had "an eye" for these kinds of things as evidenced in his building capabilities of his own farm and tools he made, some of which still exist in his great grandchildren's homes.
Before the train came into being, shipping was very important and continued to be for some years after the railroad came in. One day word had come that a ship was floundering just off East Point. Learning that it had no life rafts, the train in Charlottetown was summoned to come up with life saving equipment. However, the train was held up as it needed clearance from Moncton to go on such a run. By the time it got there, the ship had smashed amongst the rocks and the crew drowned. The year this happened was unknown to Elliott.
Gladys Lewis has been residing in St. Peters for 61 years. Her homestead is directly across the waterway, called "Lewis' Pond," from the old station where a station house, storage shed and small stockyard once existed.
The station, like that of other stations, was once a place full of activity. People would be busy doing their business of shipping and receiving goods such as coal. Since a coal shed was not available on site, people would have to go to the coal car, unload and tote their own coal back to their homes. Gladys says it was great when the river was frozen for you would not have to take the long way around to the station or back home.
Travelling in the winter of 1940 or so, Gladys recalls taking the train to Charlottetown to visit her sick husband in the hospital. It was storming so bad that day that she could not return home until a couple of days later. Jim Lewis later died in September 1949 in the Sunny Brooke Hospital in Toronto. His remains were brought back to P.E.I. which took 5 days of travel.
During the years of the depression, 1935-1945, men would be eager for the snow to fall because they were always gaurenteed some work. Shovelling snow was a great way to earn a little bit of money to help one get by. Mrs. Lewis recalls her sons getting a bit of work shovelling snow for the railway.
Mrs. Lewis mentioned a few people that she remembers working for the railroad. Jim Burge was the station agent back in the late 1920's - early 30's. Mrs. Dower from Sparrow Road (just up from the St. Peters rink), would travel from St. Peters to Bedford by train to scrub the station in Bedford. Family names were also mentioned by Mrs. Lewis. A cousin, Harold Harper, was a conductor and engineer around the 1930's west of Charlottetown. Unlce Art Harper, was conductor and engineer in the Murray Harbour area. Father Charles (Charlie) Harper, sometime before 1920, worked on the upholstery of the trains.
In the early days the train was well used by people. It was a great way to travel especially for those who did not drive.
In closing, Mrs. Lewis recalls a story of a dog in Midgell being buried alive by the spray of snow from a wing plow. The dog was retrieved only to find him alive and kicking, much to the shock of many people. A dogfood company in Charlottetown donated the family of the dog "oodles" of dogfood.
65Prince Edward Island Railway Station map at the Elmira Railway Museum.
31 août 2002
Elmira, Prince Edward Island
The railroad was the backbone of many rural communities, providing transportation and work. To ensure that the train arrived at it's destination safely and on time, several people were hired to perform routine checks and repairs if needed.
Foreman were required to walk a given 10 mile section before the morning train to see that nothing was wrong with the tracks that would obstruct the trains passage. They had to be especially careful to note frost bumps and water rising over the tracks at the bridges, in the spring, as both conditions would cause the train to jump the tracks.
Many trains were often late in the spring due to the forces of nature. Foreman were also responsible for keeping the alders cut back so they would not grow across the tracks. Hand cars, and in later years, motorized trolley cars were used by foreman for inspections or repairs.
Another interesting use for these rail driven carts was for bringing doctors to emergency medical calls, especially when muddy roads were impassible.
Several foreman worked out of Selkirk or St. Charles stations, the earliest recollection was, James (Jimmy Johnny Allan) MacKinnon, who started working at St. Charles Station in 1928. Other foreman working at the time were Harry Leslie from Harmony, Ronnie MacInnis from Aberdeen, and Charlie MacDonald.
These foreman and their families were given free passage on the train because they were employed with the railway. People knowing this often asked these people to pick up parcels for them on their journey's to Charlottetown or Souris to save themselves the money they would have spent on the fares.
Besides the foreman, other men were hired temporarily to work the railroad. Shoveller's were often hired to help the train get through the huge snow drifts reported years ago.
The train could usually get through most drifts as it was a powerful double-header with two four foot plows on either side, but some drifts were near as high as the engine itself and could not be budged. As a result, 25 men from the surrounding communities were hired to shovel snow.
On the Selkirk to St. Charles run, especially large drifts would form about halfway between these stations every year, guaranteeing work for shoveller's in that particular section of track.
Men were also hired for maintenance work in the spring. When the frost came out of the ground, soft spots would often occur under the railroad ties, due possibly to their close proximity to springs.
As the trains passed over these spots, the railway ties would sink into the ground and as a result would bend the rails. To prevent derailments because of this unstable foundation, shims were placed under the railway ties to give much needed support to the track.
The section of track between the Selkirk Road and the railway bridge to the south had several of these spots as did a stretch close to St. Charles and to Bear River. Although the forces of nature often slowed down the train there were no major derailments between Ashton and St. Charles.
An accident did occur between Selkirk and St. Charles when the train broke a rail and went off the track but did not cause much damage, this incident happened not long before the railroad was shut down.
As was the norm in the rest of Kings County, there were two trains running every day through these rural communities. The regular train, as the passenger train was referred to, travelled west in the morning often staying overnight in Souris, stopping in Selkirk at approximately 8:00 a.m. and coming back through in the evening at around 5:00 p.m.
A freight train with a passenger car or two attached to it came through Selkirk on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Cream was usually shipped on Tuesdays, while livestock was shipped on bothTuesday and Thursday on the morning train.
Roddie and Chester Pratt, owners of a feed mill in St. Peters, usually loaded and stamped the livestock being shipped. Loading livestock proved to be a complicated task as at least a few animals decided they were not fussy about taking a ride on the rails and would hold up the train. Farmers often ordered lime for their fields which was shipped to them by train.
In addition to produce, livestock and farm goods, the mail also came by train. It was dropped off at the post office, which was located in Mike MacIntyre's store and distributed by railroad men from there. At this time another store was in operation which was run by Johnny Roddie MacPhee.
A further note of interest, native people used to live alongside of the tracks just west of the railroad bridge in Selkirk. James Sark and his wife Janet lived in a house in this location along with another neighbour John Paul who was a well known runner.
68Adele (O.C.) and Cliff Townshend
Many locals worked on the railroad. One of these men was W.H. Townshend of Rollo Bay. He spent a portion of his life working in the United States where he learned to build railroad bridges.
He returned to P.E.I. and in 1915 returned to working for the railroad at age 49. It was his experience in bridge building that got him the job of building new bridges when the tracks were to be shifted to wide gauge.
This work also required him to work in Charlottetown. Mr. Townshend also owned a potato warehouse at St. Charles Station. This building was built in 1926 or 1927, it had a ground floor level and a basement that were sectioned off into bins. Farmers from the surrounding areas owned bins in this building and stored their potatoes after they were harvested.
Long lines of horses and carts or sleighs, laden with potatoes, could be seen in the fall heading up the St. Charles Road to the station. The potatoes were graded throughout the winter and shipped by train in jute bags. This warehouse was abandoned years later and burned to the ground in 1964 or 1965 during a dry spell.
Mr. Townshend also helped during derailments such as the one that occurred between Munns Road and Elmira. In 1925 W.H. Townshend bought a tractor for his farm and had it sent up by train. When it came he drove it through St. Charles to his home. There were a lot of confused and spooked people in the community since they had never heard a motor let alone a tractor before!
Mr.Townshend retired in 1931 at age 65 although he had much experience and worked hard on the railroad for $10.00 a day, he did not receive a pension because he didn't work the required number of years. When the museum at Elmira was being organized, Mr. Townshend's son Clifford, donated pictures and other items of interest such as keys to various building to the museum.
Before the train existed here, all the items that people needed but couldn't get on P.E.I., came by boat rather than horse and wagon from overland which is now Ontario and Quebec. The coming of the railroad made the province less dependent on the sea and the mother country and more self reliant.
People traded their own produce amongst themselves and to other provinces faster than before. Travel and work opportunities were open to more people, whether it was to the next community, into Souris or Charlottetown, or even out of province.
The freight train often pulled one or more passenger cars along with the freight cars, which enabled people to make short trips to Souris or places in between, as it went east and came back in the same day. The passenger headed west in the morning from an overnight stay in Souris and returned to Souris in the evening. Many people used the train to go to work or school in places west of Souris.
The cars were also more comfortable offering Pullman cars, which were 1st class with plush seats, or 2nd class which had leather seats. Trips off Island to the northern parts of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick usually took two days, with an overnight stay in Charlottetown, on both the way there and the way back.
Children were also fascinated by the train. Their curiosity usually brought those living in Souris to the round house to watch the trains. It became a popular place to meet and many little ditties, love notes and the like were written on the walls to which they attested to.
They also had the habit of placing horseshoe nails on the tracks so the train could flatten them. With the square head flattened to the shaft of the nail, the nail was then able to be fashioned into rings. This practice was short lived, however, when parents or railway men caught them at it and scolded them royally.
Mother nature also decided to have a go at the railway, but was famous for stopping it or slowing it down, rather than taking a ride on it. Snow was by far the biggest hinderance, most of the time the snow was so deep and heavy that the wing plow couldn't budge it.
Men were hired for probably $1.00 to $2.00 per day to shovel the train out. Although this doesn't seem like a large amount, people were glad to get the money they were given however, there were exceptions. One such exception came when some fellows were told to shovel a path for the train along the track underneath Knights Lane which was blocked.
A boat was in the harbour and was waiting to be loaded with freight from the trains. For reasons unknown to the source, the men went on strike, refusing to lift a shovel. There were probably not many cases like this. Certain areas of the track seemed to pile up with snow in the same place every winter, providing work there every winter.
Two such areas were close to Souris, one being Raw Cut - a snow bank somewhere along the Souris Spur and Grant's Crossing. Grant's Crossing caused problems in 1943 on Feb.22 when a fierce storm dumped enough snow to kept the track blocked for three days.
As the years went on, cars and trucks became popular and train travel less. As a result, in 1964, the passenger service for this end of the province was discontinued. It lasted for another four years on the Borden to Charlottetown run. Trucks also took its toll on freight shipped by rail and led to the eventual closure of the railway.
70Olive (Peters) Cahill
Although the train passed through St. Charles, it's effect on the lives of the community's inhabitants depended on how close they lived to it. The crossing is at the northern end of the St. Charles road and as a result, the people in the area were more likely to work on the trains and were more aware of the general routine of the train's existence, than the people at the south end.
The people who worked on the train were considered more prosperous people in the area, as they received a steady paycheque year round. Although it doesn't seem they were getting a large sum for their work, a steady income was more valuable, as opposed to farmers who were selling their product, mostly once a year at harvest time, and received little money at other times of the year.
The train was a means of income to those farmers or fisherman during the winter when money was especially hard to come by. It was at this time that the railroad would hire men and boys to help shovel the tracks so the trains could go on to it's destination. People use to pray for storms with an especially heavy dumping of snow so they could earn some money by shoveling ahead of the train! Young children and teenagers used to also profit from the railroad, as they use to pick wild strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc. They would put them in jars and walk to the tracks to sell them to the trainmen as the train came back through St. Charles in the evening.
Although there was a passenger service, most people just hopped on the freight that went through the area at 10 in the morning. They would do their business in Souris or travel to other spots between, and come back at three or four in the afternoon when the train would pass through St. Charles.
The freight they travelled with was mostly produce, livestock, lime or mussel mud used for farm land. A grading house was located next to the tracks at St. Charles, potatoes from farms as far away as Fortune were transported their by horse and cart, then graded and put on the train to be sold in Souris or exported by boat at Souris Wharf.
Whether people chose to travel by passenger or freight train, they could travel to other communities for tea parties or go as far away as Montreal, Hamilton or out West by this mode of transportation. Those going for longer trips often went by passenger train and often travelled for days. This of course often meant that sleeping on the train proved to be very uncomfortable.
The compartments available, were nothing more than cots or chairs placed together for beds, with a curtain that hung straight down by the edge, so there was no room between the bed and the curtain. Platforms hung from the walls above the bottom bed, for another row of beds, providing just enough room (maybe) to turn over in the bottom bunk. This arrangement was the same on the opposite side of the train leaving a narrow walkway in the middle. Many a story has been told, as people were trying to get dressed or undressed in these cramped quarters. These situtations led to very embarrassing moments especially with couples.
The "meeting of the train" was somewhat of a social event at the train stations. Often people were meeting passengers on the train, sending freight, etc. The station was the "hub" of the community and a great spot to see people, to chat, and to find out the latest gossip or mostly to see prospective mates. Many young men and women would get cleaned up and do their hair just right in the case that special someone was there and would notice them.
All the buildings that were associated with the station have long since gone. The train station building was moved a short distance up the road and was used as a horse barn and now as a storage building. A store on the north side of the tracks that was no doubt a busy place, is now dilapidated and is sagging with age. Freight trains still ran through the area until the mid 1980's when it's run was ended. It was unknown to Olive about when the train stopped picking up freight at St. Charles and just passed through the area.
Without a doubt, the trains that passed through small communities such as St. Charles added to them by way of providing transportation, work and social activity.
71Souris Turntable. In the background, is St. Mary's Church, and Convent.
Souris, Prince Edward Island
Mr. Cheverie's experience with the railroad included shovelling snow in the railway yard in Souris. He described the turn table and the round house that occupied this yard.
The turn table was located near the present sight of Ching's Warehouse in Souris. This apparatus consisted of a large, deep hole lined with timber. A wooden platform measuring 100 ft in diameter with two handles was constructed over this hole. Underneath this platform was a circular track. The engine could be driven onto this platform and, with 4 men pushing on each handle, the platform could be rotated so that the engine faced the direction from which it came. This turn table was built in 1925.
The round house was located in close proximity to the turn table. This building was used to house the engines during their overnight stay in Souris. Here, they could be serviced, if need be, and the ice could be chipped off of them during the cold winter months to prepare them for the next days run. It was not a "real" round house in the sense that it was not a round building that was high in the middle like the ones seen in larger railway centers.
The building in Souris was described as only one component of a round house, with the back section being wider and higher where the doors were. It seemed to be more of a shed with a slanted roof but it served the purpose that other "real" houses did and so was called a round house.
The shovellers that cleared the railway yard started at 6:00 or 6:30 in the morning to allow the train to leave Souris on time at 7:30am.
Since the existence of the railroad, many Island men have served as station masters. One such fellow was Peter Holland of Elmira. Peter worked for the railroad for 38 years, never missing a days work. His first post was at the Elmira Station in 1910. While posted here, he oversaw the running of the station and witnessed at least one train derailment.
Peter and his family were praying the Rosary before he left to meet the 7 p.m. train. As usual, the train was late coming in. Yet on this evening, Peter sensed some trouble. He arrived to find that the new driver had driven right passed the station, over the road, and into a farmers field! Luckily no one was hurt in the mishap.
In 1932 - 33 Peter and his family moved to Souris so he could take a new position as Station Master. The station was connected to the family's house and was located across the road and a little west of the present station building. People were always made to feel welcome, for they would come into the house to wait for the train, which was appreciated by many.
In addition to the station master's job, they were also required to run the "wire" or the telegraph using Morse Code. Mr. Holland went to Montague for this training. In the event that something was to happen to him, when the children were old enough he taught them how to operate the machine, so they would be able to take over.
Because he operated the wire in Elmira during World War I and in Souris during World War II, Peter was the first to get messages from overseas about the wounded or missing in action from his district - and was the one to deliver the messages. It was said no one wanted to see his black oldsmobile coming with the priest or minister for they knew someone had been killed. The clergy was there to help comfort the grieving family.
Peter often took his wife with him to help break the news about wounded sons or husbands. Either way, the sight of the black oldsmobile meant bad news. Peter was not exempt from the tragedy of these messages as his own son, Tom, was among the list of fatalities during World War II.
His involvement with the telegraph earned him the position of Chairman Of The Order Of Railroad Telegraphers (ORT). There were
many conventions involved with this organization which enabled him to travel, by train of course, to many places in both Canada and the United States. He thoroughly enjoyed travelling by train.
After 15 years working in Souris, he was transferred to Charlottetown in 1945 where he worked on the freight train.
In 1948, Peter retired from the railroad and returned to Souris. His pension for his 38 years of service was a $100.00 per moth. He received very little of this pension as he died in 1949, a year and a half after his retirement. This money was not transferred to his wife upon his death. It seems rather unfair since he devoted much of his life to the railroad.
Peter served a term as Mayor of Souris and as a an alderman in the City of Charlottetown.
76Souris - the 6th "Terminal" Station
The eastern terminus originally consisted of an engine shed, station and freight shed on the sand dune, crossing Colville Bay. The main highway now follows this sand spit between Souris West and the Town of Souris. Having a station on a sand dune, barely above sea level, posed loads of new problems as these two newspaper clippings illustrate.
"Daily Examiner" - September 25th, 1877
The storm of the 22nd was felt very much here (Souris). The tide rose to a greater height than was known for years... Part of the Railway leading to the harbor freight house was carried off a distance of twenty yards form its former location. The Station House presented a sad spectacle. Would that some of the great ones had seen it that day, and its speedy removal would surely follow... Some sticks of timber were put on the railroad at the turn-table, by the tide.
"Daily Examiner" - November 8th, 1877
The road across Souris Beach is now everything but good... A few days ago a party of four - in two wagons - were coming home when the tide was high, and it was blowing hard. They missed their way. The drivers were obliged to get out into the water and lead their horses to the Railway Station on the south side of the beach.
Besides the original six "terminal" stations, there are also twelve "way or crossing" stations. Each 42 x 22 structure contained a waiting room, ticket office and freight storage. These structures were located on East Souris Rd., Mt. Stewart, Morell, and St. Peters. The only one to survive until CN no longer needed them were St. Peters. This station has now become a Senior Citizen's Club.
The Souris Station had a Mansard Roof. This was a roof formed with an upper and lower slope on each side. It was destroyed by an arsonist in 1971.
78The William Praught Death
It was a bright clear morning
The 24th of May and everyone was
Busy our little town looked gay
Until about eight thirty
When our hearts with sorrow filled
When we heard the sad attidings
That William Praught was killed
He went with a "Chum McInnis"
Who's name was also Willie
To load a car of lumber
For the Klondike Lumber Mill
They boarded that train in Souris
Amid the travelling throng
And little did he think his end so near
As the train sped steadily on
They arrived at Harmony Junction
And everthing going fine
They thought they ride to the lumber car
A little further down the line
Just then the train she started
Just like a runaway steed
They thought she stop for water
But she was gaining speed
They then made up their minds to jump
But that been all in vain
Praught stumbled on some ashes
And rolled beneath that train
The accident happened at Harmony
Just a little beyond the tank
It was witnessed by fellow workmen
Likewise his brother Frank
His remains were prepared for burial
By undertaker D.L. Lavie
It was the sadest funeral seen here
For many a year
There was a girl in Souris
A girl he knew quite well
If you have any sympathy
With her you may do well.
80Gerard and Celia McCloskey
The existence of the railway on P.E.I. caused many small communities to blossom into thriving centres. One of these places was Bear River. It was chosen as one of four booking stations (where passenger tickets were sold) between here and Mt.Stewart which included St.Peters. Morell, and Mount Stewart Station.
With more and more people passing through the community, people took advantage of this and opened stores, post offices, mills, garages and even a hotel.
Two stores were in operation at the same time through almost the entire railway period. The first was operated by Larry MacDonald in the early 1900's. He also operated the post office, making this spot a popular meeting place so often talked about by those who remember the importance of going to meet the train.
Another store was J. J. Hughes store, it was owned by J. J. Hughes who later became Senator Hughes but was run by Billy (Blue) MacDonald in the late teens or early 1920's. This store was later bought by Alec Fisher in 1936 or 1937. This building burned in 1941 and was rebuilt. This store, as it happens, was a popular place to wait for the train.
One winter day as the people left to meet the train, some one accidently hit the spout on the keg of molasses. Being the winter time the molasses did not flow fast and was not noticed by the proprietor. Grabbing the opportunity of a empty store, he went to get a bite to eat. Upon his return, he found a large quantity of this dark sticky substance all over his floor.
Alec Fisher's store was taken over by his niece and her husband John O'Keefe until 1947 when Ashly (Lazerie) McGaugh bought it, the store stayed open until 1966. The second store in Bear River was owned and operated by Gerard and Celia McCloskey from 1945 to around 1955. The post office was in this store for a short period, around six to seven months. These stores were a stone throw away from the track, especially the McCloskey store which was about 20 feet away.
The hotel was in operation during the early 1900's and was owned by Dennis Costello. Bear River even boasted its own doctor, Dr.Sullivan who used to board in this hotel.
The saw mill was owned by Dave Shepard. This steam powered mill closed in the 1920's but it is unclear as to when it began operation. A garage was opened in 1928 by Robert Gallant to accommodate the growing number of vehicles. This business closed in the mid 1970's.
As stated before Bear River was a booking station. The station agents or station masters lived in a house provided for them by the railroad a short distance from the track. Some of the agents that worked in Bear River were Harold Brothers, Frank Dingwell, Emmet and Peter Power and Keith Arbing whose father Tom Arbing was a agent in Souris.
In case of sickness or other reasons relieving agents were oftened called upon to fill in. They were Walter Dalziels, Joe and Jack MacDonald and Frank MacDougall, Pat Mella's father. Those men would often board at Gerard McCloskeys parent's home.
In later years, when the passenger train service was declining, a station agent was no longer required full time. A local person Leonard Peters was called upon in the late 1940's to sell tickets if the need arose.
Many men were involved with the railway. There was between five and six men working on the passenger train everyday - the conductor (the boss), engineer, brakemen (often two of them), baggage master (often looked after mail on the train), and fireman.
Some of the people that worked in these positions include Frank Paquet (worked as fireman and engineer), Art Coffin (conductor), Arius MacDonald (conductor), Jack Howatt (brakeman), Art Howatt (conductor and son of Jack Howatt - unusual too see son with a higher position than father), St.Claire Paquet (fireman and engineer), Willie Fisher (section man), and Andy Leslie one of the last workers employed by C.N. when it closed her around 1985.
Extra gangs, as they were called, were hired as shovellers and for loading and unloading freight in addition to the permanent crews on the train. As in other parts of P.E.I., the snow slowed the train down to a halt until shovellers dug a path for it.
The snow banks were so big that the shovellers worked in levels. The men at the bottom would throw the snow to men on the next level and so on until it got to the men on the top of the bank who shovelled it off to the side. Some banks were 15-35 feet high and there was no other way to do it.
As hard as this was, the men were glad to get work as it meant money at a time of year when making money was hard to do. They were paid $1.00 a day, very little by today's standards.
The rails were shifted from narrow to wide gauge around 1928. This necessitated hiring extra men to do the work. A ditcher train was used to widen the track bed in order to lay down the rails. The work of laying the rails down was done on a Sunday when the line was free of traffic. Many men were hired to complete different sections of the track so as to complete the task as quick as possible.
On Sunday evening, the workers watched as Jack and Art Howatt drove the wide gauge train down the newly laid track.
As convenient as the railway was, it was also dangerous. Around the time the wide gauge was being laid down, a man named O'Brien slipped on the track and his legs were crushed by the train. They put him on the train and rushed him to Bear River where he was placed on the ditcher train stored there and raced him to Charlottetown. Unfortunately the man didn't survive.
Another incident occurred around 1935 in Harmony. A man by the name of Praught travelled on the morning train to work at the sawmill there and as he went to hop off the train he slipped and was cut in two by the train. The train also killed quite a few animals that had wandered on the track or destroyed barns they lived in as cinders from the train often carried in the wind and ignited by grass.
The weather could also beat men at every turn. Winter storms could pile snow, enough to keep men digging for days. In 1923, a particularly bad storm blocked the train for three days as men shovelled their hardest to free her up. Because of this hold up, the train ran out of coal and had to use wood instead.
Often section foreman and section men had to go out on bitterly cold days to check the tracks and free up the switches from ice and snow that accumulated on them. The summers were better but working long 12 hour days in the heat and the flies wasn't much easier.
On Feb.22, 1930 a rare twister wreaked its havoc on the potato warehouse belonging to Hughes near the Bear River Station. Parts of the building were found up to a mile away after it passed. Parts of a man's barn passed him as he was walking to the house after milking the cows. The cows were unharmed but it took sometime to remove them from under the rubble!
Over the years Bear River has seen hordes of trains pass over its tracks. On one particular day in the 1940's, there was a train going by almost every two hours. First, the snow plow passed through in the morning before the regular train passed through about 8:00 a.m.
The mixed train - the freight train with a passenger car - made it's journey through at around 10:00 a.m. The plow that went east in the morning then came back down the track. The mixed train returned from Souris around 2:00 p.m. followed by the regular train heading east from Charlottetown which passed through Bear River somewhere between 5 and 5:30 p.m. Later that evening, an excursion train with a hockey team heading west went through and passed by again later that evening. Pretty busy for one day!
However in the later years of the trains existence when cars became more popular, passenger travel dropped dramatically especially during the summer. Those who owned cars or trucks could travel freely during the summer months but then put their cars up for the winter when roads became impassable.
As a result the regular train did not run during the summer but resumed its schedule in the fall to provide for the now stranded people and teachers and high school children who often went by train.
As the years went by and train travel declined, the buildings associated with the railroad were no longer used. The train station was bought by a Mr. Robertson, it was torn down and the lumber was reused. Other buildings either blew down or were destroyed by fire.
81M.V. Lucy Maud Montgomery with a hopper car in the foreground
Souris, Prince Edward Island
82Jim Reggie MacDonald
For an Island that was once sheltered away from the rest of the world, so to speak, the railway brought with it great change and jobs for many.
The Souris Station had a turn table to turn the engine around for the trip to Elmira or Charlottetown. At one time three trains a day came to Souris from Charlottetown. On the nights the train stayed in Souris, the steam engines were kept in an engine house at night, especially in the winter to keep it from freezing. When the diesel came in it was left running all night.
The Souris freight yard was a busy place, freight cars being shunted, engines on the move, etc. It was also a place where Alf Stubbart's young son, five or six years old at the time, had a very close call, he fell in front of the wheel of the car about to be moved. Several men, Noel Wilson being one of them, at a distance, saw what happened and started running for the boy the rest were yelling at the driver not to move. The driver however, could not here them above the noise and started moving. The wheel of the car was frozen and could not turn, it bumped the boy pushing him forward; it did this several times finally knocking him off the rail. Just at that moment the wheel started to turn. Had the wheel not been frozen it would have run over the boy ending his life.
The freight shed during the late 1940's early 1950's was a must for kids. Ice cream came by train wrapped in insulated bags. The children would gather to see if Andrew Maurant, freight agent, was in a good mood. If the ice cream was soft and Andrew's mood was good, he gave the ice cream to the kids saying "it wasn't fit to send to the store." On a bad mood day it went to the store soft or hard. People would line up for as much as two hours for a cone, the cost being about 5 cents.
Livestock pens located in the yard were a great source of entertainment for the kids. When it was time to load the sheep and other animals men used cattle prods that gave an electric shock to the animals to keep them moving up the ramp. The kids would take as many of the prods as they could without being caught. Hiding in the car or at the top of the ramp, they would use the prods to send the animals back down the ramp causing a great deal of confusion for all.
Checking the tracks every day used to be quite a duty. Jim's father-in-law walked from Souris to Harmony and back to Souris by 6:30am every day checking the tracks . The train was not allowed to depart from the station until he gave the O.K. When the railway started down sizing, a lot of bumping was going on and the jobs went to senior men. Jim's father-in-law was to be sent to Amherst and unwilling to go at age 62, he took an early retirement.
Billy Fitzpatrick, in the early 1950's and 1960's was responsible for putting the fire on in the potato cars. With the amount of potatoes leaving Souris this was a daily job, dumping bags of charcoal into the stoves. Stoves had to be filled and lit no matter what the weather was like, often in sleet, rain or snow. Train loads of potatoes would arrive from N.B. to be shipped by boat from Souris. As many as 40 to 50 cars would be on one train.
Snow was probably the biggest obstacle the railway had to overcome. Artie Paquet was very good at predicting the weather by the sun and the circle around the moon. Artie would say to his friends "it's a $35 or $40 storm," meaning that's how much they could expect to make shovelling snow from the tracks.
From Harmony Junction to Souris there were several places that filled every time it snowed. The Frank Stevens Cuttin', Rock Cuttin', Hughie Allen Cuttin' and the trench near the wharf area were difficult places in the winter. The men would shovel on three tiers, relaying the snow up the bank. At times, dump trucks were driven on the track into a cutting and snow was shovelled on and hauled away.
Bruce Stewart did not have much luck with the winter. He had three tankers of oil delivered to his siding in 1963. Before the tankers were unloaded and pick up, a fierce storm hit and buried the cars. They remained there for the rest of the winter. This was the first and last time oil was delivered. Rent had to be paid for the buried cars.
A train wreck in the winter on the East Baltic rail line proved to be quite a job to get things back on track. The engine went over a steep embankment into a brook dumping 2 or 3 cars loaded with potatoes. It was thought at first the wreckage would have to be left there until spring, until someone in Amherst came up with an idea to put the engine and it's cars back on the track.
Using a train with cranes and heavy jacks brought over to the Island, they made a false track in the side of the embankment. With the jacks and the crane the engine was put on the rails and pulled to the top. Needless to say, the many pounds of potatoes that were saved in this ordeal and the money that would be received for these potatoes, put a lot of people's minds at ease.
Although the snow played havoc with many, St. Clair Paquet loved when it would snow for he would plow his engine into the drifts. He would back the train to Harmony, the plow was not able to clear the way for him into Charlottetown, and headed his engine full tilt into the drifts loving every minute of it.
The coal shed was a popular place in the winter. Few people had money to buy coal so they would go to the shed and steal it. The stolen railway coal kept many people from freezing and CN detectives busy trying to catch the coal nappers.
With the arrival of the diesel engine, two men were still kept in the cab like that of the steam engine for safety. If one man took ill, the second man was always there to drive the engine. This was also a benefit for it was next to impossible to watch both sides of the road. The diesel engine was much smaller than the steam engine but could pull heavier loads. It also proved to be much better in the snow.
As you talk to different people many stories arise from the railway days. One train coming from Charlottetown in March of 1941 was named the baby express. Jim Reg's mother and Alice Seaman had gone to town to have their babies. When it was time to come home with the new babies, the fathers waited to board the train in Souris to go pick up their wives and their babies when they were met by Dr. Gus MacDonald.
Wanting to share the happy event with them, he boarded the train as well. The trip home was a merry one with a few nips and some card playing. A quarter lost in a seat was retrieved by way of swinging on a chandelier and extracting it with a knife. Laughter and merry making was the order of the trip.
Another story is about pet dog named Jasper. Jasper, a Labrador type dog and much loved by the Jim Reg's family, had a favorite pastime. Every time the trolley went by their home Jasper chased it down the track. One day he came home with his paw almost severed off, held on by a piece of skin. They figured the trolley had run over his foot.
Jim's father rushed Jasper to the vet, Dr. Ings in Montague. Dr. Ings sewed the paw back on and put a steel cast on so the dog would not chew it off. The cast was to be left on for six months. Several months later, the dog turned suddenly vicious one evening, frothing at the mouth and tearing at his cast. The family discussed putting him to sleep, in the end it was decided to leave him until morning.
Morning found Jasper much better however, he had managed to tear off his cast. The paw was badly infected and he was again taken to Dr. Ings. This time the cast was left off and a salve used to treat the infection. He was taken to a vet in Charlottetown when Dr. Ings was way.
Left with this vet, Jim went back to his truck to go and run an errand. Before he got away he heard a howl and breaking of glass. To his amazement Jasper had jumped out a second story window and catching his dog he took him home. Whatever happened with the Charlottetown vet is not known.
It did not destroy the friendship between Jasper and Dr. Ings. Jasper always greeted his doctor by making a big fuss over him and would willingly go to the kennel that was his while he was a patient. After a long road of recovery and completely well again, Jasper went back to chasing trolleys.
After a lot of interesting information was given, Jim closed by saying "the railroad men were devoted to the train, they didn't think of it as CN's, it was theirs!"
There were times when the Big Plow from Moncton came to the Island. The Jordan Spreader had hydraulic rams and was able to cope with pushing back heavier snow that the smaller plows could not handle.
In the early 1960's Percy Steele, station agent at Elmira, wanted to get to Souris but the roads were blocked with snow. Being a little gutsy, Percy drove his car down the tracks. CN officials must have heard about the misdeed for he was fired from the railway.
One turn near the wharf area almost guaranteed to put some part of the train off the track. Using jacks and a device that clipped onto the rail, sectionmen would have the train moving again in a very short time.
It is believed that a spark from the engine caused the fire in Ashton. With high winds the fire burned a ten mile area and St. Margaret's Church before it was brought under control.
83Photographs of P.E.I. train wrecks, at the Elmira Railway Museum.
31 août 2002
Elmira, Prince Edward Island
Maintenance on the railroad changed throughout the railroad history. In the beginning, the track bed consisted of "mud gravel" or crushed sandstone. The rail line, however, required a more stable base than the mud gravel could provide so mainland gravel or crushed stone replaced it.
The way this gravel bed was maintained also changed. In earlier years, rows of hoppers full of gravel were hauled by an engine, depositing gravel on the rail bed. A rail was dragged behind the hoppers to level this gravel. Extra gangs would then go along behind and pack this gravel as firmly as they could under the ties and rails.
The later years saw a huge machine from the mainland do this work. Parts of this machine lifted the rails and ties, pushed the gravel under the tracks, levelled the gravel and lined the track up after the work was completed. The names of these parts were regulator, topper and liner, respectively.
Gone also were the days of weeding the track (by hand or with spades) and cutting back the vegetation alongside of the tracks when sprays came into use. A tank with sprayer bombs on the back of a motor car sprayed Agent Orange also known as DDT, now known to be dangerous chemicals, across the width of the tracks and into adjacent areas. These powerful chemicals burned everything in its path, often damaging areas where people used to pick blueberries and farmers crops if the
fields were in close proximity to the tracks.
In the 1970's and 1980's changes in railroad maintenance, derailments and other hindrances still occurred. The train was stuck in deep snow in the Baltic in 1977. To free the train, 4 diesel engines were needed. It was quite a sight to see 4 diesel engines all hooked together, pulling for all they were worth, to remove the train.
In the early 1980's on the east side of Fountain Head, a huge beaver damn broke and washed out 40 feet of the adjacent track. It took 2 to 3 weeks with the use of cranes to restore the rail line. Still other incidents occurred, one near Souris and one between Selkirk and St. Charles, where cranes from the mainland and/or Charlottetown were needed to right the derailed trains and men were called in to fix the tracks.
In the mid to late 1980's, the railroad was destined to be closed down in Eastern Kings County. Only freight trains were running the tracks and only made special trips to haul potatoes for local farms. With these changes and the closure of the railroad, an era of meeting the train and travelling and working the rails, had ended.
86Albert George Peters
Albert remembers seeing lots of people going to Harmony Station with oil cans to buy oil for their lamps. Remembers many people heading to Souris or Charlottetown to get liquor. A lot of fights, broken train windows and the like occurred when there were tipsy travellers.
He heard that the track may be haunted somewhere around the Souris Line Road or the Baltic Road. He said that is all he knows but if you asked around someone is bound to remember something.
Beginning with the railway in 1939, Willard worked for six months as a fireman. Leaving the Island to enlist in the army, it became his home for six years. Upon returning to the Island and through connections of his brother Doug, Willard was able to get back on the railway as a fireman.
After writing his exam for engineer and driver, Willard took his first trip from Charlottetown to Bordon in 1947. Willard explained that you have to make this first trip in order to get on the seniority list or your name is just put on a list and you are called whenever they need you.
"I was at the right place at the right time, there was an opening and I took it. I remember it well, it was the day that Dad died," Willard recalls.
In his years as a driver he had no accidents on the Mt. Stewart to Elmira run, but he sadly accounts for nine deaths in his years as an engineer. Willard drove for many years across P.E.I. and says level crossings were the worst.
Some of them had lights to signal an oncoming train but most of them did not which was a terrible mistake on the railway's part. One of the accidents he recalls was at Fanningbrook Crossing, south east of the Mt. Stewart Station.
It was a very cold January day, "one of the fatalities was my cousin," Willard sadly recalls. "There were two or three highway snowplows on one side of the crossing, the plow men were sitting around planning their work, they happened to hop in the car and drive off to check out a work area and as they drove across the tracks I broad sided them, there was no way I could get stopped in time."
Willard explained regarding this accident and ones other drivers would have, "you would know it was going to happen, but you also knew you couldn't get stopped in time. People were going to get hurt or killed, you had to watch it all happen and pray that it would not be that bad."
When an accident occurred, the train was held up until all the remains and debris were cleared then you were expected to go about your days work. "You kept working because if you had gone home you had too much time to think about what just occurred."
Willard recalls a passenger train route to Souris, "there was a new fireman with me and he asked where the next station would be, I answered at Five Houses." Being a rookie fireman, he looked out the window and said, "there are only four houses." "He wasn't up on some of the localities names, I guess," chuckled Willard.
While Willard was a driver, Lona, Willard's wife, recalls when they had a home in Charlottetown close to the area where Willard worked. As Willard was going by he would blow his whistle to signal he would be home soon for dinner. "There were no microwaves then, you had to eat and get right back to work," Willard chuckles.
Leaving home at 3 or 4 in the morning and leaving the station at 7:00 am would be the beginning of a days work for a driver. They would then have to make sure the engines were pumped and ready to run; a trip book had to be filled in with departure and arrival times along with specific details about the trip, holdups, stops, etc; you would have to pick up and drop off cars, shunting cars from one off track siding to another and hand in your time sheet at the round house in Charlottetown or at the station you worked out of so you could receive your pay in about two weeks time.
After a days work you usually arrived back at 3:00 pm if there were regular stops. Otherwise, you were on call which could come at any time during the day.
In order to have time off you had to have 3600 miles in. For example, from May 26 to June 26 would be called your month. In that time frame you had 3600 miles to cover.
If you had your miles covered you could take the remainder of the month off. You were not given Christmas off, no such leave was given in those days and sick days were not compensated. "In later years the union got sick leave, holidays, etc, for it's workers."
As a railway driver the scenery was very nice but you would eventually take it for granted, "I did." In those days if you travelled at night the only light that would be seen is lantern light shining through people's windows. Willard says "I have been retired for 16 years but I still wish it was running just to hear the sounds of the train, to be able to visit the yards and maybe go out for a trip."
Spareboard was a list you were on where you could be called at any time to come to work anywhere on the Island.
You had to purchase your own uniform; coveralls $5.00, leather gloves 75 cents, a jumper which was a smock that went over the coveralls, a cap and boots.
Willard recalls working at the Charlottetown yard, an 8 hour day with $5.00 pay. This would be steaming up the engines.
Willard's brother Benjamin Douglas (Doug) Coffin worked as an engineer and began working with the railway in 1921. He worked for 35-40 years until the time of his retirement.
Art's father, Andy Mooney (deceased), shovelled snow for the railroad. He often took a young neighborhood man, Frank MacAulay, with him as he also was a shoveller. They used to travel by horse and sleigh to Souris and go by train to the point where the track was blocked. Anyone travelling by horse and sleigh could leave them at McLean's Barn, which was located on the present site of the Bluefin Restaurant.
92John Dan Chaisson
Of all the things remembered about the railroad, shovelling snow seems to be near the top of the list. Although a nuisance to the railroad, the heavy snowfalls of years gone by were a source of income to many local men when money was scarce in the winter.
The pay in the early 1920's was 60 cents per hour and the men worked very hard for it. Three blasts from the whistle alerted the men to the train's predicament and they would head off with their shovels to release the snowbound train.
The men would shovel in levels with the men on the bottom throwing snow to the men standing on part of the bank above them. This would continue until they reached the guys on the top who would then throw the snow off from the top.
If the track could be cleared in the one day they would stay until it was finished, often
shovelling late into the evening. Other days when the snowfall was very heavy and could not be cleared in one day, they would start early in the morning and stop around supper time. Very severe storms were witnessed such as a storm in 1925 when the train was stuck for 32 days!
Other storms can be recalled which dumped 2 days or more worth of snow for the men to shovel. Often while these men were shovelling snow for hours at a time they would become snow blind. This was caused by constantly looking at the blinding white snow with little else to focus on. This condition was remedied with a few days of rest in a dark room.
In 1924 and 1925, the track bed was being prepared for the shift from narrow gauge to wide gauge. The track bed was widened and new bridges were put in place during this time. The actual shift took place on a Sunday in the summer time, John Dan remembers it being Sunday the 26th but doesn't remember the month with around 1000 men working on the section from Charlottetown to Souris. One side of the track was moved over the appropriate number of feet during this operation.
The train allowed people to ship produce and livestock by railroad. Large pens were made in the station yard to hold livestock while they waited to be loaded. One man from Fortune, Alec McClumpha, drove his large flock of sheep (a couple of hundred in all) to St. Charles Station with the help of two English Sheep dogs to be shipped on the freight train. Rural train stations were quite active with the sounds of sheep, cattle, pigs and other animals filling the air on
freight days, which was Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Sometimes animals decided to take it upon themselves to make a trip to the station. Joe Larry MacDonald, a postmaster walked to the station to pick up the mail one day and was followed by one of his sows, curious to see the world beyond the barnyard. Unfortunately, her curiosity got the best of her as she was hit by the train while inspecting the tracks.
94Anne (Keays) Poole
Mrs. Poole's father, Lorne Keays, worked as a sectionman, checking the tracks and cleaning around the switches at Harmony and on through to Elmira starting in 1919. In 1937 or 38, Mr. Keays was involved in a railroad accident and was no longer able to work. Details about the accident are sketchy but as compensation, he was given $21/month.
Mrs. Poole travelled a lot by train visiting relatives in Bear River and attending high school at St. Mary's Convent and St. Dunstan's for her teacher's training. Trips to Charlottetown started with a 7:30 am departure from Harmony and ended with the 11:15 am arrival in town if travelling on a freight day or a 10:30 am arrival on non-freight days. The delay was probably caused by differing departure times on the heavy traffic freight days.
During her travels, Mrs. Poole remembers some of the railroad men:
Josie Lewis MacDonald, stationmaster for Harmony
Bill Doyle, conductor
Alec Arsenault, trainhand
Harry Leslie, sectionforeman
Artie (Johnny Vie) MacDonald
Train stations in rural communities were always buzzing with activity. People would be there to meet other people, mail a letter or pick up something at the store. More often than not, it was a place where people went to meet or chat with others but any excuse to go there would do.
People could go down and get the mail in the evening, when it was dropped off by the baggage master at Larry MacDonald's, instead of waiting for it to be delivered in the morning. Young ladies and gentlemen would go for reasons like this to get a look at their heart throb.
As it was stated previously, many people travelled by train. There were two classes of passenger train, 1st class and 2nd class. It cost a little more to go on 1st class because the seats were more comfortable than second class so more people travelled by 2nd class. A trip from Bear River to St. Charles cost 15 cents.
The train was a convenient mode of transportation compared to travel by horse and buggy. A trip from Bear River by horse and buggy would take hours where as the trip by train would take 20 - 30 minutes.
Coming on the end of the passenger service, so few people used the train that a station agent was not required full time. As a result, a person close to the railroad was hired to go down to the station and sell tickets when people were there. Leonard Peters was one of these people who was asked to do this at Bear River Station.
98Mary Ellen Bailey
Mary Ellen Bailey recalls being at the station when the first train arrived. To a small girl it was a pretty impressive sight, her father had been on the train and gotten off at the farm crossing.
Upon seeing everyone in the station yard, he walked across the field to join them. Although no official celebrations were planned the whole community had come to welcome the train. The trip to Souris took about 45 minutes to one hour. No one minded the time, the train was warm, clean and comfortable.
The railroad provided efficient and fast transportation for all kinds of goods. Before the train, store merchants unable to get to Souris with horses because of snow or mud, would sometimes ration things like molasses, until new supplies could be acquired.
The railway provided much needed jobs for the men, with many more hired for snow shovelling in the winter. When the train stopped coming to Elmira it was a rather sad time. One lady who walked the tracks from Munns Road to Elmira years later, felt the passing of time.
The numerous walks for berry picking, the many crossings and gates for farmers, meeting friends along the way made one think of how much of an influence the railway had in people's lives.
Now the weeds grow through the ties, hardwood trees are slowly closing in, and soon all evidence of the railbed would be hidden.
99Passenger Car; was situated at the Elmira Railway Museum.
31 août 2003
Elmira, Prince Edward Island
With the farm split by the railroad and the close proximity of the house to the St. Charles Station, Mrs. Doucette's life has been influenced by the railroad. Her husband, George, worked as a foreman in the potato warehouse at the crossing which was first run by W.H. Townshend.
In later years, Albert Quigley from St. Peters was the owner. Often Mrs. Doucette was sent to St. Peters on the train to pick up the worker's cheques from Mr. Quiggly. On one of these trips, she was stranded at the St. Peters Station when a train derailed before reaching "the Bay" (St. Peters).
With no other way home, she prepared to settle at the station for the night as suggested by the station master Mrs. O'Molly. While Mrs. Doucette was waiting for the station master to come back with some blankets and books to help her pass the time, a man from St. Charles came into the station.
The man, also stranded by the derailment and not fussy on staying overnight in St. Peters had found a drive home with a neighbor in his horse and sleigh and offered to give her a lift as well.
Although she was grateful to the station master for rushing around to make her comfortable, she quickly accepted the offer and hopped in the sleigh for the ride home.
As mentioned before, the train literally ran through the Doucette's backyard. To get to this section of the farm with a tractor Mr. Doucette used a small platform, supplied by the railway, that could be laid across the tracks, allowing the tractor to cross them.
These platforms apparently were the norm for all areas where farmers needed to cross. For further ease in crossing the tracks, the ditches along them were shallow or non-existent.
Mrs. Doucette remembers some people who seemed to be permanent fixtures around the railroad or at the stations. Syl Gallant and, in later years his son Eugene tended to the woodstove which provided heat for the station at St. Charles.
Corneilus McCormack, the baggage master and mail clerk, was also a familiar sight. A man known to both man and beast was Jimmy Johnny Alan MacKinnon, a section foreman. The reason he is said to be known to both man and beast is that the Doucette's dog would hear him on his early morning inspection of the tracks and bark at him. Mr. McKinnon, who could hear the dog from quite a distance in the early morning stillness, was reported to have said, "That little dog of George's can hear me as soon as I strike the Selkirk Station!"
Mrs. Doucette loved the train and thought it was great. People could easily hop on the train and head for Souris and other points beyond and between to shop, visit, or run other errands for a small price.
The station in St. Charles was a real gathering spot for those who just wanted to see other people and to play cards. Doiron's store, just north of the tracks, was also a popular spot to congregate to pick up the latest news. Indeed the crossing used to bustle with people, especially on freight days when people travelled to Souris and cars were being loaded and unloaded with livestock, hay (during a dry summer when the crop was poor), fertilizer and goods for Doiron's store.
The St. Charles crossing is silent now, with the only remnants of the railroad being the dilapidated general store. But the sound of the train whistle, bustling travellers and bewildered livestock must still ring in the minds of those who were part of it.
During the early years before cars and good roads, trains were about the only way to travel any distance, many families lived near the rail lines and some 3 to 4 miles from the main road. As families grew, the men often found work on the railroad.
In one family two brothers were employed one as a yardman for East Baltic and Elmira and the other as a Driver. One later moved to Truro, N.S. and continued to work for the railroad. Freight was unloaded and loaded daily at the East Baltic Station, the station was divided in half one side for freight and the other for passengers. During the winter months the station was heated by a wood stove.
During the unloading of goods for a general store at the station one winter day, it proved to be a sticky situation. A very large puncheon of molasses got away from the men unloading it, as it went crashing into the door and breaking the end out of it. As a result, molasses was everywhere.
The top layer of molasses remained clean and the people who lived near the railway rushed home to get dishes and pots to scoop it up. The molasses was soon turned into candy and topping for biscuits in many homes.
During the 1920's Mussel Mud was also received at the station. This arrived by the car load and had to be shovelled off into waiting carts. It was common practice to spread it onto the land as fertilizer, one gentlemen who was often hired to shovel this mud was paid 25 cents a day. This particular worker was commonly referred to as a gentlemen because it was told that no matter what task he performed, he did so wearing a suit and tie.
The bulk of the freight leaving the East Baltic Station was potatoes, dressed meats, beef and pork, but most of the time it was pork. In the fall live geese would be shipped in wooden crates by the car loads.
In the 1930's the Dixon family owned and operated a Starch Factory and a Lumber Mill just north of the East Baltic tracks. The starch was shipped and lumber was sent to Charlottetown. The starch factory was previously owned by Harvey McEwen of St.Peter's in 1907 but then closed for a number of years.
An engine and two cars derailed about one mile east of the Baltic Road, a steep bank gave away at a brook crossing, plunging the engine into the brook and spilling its cargo of potatoes over a very large area. Several men from the area were hired to clean up the potatoes, an escalator and a motor were setup to reload waiting cars.
Working as fast as they could to clean up the potatoes, the men were then told to slow down by the head man at the scene of the accident to give them a few days work. This was short lived however, as another train arrived with the Top Man on board who wasted no time in telling the men to speed it up.
To get the engine out of the brook and up the steep bank, a bulldozer was brought in to prepare a bed for the sleepers and rails. The engine was jacked up using air jacks to get the rails under it and two engines were used to pull it back on the line.
Walking a mile through 8 foot snow drifts one Saturday morning, a couple wanted to catch a train for Charlottetown to do their Christmas shopping. Arriving in Charlottetown in the early afternoon, they proceeded to do their Christmas shopping, staying overnight and coming home the following day.
This was considered a very special treat as people would not get to Charlottetown too often. Trains were also used by students who wanted to attain a higher level of education, as they would have to travel to Charlottetown. Because of the expense and travel time, they only managed to get home for Christmas and maybe one other holiday a year.
104Rev. Floyd McGaugh
Train travel from Souris and the surrounding area was a wonderful experience. Before Souris had a regional high school, students went by train to St. Peters to attend junior high. A few of the girls, went but it was mostly just the boys, with the girls being taught at St. Marys Convent in Souris.
Father Floyd lived in Bear River and took the train Monday morning returning home Monday evening. He remembers the train as being unique, there were nine other people who made the same trip twice daily, five days a week.
Boarding the train in the winter months after a long cold walk, the passenger car stove, sometimes red hot, was the focal point for conversation and comradery was at its peak.
The train crew showed a special kindness to the young people. For those who on occasion would not have the fare, Conductor Doyle was especially kind and understanding. He would wave them on the train saying, don't worry I will get it another time.
The sound of the steam whistle could be heard for miles sounding across the fields and through the woods, telling one and all of its arrival. Each train had a conductor, brakeman, driver and fireman, you would know by the uniform which section of the train the men worked.
The conductor was headman and it was his train, using a lantern he would signal the driver when to go, stop, slow down or back up. St.Clair Paquet was a driver and he would wave to everyone along the way. The train was met by whole communities along the way at each station. They would gather early and stay late sharing their news and hearing the latest from passengers returning home.
The larger stations had telegraph keys and this was a great source for up to date events. The post office was the next visit to pick up mail brought in by the train, letters and parcels from away kept folks in touch with relatives and friends who had gone to other parts of Canada and the United States to work.
Harry Leslie and Art MacDonald, sectionmen, were two of the many men who went out in the open trolleys everyday, in all kinds of weather, to work on the rail lines. In the winter crews from Elmira to Tignish would shovel snow, sometimes three relays high in the cuttings and drifts.
The freight train came twice a week. On a heavy freight day as many as 20 to 30 car loads would come in, they would require two engines to pull them. Thursday was hog day, and farmers would bring pigs to be shipped to Charlottetown. The squealing pigs could be heard everywhere.
In 1923 just outside of Tignish at "Handrahans Cuttin'," a passenger train became stuck in a snow drift. Snow shovellers on the train began clearing the way and while still stuck in the drift, it was hit by a freight train, killing five people. For some reason the station agent did not send the message that the passenger train had left. The freight train believing the way was clear began its run.
The accident occurred around 10 or 11 p.m. on a bitter cold night. When Father J.A. MacDonald, heard of the accident he quickly harnessed a horse and set out by sleigh to help in anyway that he could.
Another strange accident occurred in Summerside. A station agent, by the name of Mr. Keefe, checked out a train and then left, getting into his car and driving away. A short distance along the road he started over a railway crossing and was hit and killed by the same train that he himself had just checked out. It is unknown why he did not hear or see the train coming.
On a cold and frosty winter night, the snow sparkling from the light of a full moon, a hand pumped trolley was borrowed from the round house in St. Peters. Full of high spirits, five or six boys set out for a moonlight ride on the trolley. At Five Houses, there was a bit of a uphill grade and the pumping turned to hard work. Before reaching the top a friend who lived in a near by house invited them in for a hot drink. Making sure the trolley was alright, they set out on foot for the house. Returning a short while later, one young man reached the trolley first and decided to try and get further up the hill. This didn't go as planned as he was soon headed back down the tracks picking up speed and unable to get a hold of the pump handle, t should be known that trolleys do not have brakes.
As he sped through the frosty air, with his friends angrily running behind him and yelling for him to stop, to no avail he could not. He sailed across a span bridge and headed for St. Peters. Two things ran through his mind, one was what if he hit someone or something at a crossing and two was to come to a very sudden stop on the barrier at St. Peters.
Luck was with him and the wild ride was soon over as the trolley began to slow down on the flat land. With everything under control he started back up the track to meet his friends who were unable to cross the bridge. It was a rather disgruntled group who waited to be rescued, aside from some grumbling about the forced walk, the trip back went well and they managed to put the trolley away without getting caught.
Borrowing railway property was not allowed, but Tommy Ledwell was a section man was well known and the boys suspected the punishment would have been light.
While Island trains did not have a dining car, trains going to places like Montreal had a dining car that was an experience not to be missed. Dining was elegant and the food was incredible, it was an experience just to reach the car. Good sea legs were an asset, as to walk from one moving car to another on the narrow walkway was anything but easy.
Travelling by train was exciting, the people were friendly, porters gave the best of service and treated passengers like royalty. Passing through beautiful country side, small villages, where in the winter you could see people skating on ponds and outdoor rinks, always something wonderful for the eye to see.
Arriving at Montreal Station there are tracks and trains everywhere, steam from waiting engines fill the air as they waited there turn to move onto the main line.
Father McGaugh relishes every minute spent on the train, going to junior high, university, visiting at the hospital or a trip to Montreal. He would like to take more train trips and believes everyone should have the excitement of a train ride.
106Daniel and Bernice (McGaugh) McInnis
Daniel is a retired mailman who was born and raised in Selkirk. Being a mailman, the train was part of his life as the mail came by train. His wife Bernice is a Bear River native who, as a young woman, travelled by train from her home beside the Bear River Station to Selkirk to teach.
Although the train must have been a noisy addition to this quiet Island, it soon became a permanent fixture on the landscape. Peoples lives soon started to revolve around it.
Those travelling by train learned to tell how far away the train was by the sound of its whistle and could see the big puffs of steam as the train left each station. Teachers and high school students - travelling to the high school at St. Peter's Bay, alike would scramble to get to the station when they heard or saw the train leaving the previous stop.
Children were even taught in school where all the stations were between Souris and Elmira and were quizzed regularly on them. Stores with post offices, mills and even hotels sprung up next to railway stations. In Selkirk, there were two stores one owned by Mike MacIntyre who also ran the post office from there and the other was a Co-op run by the MacAdams.
This family also owned a large fenced fox ranch which was reported to be so large it took an hour to walk around. They also owned a steam mill and warehouse just west of the station.
The station itself was large having a waiting room, an addition that neither the St. Charles or the New Zealand stations had. In 1942, the Co-op changed ownership and was operated at the home of Johnny Roddie MacPhee of Selkirk. He and Art Cahill form Gros Haut were the new owners.
In Bear River, there was much of the same - a store, post office, mill with the addition of a hotel. It is not clear at this time who owned these business. A school was also located near the station with a wooden sidewalk down to the station.
At one time, a round house in Souris turned the engine of the train around so the train could drive back to Harmony Junction. When this round house was no longer there the train backed into Souris from Harmony Junction.
A train went twice a week up to Elmira and was forced to back down to Harmony Junction and turn around at the "Y" shaped intersection to continue west.
The Island trains travelled all days except Sundays, the train fare for regular travellers around the 1940's - 1950's was $5.00 per month, which worked out to 13 cents a day. A trip to Charlottetown from Selkirk cost $1.00.
For those working for the railroad, the fare was free and for native persons living in the province, the cost was half the price of the regular traveller. The freight train picked up and dropped off the usual commodities - produce, livestock and the like however, one unusual product that was listed was animal entrails, guts if you will, for fertilizer for farmers fields.
Mail was also brought by train, it seems every station had a post office often located in a store. This area was no exception with Mike MacIntyre's store being the post office for the area. This post office remained in the community until 1969 when it was relocated to Souris.
The mailman at this time, Daniel McInnis went from picking up his mail in Selkirk to driving to the end of the Gros Haut Road or the Curtis Road where a man who drove the mail into Souris and other districts met him and gave him the mail.
Daniel remembers an amusing incident when the mail was received and sent by train. A local man was in a rush to send an important letter. When he arrived at the station, the train was in the final stages of preparing to leave. He quickly tied his horses and ran with the letter.
The panic was over with his letter on the train and he relaxed, chatting with a friend he met at the station, as the rain started to leave he suddenly remembered where he tied his horses - to the train!
The foreman was responsible for walking their section of the tracks, usually a ten mile stretch, to check for damaged rails or other elements that would slow or endanger the trains passage.
They also had access to the hand-car or trolley car stored at each station. It was often used with a small car behind it to carry workers or materials to a site where repairs were needed during the annual inspection. This inspection checked for loose or broken ties that would probably cause problems over the coming year.
Men would go down the track and clip the
ends of the ties with a shovel to mark the ones that needed fixing or to mark the spot where a rail was in need of replacement. At a later date these would be repaired or replaced with new rails or ties that were piled at various locations along the track for easy access.
One engineer was especially well known. St. Clair Paquet was noted as having a " heavy foot " so to speak and prided himself on being on time or early as was the case most of the time. When he was early, he was in his glory and was anxious to get on the go again.
However, the train was scheduled to leave at certain times, no matter how early it arrived and this use to make him cross. But he was also very kind hearted as he use to throw
bags of candy and "funny papers" ( comics ) to the children on his route. Daniel remembers this well as he recalls some of his older children catching these goodies. It may also be the reason that he himself gave candy to children on his mail route.
Besides the railway men being familiar sites in the community, there were also physical signs along the railway corridor (beside the tracks) that were part of railway life as people remembered it.
Whistle posts were located between stations, reminding the engineer to blow the train whistle to alert the next station. These posts were marked with a "w," for whistle.
Other posts similar to these were marked with two circles, instructing the driver of the plow to lift the plow as it crossed the road. The plow cleaned down between the rails and when it got to the road there was no space for this apparatus.
There were also mile markers along the tracks. These were used when the telegraph was in use enabling the engineer to describe the trains location if the train was stopped for any reason. When telephones came into use in these areas, the telegraph was no longer used and the mile markers were removed.
Because the railroad ran through farm and pasture land, the railroad fenced along the railway corridor to protect livestock. A common practice among farmers was to release their sheep and or cattle to fend for themselves along their property during the summer.
Without the fencing quite a few animals, drawn to the lush grass by the tracks, would have strayed onto the tracks and been hit. A few animals did get through the fences or the large, red wooden gates and were struck. One such critter, a sheep, was cut in two by the freight train close to Bear River. The railroad paid for any livestock that was killed along the tracks.
Although there were no major accidents along this section of the tracks, a few mishaps did occur. Two of these involved people falling off the train. About 50 or 60 years ago a young woman coming home on the train heard the conductor call for the trains arrival at her station.
Not realizing it was a warning call to alert passengers that the next stop was coming up, the lady headed for the door. The door had accidently been left open and when she got to the door she stumbled and fell out.
She was dazed but unhurt she staggered to the nearest house for help. To the occupants of the house, the young woman appeared to be drunk and they would not let her in. Fortunately the next house she came to helped her and alerted the train, who had gone back to search for her.
Another man during war time, headed home for Christmas on the train, stumbled and fell from the moving rig. A kindly neighbour found him and drove him home in the horse and sleigh.
The train jumped the tracks as it went through Aberdeen and another time around the railroad bridge but the train did not tip. It was placed back on the tracks by an apparatus made for such purposes by guiding the wheel back on the track.
The train was not so fortunate at the Bear River Station however. It tipped over and people tried to right it with a rope around a large tree. In the process the tree had broken and other means had to be found to set the train back on the tracks.
Over the years, the diesel train replaced the steam driven locomotive. In many ways people didn't like it. The train could no longer be located by the puff of steam leaving the station. It was not as powerful as the steam engine and would often spin on leaves that were on the tracks during rainy fall days. The steam locomotive was equipped with pipes that spurted sand onto the tracks ahead of the train to prevent it from slipping.
The diesel engine trains did not have this and often slipped on the tracks. Since the use of coal was on the way out, the diesel powered train was here to stay.
In the later years, passenger trains were discontinued. Most people by this time had a car or truck and did not use the train except for longer trips to Charlottetown or off Island. It was a big difference from the times when extra cars were needed to keep up with the Christmas shoppers, people travelling to tea parties or to bring all the Islands school children to see the King and Queen in 1939.
But, times were changing and the train service changed along with them.
As a native of Selkirk, Joe MacPhee saw many trains come and go. The community of Selkirk had numerous businesses' at one time including; a cobbler's shop, two stores, a post office, blacksmith and a steam mill.
In addition to these, the community also had a school and several buildings associated with the railway such as, the train station and trolley car building which were familiar sights.
Mr. MacPhee worked for a month or so in the late 1940's or early 1950's as part of the extra gang, 30-40 men sent to different locations on the Island during the summer. These men helped the sectionmen with replacing the rails and ties, cutting down grass and weeds and other work for a week or so at a time. This was hard demanding work, lugging rails and ties from piles along the work site or off of the trolley cars.
Cutting grass and weeds involved clipping off the grass at ground level with a spade. These men usually stayed in box cars converted into sleeping and eating quarters when their work took them from home. With all this work completed during the summer, the sectionmen had time in the fall to maintain the fencing and tim back the trees from the track.
Over the years many railway workers have come and gone. Some of these men are included in the following list:
Harry Leslie - Section foreman
Ronnie McInnis - Sectionman
Charlie (Hughie Alan) MacKinnon - Sectionman
Jimmy MacKinnon - Sectionman
John E. MacKinnon - Engineer (St. Peters)
George MacIntyre - Engineer (drove 1st diesel engine in the area)
St. Clair Paquet - Engineer
Cliff Cox - Conductor
Bill Doyle - Conductor
In the early 1950's, the steam engines were replaced by the diesel. Because of this many changes took place. At one time, men shovelled coal from the coal car behind the engine into the engines stove, often with only flaps of canvas between the two car, separating the men from the elements.
Coal also had to be loaded at the station for the day's journey and frequent stops were made at St. Peters, Ashton and Harmony to take on water for the train. When the diesel came in, coal and water were no longer needed and as a result fewer men were employed by the railway.
Some people, like firemen, were kept on to help the engineer with signals and other such duties but, for the most part, a lot of jobs were phased out.
When it came to derailments, Mother Nature could wreck havoc with the rails, whatever the season. The heat from the intense, hot summer sun could warp the rails, making for some very unbalanced travelling. This phenomenon was referred to by Harold Gaudet in his book, "Remembering Railroad on P.E.I." as "sun kinks."
The frost in the winter and the upheavel of the ground in the spring as the frost left it's course, warped and caused frost bumps under the track which made the track bed bumpy and uneven. These conditions caused many a train to derail.
Besides derailments, there were often other accidents on the railroad. A mailman from Selkirk, Alan MacKinnon, was heading home after completing his mailroute. It was a stormy, blustery day, one where it is snowing so thick and blowing so hard that you cannot see or hear anything.
Mr. MacKinnon, huddled against the elements with his back to the wind, crossed the railroad track with his horse and sleigh. Just as his horse got over the tracks, the train struck the back of the sleigh. Miraculously, when the train got stopped, Mr. MacKinnon was found on the cowcatcher, alive and none the worse for wear.
Although Eldon did not work for the railway, two uncles, Fay and Guy Glover, as well as his father, Wendell Glover were railway men. Eldon can recall many things about the railway and the men who worked it.
Fay Glover was a conductor on the Charlottetown to Souris train in the early 1940's. Fay loved his work and lived in Souris for years. Married twice, Fay fathered 9 children. His wife Adel Dixon from East Baltic now resides in Charlottetown. Fay's life was cut short in the mid 50's when he died of a heart attack while working one night. "I think it was in the spring."
Guy Glover began with the railway in 1945 and worked as a brakeman. Married to Gladys Affleck, they had one daughter. Before his years as a brakeman, Guy fished his own fleet then went on to the war.
He returned to Mt. Stewart in 1945, due to health problems and applied for a job with the railway. The years of service with the rail would take Guy from one end of the Island to the other. Guy worked up until he took sick and died in 1965.
As a railway man Guy worked with many men:
Aneas MacDonald - Brakeman - West St. Peters
Cliff Cox - Conductor - Souris
At times the two brothers, Guy and Fay would be working the same train.
Willard Coffin - Driver - Mt. Stewart (now resides in Charlottetown)
Layton Smallwood - Fireman - Mt. Stewart
Doug Coffin (Willard's Brother) - Driver - Mt. Stewart
Working as a fisherman only brought seasonal employment. In the winter months work was very scarce but if you were lucky enough you could get a job with the railway shovelling snow. Wendell Glover, Eldon's father did just that. Shovelling snow brought with it that extra bit of cash that was needed especially in the winter.
Eldon's father gave him a copy of a story he wrote on a snow shovelling trip from Mt. Stewart to Elmira. It took three weeks to shovel the track from the time he left until he came back. On the south side of the bridge in Mt. Stewart there was a crossing nicknamed Glover's Crossing.
"We would wait here and watch for the train coming in from Georgetown leave the cars on the side and the engine and plow would detach and make a run for the cuttin', located on the north east side of the bridge called Clark's Cuttin', named for Russel Clark, the local merchant.
When we could no longer see we would wait for the toot that signalled they were stuck. When they made the drive for the snow the impact would cause the snow to fall between the engines and the plow and they would get stuck.
After we would shovel out the driver would back up and make another run at it. It would sometimes take two or three times of getting stuck before they could pass."
St. Clair and Joe Paquet, both drivers from Souris, would often get stuck at this cuttin', recalls Eldon. "I can recall them getting stuck here one time, both were in an engine behind the plow and St. Clair said to Joe, "Come on and get that engine going enough to get us out. I can't push the plow and pull you!" They would have so much fun," Eldon laughs.
Eldon recalls when the train used to leave Mt. Stewart Station. The train would leave the station at 10:00am for Murray Harbor and be back at 1:30pm. "I used to go with my uncle Fay, he was conductor at the time." Eldon remembers being a young fellow around 1942-43. This would be a freight run, no passengers.
Excursion trains were a common occurrence back in the railroad days. In the late 30's early 40's the railway would put on an excursion trip to Souris for the Mt. Stewart Royal's Senior Hockey League aged 25-30 years old. 5 or 6 trains would pull into Souris filled with many fans.
"There are a lot of stories to go along with these trips but we better not write about them," Eldon joked. Those that couldn't afford a ticket used to sneak on board. Everyone used to party the whole night.
If the water station, located about one mile east of the station, was still standing you would be able to see it from the main highway. There was a 10 acre pond that was dammed and a hydraulic ram would pump the water into the pipes and down to the tank. It would travel about a 1/4 of a mile down to the holding tank.
"I miss the station and the socializing that came with it. I loved the trains. In fact, in about 1950 I went out on a few runs to get ready to apply as a driver. Things started to slow down then, jobs and things associated with the railway started phasing out. I bought the watch and all but I had to return it."
When Eldon couldn't get a job with the railway he began working for the ferry in Borden. Eldon's work with CN Ferry gave them a pass to come home on the weekends. "If it was shift work we would work two or three shifts and take the train home."
Harry MacKay was a station agent in Mt. Stewart for years. After him came Athel Ellis then George McCannel.
Eldon had a photo of the Mt. Stewart Railway Station the day it was hauled away.
Eldon remembered when you would see 25-30 cars making up a freight train run. Some of the cars would be around the bend and back a stretch. You could see all the cars pulling along, it would seem never ending.
The opening of the railway provided many opportunities for the local people. Work was often scarce for young people in those days and, because of the railway, many opted to go off Island for at least a few years to find work.
As a rule, young women would head off to Boston and the men would head to Nova Scotia or New Brunswick to work in the woods as lumbermen for the winter.
Many people were employed by the railway as engineers, conductors, firemen, brakemen, sectionmen, shovellers, etc. Usually these people were those that lived relatively close to the tracks. Being a "Northsider," the source Theresa Wilson, does not recall very many Northsiders being employed by the railroad for this reason.
However, she does remember some railway men that worked when she was living on the Island. In St. Peters, the first telegrapher and station master she remembers seeing was Leo Murphy and the last was George MacIssac.
As sectionmen and section foremen, there was Tommy Ledwell, Ronnie McInnis, Jimmy Johnny Allan MacKinnon, Willie MacKinnon and George Russell. These men walked hunched over for a long time after, for this is how they had to work to inspect the tracks. Howard McInnis was an engineer in Montreal. It was suggested, after World War 1, that anyone looking for a railway job would have to be a veteran of World War 1.
People could sell their produce and livestock by train, bringing in money to their families. The economic spin-off created the need for stores in the area which also required the train to bring in their supplies and, as well, more customers to the stores.
Angus MacKinnon was one of these storeowners. The train also allowed children to contiue on to high school in St. Peters. Some of these young people were Wendell and Wilbert MacIntyre (later Fr. Wendell MacIntyre) and Kenny and Howard McInnis. Their teacher at that time was Danny MacDonald.
Train travel offered different ways of travel including first and second class. First class travel was more expensive for it had soft, cushy seats. Priests were given free fare in first class because of their calling. Others were given the opportunity of reduced rates but they were not allowed to do so on first class.
Native people were allowed to travel for half-price while railway men and their families were given free fare because of their work on the railroad. If first class was requested by any of these people, they would have to pay the full price.
The train was very important around war time, as it was the main source of travel for the soldiers to Halifax, from where they were sent overseas. It was a very busy time as wives usually accompanied them on their trip to Halifax to see them off.
There were many good times provided by the railroad. Many people went to meet the train as a source of entertainment. The stations, especially around Christmas time, were buzzing with activity. Often a fiddler would be present and people used to dance sets while waiting for the train (especially in the Selkirk station).
Many would be happy indeed as some would return from a trip to Souris, "three sheets to the wind," perhaps with a little left over to share with the rest.
There were many excursion trains available over the course of the years to take people to tea parties, picnics, hockey games and the like. This gave everyone on the Island the opportunity to see other places and enjoy themselves.
The train was such a common fixture on the Island that people used to set their clocks by the sound of the train's whistle or by the sight of the smoke as it pulled away from a station.
Since the train was such a common fixture in the communities, many a story has been formed around it. A couple stories involve people having some near misses with the train.
One involves a young girl, inexperienced with train travel, falling from it. The call for the stop at Selkirk had been heard and, to ensure that she'd be ready when the train stopped and not be left behind, the girl made her way to the door.
By mistake, the door had been left open and an icy patch had formed at the base of it. The train was jostling along and the girl stumbled onto the icy patch, lost her balance and fell from the moving train into a frozen plowed field. She was unconscious but unhurt.
When she came to, she was still quite dazed and walked towards what she thought was her house. She walked in, took off her coat and boots and proceeded through the house when she was met by the elderly couple who owned the house.
Thinking she was drunk, they told her to leave. She left and was found near Ronnie McInnis' not far from the station. The station had to be alerted as it had been sent back to look for her when she didn't get off at the station. A small settlement was offered as it had later been proven that the door of the train was left open by mistake.
Another story comes when a man, Tommy Gallant, was returning home for Christmas around war time. He too fell from the train and was unhurt. A man from Selkirk was kind enough to give him a lift home to Bear River by horse and sleigh that evening.
A train-car mishap occurred in St. Peters many years ago. The accident happened one evening after Dr. Roddie MacDonald, the 90 year old driver of the car, had received word of a medical emergency. His mind was deep in though about the call he was on his way to, when he turned the corner to go over the St. Peters bridge and ran into the train, which was stopped at the station.
He was unhurt, but the collision sent the headlights of his car rolling down the track. A lady walking along near the accident scene thought the person had been hit by the train and the headlight was the persons head rolling down the track!
The accident didn't seem to phase Dr. Roddie and he continued on his way. After the accident, the railroad men would watch for the doctor in case he, in his haste, forgot to look out for them.
Another close call, also in St. Peters, was encountered by Roddie MacPhee (the source's grandfather). As he was driving his horse and sleigh, one of the runners got stuck in the rails. He was trying to work it loose when he looked up and spotted the train coming. Fortunately, the runner came loose in time and no one was harmed.
One man actually did get hit by the train. Alan MacKinnon of Selkirk was hit by the engine and landed on the cowcatcher.
There were quite a few practical jokers amongst the men who worked for the railway. One of these was Danial McInnis who used to light the stove and look after the station in Selkirk.
As mentioned before, young people used to gather there to meet the train, perhaps dancing a set or two. Daniel used to put a can of hot oil on top of the coals, put a cover on it and put it on the stove. Shortly thereafter, the can would blow up with a loud bang. This would send the kids
scattering in all directions in search of a way out, thinking the place would fall to pieces!
The railroad would organize a picnic for the railroad men and their families every summer. In attendance was Johnny Alan MacKinnon, a railway man known to be a great joker. He found a piece of old grey cotton and stuffed it in the tea kettle when no one was looking.
When someone discovered that there was something in the kettle, Mr. MacKinnon took a look and said it was a lizard that must have crawled in the kettle and died. The panic was on. People got wind of this story and were sure they were poisoned. They complained of being sick, and probably at the thought of drinking lizard-flavoured tea, got sick. The complaints and the panic was so bad that someone sent for a doctor to treat all these "poisoned people!"
Although mischievous, these people were not a bad lot and often had hearts of gold. This fact was evident when, after the picnic was over, all the leftover food was packed up and divided amongst the elderly people living alone in the community, who often didn't see much in the line of good food, like what was seen at the picnics.
114John James MacDonald
For many people living in rural farming communities where chores were many and leisure time was almost non-existant, it was a big outing to go pick up the mail as it was dropped off by the evening train.
Although the mail was delivered the next morning by the mailman, people often made a trip in the evening if they were expecting or mailing an especially important letter or just for an excuse to be around the hords of people gathered around the station and the stores in the area.
Some people came from miles away, often walking from their home to the station and thought nothing of it. As a young boy, John MacDonald remembers making the 3 mile trip to Bear River, dodging snowballs thrown by mischievious friends who saw him coming. During this time, Larry MacDonald had the post office and Keith Arbing was the station master.
In addition to frequent trips to the station for the mail, Mr. MacDonald's experience with the railroad included summer work as part of the extra gang working between Bear River and New Zealand. His job at this time was replacing damaged ties and rails.
Mr. MacDonald remembers other station agents, sectionmen and engineers that worked in Bear River when Mr. MacDonald was born 80 years ago. Peter Power from the Bay (St. Peters Bay) and Harold Brothers from Cardigan, were station agents who also worked out of the Bear River Station. George MacIntyre, an engineer and George Bushy, a sectionman, were two men he recalled working for the railroad.
116"Eastern Graphic" - August 1st, 1979
In 1910, clay was being dynamited for the construction of the railway at Elmira. Joe Harris, along with many others, hauled it by horse and cart for fifty cents a day. When he retired, he was just five months short of forty years with the railway.
The names of the Canadian National railway men on the Elmira run in 1924 have been preserved in a tribute written in the form of a ballad. Eastern oldtimers can have some fun trying to identify the men mentioned. I asked Joe Harris about them and he knew them all. I'll include his notes on the men in the next column.
The poem itself came from Tommy Harris. The name of the author is unknown, Tommy has had the poem for many years and has forgotten where it came from.
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, trainmen and friends,
As the last shadow of the winter descends.
With a view to amusing you for a short time,
We've decided to put this history to rhyme.
And if in metre it should fail,
Please do not storm with a critic's gale.
For if some lines should not run smooth,
You'll surely overlook the imperfections of youth.
In regard to abuse - we'll say no more
But begin the train history of nineteen twenty and four.
We've had sunshine, frost and snow,
Since we passed the same test some months ago.
We've had pleasures and sorrows too
But compared with our pleasures our sorrows are few.
We have a GOOD train service every fourth day
Which comes to carry our passengers and produce away.
Now since we have had enough generality
We'll write a few lines on each personality.
We'll put first on our list one who's first on the train.
There's no "Standard Rule" that can puzzle his brain.
That's Conductor John Hughes whom we admire without measure
For a good drink of "Scotch" is his most enjoyed pleasure.
When he comes to Elmira, John Henry is shy
But we'll suppose he'll get over that in the Sweet Bye and Bye.
And next on our program is our friend Joseph Reilly
Who says funny things and says them quite dryly.
He said to Elmira he'll come no more
But stay down in Souris as he once did before.
When it comes to taking back the mail he won't bite,
But we'll excuse him for this on the plea of being "Tight."
If you call for a brakeman we have one of that sort
That's John Edward Moynagh our Captain of Sport;
He knows the train history from the bottom to the top
And when he gets going makes his assistants hop.
When it comes to expression he's a second Shakespeare,
And by a wide range of words makes everything clear.
We have an engineer who has a temper like a "lamb"
And is known to his friends as Old Uncle Dan.
He gets on well with "Bobby" as a stoker
And certainly enjoys his little game of poker.
We've heard many things that we're not going to mention
But by all accounts Dan will soon have a pension.
Now we'll change the tune and at Hawbolt we'll shout
That chap from Morell knows what he's about.
He's an excellent chap and for Morell crows,
But he's learning to love Souris as fast as he grows.
When it comes to shovelling coal he can certainly think
And sometimes at the station he takes a sly drink.
The next on our list is our old friend Al
Who looks on Jack MacEachern as a wonderful pal.
He cleans the engine from ten to four
But most of his time is spent with "Chevaur"
He may yet board in Elmira. Who can tell?
But his present address is the Oakly Hotel.
There is Stephen J. Keefe, our Irish Comedian,
Wherever he is, it's a sunshiny region
He shoulders his shovel, his axe and his pick,
And day after day at his work he doth stick.
He thinks of such things and says such funny stuff
That we can't stop laughing when we've laughed enough
Then there's Lorne Keays, that amiable boy
Who plays with the girls like a child with a toy.
He's a very good sport for one form the Line Road,
And sends his love messages by signal and code.
He's rather a trolley, than a binder or rake,
And spends most of his time with his friends at North Lake.
There is T.B. Grady our brave Superintendent,
And before we come to the end of this ballad,
We'll mention our Agent and friend Peter Holland,
Who has shipped for us early, and shipped for us late,
And gone without dinner to get off our freight.
Of the Knights of Columbus he's an interested Member,
And drives a "Chev" car from May to December.
Since this is all to the rhyme we can lend,
We'll stop right here for we've come to the end.
117Thomas Bell Grady, lifelong P.E.I. Railway Employee and outstanding community volunteer.
Summerside, Prince Edward Island
118"Eastern Graphic" - August 1st, 1979
Pierre Berton may be the historian for the Western railway, but Joseph Harris, part-time curator of Elmira Station Museum, is our man for Eastern Kings. He has been associated with the eastern terminal since its beginning.
Elmira, once the eastern terminal of the Canadian National Railway, is an ideal setting for our Island's only railway museum. Here many railroad items of the past are on display and the two curators, Joseph Harris and Ann (Hennessey) Garrett enjoy showing visitors around. When Ann was asked about the names mentioned in the ballad, "Elmira Trainmen - 1924," she referred to a card file on the railroad men and was able to give information on a few. The file is not complete. The museum is very anxious to get information on any person who worked with the railway (name, job, length of services etc.) so that it can be placed in this card file. Elmira Station Museum is only a few years old. As years go by, more and more information, records and artifacts will be added. No museum is ever complete, but the card file could be.
Joseph Harris, almost forty years with the railway, was able to supply the following information. Stephen J. Keefe was one of the first men Joe worked with and he was with the railway until 1939. Uncle Dan, mentioned, he thought was Daniel Patrick MacDonald of Souris, and Bobby was Bobby Hawbolt of Morell and Al was Al Campbell who sometimes stayed at Jack MacEachern's of Souris. John Edward Moynagh and Peter Holland, John Hughes and Lorne Keays are familiar names of Souris residents.
The name T.B. Grady (photo on the left) was in the card file. He worked fifty-three years with the railway as a telegraph operator, brakesman, conductor and station manager before becoming superintendent. The Joseph Reilly mentioned had three fingers missing, a not unusual thing with the men whose job it was to place the pin in the coupling when the railway cars were joined. If a man wasn't quick enough, he lost some fingers.
Joe Harris remembers the first shipment of gasoline that came east to Elmira. It was shipped in oak barrels from Brace McKay Ltd. in Summerside to E.D. Fraser, Merchant. People had a great fear and they should for Joe says the barrels leaked a bit. Women were in constant fear when it was used to power the engines used to saw wood and gas stations refused to sell gasoline after dark.
120Harry and Jessie Dixon
Harry and Jessie are well aware of the East Baltic train days. They were around when it was a thriving place and they also watched it slip slowly into a figment of the past.
The Dixon's operated a Starch Factory just northeast of the Baltic Station. Potatoes arrived from all over P.E.I., with one season bringing 30,000 bushels to be unloaded at the factory. Once the starch was processed, it was shipped by train to numerous places like Montreal.
During these days, the Dixon's also ran a lumber mill. Freight cars would be left on a siding near the mill to be loaded. Once loaded, it was pushed to a siding at the station to be picked up by the freight train.
On one particular day Robert Dixon, wanting to load a car to go east in a hurry, talked the engine crew into helping him load the car and take it with them.
For some of the smaller businessmen, getting freight cars was not always an easy task. They were in constant competition with the larger businesses who would put locks on the freight cars door's even though they were ordered for someone else. It was thought that politics played a role in the larger businesses being able to take as many cars as they wanted. This changed however when Mr. F. Gallant, a relief agent, demanded a written statement from the Office that a car or cars be released for someone else's use. Even though the Office was unwilling to do this, they gave the O.K. and the men got the cars they needed.
The East Baltic Station thrived during the years of the train, many buildings and stores scattered the area. J.J. Hughes owned a large store, there was a Post Office, holding pens for animals being shipped, a copper shop, a shed for horses and the station was the home for rails, ties and equipment which were used by the sectionmen.
Although this station had been set up the same as the Elmira Station, to sell tickets, for some reason tickets were never sold here, passengers paid the conductor.
Leaving the station at 6:45am for it's trip to Charlottetown, cars were picked up from sidings along the route arriving in Charlottetown at 11:00am. On the days the passenger train did not come east, a few people would ride on the freight train. In the 1940's, a ticket for Charlottetown cost about $2.25 return.
Jessie remembers well, train trips home from Ottawa, for a fare of $20.00, where she spent three years in the Army from 1943-46. Getting home on leave was not always easy. Some stayed in Cape Tormentine overnight, sleeping on a bench at the Charlottetown station and walking to East Baltic from Harmony in the winter were all a part of train travel. Finding a place to eat was not always accomplished and the walk from Harmony was sometimes a hungry one.
The station brought many good times had by all. People living near the station never lacked for company, trains were met from folks all around them; merchants, farmers and passengers or those who came just to socialize and get their mail.
Children also found great enjoyment with the train. Leaving the East Baltic School to go for a ride on trolley's, which were used for hauling rails and ties, was a great lunchtime treat. Although the sectionmen knew of the rides, had they been caught by a railroad detective or one of the officials, everyone would have been "Big Trouble."
Even though the East Baltic Station prospered during the years of the train, the impending closure of the railway brought this area down with it. Many houses now scatter this part of P.E.I. countryside with the station torn down because it was left in bad repair. All that remains in this once lively area, are memories.
Some familiar names for the East Baltic area were:
Cliff Cox and Bill Doyle, Conductors;
Fay Glover, Brakeman;
Frank and St. Clair Paquet, Firemen and Engineers.
From 1939-50 the train rarely came east of the Harmony Station. Anyone wishing to catch a train had to walk or have someone drive them to Harmony.
Jessie's father, Wallace Rose, was postmaster for 21 years. He would always meet the train to pick up the mail with times when the train would not arrive until 1am.
Road masters and visiting officials travelled by jitney to the various stations. The small enclosed trolley was comfortable and quick for getting around.
In the 1930's carloads of vegetables and saltfish were sent out west by train. The saltfish was not welcomed by prairie people. Hating the taste, not knowing how to cook it, they used this fish to shingle their roofs.
122Rev. Wendell MacIntyre
One night, in the late 1930's or early 1940's, a Selkirk resident jumped off the Charlottetown - Souris daily train, just west of Selkirk Station. The train had stopped for some reason, about 1/2 a mile west of the Selkirk Station.
When the train continued on to the station, the young lady jumped off the train, thinking that she had missed getting off at the station. Apparently, she was not hurt. Lucky young lady!
In the 1940's two trains travelled between Charlottetown and Souris. One of these left Souris at about 7:30am, daily, enroute to Charlottetown. The other left Charlottetown on Tuesdays and Thursdays at about 8:00am and went to Souris.
This train was called a freight train, or simply the "freight," but it also had a passenger car attached to it. This train stayed in Souris for about 1 1/2 hours before returning to Charlottetown. It left Souris at about 1:30pm. Often people would board this "freight" and go to St. Peters or other points westward.
At certain times of the year - at Christmas, when heavy snow delayed the trains, or when a lot of freight was being carried and unloaded here and there, either or both trains would be delayed.
One day, a St. Charles resident, the late Mrs. Evangeline (Will John) MacIsaac boarded the "freight" at Selkirk on her way to St. Peters to shop, and planning to return on the daily train coming from Charlottetown. However, when she reached St. Peters the daily train was already on the siding.
So, Evangeline simply got off the "freight" and boarded the Charlottetown Souris daily freight and passenger train. No shopping that day! Evangeline was a very witty person and she would describe her abbreviated visit to St. Peters with a lot of laughter.
In the winter, when snow blocked the railroads and the trains didn't have their own snow plows, local men and boys would sign on to shovel snow.
It was a way to get some pocket money to get some cigarettes or something stronger, even if, by today's standards, the wages were quite modest. One could almost hear these men and boys praying for blizzards, so that they could get jobs shovelling on the railroad.
A frog was a section of intersecting railroad tracks designed to permit wheels to pass over the junstion without difficulty. This allowed the train to shunt cars to the siding.
The iron horse was a metaphor for the engine of the train.
The demurrage was the holding of a railway freight car beyond the specified time for departure. Demurrage also means a fee that one had to pay for delaying the departure of the freight cars. For example, if one was holding a car with potatoes and did not finish loading within the specified time, he would have to pay demurrage.
The conductor was the man who sold or took tickets once you got on the train.
The trainman was the man who ushered the passengers up the steps of the train. He also gave the signal to the driver (known as the "engineer") when they could leave the station.
The smoker was the room or compartment in a passenger car where people went for a smoke, to share a pint, or tell or listen to stories...some of these of questionable value.
The mail car was the car just in front of the passenger car(s) which contained the mail which would be dropped off at the stations near which there were post offices - St. Peters, Selkirk (Armadale Post Office), Bear River, Elmira and Souris.
Peter said he worked on the extra gang for 2 or 3 summers. He said it was out and out slavery, working for only 70 cents/hour. Even "back then" this was very little money and as a result he had a poor view of the whole railway.
He commented on when the railway was built and the curves and twists that were put in it. He once heard it said that "the track was so crooked that the conductor and the brakemen could shake hands!" (the conductor and the brakemen were stationed at either end of the train so people thought the tracks were pretty crooked!)
February 24th, 1871
Great Railway Meeting At Souris
The meeting was called to discuss the availability of constructing railroads on the Island.
Hon. Emmanuel MacEachen favored the building of the proposed railroad from Alberton to Souris, but said he would be governed by the wishes of his constituency in the matter and said now is the time for them to give expression to their feelings on this great subject.
James R. McLean, Esq. M.P.P. spoke rather discouragingly of the railroad, and advised not to be too hasty in forming their conclusions on so great subject, and to consider whether or not we required a railroad: and if so, are our finances in such a state as to warrant us in giving into so momentous an undertaking.
E.B. Muttart, Esq. M.D., was the next to address the meeting, and did so at considerable length, giving various substantial reasons why the railroad should be begun as soon as practicable, after which the following resolution was moved by E.B. Muttart, Esq, and seconded by John Knight, Esq. A number of other people spoke strongly in favor of the railroad and believed construction should begin as soon as possible.
Whereas: The construction of a Railway will tend to advance the best interests of this Island.
Resolved: That this meeting is in favor of a Railway, providing it is built in a direct line as practicable from Souris to Alberton, connecting Summerside, Charlottetown, and Georgetown. This Resolution was unanimously adopted.
On March 9, 1872, C. C. Carlton of Souris (pictured left), was brought before the bar of the P.E.I. House of Assembly. He was asked to answer to the charges of bribing a sitting member of the House. William Hooper of Midgell. Carlton willingly admitted he did so and told the House there was money for anyone who would vote to have the proposed railway construction extended from St. Peter's Bay to Souris.
127Baggage on permanent display in the Ladies Waiting Room, at the Elmira Railway Museum.
31 août 2002
Elmira, Prince Edward Island
Shovelling snow for the railway only brought promising work for men in the winter, after a storm usually hit. Elwood began shovelling snow in the Mt. Stewart area.
Soon after, an opening was available for a brakeman and Elwood applied. In March 1956, Elwood began his new job working mostly in the western end of the Island but sometimes he worked the eastern end as well.
As a brakeman responsibilities included:
Flagging - Going out 2000 yrds with a torpedo from either the back, front or both ends of the train then coming back 1000 yrds. Two brakemen would stand at either end of the train with a red flag, at night they would use a fusee, similar to a flare. The passenger trains or regular scheduled trains had the right of way.
Switching - All crew members would have their own keys to turn the switches. You kept your keys until you retired. In the winter there were brooms at all the switches so men could clean them off if they were covered in snow.
Brakemen were also required to send cars to the siding, carry a timetable which would indicate how many cars were on a siding and how many more the siding could hold, an operating rule book, and a railway watch which they purchased themselves. Theses things were carried at all times in case you were questioned on a certain matter.
There was a D-rail to prevent a car on the siding from entering the main line if it should happen to come loose. The D-rail was a yellow handle that would put the car off the main track to avoid any disaster. In the winter the yellow handle would be sticking out of the snow so you would know where the D-rail was.
Level crossings seemed to be the most common place for vehicle and train collisions. "Leaving Souris, the engineer Layton Smallwood and myself were around the hill at the Souris River Road. Because we were on the hill we could see the oncoming car and stopped in plenty of time as the car went on through. He then came back to talk to us. The fella said, " it is a wonder how trains and cars don't collide. I seen you, but as I was driving!"
In 1967, Elwood wrote his test to become a conductor. You were required to take at least one trip to build up your seniority. "I was fortunate enough that someone was going on leave so I worked as a fill-in." As a conductor station agents and dispatchers gave you orders to follow each day. For example, which cars had to be shunted, work that had to be done in that area, etc.
Conductors also needed a watch and were given a ticket punch with their own unique imprint. This was so you could trace which conductor punched a ticket if need be. Conductors also wore uniforms; navy pants, cap, and jacket with a gold badge and brass buttons. A clasp on his sleeve signified the amount of years of service with the railway.
Of the 34 years with the railway, Elwood only missed about 3 months. This was not for sick leave but lack of work. Elwood retired in December 1989 when the railway was no longer in operation. "I really enjoyed the many years I spent with the railway. They should have never taken it off with all the heavy truck traffic and all."
129Railway Memorabilia on permanent display in the Ladies Waiting Room, at the Elmira Railway Museum.
31 août 2002
Elmira, Prince Edward Island
130George F. Bowley
George has been a resident of Midgell all his life. He and his wife live on the same farmland they worked for years, as did his father before him and has been in the family for 4 or 5 generations. The family are gone now, they live alone and no longer farm the land.
George and his wife recall the days when they used to make use of the railway services. She says, "I miss the train, it was a great way to travel." George thinks back and recalls the fierce Island storms that used to hit us with a vengeance. He said during the winter there would always be a threat of delays due to storms.
"Oh Lord! Yes it would take all day to go to town. You would leave at 9:00am and come back about 5:00pm, not much time in town unless you stayed overnight." There were times when the train would have to leave a few cars back and use a couple of engines as breakers or wing plows.
The Midgell area had what was called a postal run. Gordon Robins would go out on route then travel back to the post office to get the mail from the postal man, Casey MacKay, to get it on the next train if necessary. At times when the mail would be thrown of the train, he would have to pick it up and bring it back to the post office (if the train did not have to make a stop).
George recalls loading potatoes in Morell. "Yes, they were 100-115lb bags you would be loading, too!" The railway was great for this reason, especially for farmers who had to ship goods and livestock. The stockyard in St. Peters used to contain pigs sand sheep, but mostly it housed horses and cattle which stayed there until they were loaded on the train.
In addition to livestock, many cream cans went aboard the train to go to the butter factory in Charlottetown. George says, "You would load your cream cans about 9:00am so you had to be up bright and early to get them to the station on time." People would number their cans so as not to get them mixed up with someone else's. They would return the following day but you also depended on the honesty system.
The railroad, besides being depended upon for shipping goods and livestock, was used for shipping farm equipment, trucks and cars. George recalls McSwain's selling vehicles and receiving them by rail - farm equipment then gradually moving into automobile sales. George also mentioned that moonshine was run on the trains as well.
Even though the train was a great addition to picturesque P.E.I., George does recall how many farm animals were killed by the trains. Such animals as cattle would wonder onto the tracks only to be hit a short time later. If spotted in enough time the train might have had a chance to spare these curious animals some misery. They would often get out of the train and chase them off the tracks.
George says there is a culvert of concrete that has the date of the changing of the gauge endorsed in it.
The stretch of track between St. Charles Station and Bear River was a well travelled route not only by train but also by children. Although the little ones were not permitted by their parents to go past the cattle ramp, a well known spot a relatively safe distance from the train, the older ones were allowed to go for walks down the tracks to pick berries and explore.
The area at this time, was all opened farm land and you could see all the way to St. Charles Station. A small brook ran by the tracks between here and St. Charles that in later years was damned by beavers, creating a small pond.
Many kids went down there to fish, although it was doubtful any fish were actually there.
An unofficial dump was also located along this section of track. Lots of interesting old things ended up there and many have explored it. It came to be the final resting place of the old pot belly stove from the train station.
Local people, recognizing its worth, salvaged what was left of it. Further down the track, heading eastward, was a peat bog that eventually turned into a small shallow pond after the peat was removed.
A culvert that was placed here became a favorite playground for many local kids. It was large enough for them to travel through from one end to the other. In recent years this area was noted as having an unusually high population of frogs and it has been recommended that in terms of any watershed development, this area to be left untouched to preserve this population.
This culvert was removed in the mid 1990's and, to the dismay of the residents, the block with the date the culvert was placed there was removed with it. Although many kids wandered and explored the tracks safely, some were not so lucky.
A small group of children in Mt. Stewart decided to play in an empty box car. They climbed in and shut the door behind them. They were later overcome by fumes from the heater in the car and died.
As mentioned before, there were many small businesses in the area, stores, mills, a hotel and a service station. The stores were especially great places to meet while waiting for the train to come in. One evening two trains came through at the same time and people filed out to wait while the trains switched tracks.
In the midst of it all, a fight broke out amongst some young fellows who had been having a few, causing the people congregated at the store to race outside to take in some of the action after a small girl alerted them of the brawl. All in all, the place was pretty lively that night in Bear River.
The freight train that passed through the community was of great convenience to all in the community. Farmers could ship their produce and livestock enabling them to bring in more money.
A potato warehouse allowed them to store and ship their potatoes from here and pens were available to hold livestock until they could be loaded. They could also order lime and fertilizer for their fields. This provided much work for young men who could pick up a few dollars bagging and unloading it.
A priest from St. Margarets, Fr. George MacDonald, was also an egg producer and regularly used the train for shipping his product. Pulp was also shipped from here. Many people ordered other things as well like high chairs, clothes and furniture that couldn't be bought at the stores in the area. This saved a trip to Charlottetown to buy these items.
As times changed so did the routine associated with the railroad. The sectionmen no longer spent long hours trimming brush from along the tracks because a spray came into use that burned off all the growth. It also burned off all the blueberry bushes, apple trees and even crops that were close to the tracks. The passenger service dropped so much that there was no longer need for a fulltime station agent.
The duty was passed on to Leonard Peters, a nearby resident, who along with his wife Albina, used to tend the store and clean the station. Because they were fewer passengers the train did not always stop at the station.
It has been stated that if you wanted a letter sent that day, they could stand by the tracks when the 7:50 a.m. train came by and one of the train hands would take the letter from their hand on the way by.
This was quite a difference from earlier years when Roach McGaugh's mailbags were so heavy and cumbersome for the limping post master to carry that his daughter and his niece used to help him carry them. Mr. McGaugh's leg was injured while he worked on widening the narrow gauge track and walked with a limp since then.
134Warren and Edie MacKinnon
Children seemed to have a fascination with the train. They always made sure they'd be near the tracks when the train went by, marvelling at the size and the power of it, watching it belch smoke as it rattled by. One could almost see the children's heads popping up at the piercing sound of the whistle and racing as fast as their little legs would carry them to catch a glimpse of it.
Some were luckier than just seeing it go by. For some of the MacDonald children from Selkirk, who used to play within sight of the tracks in their grandparent's backyard, a kindly engineer would stop the train and give them a ride down as far as the Selkirk Station, about 1 mile way (the name of the engineer is no longer remembered).
There were other memorable trips as well. A group of school children from Selkirk travelled by train to St. Peters to do a skit. Another trip involved a young boy travelling with his aunt into town to a convention. To come home, the boy gave a note written by his aunt to the conductor to make sure he got home alright.
Besides Irish and Scottish residents in Selkirk, there were also Mik' Maq natives living in the area. A family by the name of Sark lived in a small house around the first turn in the track heading east from Selkirk Station. The "camp," which was located on the southside of the track, is now gone and the spot is overgrown with trees.
Many men from the area worked on the railroad as sectionmen, shovellers, on extra gangs, etc. One such resident was Alan MacKinnon. He was one of the many workers who built the Elmira section in the early 1900's. For this work they were paid $1.25 per day, $1.00 for the actual work and 25 cents for the use of their horse.
The worker's farm horses were needed to haul cartloads of fill to form the track bed. Men from areas far away from the section being worked on, stayed in sleeping quarters and ate in a cookhouse for the week, to reduce fatigue and travel time.
Mr. MacKinnon had a rather close call with the train while on his mail route. Upon hearing the story from him, Hughie Joseph MacDonald (who's daughter Edie is married to Alan's son, Warren) wrote the account of Mr. MacKinnon's accident.
"...one blustery mid-winter day, about 1945, his sleigh was hit and he came close to being killed by the westbound afternoon train at the Selkirk Railroad Crossing. The horse broke away from the sleigh and headed for home. Alan laid on the cowcatcher at the front of the train for some one hundred yards and as the train stopped, stepped off unhurt.
Mike MacIntyre boarded the train at that time and with the snow drift he did not know of the accident. As the train pulled away, he saw the fur cap on the snow and felt sure that it was Alan's for Mike kept the post office at that time and saw Alan with the cap daily."
135Mayor Ray A. Leard, of Souris, while visiting the Centennial Train
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island cherished her independence and refused to join the other province's in 1867.
Islanders knew that "representation by population" would drown their voice in Parliament, and they had no interest in a railway.
A railway, even if the cost was shared, would only mean increased taxes.
Prince Edward Island's ninety thousand inhabitants were content with their pastoral way of life.
Following the successful union of the mainland provinces, a few Island politicians came out in favor of joining Canada, but most residents remained adamantly against it. Sir John A. MacDonald continued to press P.E.I. to join the new Dominion.
The Island's trouble began in 1870, soon after James C. Pope was elected premier. Pope wanted to build a business empire that would make him the Island's largest holder of farmland, a leading merchant, and one of her largest shipbuilders.
Pope's political career began in 1857 when he was elected to the legislative assembly at the age of thirty-one. Between 1865 and 1873, James Pope served as premier three times - twice as head of Conservative administrations, and once as leader of a coalition.
His political moves were said to be influenced by his brother William. It was said that "William made the snowballs and James threw them."
When James took office in September 1870, P.E.I. was prosperous and debt free. He assured voters that he would maintain the status quo. Soon after he was elected into office word seeped out that he was in favor of a railway.
It was said that his brother William, his reputation tarnished by many scandals, planted the seed. By the end of 1870 the railway was the most controversial topic on the Island.
David Laird, the 4th son of a respected Island politician and farmer, was opposed to the railroad. He founded and edited the Charlottetown Patriot, the Island's leading Liberal newspaper. Early in 1871, Laird, who loathed the Pope family, wrote a number of hard-hitting editorials against the proposed railway.
In March, Lieutenant-Governor William Robinson sent a confidential dispatch to Lord Kimberley, the colonial secretary, in which he informed Kimberley that James Pope was about to go ahead with the railway.
As predicted, on April 3rd, 1871, Pope introduced a Bill to construct a railway. On the 17th of April, the legislation for the P.E.I. Railway was passed.
Some stipulations came in as the railway Bill was passed. The economy measure, the railway was to be a "narrow gauge" of 3'6", rather than the standard gauge of 4'8 1/2". The cost including surveys, rolling stock, station houses, sidings, wharves, and fencing was not to be more than 5000 lbs local currency (as
opposed to sterling), or $16, 222 per mile. The total length of line from Casumpec Bay to Georgetown was "about 120 miles."
On the 23rd of May, before survey's had begun, tenders were called for construction of the railway. As the route had yet to be determined, bidders were told that the exact location of the line must be confirmed by the lieutenant-governor in council.
Curvature and grade were among the few precise stipulations: curves were to have a radius of at least six hundred feet, and no grade could be steeper than sixty feet in a mile.
The vague terms of the tender allowed contractors - providing the politicians agreed - to run the line wherever they wished. This meant a contractor could do what they pleased and take the cheapest route. And as he was being paid a fixed sum for each mile of railway, he was given an open invitation to make it as long as possible. In effect, the tender assured a huge cost overrun.
A group of politicians (anti-railway forces) petitioned the lieutenant-governor to halt the project . Their petition, however, was rejected by William Robinson. The majority of the House of Assembly supported the railway.
The contract was given to Schrieber and Burpee of Saint John for a price of 2,845 lbs sterling per mile. Rather than cash, payment for the work was to be 6 percent, thirty-year debentures, valued at par.
To service this debenture interest, a 2.5% surcharge was added to the Island's modest import duties.
The first sod was turned on October 5th, 1871 just six months after the premier introduced the railway Bill. The house wanted the route to be altered so it would pass every man's door.
Politicians and greedy landowners also wasted the railway's budget by paying exorborent prices for small pieces of land. The price paid for one piece of land, was said, that it could have bought the whole county.
Anti-railway forces petitioned the Lieutenant-Governor again in December 1871. The memorial was signed by 16 out of 30 members of the House of Assembly, as well as 6 members of the legislative council. With the majority of votes the Memorialists were confident the lieutenant-governor would have to agree to dissolve Parliament and call an election. The lieutenant-governor rejected their
Pope was eventually defeated on April 4th, 1872 by the Liberals led by Robert P. Haythorne. David Laird, who was made a senior member of Haythorne's cabinet, was not a graceful winner. He wrote an article saying Pope had been buying votes and bribing people. But still, construction of the railroad continued. David Laird wrote "the government can do no less because they were committed to build by the previous government."
The Liberal agenda was set to investigate the state of the railway. A New York firm of engineers, Messrs, Isaac, Newton and John Meehan were hired for this task. Aside from changing the location of the Alberton, Summerside and Georgetown stations, they found little fault with the railway.
But criticism started to surface on how the railway was poorly constructed and longer than what it was supposed to be. The contractors and chief engineer, John Edward Boyd did such a good job of reassuring the premier that Haythorne commissioned branch lines, from Alberton to Tignish and from Mt. Stewart to Souris, an additional 52 miles.
Although the line was terribly constructed, terms of contract ignored in others, the Island could well afford to build the additional mileage.
At the end of 1872, P.E.I. had ample funds to buy sterling to service her railway debentures.
Eventually, everything started falling apart. A squeeze was put on the Union Bank because it was rumored to other countries not to buy P.E.I. bonds.
In September 1872, the Lieutenant-Governor wrote the colonial secretary to say that, "with the railway debt upon their shoulders, the majority of the people will before long give their voices in favor of Confederation."
The basic terms of P.E.I.'s admission to Confederation were simple: the Island would be allotted six seats in the House of Commons; the Dominion would assume the colony's debt; $800,000 would be provided to buy out non-resident landholder's; continuous steam communication with the mainland was
guaranteed; and lastly, the Dominion would take over and operate the P.E.I. Railway. Satisfied that they had worked out the best deal possible, Haythorne and Laird returned to the Island.
Pope surfaced again and said that Haythorne sold the Island to Dominion for 50 dollars a head. Pope defeated Haythorne in an election but only received a few concessions to the terms of Confederation. Union with Canada took place on July 1st, 1873.
In the autumn of 1872, John Boyd said the railway would be open the following spring, but it still was not. Thomas Swinyard, the chief engineer for the department of public works, came to P.E.I. to investigate the situation. He arrived in Charlottetown on May 25th, 1874. On the 27th he started to inspect the railroad and its buildings on the Charlottetown to Summerside section. He said the railway was in no condition to be opened.
Swinyard also stressed that Ottawa would not accept the railway unless it met all the specifications. The hand-over was to be a two step process: the province would certify the contractor's completed work, and then the Dominion government would take possession, reimbursing the province.
What Swinyard feared was that the province, because the railway was such a mess, would certify shoddy work and foist it off on the Dominion. For political reasons, Canada would be forced to pay for the deficiencies. By writing the premier before the hand-over, Swinyard hoped to avert this scenario. He was whistling in the dark.
In the first week of June 1874, Swinyard arranged for the premier to accompany him on an inspection of the railway east from Charlottetown to Georgetown. Swinyard found that this section of track was just as bad.
Before he left the Island at the end of June he took inventory of the rolling stock scattered all over the Island. He also found that cars were smaller than they should be. Instead of being eight feet by forty feet as specified in the contract, they were only seven feet five inches by thirty-four feet six inches.
Swinyard returned to the Island in August 1874 but little progress was made on the line, Boyd wrote that the road was nearing completion, and Swinyard was sent back again at the end of October.
This time, he was accompanied by Thomas Ridout, an experienced railway engineer. They were given quite a runaround. When Swinyard asked Boyd if he could accompany him on an inspection trip of the line, the chief engineer said it would be improper for him to do so. Swinyard approached the premier for use of an engine to make his own tour, but Owen said he did not have authority to grant this request.
Owen later relented and told Swinyard he could accompany Boyd on his tour, but when Boyd heard the news, he cancelled the trip. Boyd also refused to give Swinyard a copy of the plans and specifications of the railway. Finally, after weeks of frustration, the contractor came to Swinyard's rescue and provided a locomotive.
The entire line was inspected in November. With the aid of the premier a meeting with Boyd was eventually set up, but Boyd suddenly became ill and took to his bed. As soon as he recovered he departed for Newfoundland.
After Boyd left, Swinyard went through all the material he had gathered and uncovered more than $162,000 in deficiencies and overpayments. When this information was relayed to Premier Owen, Boyd immediately returned to the Island.
James C. Pope surfaced again in 1874 sending a telegram to Prime Minister Alexander MacKenzie saying: "I am prepared to form a Company and take Prince Edward Island and run it immediately under Dominion tariff - take all receipts to which Dominion may be entitled for carrying freight and without any Government subsidy and thus afford people of the Island, without delay, all the advantages which a
railroad would confer."
Two days later, F. Braun, the secretary of the Department of Public Works replied: "Government have no authority to lease Railway." With many attempts at trying to get this across, he did not succeed.
When James C. Pope made his offer on November 30th, 1874, the railway was on the verge of being handed over to the Dominion government. It was not until the fourth of December, however, that Thomas Swinyard finally obtained a copy of plans from Premier L. C. Owen.
At this late stage, Swinyard was still trying to arrange a formal meeting with the chief engineer and the premier to sort out the deficiencies. A week later, Swinyard encountered the premier by chance at the railway station in Charlottetown.
During their pleasant chat, Owen said nothing about the proposed meeting, nor did he mention that Boyd had already certified the railway, and the province was about to hand it over to the
After receiving this unpleasant news on the fourteenth of December, 1874, Swinyard, in an attempt to salvage the situation, sent a letter through his solicitors to the premier, proposing the province make good the deficiencies.
Owen's brusque reply ignored this proposal, repeating that it was Canada's responsibility to "take charge of the railway in order to open it for traffic." Although there appeared to be no room for further negotiation, yet another surprise was in store for the Dominion representative. Swinyard reported to the prime minister what happened next:
"Early on the morning of 23rd December, I received a note from the Premier stating that he was indisposed and confined to the house, but wanted particularly to see me.
I accordingly waited upon him, when he informed me that he had been greatly disappointed to find that some work upon the Railway which had been led to believe had been completed, mentioning bumper blocks, among other things, had not been attended to; and that he decided to ask me not to assume possession of the railway and the plant until they had, when he would give further notice.
This took me greatly by surprise, after the official notification he had given me nine days previously that the completion of the railway had been certified to by Mr. Boyd, and that it would be ready for me on the 17th.
Such being the case, I requested and received from Mr. Owen a written notification to that effect; and I immediately afterwards informed you by telegram how matters stood."
Some perplexity apparently arose after this notice form Mr. Owen was given to me, as in a few hours afterwards the assistant Clerk to the Council came to ask me to return with him to Mr. Owen's house, and take back the letter.
I told this gentleman that I could not give back the letter, as the substance of it had already been transmitted to Ottawa; but that I would have great pleasure in calling on Mr. Owen. Later in the afternoon I received another communication from Mr. Owen, informing me that he was now prepared for me to take possession.
Acting on the instruction of the prime minister, Swinyard accepted the railway - under protest, on December 29th, 1874. Mackenzie was under no illusion what the Dominion was getting; in his words, "the worst built railway ever seen in North America."
Swinyard advertised that traffic would commence on Monday, January 4th, 1875. Prudently, he added the words "weather permitting." His caution was well merited because that winter was one of the severest on record.
Snowstorm followed snowstorm, so not even the plows could get through, let alone a train. Swinyard recalled with pride that he managed to get all the locomotives back to Charlottetown before "the most furious storm that had yet occurred took place." Operations were then suspended until the following spring.
The first scheduled train made the round trip from Charlottetown to Georgetown on April 26th, 1875. Only twenty passengers made the historic journey. But two weeks later, tow hundred and seventy fares were purchased on the round trip.
After all its trials and tribulations, the Prince Edward Island Railway was finally in business.
138Mary Belle Gallant
Mary Belle recalls many of the things other St. Charles residents did - picking berries or hunting rabbits or grouse and selling them to the train workers, meeting the train, and a number of railway workers, namely Phonsie MacPhee, Ronnie McInnis, Jimmy Wilson and even her own father Jimmy MacDonald who was a shoveller. Her brother Danny MacDonald was the high school teacher in St. Peters High School to whom many local students went for their studies by train.
140Agnes (Doucette) Manning
The railway men Agnes recalls: included Peter Doucette (her brother) worked in Mount Stewart, possibly a sectionman , Willie Fisher, sectionman in the Souris area, Bill Hanlon, shoveller, extra gang and Gar Mallard, shoveller, extra gang.
The station in New Zealand was on the east side of New Zealand Road below (north) where the church stands.
A lot of people went to meet the train in Bear River. Mrs. Manning and her children used to walk to Bear River on the tracks to get the mail for an outing. Remembers seeing a trolly full of men going to work on the tracks and stopping at Frank Whalen's store on the way through.
142Mary Ann Doucette
Mrs. Doucette's nephews were sent by their mother to get some oil or kerosene. On their way home they stopped at the station to get warm. Not knowing the difference because of their young age they placed the gas can on the side of the stove. The can blew up, resulting in bad burns on their faces and other parts of their bodies. Fortunately, they did survive this ordeal.
The kids in St. Charles would pick wild blueberries, strawberries etc. and hold up the filled jars as the train was coming into the station. The trainmen or train hands, as they called them, would see them and pay 20 or 25 cents for their berries and the kids would go scampering home with their fortunes.
Dances were held at the station.
People would often visit others in neighboring communities, stay overnight and go home the next day by train.
It used to cost 10 to 15 cents to go to Bear River from St. Charles.
The railway was quite an addition to the sheltered Island of P.E.I. It soon became a way to travel especially when the closing of roads resulted from snow in the winter and mud in the spring. Homes back then were close to the stations and the tracks. This made for easier access for travelling.
The railway was divided into sections with Souris covering a large area. The Souris area had many sidings for freight and a freight shed that had it's own telegraph machine. All the Souris businesses received their goods by train. Orders from Eatons and Simpsons came by train and were picked up at the freight shed.
Employing many men, the railway had sectionmen, station agents, flanger drivers in the winter, conductors, extras etc. The station agent for Souris, Peter Holland lived upstairs in the station. A large busy station required the station
agent to be going all the time. He was responsible for knowing what was coming and going, he had to send and receive telegrams, sell tickets, do bookwork, etc.
Sectionmen had to begin work at 7:00am. A man by the name of Dan Bushey walked from Souris to Harmony every morning. Charlie remembers talking to the men as they were on their 11:00am lunch break.
Sitting outside on a warm sunny day Joe Harris reached into his lunch can and pulled out the biggest molasses cookie Charlie had ever seen and gave it to him.
Charlie also recalls Harold Leslie beginning with the railway in the 1940's as the man to run the flanger in the winter.
Many people used the train for business or pure enjoyment. The noon train from Charlottetown carried freight cars and two passenger cars, by the time it got to Harmony there was standing room only. Everyone from St. Peters east used this train to come into Souris on Business or to do some shopping. It remained in Souris for 2 1/2 hours then returned fully loaded with freight and passengers. The noon train ran Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
During the war many school teachers went by train to Ottawa to work and many schools were closed. Some of the children, Charlie being one of them, would walk three miles or more to a station and take the train to school in Souris or St. Peters. Some made the trip everyday while others were able to board for the week returning home on the weekend.
Many Islander's left by train to Boston and Ontario in the late 1940's to find work, in later years some went out west. When the summer rolled around they would return home for summer holidays. A man by the name of Frank MacDonald went to the U.S.A. where he worked in the mines for 17 years. One man travelled
to Australia on the Marco Polo which took three months to complete.
All the mail came by train. On the days the train did not go to Elmira, the Postmaster drove to Harmony Station to pick it up. Clum Campbell who was the Postmaster for Elmira used a horse and wagon or sleigh to do his travelling.
Some trains were available for rent. Hockey teams rented the train to go to Montague or Charlottetown. The only requirements were to go to the station agent who in turn made all the arrangements. The hockey team. two coaches and numerous fans headed out and returned at 2am. The trips were always a great time, someone played the fiddle and the rest danced and sang the whole way home.
A car was loaded with potatoes in Georgetown to be sent down to the U.S.A. The cars were being inspected at the border, the Georgetown car didn't carry potatoes at all, it carried rum. The potatoes surrounded the real cargo in the hopes of getting it across the border.
Wednesday November 11th, 1964
Roads v Rails
The railway service in Eastern Prince Edward Island, in recent years, has been gradually curtailed, until now, there are many people prophesying that in another five or ten years there will be none left.
In addition, there has been some discussion about the feasibility of all weather roads. On the other hand, we hear that if we had all weather roads the railway could be eliminated completely. Generally these people would give up having a railway serving this area if they felt that all weather roads would be built connecting Souris, Montague and Georgetown with Charlottetown. On the other hand, there are those people who say that if and when the railways go, that it will be impossible to ship Island produce, particularly potatoes to central Canadian markets. These people seem to have a justifiable claim because, at the moment at least, there are not sufficiently large refrigerated trucks to ship the huge quantities of potatoes now leaving the province each year.
This idea of trading off our present rail service for all weather roads seems folly to us. There are several reasons for this: one, we have no guarantee that when the railways are taken away that all weather roads will be built that can handle the present or future freight requirements of the area; two, the job of attracting new industry to the area would be seriously hampered; three, we doubt if a system of highway delivery would be as efficient or as economical as the present service being given by the Canadian National Railway.
It would be far more reasonable to insist that the present railway system continue to operate so that our produce shippers could continue to compete effectively in their present markets and, in addition, a system of all weather roads should be constructed so that the present system of ordering all trucks off Island highways during the Spring break-up period could be eliminated.
147A conductors fare book for one way and round trip, First class and Coach class.
Prince Edward Island
Looking back into his past, Sheldon recalls when he began with the railway as brakeman in 1943 and became conductor in May 1958 for 26 years. 15 years of on hand experience proved favourable for Sheldon when he was applying for the conductor's job.
He recalls studying from what they called a "Rule Book," which contained rules regarding the railway and its operations. This book was authorized by the Board of Transport Commission. A rule instructor was appointed by this board who, for Sheldon's region, was from Moncton. Individuals taking this test before the rule instructor were also required to have knowledge of following a time table. The time table was reading and recording departure and arrival times in a very tight book.
Sheldon covered much of P.E.I. while employed with the railway. Most of his work was done in the Eastern sections, that is, anything east of York where the trains would break away to Eastern or Western P.E.I. out of Charlottetown.
More explicitly, Sheldon referred to the Mount Stewart departure and from there east to Elmira. There were regular stops which were station stops, as well as what they called flag stops. Flag stops were any location with a specified marker, usually a green flag, signalling the conductor to stop for passengers.
Mount Stewart, Lot 40, Morell, St. Peters, Selkirk, St.Charles, Bear River, East Baltic, and Elmira were regular station stops. St. Andrews, Douglas, Dundee, Dingwell, Midgell, Five Houses, Ashton, New Zealand, Fountain Head and Munns Road were flag stops. There were no stations between Harmony Junction and Souris.
The following was his route and schedule for the Eastern sections of P.E.I.:
Monday; If the train was to begin in Charlottetown, it would leave at 2:30pm, arrive in Souris at 5:30pm and continue on to Elmira where it stayed overnight.
Tuesday; Leaving Elmira at 6:30am and arriving in Souris at 7:3Oam then continuing on to Charlottetown. It would then leave Charlottetown at 2:30pm and make its trip back to Elmira arriving at 7:30pm to stay overnight.
Wednesday; Leaves Elmira at 6:30am and into Souris at 7:30am then back into Charlottetown. Leaving Charlottetown at 2:30pm and arriving in Souris at 5:30pm, it stays in Souris overnight.
Thursday; Leaves Souris at 7:30am and heads back to Charlottetown. It makes its journey back to Elmira and stays overnight.
Friday; Leaves Elmira at 6:30am and into Souris at 7:30am followed by Charlottetown at 10:30am. Leaving Charlottetown at 2:30pm making its journey with a stop in Souris then on to Elmira for the night.
Saturday; Leaves Elmira at 6:30am into Souris then followed by Charlottetown at 10:30am. The train would then head back to Souris where it would on occasion stay the weekend.
Generally, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday the crew was required to stay away from home for the night. Enginemen, firemen etc. would stay in bunk houses usually located at or close by the station. Sleeping quarters on board were provided for the conductor and 2 train men.
As winter blew in, so did the many large storms. Snow shovelers depended on these storms for it meant extra money. Derailments, trains becoming stuck etc., were all a part of the winter season. Although there were mishaps, you could usually count on the trains getting back on track fairly quickly,considering the work that had to be done.
When it seemed that the worse was over as winter past, the Spring also had its disadvantages. Runoff and beaver damns were a problem. For Bloomfield, New Perth and the 48 Road, washouts would occur under the track.
The sectionmen would generally get to them before the train would, or at times get to the problems before they got worse. The sectionmen had the responsibility of being on the lookout for any troubles before they could develop into bigger ones.
Although the railway proved to be a remarkable development, it was inevitable that it would change with the times. Competition against more sophisticated developments such as the trucking industry, where a truck could pull right up to a door to be loaded and a train went through a lengthy process of being loaded, combined with other factors, caused the breaking down of the railway.
Sheldon pointed out how C.N. has trucks themselves and still do trucking today. "I guess they were finding themselves out!"
149Advertisements for the community Teas at the Elmira Railway Museum.
31 août 2002
Elmira, Prince Edward Island
Helen began her recollection by talking about when she used to work for Gallant's (where Babineau's is now) and walked to work every day.
Bill Hanlon, section foreman, riding the trolley to the wharf area, would often stop and give her a ride to work and sometimes a ride home. On occasion, he would pick Helen and her friend up with the trolley and take them to his house for a visit and dinner with his family.
The men in Helen's family worked for the railway shovelling snow on the tracks. She recalls a time when the train was stuck for days at Raw Cut near the family home. The men would come home for a bite to eat and a change of clothes and head back to the tracks to shovel all night.
The men who worked for the railway used to carry their meals with them in large tool like cans. It kept the women who packed their meals baking full time and sometimes wishing the men would be sent to a different branch for a while. Everyone can relate to how hungry you can be after a hard days work!
The train was a great source of travel, for not only people, but also for goods. Fuel came by freight in 45 gallon drums which were then delivered by horse and sleigh to their destination.
Eastern Bakeries shipped their baked goods by train and Lloyd McInnis delivered the pies, cakes, cookies, etc., in a wheelbarrow around Souris. If there was any baking left over at the end of the day, Lloyd would use it to play cards with.
Instead of putting money in the pot he would use the baked goods, he could wind up going home with quite a bit of money. Jim Condon also used the train while he ran his restaurant in Souris. People would order bricks of ice cream for Christmas dinner and he would have it sent out from Charlottetown by train, the cost being 30 cents a brick.
In addition to the joy of travelling aboard the train, special trains came from Charlottetown to take hockey teams to their games. In the 1930's a return fare was $5.00.
Despite the broken ribs, black eyes and at times a loss, the trips were still merry ones with fiddlers playing and people dancing. Games were always well attended by many fans with passenger cars always pretty full.
A man by the name of Chubby MacNeil used to light the fire in the bunkhouse for the train men. The train stayed either in Elmira or Souris for the night.
Coming home from Boston one year, the train was stuck solid in the snow. A women, Beatrice Kays, made the last part of her journey by horse and sleigh from Charlottetown.
Helen, quite often, would take the train to Harmony to pick May flowers then walk home. A return fare would cost 10 cents.
Helen had several pictures of men shovelling snow, a train stuck in the snow and a snow plow. She also had a picture of Daniel P. MacDonald, 25 years as a driver who received a Faithful Service Medal.
152Edward and Helen McGaugh
Asking Edward if he knew anything about the railroad was like asking a monster if he knew how to scare people.
To start off, his father, Omar McGaugh, worked for 25 years on the railroad from Souris to Harmony and Elmira. He drove the trolley car with a number of men on board to fix rails and ties for much of this time.
Some of the men he worked with or who worked on the railroad in other aspects during this time, include Andy and Harold Leslie, Joe Campbell and Percy Murphy. Omar also helped with weeding the track, clipping them with a spade. In later years, this job was made easier with the use of a machine which dug up the weeds for the men who then tossed them into the ditches alongside of the track.
Having access to the trolley car had its benefits, as Omar used to take his son fishing at the railroad bridge in Selkirk on Sunday mornings, although he wasn't really supposed to use it for anything other than work.
Omar also drove the plow from time to time. He was in Elmira with the plow when the call came in that Finley Howlett was hurt in a thrashing accident and needed to get to town right away. Edward McGaugh was in the plow as second man at the time along with Artie Johnny Vie MacDonald who was flanger, operator of the plow itself.
It was described as "a merry trip from Elmira" with Edward leaning out the window telling Mr. MacDonald when to lift the plow so it would not strike the road, a post with two dots on it alerted him of the upcoming road crossing.
The train was right behind them and picked the injured man up in Souris, he had to be transported from Gowan Brae by Dingwell's Ambulance. The train made the trip in less than an hour, blowing it's whistle all the way to warn people to clear the track.
Edward himself worked for the railroad starting around 1944 as a shoveller and doing some repair work (fixing rails and ties). He remembers one time shovelling from midnight to dinner time the next day to clear the track after walking quite a piece from out in the Park Rd. area.
Another shovelling job involved shovelling a train out of the Raw Cut, a bad snowbank near the home of Frank Steven MacDonald. The driver of the train was J.J. Leightizer who, upon seeing the majority of the snowbank shovelled away, told the shovellers to jump in.
He backed the train up and plowed his way at full throttle through the rest of the snow, not letting up until he reached Souris. Mr. McGaugh was sure that, in doing so, all the snow was dumped into Frank Steven's yard!
Another cuttin' that proved to be a stubborn one every winter was John Allan's Cuttin'. This bank was located about one mile east of Harmony and stopped many a train.
Shovelling out a diesel engine differed from a steam engine. While the men shovelled around the engine of the steam powered locomotive, the steam used to make the men's clothes soaking wet.
This made for an uncomfortable day especially if they moved away from the steam and got chilled. The men did not have this problem when digging out the diesel engines as there was no steam.
As if his connection with the railway wouldn't qualify him as a knowledgeable person in terms of the railroad, Mr. McGaugh also lived next to the railroad. He lived at the town end of the Souris River Road with the railroad passing right behind his house.
As the train passed by his house in the mornings, the engineer, St. Clair Paquet would wave at the McGaugh's and blow his whistle for them. He'd also blow his whistle if he did not see them, as if to say "Where are you this morning, uh?" The trolley car house was also situated behind his house. Manys a time did he see the railway men gather there to talk over the days events and spend time with one another.
Mr. McGaugh also heard of derailments or accidents in the area. In the very early days of the railroad, he heard the story of a train that had almost went over the wharf during a bad snowstorm.
The only thing that stopped it from falling over completely was the bumper placed at the end of each railway line. Another derailment occurred close to Harmony near a spot referred to as MacVarishes' dump. In this accident, a large load of fertilizer was being carried by the train and was dumped as a result of the derailment.
A spectacular accident in the East Baltic area saw the train cars flipped of the track with at least one thrown into the woods. This was quite an attraction with many people going to see it, so many in fact that a well worn path could be seen running from the Tarantum and in through the woods to the place where the car landed. It is thought that the car has since been removed.
Mr. McGaugh and his wife Helen also travelled a lot by train, especially to Ontario. They slept in reclining seats which were said to be very comfortable, ate very nice dinners and enjoyed the company they met while travelling on the train, except for one instance.
While travelling this particular time to Ontario, a rather wild group of hippies happened to be travelling with them from Montreal. One could well imagine the antics and habits of this rambunctious crew and the reaction of these quite well-mannered Islanders and their companions.
The conductor, who was clearly embarrassed and annoyed with the hippies, managed to clear one of the cars at the rear of the train and ushered them into it to resume their free-for-all. Out of sight and out of mind, the rest of the train could walk to the dinning room without being offered "some weed!" It was a trip they'd never forget.
Two engines could be put in the round house at a time. Here, the ice was chipped away from the engines and they were serviced before they went out in the morning.
Switches consisted of a metal plate on top of a post. When the switch was closed, the red plate could be seen. When it was closed, the red could not be seen.
If the train got into a station ahead of time, it had to stay there until the time it was
scheduled to leave would come. A train was not to leave a station early.
Excursion trains were put on to take hockey players and their fans to games. These trains were also put on to take people to tea parties.
One of these tea parties was held in Scotchfort and Mrs. Helen McGaugh's mother attended it. Everyone was dressed in their finest, with many grand looking ladies in big hats adorned with silk flowers and ribbons and food that was the best ever seen. A sudden down-pour took everyone by surprise. The result was a table full of food ruined and many floppy looking hats with their flowers and ribbons hanging from the brims.
Mr. McGaugh made his mark on the railway at a very early age when his picture appeared in a copy of Railroad Magazine.
154Peter (Tobin) Gallant
Born in 1900, Peter has seen many things come and go over the years, including the train. As a young man, he and his brother Willie worked as shovellers in St. Charles and surrounding areas. Many times they trekked off into the cold to clear the tracks, warmed only by the promise of money after a long, hard days work.
With money being tight in the winter, a snowstorm answered many a prayer when it blocked the tracks and created work for the local men. Every prayer ever sent must have been answered one winter in the early 1920's when the tracks were blocked for weeks on end.
Peter remembers shovelling for 3 weeks straight, trying to clear the tracks between St. Charles and Ashton that winter. Many men were with him, shovelling snow from the bottom of the bank to the men standing above him who would throw the snow off the top of the monstrous mounds.
As well as being hard work, shovelling was also dangerous. Peter and his fellow workers were hard at it one day and had paused to allow the train to make a run at the bank ahead. After the train went by the men proceeded to shovel where the train had passed to widen the path.
The engineer decided to back up and take another run at the snow bank but did not realize the men were on the track behind him. The shovellers, noticing the train, scrambled for a safe spot along the narrow pass just as the train whizzed by.
Another man from St. Charles who worked on the railroad was Jim Gallant (unsure of the relation but not an immediate relative like a brother, father or uncle). Jim, or the left handed fiddler as he was called, worked on the Elmira section during its construction. He told a story about an incident that occurred while he was there.
A carload of cement mix had been ordered for the Elmira line to construct bridges and culverts. The train came as far as it could up the line and the bags were unloaded onto the side of the track for the night. Unfortunately, it rained that night and the cement soon hardened. For a long time after, this concrete hill could be seen along the track somewhere between Harmony and Elmira.
As mentioned before, these men were from St. Charles, a small community about 15km (8-9 miles) west of Souris. The railroad passed through the northern limits of this district at a point referred to as Rollo Bay Station in the very early years of the railroad.
The community name of St. Charles came later when the first church was built there in 1896 and name for St. Charles Borromeo. The first station was a small building situated on the east side of the road just south of the tracks.
In later years, a new two room station was built. One of the rooms, the waiting room, had a wood stove in the center to warm those meeting the train. This station was strongly built with good quality hardwood abundant in the area. It was said it would never blow down it was so solid and well constructed.
They were right - the station was sold years ago and used for a workshop or shed by Ed McInnis. It is presently owned by Warren and Sherron Foulkes of St. Charles, located about 1km north of the tracks and is still being used as a workshop. It's frame is as solid as the day it was built and still shows the characteristic shape of stations used years ago.
Also on the same side of the track as the station, a potato warehouse was built by W.H. Townshend in the late 1920's (around 1926 or 1927 - Cliff and Adele Townshend). It has since burned.
On the north side of the tracks, there was a store owned by a Mr. Horne. This store was in operation in the early 1900's or possibly earlier. Peter remembers the store being there in the teens (1913-1919).
Around 1923, Leo Doiron, who moved from Rustico to St. Charles, bought the place and ran the store. This store was in operation until March, 1969 when Mr. Doiron's wife, Maude, passed on leaving no one to run it. The house and the store attached to it can still be seen though the building is in poor shape.
Another store about 1km south of the track was owned by a Mr. Gallant. His son Michael Gallant took it over after his father. It too is closed. Yet another store owned by Jack Burke was located across from the Gallant store.
It wasn't all work for the people of St. Charles, however. Tea parties were quite popular and a regular occurrence in the summer time, especially before the 1930's. Extra trains called excursion trains were run from Charlottetown to St. Charles and from Souris to St. Charles to make sure people from outside the community could attend.
Women from three districts would cook for days and would compete to see which district had the best food. The men would set up frames covered in green bows and leafy branches for shady places to store the food and for seating.
A dance floor was also built, raised two to three feet off the ground, little "shops" were set up to sell food and small trinkets. They even set up a merry-go-round which could be rented for such purposes. It consisted of a large pole with arms rotating from it that had a seat holding two on the end of them.
A large farm horse provided the power to turn the apparatus. The day would start about 1:00 or 2:00pm with the arrival of the parishioners and others who travelled by train to get there.
"There" was usually an open field about 1/4 mile from the train station. A band from Souris, the Paquet band, came by train to entertain for the day, making sure everyone made good use of the dance floor. Other local entertainers came as well. Some brought their own "entertainment" and, usually before too long, a few scuffles would break out.
This was a big event for young and old alike, as money that was scrounged up for weeks could be spent on games, trinkets and oranges - a big treat in those days and no respectable tea party would think of not having them.
Late in the evening, the crowd would dwindle, returning to the train station to go home until the next tea party.
Over the years, Peter recalls other happenings that involved the train. During the second world war, a young man from Bear River decided to join the services like so many others in his area.
He and his dog were very close, where one was, so was the other. On the day he was to leave, the dog went with him to the station in Bear River. Amazingly, the dog would not leave the station, apparently deciding he was going to stay until his master came back. No amount of coaxing would make that dog return home and so for the next couple of weeks, the man's family took food for it every day.
People at the station also fed it and looked after the devoted animal. One night, weeks later, the dog trotted home and was found sleeping on the door step.
The next day the family received word that the young man was killed and wouldn't be coming home. It seems the poor dog, sensing that his owner was not coming home on the train, returned home.
Another story, also involving a dog, was recalled by Mary Gallant, Peter's wife. A big brown dog was in the habit of chasing the train whenever it went by. One winter as the plow was passing through, the snow the plow had pushed off the track buried the dog. No one had seen this happen.
The owners didn't know what had happened to the dog and after days of searching they gave up hope. Eight-two days later when the snow was melting, one of the children saw a brown form moving just under the snow along the tracks.
To his amazement it was his dog and what baffled him even more was that he was alive! The dog had managed to survive eating snow all that time and came away from the incident fairly thin but none the worse for wear.
Years ago around election time, there seemed to be little "incentives" going around to make sure the voters made the right choices.
One poor soul forgot his "incentive" on the train and it was later found by some travellers. It was a fine quart of whiskey, the best you could get. They were a little leery of their find, however, it seemed to good to be true for this to be just lying there on the seat.
Just about this time, the train pulled into Bear River Station. They spotted a man who seemed to be a likely candidate for testing the identity of the spirits and they said to him, "Here, b'y, take a big gulp."
If he spit it out or got sick, it was someone playing a trick on them and if he didn't, they would count their blessings for finding such a treasure. The man seemed to enjoy his swig and walked away with no ill affects. The men were pleased, to say the least, and went off to finish the bottle.
One last yarn was told of a man from the Rollo Bay area. He used to kegs of cider and have it shipped by train, picking it up at Bear River Station. For some reason, he couldn't meet the train when it came in and it was left on the loading platform for the night. The next day when he arrived the kegs were empty. It seemed that some time through the night, someone bored a hole in the bottom of them and made off with his cider!
Peter remembers hearing that the strip of track that passes under Knights Lane in Souris was dug out by hand, with the fill being hauled by horse and cart.
Peter certainly had a good grasp on the years gone by and had many other exciting stories to tell on other subjects, many of which are recorded on tape or written in scrapbooks. May we all live that long and have that kind of memory!
Being a native of Selkirk, Mr. MacKinnon's first recollection of the railway and its effect on the communities it passed through occurred in Selkirk. To begin with, he described Selkirk as he saw it during his childhood. The Selkirk Station was located on the east side of the Selkirk Road and on the north side of the tracks. A mobile home now stands about 60 feet north of the former station site. The trolley house or shed was at the east end of the station. As the name suggests, it housed the trolley and any tools used to maintain the tracks.
The school house, which is still standing, is on the west side of the road, on a hill just north of the track. A wooden boardwalk stretched from the school down to the railroad track.
Two businesses were run at one just below the school. One was a blacksmith/forage shop with some woodworking done there as well. This was owned by Hughie Roddy MacPhee.
Just south of that, very close to the track, was a general store referred to as the Co-op. It was once owned by a family of MacAdam's that lived in the area. In later years, the community took over the store, forming a Co-op. The book keeper for the store was A.J. MacAdam.
In 1942, the Co-op floundered but the contents left over were used by John Roddie MacPhee and Art Cahill, two Co-op members, to form a store of their own. This store was located at the home of Mr. MacPhee about 1/4 mile northeast of the track on the Mill Road.
On the west side of the Selkirk Road, well behind the forage and the store was a steam powered saw mill. Although it wasn't operating when Mr. MacKinnon remembered it as a small boy, it was still very much part of the landscape in Selkirk.
Still more buildings and businesses were present along the north side of the track, north os the station. Starting at the road and going east towards the railroad bridge, a store, house, and mill occupied the land. it was unclear as to who owned the store and the house but it is assumed the mill was the saw mill at Larkin's Damn.
Mr. MacKinnon recalled many things that occurred during his childhood in Selkirk. The most prominent of these was the time his father, Allan MacKinnon, was hit by the train. Frank was a young boy in school in 1935 when the accident occurred.
During a storm, his father's sleigh was hit by the train and flipped him onto the cowcatcher. He travelled on it for about 100 yards before the train got stopped. Amazingly, he got up off the cowcatcher, shaken but unhurt.
Another of his memories involves hearing the train calling the shovellers to so their duty. Mark's Cuttin', a large snowbank between the railroad bridge and St. Charles station, often gave the train trouble.
Two short whistles followed by two long whistles was the signal for the men to shovel out the train. Among the shovellers was his uncle, Angus Joseph MacKinnon.
Mr. MacKinnon also remembers the shift from narrow to wide gauge. An extra rail was laid down to form a wider track. The inside rail was removed a while later in this way: First off, each tie has two spikes holding it down. One of these spikes was removed and a narrow gauge engine was driven over the rail, this loosened the second spike and allowed for easier removal of the spike, ties and rails.
The only province that didn't shift to the wide gauge was Newfoundland. Anything that was shipped by train to that province had to be reloaded onto narrow gauge box cars in North Sydney, Cape Breton before they were taken by ferry to Newfoundland.
Although storytelling was the form of entertainment before the days of TV, Mr. MacKinnon doesn't recall hearing too many railroad stories as a young boy sitting amongst a group of adults, relatives and neighbors.
However, one story happened to stay with him. A man, who lived east of Souris, worked as part of the extra gang and was known to many as being very superstitious and also very religious. Whenever anything spooked him, he assumed it was the devil and would immediately pray the rosary to protect him from his evil doings.
Some of his fellow workers, no doubt full of the devil themselves, found this rather amusing. Before the men bunked down for the night in the sleeping cars, they would start telling ghost stories, knowing full well the man would be scared.
Later on in the evening when he'd be asleep, the others would go out and rattle chains along the track or shine lanterns in the windows of an abandoned house nearby to imitate the stories and watch for the poor man to start praying.
In later years, Mr. MacKinnon moved from Selkirk and worked at a furniture store in Charlottetown. He recalled that people coming to Charlottetown to shop even in the early 1950's saw a very different Charlottetown.
To give you a better idea, the site on which Oak Tree Place now stands was at one time a dump, with thick forests covering the land from that point on for the most part. East of Beazley Avenue, along which the new Parkdale Pharmacy stands, was all countryside. Eaton's was not yet built and K-Mart and McDonald's were only a part of someone's imagination then. The furniture store were Mr. MacKinnon worked, stood on the site of the present day Sam The Record Man. Around this store were smaller businesses and a few humble restaurants, no where close to resembling the shopping malls and fast food outlets of today.
In this time period, Holman's and Rogers Hardware were probably in operations which would have made them the biggest stores at that time. Many may think this was pretty backward, but this was a time before TV advertising showed people all the things they couldn't live without. Shopping was done out of necessity in those days.
Many things have changed since Mr. MacKinnon's childhood days in Selkirk. Most of the buildings that once occupied areas around the Selkirk Station are gone as is the train itself. But Mr. MacKinnon was fortunate to have grown up in such a place and to see things the local children and young adults can only picture in their minds.
Frank remembers the native people who lived next to the railroad bridge and in fact, was inside their homes once or twice. The home he was in was a wigwam.
Mr. MacKinnon thinks the way train travel was set up made it a pretty useless form of transportation. He said by the time you make all those stops between Selkirk and Charlottetown, or Selkirk to Souris, a person only had about two hours or less to get all their business done and walk back to the train. When you think that people had to walk to all these stores and other businesses, it really didn't leave them a whole lot of time.
158Roland and Marion Jay
Before his years working on the train, Roland used to work shovelling snow on the Georgetown line. He remembers a time in 1923 when they shovelled for 36 days and made .25 cents/hour. His paycheque was for $72.00.
Roland had his first run with pay on Christmas morning in 1942, from Charlottetown to Borden on a passenger train. Sometimes the train would be a passenger train going to Borden, but change when it arrived and take freight cars back, so Roland would have to take two different uniforms with him.
Roland had many different jobs on the railway, some of which were, trainman, rear crewman, baggage master and part-time conductor. At one time he even worked on the steam freight engines shovelling coal.
While working on the train that went from Charlottetown to Souris and Elmira, extreme caution was used because they had to back into Souris. A small whistle located at the back of the train was used when they came upon a crossing.
"They were doing something right because the never hit anyone," Roland said. Sometimes they had to stay in Souris for the weekend. He would get paid $7.35 for a freight run that was up and back. When he worked on the passenger trains, they would get paid time and 1/2 after 8 hours work.
Roland's wife Marion would have to pack a lunch for two or three days, as they did not know when he would return. But as usual Marion kept the home fires burning, often for weeks at a time.
When narrow gauge tracks were still in use, Roland recalls getting stuck and running out of water for steam. Snow was soon shovelled into the tank for steam as they continued on their way.
Roland and his family used the train quite often, as they had free passes. Still today, Roland has kept his pass but does not use it much, for it is now inconvenient to travel off Island just to use the train.
As passenger trains were taken off the Island in 1962, Roland went to work at the Charlottetown yard. There were three shifts at the yard, eight hours each, with three men per shift. His job was to join the trains that were going out and direct the conductors in the way of their journey.
In 1972 Roland retired from the railway, he had given 30 years of service to them and at that time it was mandatory to retire at age 65. In all the time he spent with the railway Roland said the worst time to work was during the war. He was a baggage master at this time, baggage doubled in numbers and he had to keep track of what belonged to whom.
Roland Jay was born on September 27,1906 in Fanningbrook. He moved to Mt.Stewart in 1943 where he now resides with his wife Marion.
Roland and Marion miss the trains as they used to travel right by their living room window.
In 1920 the rail bridge was built in Pisquid. Shortly after it was built it burnt and they had to cut about a foot off the top of it.
Stockcars were used to ship animals he thought maybe in the middle of the week.
Everything that was moveable went by train.
There use to be a ramp in Mt.Stewart for unloading cars for Mullen Motors.
There were many derailments on the Georgetown run.
In 1928 - 29 the wide gauge track was put in the Georgetown line. The wide gauge track had to be put in because, when the trains came from the mainland to Charlottetown, the freight would have to be switched to the narrow gauge trains. As a result there was to much time lost in the handling of goods.
On the Georgetown train the baggage master looked after the mail bags. He only got paid for handling the mail bags after a certain number of bags.
There were smelts from the Hillsborough River shipped to other parts of Canada and the U.S.
The railway was the only means of transportation for quite some time.
The first electricity in Mt.Stewart was in the early 1920's. Fred Leard ran an electric line from Pisquid to Mt.Stewart, from his water powered mill. The electricity ran only on certain days at designated times. They had one day set aside for a wash day.
Roland's uncle Lloyd Jay was a Section Foreman on the Georgetown line.
Mail cars were attached to the passenger trains.
The first telephone lines in Mt.Stewart were in 1923, Roland often misses the way things were and the people he use to work with years ago.
As Somerlad journeyed into his past, he began by telling a funny little story about himself and another young fellow. Somerlad lived only a short time at the Mt. Stewart Station, but he does recall a time when he and a little chum of his, by the name of Ernie Affleck, got themselves into a little bit of trouble with the station agent.
When Somerlad and Ernie were about three or four years old they stole an interesting set of keys from Harry MacKay, the station agent at the time. They played with them out on the platform, only to lose them a short time later amongst the tracks. A search effort was put together involving many people and the keys were later recovered. Somerlad and Ernie were scolded then sent on their way.
The Morell train station was located south of Main St. up to where the dentist's office is today.
The schedule for this station was as follows: Passenger Train from Souris at 9:00am, Charlottetown Freight Train at 10:30am, Freight Train from Souris to Charlottetown at 3:00pm and a Passenger from Charlottetown to Morell at 4:00pm.
During this time the station master was John (Jack) McInnis from St. Peters, followed by Edgar MacKinnon from the O'Leary area, both of which are now deceased. The St.Peters station master was Vince Murphy, but where he is from is unknown.
Back in the 1930's which were the depression years, or often called the "Starving 30's" or "Hungry 30's," Somerlad was a Commercial Driver. For three or four years Somerlad drove by horse and buggy or sleigh as a courier for people and goods.
He was responsible for picking them up at the train and driving to stores or other locations, when there was no other means of transport. He recalls having to go into St. Peters, Morell, Bridgetown, Mt. Stewart and Montague.
When Somerlad began doing commercial drives the only thermometer in the town was at the station. Few telephones also occupied this town. This provided an excuse for people to come to the station only to stay and chat with others, a social gathering of some sort.
In the winter the train could not get through to the Morell Station from Souris. For this reason, the Mounties were often regular travellers with Somerlad, for he was there to take them on their winter journey searching for Moonshiners. He remembers picking up Sgt. Lyons and Sgt. Doiron, of Souris, at the Morell Station.
They would drive up to Souris, leave Souris by 9:00am, drive all day and return to Morell by 4:00pm. This was done a 1/2 a dozen times or so throughout the winter and it could be as cold as 13 below 0 on the old scale.
Somerlad always commented on the remarkable shape the Mounties were in. He recalls a time when Sgt. Lyons, dressed in a 3/4 length fur coat and high boots, jumped off the sleigh and ran in the deep snow from Morell to St. Lawrence Church, (a distance of about four miles), to keep warm.
Somerlad says, "There wasn't even a puff out of him." Although Somerlad enjoyed working with the Mounties, he always regretted the fact they he may be taking them to a friends place in search of moonshine.
Doctors would travel a lot on trolley cars and sometimes as commercial drivers with Somerlad. The doctors at this time were Dr. Roddy MacDonald of St. Peters and Dr. MacLaughlin of Morell. When called upon they would pack up their things and head out by track or sleigh.
The winter always brought money to those that were hired as snow shovellers. Somerlad recalls a time when a Passenger train was stuck for about a week at a place called "Betsy's Cuttin'." It took about 50 men to shovel out the train that was stuck on the other side of the railroad bridge, just off the Morell road bridge.
"There were North Eastern storms that would last 3 to 4 days in the late 20's and 30's, high
winds and lots of snow too," recalls Somerlad.
With all the hard work, especially in the winter months, Somerlad found time to play. A true Canadian winter hockey was in his blood. He recalls riding the train into Souris, usually there were 12 or more of them, to which Mr. Belle was in charge. They would play hockey, stay the night at the Lennox Hotel, and leave on the early morning train so they could be back to work.
Somerlad recalls a story about his adventures in Souris playing hockey. Upon leaving the rink after a night of hockey, Somerlad dressed in his father's long fur coat with deep pockets was concealing the evidence, a bottle of moonshine for all to enjoy.
As he and the boys were walking down Main St. Souris to the hotel, having a great old time and Somerlad packing the cheer, he strolled into the Police Station to have a chat with Sgt. Lyons and Sgt. Doiron (the police station was just off Main St. at this time).
He had a chat with his friends then left, only to find his group of buddies waiting to kill him. After all, he strolled into the station carrying the brew.
"Just one of those times to remember," Somerlad says with a hearty laugh. "They had a rowdy ol' time that night."
Somerlad enlisted with the Air Force in 1941 and stayed with them until 1946, 5 years of service as an Air Force Mechanic.
In the years to follow, Somerlad moved back to P.E.I. and was hired by Canada Packers as a Livestock Buyer. He worked all across P.E.I. purchasing livestock and shipping it by train
to Charlottetown where Canada Packers was located.
Every Tuesday afternoon, he would load a train car in Souris with hogs and cattle. The farmers would deliver the animals and Somerlad would oversee the weighing and tagging and everything would happen on site.
In the last ten years with Canada Packers, Somerlad attended livestock sales in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland loading, sealing and shipping them to P.E.I. A "seal" was a lock of some sort for property security, to which the cargo owner and CN could only open.
Somerlad recalls loading two cars of cattle in Tignish on Halloween night when a prankster had decided to untie all the animals. What a ruckus this had caused. Two hours later and now 12 midnight, another train had come in so the cars had to moved out to the main track.
Somerlad reminded the station master (Red Joe) Joe MacDonald that once the cargo is on the main track, it becomes the railways responsibility. He then went back to the hotel and went to bed.
Somerlad Raymond Kelly was born on April 17, 1914 at the Mt. Stewart train station. He was married for ten years to Agnes Coffin to which they were blessed with three children. Agnes died in 1952 and Somerlad remarried in 1953 to Agnes' second cousin Marion Coffin who did a fine job of raising the children. Marion passed away in 1994.
Somerlad still resided on Main St. in Morell. His interests included hockey, baseball, football, basketball, bowling, skating twice a week and an occasional game of golf. Poor eyesight is all that held this active gentleman back in his last years.
In closing, Somerlad reflected on the time of the railway and the way things were then and now. He says with a smile, "Young fellows were a lot happier and had more fun with a lot less." Regarding the railway, "They should have never taken the trains away from P.E.I."
Walter's experience the train as a young man travelling to the lumberwoods in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. He walked 3 miles from Farmington to Five Houses to board the train. The trip took two days, including an overnight stay in Charlottetown. The total cost of the trip from Five Houses to New Glasgow in 1938 was $6.35 plus 40 cents to cross on the ferry.
He also pointed out the location of a few water tanks between Harmony and St. Peters. The one at Harmony is just parallel to the head of the pond. The water tank at Ashton was located on the right handside of the track (going east), about a 15 or 20 minute walk from the main road.
The St. Peters water tank could be found at the base of the hill as you pass the United Church on the way to Charlottetown. All of these tanks were built close to a spring or a stream on a stone foundation.
The tanks were wooden and were supported by legs and wooden bracings on the foundation. They had to be large enough to hold huge amounts of water to supply the train and tall enough to easily transfer it into the train.
The water was pumped into the tanks by hand until after the 1920's, when gas engines were used to power the pump. Walter remembers a man by the name of Jimmy John McInnis who used to man the water tanks. The foundations for the Harmony and Ashton water tanks can still be seen today. It is unknown as to the presence of the one at St. Peters.
Very few stories of ghosts or unusual sightings were recalled by residents in the area. However, one was recalled by Mr. Whitty. In the early 1940's it was said that a bright light could be seen floating in the air around the swamps and marsh on the southside of the railway bridge in Selkirk. No one ever seemed to know what it was.
Snowbanks stopping the train was a common occurrence. Due to the lay of the land, snow would pile up especially high in some places year after year. As a result, referring to a particular snowbank would mean naming it after the landowner.
Such is the case on the Selkirk to St. Charles run. A snowbank used to form close to Archie Mark's land (now owned by Albert "Morris" Gallant), which was adjacent to the track and it became known as "Mark's Cuttin'."
Winter time was always a hindrance for the trains. Fierce snowstorms could, at times, make the train immobile for days on end. It usually took two engines to open a section of the track plus forty or more men, working on four level tiers, trying to remove the snow. In some places, kids going to school could walk over the telephone wires, this was due to the fact that the poles back then were only 3/4's the length they are today.
When road conditions were not that favorable or they were closed, people would take the train. They would leave for Charlottetown at around ten in the morning and leave for home at around two or three in the afternoon. An hour was the allotted amount of time you had to do your business. Today, you can be in Charlottetown in a 1/2 and hour from Mt. Stewart.
One lady, whom the source did not give a name, had a father that worked for forty years on the railroad as a section foreman. He would arrange the hiring of all the shovellers needed on stormy winter days. Other men were hired in the community to help put the train back on track when there were derailments. Yet, there were still some that would solicit their members of parliament to try and get a job on the railway.
In comparison with the way things were in the past and the trail the train used to go across the Island, it is now used for exercise, recreation and the sheer beauty of the wilderness.
There used to be an iron bridge crossing the Hillsborough river where the pedway is today. People used to fish trout off this bridge.
At one time a water tank and stock yard were located in Mt. Stewart.
The homestead that Gordon resides in has been in the family for three generations. Gordon once farmed the land but got tired of it in later years. The farm was passed down to his son who agreed to look after it. For a few years Gordon worked as a summer employee with the Department of Highways.
Now as many years have come and gone Gordon can look out his window at the beautiful landscape, the village of Morell and the railway line that runs by his house. Although the trains do not run on the Island anymore, Gordon has great memories of the railroad days.
"Although we had livestock," Gordon says "we never lost an animal." The cattle had to cross the track to water, for years they had to be watered at the only watering hole north of the track. They used to make sure they took them across according to the train schedule when it was safe.
With the train being a permanent fixture in people's lives Lorraine, Gordon's daughter, says "you just got used to the train coming through the farm." She recalled a school day when her and her sister took the old milk horse to school. They sent it home by itself and sure enough he made it on his own. They could have been taking quite a chance to let it go home by itself.
Gordon recalls hearing the old folks say how excited people were to here the train was coming east of Charlottetown, it was such a novelty. The time Dr. Roddie ran into the train, it was handy to his home in St. Peters. He was always driving in such a rush and thought he could outdo the train. "Dr. Roddie was wild when CN sent him the bill."
Gordon says Dr. Roddie was a terrific person. He would go out collecting, there were times when people could not pay right away, so he would collect from them later. Dr. Roddie was in at McEwen's Store (owned and operated by H.D. McEwen a member of the Legislature for awhile) telling a story about one spring day he went off collecting up the North Shore.
Along the way a man stopped him and asked if he could borrow $10.00. Let's just say after a day of collecting Dr. Roddie never got a cent from anyone and was minus 10 bucks! He just laughed "the good soul that he was."
During Exhibition week one year they took the train into Charlottetown on one of it's special trips it would make. The train was moving along so slow, before the change over to wide gauge, that the people got off and picked blueberries. They would then run up to catch the train and hop back on again. This was up the Dundee Hill.
When Gordon decided he needed a job and some money, he went to see Jimmy O'Brien who was section foreman at the time (Seniority List J.D.O'Brien, Feb. 1, 1897). "I went down to his house and he said you have enough work at home."
This was because of the farming that had to be done. His wife said "you know the boy needed the work and wants some money" so he hired me as an extra. "She was such a good hearted woman and he was always so guff." Gordon worked shovelling snow.
Winter was a treacherous time but always guaranteed work and money. Just west of Betsy's Cuttin' used to be a bad spot for derailments. This was mostly due to the amount of snow that would gather in this section of the tracks. In the early 1920's the train would be stuck up there for a week at a time.
The snow was usually twice the height of the telegraph poles being 1/2 to 3/4 the size of the electric poles of today. The shovellers would begin at the top, making a shelf then continue the shovelling process down the track. You could usually find where to start by tracing the snow that had been pushed back by shovellers before.
Gordon recalls an incident when he was shovelling that could have been quite fatal. A 50 to 60 man crew was required when an enormous amount of snow gathered east of Midgell between it and Betsy's Cuttin'.
The track master was responsible for overseeing the working crews and inspecting the track for any irregularities. On this particular day the track master gave orders to keep shovelling and said he would stop the oncoming train at train station as he ventured back.
This made some very uneasy, for with the amount of snow they didn't even think he would see he train. Some began climbing the cutting to clear the track to be on the safe side. It was too late, the train was steaming full tilt to get through the snow. The train was equipped with a snow plow, two engines and was not aware of the crew on the tracks.
The train came barrelling through , the younger bunch were up by the railway fence but the older ones still down on the track were buried with the spray of snow. Snow was thrown everywhere, men were all over the place. A head count was quickly done to make sure everyone was accounted for.
Everything happened so fast, it was over before anyone knew what happened." Luckily there were no fatalities in the mishap. The track master who was responsible for the near tragedy had difficulty getting over the incident. He was not himself for quite some time.
"The train was certainly a great service for awhile" says Gordon. "You could make a trip to
Charlottetown, get in about 11:00 and the train would head back at 2:20. By the time you ate and used the bathroom you had to turn around and come back home" Gordon says with a chuckle. "Oh! Unless you decided to stay over somewhere." "It's really too bad they took it away."
Gordon remembers a native woman in Scotchfort making this statement, "Come on Cocoo and Anesee, here comes the Bull Giant." By the way, that meant the train was coming.
Some snow hands were required to work 3 to 4 mile stretches. They would begin by shovelling off the wheels, the train would have to be worked back and forth taking 3, 4, or 5 hours before they would get it on it's way.
The watering station was between Lot 40 and Dundee. When the steam engines were stuck in the snow men would have to shovel snow into it to keep water in it so it would run.
Coal would sometimes have to be hauled by horse and sleigh to keep the fire on in the train.
Before trucks men unloaded the rail cars at the station. This would bring some extra work.
Shims are wooden stakes used for the temporary levelling of the tracks. People in Dundee would steal these wrapped bundles from alongside of the track and burn them in their stoves.
The railway people were getting annoyed so they ordered that torpedoes be played in the center of the bundle to ward off the stealers. One guy blew his stove to pieces. "It could have killed someone, you know," Gordon said quite seriously.
Although Emmett did not work for the railway himself, his father and grandfather both worked for the railroad. Emmet's father, also named Emmet worked on the shovelling crew and his grandfather was a section foreman. The section of track that Emmet's grandfather was responsible for had to be walked every day to check for irregularities in the track. This could be a rather tiresome chore.
When requiring boxcars to load freight, people would have to contact the station agent to arrange this. You usually had three days to load the boxcar before it was picked up. On one stormy night in Tracadie Cross a man and woman crawled into a boxcar to get warm. The reefer had been on and the couple died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Some of the commodities that were shipped out in those days were, pigs, cattle, pulpwood, lumber and potatoes which were all shipped out of the Mt. Stewart Station. A man by the name of Earl Jay was the agent for Canada Packers in Mt. Stewart during this time. You used to be able to sell your fattened pigs for 20 cents a pound which were shipped out on the train to the slaughter house.
The winter always brought problems for the train. There were times when 30 to 40 extra men were needed on the snow fighting crew. They would have to dig holes that were about three men deep to help the train get out. When the plow would come in and help with the clearing, it would hit the banks and quite often jump the tracks.
Emmet mentioned that during the war people would watch for the station agent when he went home for lunch. They would pray that he would not drop in with a telegram of bad news that a loved one had been hurt or killed. This could be quite nerve racking for some.
One winter when Emmett was working in Charlottetown there was a big snow storm and he couldn't get his car home, so he came home by train. It took two weeks later before Emmett got his car home. There was so much snow down that when breaking out the road they had to go through farmers fields where there was less snow. Just another P.E.I. winter storm tale.
When anyone was sick, neighbours would take them to the crossing, flag down the train and send them to the doctor or the hospital. The train always stopped for emergencies.
The trains were very busy at one point in time, with three trains going either way every day.
When the steam engines would come into town or go by a country home along the tracks the women would rush out to the clothes line to get their clothes before the train covered them with soot.
The original road span bridge In Mt. Stewart was made by flatcars. It was rumoured that indeed they were Russian flatcars. The span on the bridge was 60 to 80 feet long.
Gas and fuel that came into Morell came by train.
People would travel on the tracks instead of on muddy roads, especially in the Spring.
Fifty-eight years of railway and Canada Post is how Ernie remembers his past. He was with the railway and Canada Post from August 1926 to1985, however, he had shorter years with Canada Post.
"My father, Percy Affleck, ran the pumping station which provided water for the steam engines." The pumping station was located in Mt. Stewart below the area of the railway station.
This was also the location for the coal shed. The Georgetown train would have to use this every second day at 10:00am and 2:00pm. It used to travel to Charlottetown every other day and fill up on its journey back into Georgetown.
"My father, myself and a couple of other men would shovel the coal onboard, by hand too." Ernie also pointed out, coming from a family of eleven, that when the children became old enough they all had to help with cleanup at the pumping station.
The pumping station was also used as a gathering place for people. They would go there for a drink (not tea though), and tell stories staying until about 10:00pm or so.
Before the pumping station Percy drove mail and Ernie followed right in his father's footsteps. Ernie drove mail for about 53 years. He was about 19 years old when he started and had a separate route from his dad, of course.
He would go from Savage Harbour (28 miles) to Point Deroche covering French Village as well. If the roads were fit it only took a little over 2 hours and if they were bad, 4 hours usually covered it. He explains how "Lady, one of his horses did not like to go anywhere but the mail route."
Courier runs were done by Ernie and a man by the name of Somerlad Kelly, as well. Ernie was responsible for doing the mail from the train to the post office then back to the train. On occasion he would do a regular mail run. He would begin around 10:30am and be finished around dinnertime.
Ernie recalls the station agent for Mt. Stewart by the name of Harry MacKay. At 18 Ernie recalls how Harry MacKay taught him calligraphy. "You needed it for logging in some of the books." Mr. MacKay remained as the station agent for many years. Ernie started out on the railroad as a sectionman, his first day of work being the day following the implementation of the wide gauge from York to Elmira.
"Jack Howatt, roadmaster from Charlottetown to Elmira and Georgetown used to tease me that my old car would not make it from Mt. Stewart to Melville." He was sent for some parts that were needed.
Ernie recalls how he bought the old Model T Ford for $75.00 from a doctor's son, he was home visiting from the U.S. and did not want to take it back with him. "I just used it for my own driving, not too many cars around during those days." He kept the car for two years but by the end it was getting pretty shaky. "I did make it back with those parts for Mr. Howett," Ernie chuckles!
Mr. Affleck was working as a regular sectionman when Oysters hit it big. It was an Oyster boom and some men were after Ernie to go fish with them. They told him he would be foolish if he did not go fish with them.
He left the railway when he was about 21 or 22 and fished for two years. When he went back to the railway, he had to work as a extra sectionman. If he had not broke up his years with CN, he could have received a pension.
As the train tried to battle the snow, Ernie recalls a time when they were on the road for a week living on board the train.
"We stopped at Lot 40 to get some grub and shovelled snow into the steam engine to keep the water in it" Ernie says. It took 28 days to finally clear the stretch, with 15 men plus people in the community helping out, not sleeping a wink.
These people also got paid and it was pretty busy come the 15th and 31st, with everyone at CN waiting for their cheques. Another storm caused havoc as Ernie, who also drove passengers from the train station to Georgetown, St. Peters etc., came to the rescue.
One winter shortly after he started with CN, there was a heavy snowfall and the train was stuck solid at Mt. Stewart, just around the turn heading for Georgetown.
"I had to take the horse and sleigh and unload passengers and the mail and head back to the Mt. Stewart station," he says. The Souris train then took the mail onto Charlottetown and the passengers stayed at the Mt. Stewart station.
There was never a day that there was nothing going on at the station anytime during the year. There would always be people and plenty of shuffle going around. Shipping always had people very busy.
Such things as sheep and horses coming in from the west coast, would generate a lot of activity. For these animals to stay at the station overnight, there was always a charge for feed and board. In closing Ernie says, "It was an awful thing that they took the railway out and it caused many unemployed people. Things just aren't the same!"
Ernie Affleck was born on October 31, 1913 at home in Mt. Stewart. He married Margaret and had four children. Margaret lives in a Senior Citizens place in Mt. Stewart. Ernie passed away at the Beach Grove Home, Charlottetown, P.E.I., August 26, 1997.
172John W. and Etta MacEachern
John has many recollections about the railroad days but begins when he used to work for a company that owned the P.E.I. Moss Plants. He recalls trucking the moss to Souris and loading it on the box cars. One or two cars would be loaded and a shipment of this amount would go out once during the season.
Back in the 1940's, while trucking moss from Priest Pond through the Glen to Souris to load it on the box cars, a black bear came out in front of the truck. "We stopped of course, the lights stunned him I guess! I had one truck and Ronald MacDonald had the other. We just stopped and waited until he went on his way."
The moss they were carrying was dried and boxed for loading on the rail cars which they would do themselves. "The boxes weren't very heavy," says John.
At the government wharf in Souris, a warehouse owned by the McLeans, held a kiln for drying codfish and the like. There was also a feed mill located just off main street. "Everything was built around the railway track and the dock side which was more convenient for shipping, in those days," recalls John.
In 1935 or 1937 the government built a large warehouse at Douglas Station primarily for potato farmers, but other agricultural products were stored there as well. The farmers would use it for cold storage purposes, they would pay so much for each bushel stored. The potatoes were graded and bagged on location then shipped off by rail.
A train derailment occurring at Douglas Station was recalled by John. "The train was coming from Souris, it was a freight - passenger, around 4:00pm. Someone from the section crew at Douglas left the switch open and the "Souris Freight" was going at a speed for main track travelling, but with the switch open, the train derailed.
Luckily no one was hurt, but the wrong man got the blame and lost his job. It was someone who was with the railway for many years, nearing his pension, then lost it all."
Boatbuilding was a trade that the MacEachern family were known for. It was passed down many generations and now John's son has taken on the trade.
John was building boats for many years. He would take an order and work on it over the winter months. He recalls taking an order, one time in the spring, from a man who lost his boat in bad weather. In no time, John had the boat ready for him and shipped it to Souris by train.
Boatbuilding was a big industry in those days. Joe "the Post" MacDonald had a big Cape Island boat come from Nova Scotia to Mt. Stewart by train as late as the 1970's.
On the north shore of P.E.I., near Savage Harbor, a ship went aground after setting sail December 8th, 1917. "She was heading for Newfoundland coming from the Great Lakes, loaded in Montreal with hay, canned goods, coal etc.
She was 300 ft long, too long to come through at Montreal Canal, so they cut her in two, steel plated her back together and sent her on her way. A bad storm sent the boat ashore at Savage Harbour.
With the war coming, a man by the name of Benjamin Beppett, cut up the ship and sold it as scrap metal. He would haul the stuff to Mt. Stewart Station by horse and chuck wagon, then load the steel onto cars and ship it. He often hired locals to help him out. The railway was great for things like that during that time."
The winter always proved to be a treacherous time for the trains. A man by the name of Dan Mullins owned a Bombadeer, a closed in type of snowmobile like the Northern Explorers would use.
"We would all load on board one of these and head out to Souris for a hockey game. It would go 25mph, had a seating capacity of 12 or so and the rest would sit on the floor." John also said, "Dan would charge a fee for this. It was powered by a 6 cylinder Dodge engine so he would get something for fuel and still make a buck."
In closing John shares, "they hauled a lot of stuff in those days. Produce was not properly taken care of, not heated or cooled or cleaned properly.
This was all due to poor management and poor equipment in terms of what the Maritimes got, especially P.E.I. P.E.I. had great workers but it was poor management by the mainland officials.
They took care of Upper Canada but down here we were ignored. Sometimes we would have to regrade produce to get it to pass. The railway worked just fine until tractor trailers came into being. They should have never taken it away from us. Everyone was in such a hurry they made things happen to quickly."
When they changed over from narrow to wide gauge they did it in one day. They prepared the track area previously, and had enough men that day to handle the rest of the work.
John's wife Etta recalls being able to board at Douglas Station, travel to Charlottetown and back for 85 cents.
Farmers would kill their animals in the fall and ship their meat out of Douglas Station. Pigs, lamb, beef etc. was easier to ship after they had been butchered.
Fields of codfish would be laid out to dry down at Savage Harbor near Crowbush Links. They would then be hauled to Douglas Station for shipping.
174The Old Freight Train - Theresa Wilson
Was the month of December back in the day of yore
For Christmas present shopping, just a few days more
The snow was piled up high, on the highway and the lane
I had to go to Souris on the old freight train
I walked out to Selkirk about three miles or more
I stood there and waited, by the station door
Then I heard the whistle, first and once again
Arriving there at Selkirk, was the old freight train
It unloaded all the store supplies, for Mike and Uncle John
Some for Neil and Angus, it didn't take to long
There the old wheels started grinding, as if suffering bitter pain
I was ready for the take off on the old freight train
We went zigging and zagging, along the crooked track
The seats so hard and bumpy, it almost broke my back
When I thought we were getting started, it was time to stop again
For St. Charles folks were waiting for the old freight train
Time was more than flying, we were getting no where fast
Black smoke from the smoke stack, went up with a blast
Steel on steel was sending vibrations to my brain
Bear River was next station, for the old freight train
There were children standing in the door, waving their goodbye
To see their loved ones going made them want to cry
For judging by the rate of speed, their childish thoughts complained
It may be a week before we see that old freight train
Soon the conductor shouted, New Zealand is next stop
All aboard for Souris, for those who want to shop
If you're getting Christmas spirits like whiskey or champagne
Now don't get in a hurry on this old freight train
The old train went on chugging, along to Harmony
And then it had to turn around and back in, don't you see
It was the last leg of my journey, not sorry I exclaimed
I finally docked in Souris on the old freight train
I really had to hurry, to get my shopping done
For soon I'll hear the whistle, I surely had to run
To the Drugstore, then to Hughes, Sterns and McLeans
And back to the station for to catch the old freight train
Now times have more than changed a lot, since those days of yore
Now riding on a freight train just isn't anymore
For cars and trucks have changed the pace, the speed might and main
But I still love to sing about the old freight train
176Sister Rose O'Hanley
As a young girl, Sister Rose was exposed to the railroad through her grandfather, Barnaby, and her father Alec O'Hanley, who were railmen. Her grandfather and father ran the Post Office for some time and met the train regularly to collect the mail and deliver it, around Greenwich.
Even after the Post Office was operated by the neighbours next door, Alec always met the train and took it to the Post Office. The mail came on the evening train and the new mail driver, left at 7 a.m. to deliver the mail.
Besides being a mailmen, Alec O'Hanley also used to shovel snow after big storms to clear the way for the train. Because of his involvement with the trains Alec also used to tell her about an elderly doctor, Roddie MacDonald, who use to have other things on his mind when driving his car and forget to watch for the train. Needless to say he often had a few near misses, the train hands us to watch out for Dr. MacDonald!!
The children of the area used the railroad as a place to go for a walk and have little picnics, pick flowers, etc. One place they always seemed to end up was the "Black Bridge" located just off the Fortune Road.
Besides being a great fishing spot, it was often considered kind of spooky. The bridge had no hand railing and if you looked straight down while crossing it, you could see the river below. This looked pretty scary to the children who thought they could fall through or over the side at any time. Many bets and "I dare you's" challenged even the most fearful to cross the Black Bridge.
The recollection made by John is not a pleasant one. His experiences with the railway only leave sadness, as a fatal accident killed his father in 1968. William Lloyd Keizer worked as both brakeman and conductor for CN Rail on P.E.I. He was killed on January 22, 1968 while at work in Murray Harbour.
The accident occurred on a cool, yet very clear day, John sadly recalls. "Dad was working as brakeman that day. They were shunting cars in Murray Harbour and he was killed in the process.
Dad was to signal the driver when everything was complete. The driver claimed he could see the signal to go ahead, recalls John." The signalling was part of the brakeman's responsibility and was done by way of a latern's light. John continued to explain that, "Dad was directly behind the train, in the middle of the rails."
An inquiry into his death says, the driver of the train that day saw the signal and continued on his way, supposedly not knowing that he had run over Mr. Keizer. He wasn't reported missing until 3-5 miles down the track. The train then backed up in search of the missing crew member.
For some unknown reason another crew member looked under the train only to find Mr. Keizer's body at the sight of the disaster. After the Inquiry, the railway was excused of sole responsibility for the death of William Lloyd Keizer.
This tragic story only leaves unpleasant thoughts for the Keizer family, in the days of the railway, as they knew it.
Lyle is the son of a railroad man by the name of John (Jack) McKearney, born on November 17, 1885, in Mt. Stewart, as was his father and grandfather before him. The McKearney land has been in the family for several generations. In fact, some of the 300 odd acres owned by them has a stretch of railway bed still existing.
Lyle's father Jack McKearney began with the railway in about 1903 working part time or as an extra. It was not until March 10, 1918 that he was established on the seniority list. He worked with the railway until 1951.
Jack's first post as sectionman in the 1930's was in St. Theresa's. Following this he was posted at Lot 40 where he worked with Billy Roddie MacDonald, Wilfred (the Post) MacDonald, who is Joe (the Post's) father and Art McMillan approximately from 1930-1936. Jack also went to Summerside where he worked for 5 years with whom he believes was Omer McGaugh, a man from the Souris or Elmira area. Jack did end up back in Mt. Stewart where he worked until his retirement from 1941-1951. He worked with Charles McWilliams, Billy Power, George E. McDougal, Lee Fisher and later joined by Red John MacDonald of Beford. "My father also worked with Charlie Leslie," Lyle recalls. During this time in Mt. Stewart, Harry McKay was the section master.
In those days the section foremen were paid $1.00 a day and the sectionmen were paid less. If you were a railroad man you were recognized as the "better off" of the family.
Railway men were usually the only one's to have a car in the area. There was a lot of work to the building of the railway. This work was hard and strenuous and many hours were put in by many men to build it and keep it in good shape. Lyle referred to a term called "Spiking," this was the hammering of 3/4 x 3/4 7 inch long steel spikes with a 10lb hammer. There was a knack to this procedure, you needed to have the hammer working in a circular motion to assist in the momentum. It usually took about a week to get your muscles used to the all day hammering. If Dad needed someone in a hurry he would put me in," Lyle recalls. In 1941-1942 they worked one hot day unloading ties that were 8x10x8 inches long, over 100lbs with tared rectangular chunks. "I'll never forget it, the hot old sticky tar near burned the shoulder off me!" It was hard labour like this that put the railway here.
In the early years when Jack McKearney was working the rail, there were snowstorms to fight and derailments to tend to. When money was scarce in those days, men were almost overjoyed to see a snowstorm hit for it meant money in their pockets.
A snow shoveller's pay was 45 cents an hour and it took a couple of weeks for the pay to go through. At times they would have a pretty good pay for they could be shovelling for up to a week. In 1951 Jack finished his Mt. Stewart run. When the train stopped at the end of the road, the roadmaster got off the train and gave him a medal for so many years service with the railway. Lyle said "it was a recognition price I suppose."
In closing, Lyle commented that the railroad was a much more economy efficient means for transportation, it was a lot less costly and the railbed could take the weight. Compared to the roads on P.E.I., they do not have the underlay to hold up that kind of traffic.
182Colin and Jean MacDonald
Located just south of the bridge in St. Peters was the old train station. The off track was behind the station area but is now located near the existing Seniors Club. The old wooden bridge was in the Five Houses vicinity.
As Colin MacDonald and his sister Jean recall, Colin says the "French settled the area and saw to the building of these things." The existing bridge was built roughly around the 1900's by Hughy Lord, a contractor working on P.E.I.
Train passengers from the East would arrive in St. Peters around 8:00am and go home on the evening train around 5:00pm. From the West (Mount Stewart to Charlottetown direction), they would arrive at 10:00am and leave for home around 2:00pm or so. Shopping or visiting was usually the purpose of their trips aboard the train.
Around 1910-1916 the train seemed to be accepted by the people, as what they called a, "God given right." They felt as though the railway was their privilege and they could do what they wanted with it.
For example, they would call up Dr. Roddy (Colin and Jean's father), looking for medicine and say, "Send it upon the train!" This practice got so monotonous that the railway crew would not take the medicine unless it was packaged properly. People then didn't have much means to travel around, some didn't even have horses.
By the 1920's things started to become a little more mobile. Up to 1918, during the 1st World War, no cars were allowed on P.E.I. roads at that time.
The military had the privilege of driving on the roads, but Islanders did not have that privilege. In 1918 Islanders were now allowed to drive a car on the roads two days a week, which was open time, except for Sundays.
Although the military did not use the train a great deal, except for convenience, some individuals depended on it. Doctors used the railway considerably in the time of their practice. Since most of the school teachers were imported into St. Peters from other parts of P.E.I., they would use the train for going home on holidays and the like.
As a general rule, side stations were about three miles apart and located at nearly every school district close to the railway. Side stations were inhabited by people if the train was late.
This small shed type building contained a stove and some coal used to start a fire while waiting for the late train. Postal would be thrown off at these side stations whether anyone was there or not. There was usually a Post Office about every 3 miles that was owned by Canada Post.
Colin recalls 3 post offices between St. Peters and Morell. One such post office was run by Bruce Webster in Midgell. It was run out of the home and generally there would be a store in connection with it, sort of a family business.
The first ties laid were hewn with an axe by hand and made from cedar. In western P.E.I. their was a lot of cedar and cedar swamps in the area. Juniper occupied the eastern sections of P.E.I. The railway would sometimes take the cedar instead of the juniper for it was stronger. "No creosote then, you know" Colin points out.
Colin recalls the time when they were changing over from narrow to wide gauge. As the changeover from narrow gauge was taking place, half loaded cars were hurried along so they could get them off the track. There was a mass of confusion for a short while as cars had to unload and reload, which was to be finished in a certain amount of time.
In closing as times starting changing so did the outlook on the railway. Colin says, "People got to the point that they weren't bothering with the railway anymore. They started using cars and it seemed that everyone was getting them."
Edith began her recollection by talking about her father Joseph (Joe) McInnis. Joe worked as sectionman at the age of 25 out of St. Peters.
Edith recalls him saying that he started February 1, 1910 then he got married June 1, 1915 and relocated to Selkirk in 1925. While living in Selkirk, he once again worked with the railroad, but as section foreman from Selkirk to Harmony Junction.
Edith recalls when they were changing over to the wide gauge in Georgetown, her father worked all day Sunday. She recalls this because people usually didn't work on Sunday's.
While working with the railroad Joe's day would begin at 7:00am and end at 4:00pm. He would then come home after a days work and work extra doing hay, farm work or helping others out. Sunday was usually a day of rest.
However, in the winter you worked Sundays because there was so much snow and you had to keep things on track, or you worked extra because there was so much to do. In addition to his job as section foreman, Joe would go on the pump car to get fetch the doctor in time of need. Often this involved getting up in the middle of the night to fetch Dr. Roddy in St. Peters. Edith says, "she is not sure if they were even supposed to do it. I guess they did it out of the goodness of their heart."
Edith also recalls sneaking over to the station to ride the pump car, since they lived right across from the station. This did not last long for, "pop would come and chase us, you know," Edith explains.
Some men that worked with Joe during his time with the railway were Jimmy McKinnon and Ronnie Johnny Jim McInnis. For about 9 years, from Selkirk to Bedford, Joe worked with a man named Billy Power.
Not to long after, the McInnis family moved to Morell where Joe worked as section foreman until he retired at around 67 years of age. "Boy he loved the railroad, even after finishing work for the day he would sit and watch the trains," Edith fondly recalls.
In the winter extra men were always needed when one of P.E.I.'s fierce storms hit. The section foreman would get in touch with the roadmaster and get the go ahead to hire shovellers or extra's (extra sectionmen).
Edith remembers people wishing there was a storm so they could get some work. When storms lasting almost a week hit, stores would often run out of supplies and would have to wait until the storm was over and the track was clear for the train. Although there were no plows back then, not like what we have today, men were required to do all the labour. For what they got paid working the way they did, Edith just shakes her head.
Edith recalls how wonderful the train ride used to be. For years they would go to Charlottetown on Christmas Eve. Window shopping, having dinner, socializing and having a great time heading back on the evening train, would be a thing to remember for these teens. Since Edith's father Joe worked with the railroad, families were given a pass to ride on the train however, you still had to be living at home.
"I recall going to Montreal once using my pass," Edith says.
The railway used to have compensation for animals that were killed on the tracks. There would be a lot of red tape and papers to fill out. It was the section foreman's job to go to the tool shed and prepare them. C.N. would go out and inspect the tracks, for there were areas that the farmer was responsible for and areas the railway was responsible for.
Men working with the railway never got any holiday's. During Christmas if the weather was good or bad, they had to check the tracks. When it did storm the train would go as far as it could and the sectionmen would go out as soon as it cleared.
Upon Joe's retirement, they started giving holiday's, about a week or so. Edith slaps her knee and says with a laugh, "with pay too, they couldn't believe it!"
"Papa loved the railroad, even after he retired he would go watch the train and talk so much about them." Edith smiles and yet has a sadly missed expression on her face, "I have to say I loved the train too."
When they lived on the Red Head Road Edith used to stand at the window to watch the train coming through. Some said the men who worked the rails were actually in tears when they were putting an end to it here on P.E.I. "The same with the ferry crossing I suppose, with it going now too."
Borden was born and raised in the Peakes area, just south of Peakes Station, about 100 or so feet away from his father, Philip Mooney, who worked as a section foreman on the Mt. Stewart to 48 Road section. Borden began working with the railway as an extra, he recalls it being 1926 when he first started with the railway.
Borden began his recollection by talking about the troubles the snow would bring to the train in the winter. There were times when it would snow for three or four days, the wing plow would be out on duty pushing back the cuttings from the tracks.
There would be a couple of engines behind it to assist in the pushing. Since there was only enough room on the tracks for the trains in the winter, dugouts were made in the snow just in case people had to be on the tracks. Dugouts were holes in the snow every 20 feet or so for someone to jump into for safety.
Borden recalls a particular incident where a sectionman was doing his route and working with a pick on the track when he spotted a very unexpected train. The long legged strapping man that he was, ran for all his might to a dugout with the train breathing down his neck. As he made a pounce into the dugout, the train took the pick right out of his hand as it went by.
Borden also recalls another similar incident. One night after a house party this man, no name given, decided to take advantage of the plowed track. He went up the track with his horse and sleigh and as the train came upon him, the only thing that saved them was his horse being as fast as it was.
Since the dugouts were to small he had to make it to a crossing, the train took part of the wagon that night, Borden recalls.
"Yes, the snow would bring a lot of work for the snow shovellers and sometimes they would have to haul wood to keep the engines going as it slowly tried to plow through the snow."
Borden mentioned the measures some enginemen would take if there seemed to be a chance that the train could plow through the snow. This usually ended in a failed attempt for the snow, accompanied by ice on the tracks, would result in a derailment.
Borden recalls that it was Mike Tobin, section foreman, that hired him to work as an extra from the age of 16 to about 21 or so. The bitter cold days of December and January and out on the mobile fleet was not any easy way to earn money.
The boxcar had double bunks, maybe 20 or so with a potbelly stove in the middle of it, a couple of people at a time could go in it and get warm. "We would be out to work in the morning before daylight and work until 11:00am, back to work at 12 noon until 4:00pm." They would sometimes have to walk 1/2 a mile back to their mobile cookhouse. "Food wasn't so hot either!"
Borden chuckles as he explains that "there were more people at the station going nowhere, they would go there after school or work just to hang out, tell stories and the like."
They would often have a game of cards anytime after 12:00 or hop on the train, play cards all night, then come back in the morning to go to work. The novelty of the train was so great that when people heard the whistle blow they would literally stampede to the station.
Borden laughs as he says a man by the name of Walter Curry could imitate the sound of the trains's whistle. As he hid behind a door at the Mt. Stewart Station he made the sound of the train's whistle and there was a stampede of people, they were going everywhere. To this day, Borden says he still doesn't think people know where the train went.
When coal came into the station in the coal cars, people would sneak over at night and steal the coal for their own use. Borden recalls a story when one cold winter night a coal car came into the station filled to the brim with coal and covered.
It was one of those winters when money was pretty scarce, there wasn't much work in the area. The following morning when the station master did his daily routine of checking things over, the hump had gone off of the top of the coal car. Several homes off the northside of the tracks had a streak of black smoke coming from their chimney's.
The railway would sometimes carry special freight, so special that not even the railway itself didn't know about it. Many full cream cans were loaded on the train however, this liquid was a little more potent than cream, it was Moonshine!
The cream cans were loaded in the morning and returned in the evening. The contact in Charlottetown always knew which cans were moonshine, for they would have a special marking on the dairy farmers's sticker located on the can cover. Everyone knew this particular
man, no name given, was making moonshine, they just did not know how he transported it, even the Mounties were trying to catch him.
On one particular day the Mounties came to do a search and he was just getting ready to take his load of cream to the station. He agreed to the search, however told the Mounties he had to get his cream to the station before he missed his shipment. When he returned from the station the Mounties did their search and could not find one drop. "Of course, it was on it's way to Charlottetown aboard CN Rail," Borden adds with excitement.
Borden says, "its an awful thing, the loss of the train, maybe it was going in debt but we do miss the scheduled stops out here and the sound of the whistle." Borden paused then continued by pointing in the direction the train would come, "I still look down the tracks expecting to see the train coming. I guess
its just something in my heart."
Friday July 10th, 1981
Montague, Souris To Lose Agents
CN Unveils Plans To Close Town Stations
Canadian National Railways has informed Montague and Souris officials that they want to close down the CN stations in the two Kings County towns and eliminate the need of fulltime station agents.
In Souris the CN officials met with Mayor James Hughes and Joey MacEwen, industrial commission officer. Mr. MacEwen and CN explained to town officials that the move is warranted because of economic reasons. There has been a low demand for a station agent's services anyway, commented Mr. MacEwen. CN explained in a letter to Souris that it will be applying for removal of the agent since "technological changes" have resulted in there being insufficient duties left to warrant retention of the position here. Mr. MacEwen added the station itself will be sold if the CTC approves the move.
190Annie Sam Birt
Sammie Birt began with the railway in 1943. While with the railway he worked the Melville and York lines but mostly worked the Mt. Stewart area.
Sammie and Annie married in 1929, raised 5 children, and farmed their land in Pisquid. They
eventually moved to another farm which they kept until Sammie started to work with the railway.
"When our son was old enough he took over the farm and we bought this homestead in 1958, we moved to Mt. Stewart," says Annie.
With no other means of transportation other than horse and wagon/sleigh, Annie would get up and be gone at 4:00am to take Sammie to work at Lake Verde, Vernon. When Sammie started to work at Mt.
Stewart he would travel by motor car.
For most of the years Sammie worked the railway, Annie was at home raising the family, managing the home and doing most of the farming, stacking grain and hay and thrashing grain. "In the fall I would go to other places and help out, not for money, just to help others out. We would pick potatoes too!"
As a sectionman, Sammie worked with many people:
Ward Jay - Fanning Brooke - Sectionman
Blair Weir - Morell - Foreman
Billy Power - Tracadie - Foreman
Mike Egan - Mt. Stewart - Sectionman
Vernon McKinnon - Pisquid - Sectionman
Alex McGregor - Mt. Stewart - Foreman
Charlie Leslie - Mt. Stewart - Sectionman
Railway men would walk a lot, "I can remember him walking all the way home from Vernon River in snow to his knees. Now people can't go to their neighbors without taking the car." Sammie would leave the home early in the morning, walk to the headquarters, get the fire on, get the equipment ready for the work line and not stop until the 11:00 lunch break. He would be home about 5:00 or so depending on how far they were from home. "Hard work it was," says Annie.
Annie recalls a time when Sammie got hurt quite badly. One time when he was up St. Peters way they were unloading a flat car of gravel. Sammie was given orders to go to the rear of the gravel car to push the gravel down the shoot. Accidently, he slipped through the shoot but the train kept going and didn't
stop. Sammie was injured quite badly and was home for some time under doctor's care. While he was home, he only received partial pay.
Sammie was also hurt in another railway accident. While working the Montague to Georgetown run, the train did not give it's signal to the trolley car that it was heading back. When they all jumped off the trolley, Sammie was the one that got hurt quite badly and was laid up again, for a month or so. He returned to work, it was the year 1964.
Sammie enjoyed the rail even with the hard work and bad luck he had. "I suppose it was the only job he could get in those times. But, he did like his work." The men worked many hot days as well as cold winter days on the rails, they also put in many long hours.
Sammie retired in 1970 and they used to travel a bit after his retirement. Annie says they travelled to Halifax and a few trips to Charlottetown with their free pass. "We didn't do much travelling. I would go on the train to Charlottetown and be back by evening. But, I didn't travel on it very often."
Sammy received a small pension when he retired. The month that he died, June 6th 1974, his pension check came in. "I didn't know what to do with it so I sent it back to them. They never did send anything back and did not help out in any other way."
As Annie Sam, as she was sometimes called, ended her recollection, she can't believe after the amount of work that was done to make the railway, cutting trees, stumping, clearing and building, all this back breaking work, that they would just end it's service and up the tracks.
Maude recalls her time of travelling by train. When travelling by train to Charlottetown people had to be at the Selkirk Station before 8:00am as the train left the station around ten after eight.
Tickets were bought from the conductor as soon as you boarded the train. It cost two dollars and some cents for a return ticket. The train arrived in Charlottetown around ten
past eleven and people would walk from the station uptown.
Errands had to be run fairly quickly for the train left Charlottetown around ten past two and arrived back in Selkirk at around 5:10pm.
A freight train which travelled to Souris occupied the tracks two days a week, staying in Souris for about two hours. When the train went to Elmira, which was a couple of days a week, it backed into Souris from Harmony Junction which saved it from turning around. This train also had to back into Charlottetown from Royalty Junction. As a result, it was hard to get your
directions when you got to town.
In the winter the train had on the front of it what they called a "cow-catcher." This was used like a plow to get rid of the snow at the front of the train as it moved along. For heating, there was a pot-bellied stove at one end of the train which was fired by coal.
Trains in those days also had first and second class seating. The first class coach cost a little bit more than the second class coach, for it had plush covered seats. People were usually satisfied with riding the train in the second class coach, for the train was a major convenience no matter where you sat.
Mary was married to a true railway man. Peter Isadore Doucette worked for the railway all over P.E.I., but in 1936 a man by the name of Billy Fisher sent him word that he was to work the Souris division to New Zealand.
Peter and Mary moved to New Zealand and moved into the house that used to be the old Frank Whalen store. Mary recalls Peter getting calls in the middle of the night to go to work.
In the fall, they would sometimes run into bad track. They had to unload the cars, get the track back in shape to travel on, reload the cars and go back on their way.
"He would be up at 5:00am and work all day," Mary says. "I still get up at 5:00 today because I was used to getting up with Peter to get his lunch ready for him." Once CN supplied cook cars for the men, she no longer had to make his lunch for they supplied the meals.
In the many years Peter was with the railway, Mary said they relocated many times, she recalls about 13 moves in all. This was sometimes hard, for with five kids and some still drinking bottles, plus the packing of boxes and finding a place to rent, this could be tough for anyone let alone a young family.
Peter would go looking for a place to rent after finishing a days work. The last move they made was to where Mary lives today, in Mt. Stewart.
In Peter's later years with the railway, near his retirement, he developed some kind of problem with his hands and feet. Mary disturbingly explains, "it was like a cancer of today I suppose."
Great discomfort was felt with these deep cuts on the palm of his hands and soles of his feet yet they did not bleed. With one full year to complete for his full pension and the long laborious years he had already put in, he still worked even though it was very painful.
He was not a young man anymore and the long stretches that he was required to walk was done with great strain. It got to the point that he couldn't even hold the picks or tools properly.
Mary recalls many a night Peter would lie awake with tears in his eyes wondering how she would do if he could not work in order to get his full pension. She used to tell him that she would manage just like everyone else.
Mary's eyes had a glossy look as she remembered the suffering Peter did to finish out the term. Peter did not stay until his term was up, the many long walks took their toll on him in his condition. Mary says, "times were hard but we did O.K., not much style!"
During the 1940's Clifford Cox who was the conductor of the Souris Freight was very good to the Doucette family. When Mary was alone with the kids and needed Peter to come home, she would give the message to Clifford and he would get it to Peter.
Clifford would also let Mary and the kids ride the train for free. Although the Doucette family could not afford to travel on the train a great deal, Christmas was always an exception. They would travel to Charlottetown by train and taxi uptown to see Santa Claus.
Mary recalls her father wondering why she would go through all the trouble of taking five kids to Charlottetown. Since some of the children were still babies, there would be bottles to make, diapers to pack (cloth diapers), lunches to make etc. which would have to last the whole day.
With great persistence she would tell her father that the kids haven't seen Santa Claus and she was taking them, no questions asked. They would leave for Charlottetown at 11:00-11:30 and when they arrived in town they would taxi up to Holman's Mall.
The children must have really wanted to see Santa Claus for they would wait in a long line-up going up to flights of stairs. After seeing Santa they would visit with a family friend, Mrs. Edmund Pitre before returning to the station.
Speaking about Mrs. Edmund Pitre reminded Mary of the day her and Peter got married. "The day we got married we went west to Charlottetown by train, stayed for 2 or 3 days and came back by train."
She also added that, "the wedding was at Mrs. Pitre's house and boy it was cold that morning, Holy Mother was it ever cold!" In some places the roads were blocked solid but this of course was January 1936.
Although Peter put in many long hours and years with the rail he always had time to help others out or enjoy a little bit of leisurely activities.
They would often entertain by cording on the guitar, playing the mouth organ and spoons and do quite a bit of stepdancing.
After Peter died Mary didn't get any of his pension for a while. A friend helped her and inside of a year the small pension started pouring in. She was then able to start paying her bills and get back on track. "And yes, I do miss the rail!"
Maude recalls when her now deceased husband, Brent Gillis used to be a railroad man. Brent started as an "extra" with the extra gangs in 1923 or so. He was called upon to work when they required extra help.
It was not until the spring of 1935 until the fall, in Uigg that he started full time. From January till April he was in O'Leary then transferred to Cardigan working from May until September. He also worked in Hunter River, St. Peters and back to Hunter River. When you were on call you were required to work wherever they needed you. Maude can recall moving seven times in one year, "it was all a part of it."
After all this moving around Brent became a section foreman in January of 1954 for the Cardigan area. "He went on ahead and we moved as a family in August, after school was over and got ready for school over there," recalls Maude.
They remained in Cardigan for 2 years then went back to St. Peters in July of 1956. Brent worked from Mt. Stewart, St. Peters and Souris until he retired in 1963. Maude recalls not having a car so Brent would have to find a ride to work.
This got to be a strain, for Brent was a bad asthmatic. In 1954 he took a bad attack, the doctor said as long as he carried his puffer he would be O.K., and he was. By about 1990, the medication was no longer effective for him. His asthma became so bad that they could no longer control it. "It finally claimed his life," Maude sadly recalls.
In the years that Brent worked as an extra there was a lot of snow shovelling, stuck sometimes for a week to ten days at a time.
"Even at St. Peters Bay, Pinebrook (about 1/4 of a mile from the south side of the bridge), "we had snow storms in those days," she stresses "and the men had to walk over the section every morning."
Brent would walk from St. Peters to Selkirk and a man by the name of Billy Kelly would go from Morell to St. Peters. Other men Brent worked with as a sectionman were Tom Ledwell and George Russell.
Along with the long walks and early mornings, Brent would not always arrive home by 5:00pm. There were some days he would not arrive until 8 or 10pm, depending on what they had to face that day. "I would get up in the early morning to pack a lunch if I didn't pack it the night before," she added. "You would up with the babies anyhow."
There were times when the men were on call to go and run water. They would have to run water off the track area to prevent flooding due to melting snow or heavy spring rains. A lot of water used to gather along the village at the Bay from Cardigan Rd. across the fields. Many times they would have to come home from a days work, have supper, then head back and run water.
"We had a big storm in November of 1938, the washout in Pinebrook," Maude says. Living at the Bay at that time, they awoke the next morning not even knowing it had been storming.
"You see, where we lived we were sheltered from the winds of the storm. The northwest gusts tore everything apart. When we got up the next morning the debris was everywhere, things were flooded, even the neighboring home just next to the bridge (on the northside) near the marsh, with a building with a horse tied up inside of it, was all over by their tool shed with the horse still in it."
The watering tank for the steam engines was located east of Pinebrook, near McInnis' Strawberry lane. Maude said she believed it was torn down in the late 1960's early 1970's.
When asked if she ever made use of the train, "Oh yes, we went on the train. I didn't go often because I couldn't take the kids with me. It would have to be something special before I would pack up and take all the kids with me.
But, I used to travel to Charlottetown to do business - only a short time in town, the train would leave Charlottetown at 2:30pm. We went to Montreal a couple of times, once when my daughters made their profession (both of them became nuns).
We went to the States and Toronto. After Brent retired, once a year or so we would travel to see our families, taking advantage of the free passes. Only once did we take the two youngest to Montreal with us."
Maude can recall in the years of Brent's service when they would take a nurse, Maude Hughes who worked in Morell, to wherever she was needed. She had no other means of travel so they would pick her up and take her to her destinations. They would also take the doctor by trolley car.
As Maude reflects on the years past, "I miss being able to look up over the Bay. When I get back in the summer with my daughter, she has the old homestead now, I enjoy looking out over the Bay. But we miss the train rounds too."
"The loss of the train is really too bad. I always felt it was a step backward rather than ahead. Now there are hardly any trains anywhere. Too many changes, a lot good and a lot bad. People worked so hard and long to get the railroad here in the first place an then to just let it go, it's a shame."
Maude can remember when the train would reach Five Houses location, it would make one or two blows. You knew it was about to come in, during Exhibition time and holidays it a little later than usual. People would go to the station just to see who was coming and going.
The railway meant time for work. The hard times and needing any kind of work often meant heading elsewhere for employment. Such times as Harvest time in the Prairie's would find excursion trains full of able workers.
There would be all kinds of people leaving in July-August, some would stay out there and the rest would return. People also went across to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to work in the lumber camps.
"Hard times then and hard times now. Its get an education or nothing. It got so machine took over the place of man," Maude says and she also noted this was a great thing to collect all the information on the railway.
198Frank and Elda Whalen
Besides the regular railroad crew of engineers, conductors and the like, extra men were hired to help the sectionmen with maintaining the track. One of these men hired for the "extra gang," as they were called, was Frank Whalen of New Zealand.
He worked for eight years (1936-1944) on the extra gang, during which time he was assistant foreman and two years working in the freight shed in Souris. The following information is an account of duties he performed and the experiences he had while working for the railway.
As stated previously, the extra gang worked with sectionmen to maintain the track. This usually required replacing ties and rails or stabilizing the track bed. Often holes would appear below the ties in the spring when the ground was soft.
These required filling to prevent derailment from an uneven track. When the ground was frozen and bumps would appear under the track, shims were used to level out the track.
Maintaining the track also included repairing bridges. This often meant working at a shop in Charlottetown making or repairing pieces used in bridge construction and putting the bridges in place.
Before the years when sprays were used, the track bed had to be weeded by hand and the young trees and shrubs trimmed back. This was not easy work, as the men put in long hours in the heat and the flies, bent over pulling weeds. This job required perfection, for inspectors checking their work would make them go back if it was not done properly. The thoughts of weeding 8-10 miles of track made the workers very restless!
Another duty performed during the months of April and May was taking the accumulated coal ash from the Charlottetown Station and distributing it along the Island tracks as a track bed stabilizer.
Because of the huge amounts of coal ash, larger crews were employed to handle the work. In many cases, this work required these extra gangs to be away from home for weeks at a time. The railway made accommodations for them in box cars converted into sleepers with a cookhouse.
The gangs stayed there for a two week period during which time a sheet was to be filled out listing who stayed there and how many meals they had. At the end of this time, the tally would be given to the men and they would pay this out of their earnings.
Meals cost roughly 22 cents a piece, but considering the men were only paid $2.00 per day, less 2 cents for railroad insurance and still in 1941, 7 cents for unemployment insurance, three meals a day for two weeks could take quite a chunk from their paychecks.
In terms of the cookhouse, very strict regulations had to be adhered to. Frank Whalen, as well as being assistant foremen, was the cook for these men and remembers well. There was no refrigeration and flies could be a problem on uncovered food, which could lead to food poisoning.
The cookhouse had to be meticulously cleaned using clean fresh water that was hauled from a nearby stream and the food was covered to prevent anyone from becoming ill. There were regular inspections of the cookhouse which kept the cooks on their toes.
As mentioned before, Mr. Whalen also worked in the freight shed in Souris as coal man from 1944-46, which was busy enough to require an additional agent to the regular station agent. One of the jobs here required loading coal on the trains.
This was a hectic procedure as the train needed around 5 tons of coal to go from Souris to Charlottetown and often the coalmen only had 45 minutes to do the job. Coal was loaded in buckets that were on small trolleys or wagons.
Each bucket held 1 ton of coal and when it was full, the wagon was pushed to a hoist. The hoist, powered by steam from the train, lifted the bucket and dumped it in the train. This was difficult, dirty work with the coalmen coming out at the end of a shift, black from head to toe with only the whites of their eyes showing.
Another job to be done at the freight shed was heating the reefer cars used to haul potatoes during the winter. The fumes in these cars were deadly and it was said a person wouldn't last ten minutes inside one.
A story was told of an agent at Elmira who, for some reason or another, had to get inside one of these cars. When he went to get out, the fresh air hit him and he passed out. Luckily, he didn't fall back into the car but was noticed a short time later by a train hand near the entrance of the car and was pulled out.
A lot of terminology surrounded the railway some of which was explained by Mr. Whalen. One of these terms was "elevation." It was said this was the first thing asked among railway workers from different locations when they met up. "What is the elevation here?"
Elevation referred to the slant put on the rails to enable the train to go around curved portions of the track without tipping over. Due to the construction of the train's wheels, one side of the rail had to be built up 1 to 2 inches to accommodate the trains going around a curve.
As a rule of thumb, the tighter the turn, the higher the elevation. An elevation of 2 or more inches meant a very tight turn. Because the Island's tracks were built with a lot of twists and turns the narrow gage track was too narrow and "tippy" for the train. As a result, wide gage was introduced in the late 1920's for more stability.
"Spur" and "siding" were other terms often mentioned. Both terms refer to an extra section of track off the main route. Although, a siding is a track you can drive on and come off without turning around or backing up whereas, a spur is a section you have to turn or back up to come off.
Box cars were pulled onto sidings so they could be loaded and unloaded and go on their way without being held up. These cars could be picked up later as the train passed through. They could also be used if two trains met so they could pass each other.
A spur, such as the Souris Spur or the Georgetown Spur, took the train into communities that the main track did not pass through. A bumper to help stop the train was located at the very end of this section. For the train to get back to the main track, a roundhouse or a Y in the track was used.
In the early beginnings of the railway in Souris, the roundhouse was used. This building consisted of a large turn table onto which the engine would drive and be turned around.
There were four different size rails, differing in their weights. The rails over the years were made heavier to support the increasingly heavier loads being transported over them. The first rails were 56', meaning every yard of rails weighed 56lbs.
In 1941, the 56's were replaced with 80's and in later years 85's replaced those. The fourth size was 105's. These rails were welded together as it was found that rails wore at their joints (where one rail butted onto another). Longer rails meant less joints and less wear.
It could then attach to the cars and drive out of Souris. When the Elmira section was under construction, a Y shaped intersection was built in 1911. This enabled the train to back down from Elmira, turn, and head west. The same was done for the train coming out of Souris. This eliminated a roundhouse being maintained in both Souris and Elmira and the train cars being hauled caboose first.
Over the years many men worked on the railroad as engineers, firemen, baggagemasters and as part of the extra gangs. One man who was especially dedicated to the railroad was Harry Leslie. Being Elda's father as well as Frank's boss, both knew him well and could attest to his faithfulness and dedication to the railroad.
Mr. Leslie served the railroad for 40 years from 1925 to 1965, never missing a day. Besides being dedicated to his work, he was also dedicated to the people in the community in their time of need. He often used the railroad trolley to transport a doctor to many a medical emergency when roads were impassible due to mud and snow.
He also showed the same dedication to his family as, he used to pile them all on the trolley and make his way to mass at St. Mary's Church in Souris when there was no other possible way to get there. In addition to his years on the railway, Mr. Whalen also delivered mail and operated a store from 1946 to 1983.
His store, located across the road from his house and alongside of the tracks in New Zealand, was a big meeting place. Anyone and everyone who was waiting for the train inhabited the little store, as well as the simply curious who wanted to see who was waiting for or coming off the train.
Some people would then leave the social atmosphere of the store to make their own on the noon train. Many a card game was had during these trips, which in some cases, were made all the "happier" after a trip to the liquor store in Souris.
William Praught and Mr. MacInnis were on the second last car of the train and were riding the car down to the water tank where they expected the train to stop. They didn't know the train had stayed in Elmira overnight and had gotten water there. When they realized the train was not stopping, they decided to jump off. Mr. MacInnis jumped clear, but Mr. Praught didn't.
A fire was kept going near the water tank to keep the water from freezing during the winter. The ashes were shovelled from this fire and piled alongside of the track. It was these ashes that Mr. Praught fell on and rolled beneath the train. It had often been said that, had they been on the last train car, Mr. Praught would simply have rolled onto the track behind the train and been unhurt.
To make a tragic story even more tragic, Mr. Praught was engaged to a girl from Souris and Frank they were to be married in the fall.
The station in New Zealand was originally on the south side of the track. After the tracks were changed (shifted to wide gauge), they found it necessary to move the station. In the 1930's, it was moved to the south side of the track. In the late 1940's, Mr. Whalen built his store just south of the station. The store is still standing.
November 20th, 1968
CNR May Ask To End Provinces's Rail Service Target Date About 3 Years
CNR will apply to the Canadian Transport Commission for authority to withdraw it's railway service in Prince Edward Island. They hope to be out of both passenger and freight train service within two or three years. The railway would, as a substitute, operate a truck service for freight and a bus service for passengers.
P.E.I. Railway will likely argue that the present rail service is a heavy money loser and that there has been a drop off in demand for it's service, particularly for passenger trains. The CNR will probably also argue that plans for improvements in the province's highways and the much more economical operation of buses and trucks would aid in reducing it's losses without any serious drop in quality of the service now being provided.
202Ollie (Gallant) Peters
Ollie said her father, James H. Gallant, used to work on the railroad but she was too young to remember much about the time he worked on it. She recalls another man, "Jimmy Railroad Jack," from Selkirk, who also worked with her father (his last name may be McInnis).
She recalls as a young girl, selling berries to the train men and the boys selling rabbits and grouse. The St. Charles Station used to be black with people meeting the train. Some of the men used to take a trip on the train just to meet their buddies and play cards on the train.
Shortly after Norman and his wife Thelma were married, they went to Charlottetown by car to do some shopping one cold winter day. As the day progressed so did the snow, and thus another P.E.I. snowstorm.
As the roads became impassable this prompted a journey on the train to their home in South Lake. A friend later took their car home for them from Charlottetown.
As a farmer, Norman often ordered lime for his land. He had to shovel it from the freight cars into bags and load it on the sleigh for the trip home. He also remembers when railway cars were filled with straw for bedding and loaded with live pigs and cattle, the door had to be left partially open for air, they also had to build gates to keep the animals from getting out.
Baby chicks and ducks also came in by train from Island hatcheries, this was usually in the spring and they had to be taken home quickly as the cold air would kill them.
Freight cars would often have to move back a few feet to get backed in to unload potatoes. This was done by releasing a lever, using a wooden handle to pry up on the car, thus moving it a few inches each time. With the introduction to tractors in later years, they were used to move the cars.
When shipping potatoes it was the crew's responsibility for keeping the fire up in the stove of the cars. Sometimes it would be windy, raining, sleeting, or snowing, so perching on the top of a freight car trying to get the stove going was anything but pleasant. In later years they were heated by oil with pipes running along the bottom of the cars. It took longer to heat, but was much easier to use.
Cars were checked by the train crew to make sure the heaters were working, without the heaters the potatoes would freeze. In later years when shipping was done by truck it was more convenient. Trucks came right to the warehouse and delivery was right to the customer.
Crews were hired to shovel snow on the line, drifts were so high in places that ledges would have to be made for men to reach the top of the cutting. The men would be shovelling in tiers with two or three men on each tier.
Men working cutting wood near the station would often go to the station and have lunch with the section men. Pulpwood was loaded in Elmira along with bailed hay. Rails and ties were kept at stations for easy access to replace any damaged ones.
Those who were called for jury duty took the train. People who had to go to the hospital took the train, those too sick to sit up turned the seats in order to make a makeshift bed.
It was once said that one man drove his car down the tracks.
In closing Norman says that as the railway changed and closed so did the times. "We have lost some of the community's closeness that seemed stronger in early times and in the days of one room schools."
206Albert and Mae Gallant
Among those who travelled by train were high school students. The St. Peters courthouse doubled as a high school and students from New Zealand through to Selkirk boarded the train for their trip there and also to come back.
In 1946 or 1947, some of the students who attended the schools in St. Peters were as
follows; Howard (Jimmy Gob) McInnis, Mae MacPhee and Mary (John Andrew) MacCormack of Selkirk, Katherine and Michael Gallant of St.Charles, Tommy McGaugh and Billy Whalen of Bear River and Margarite McInnis, Viola and
Helen MacCormack all of New Zealand.
Train fare was five dollars a month and each student had a red pass card to be punched morning and evening. If the card ran out and the student didn't have the money to pay for another one right then, they could bring a piece of cardboard to be punched and pay for those trips later.
They were grateful to the conductor, Bill Doyle, for letting them do this as money was scarce during the winter and sometimes they just didn't have it when the card ran out. Working with the conductor during time were brakeman Tom Davis and baggage master Wilfred Wright.
In 1942, the Co-op run by the MacAdams in Selkirk went out of business. To keep the Co-op in the community, two members were asked to take it over - Johnny Roddie MacPhee and Art Cahill. The store was renamed Cahill and MacPhee's General Store and was operated out of Mr. MacPhee's house. In
addition to this store and one owned by Mike MacIntyre, people in the area often travelled to St. Peters to buy meat at Ralph Sandersons Meat Shop.
The post office in Selkirk was run by Mike MacIntrye and later by Joe McInnis. In 1969, the post offices of most rural communities, including Selkirk, moved to Souris.
New technology and fuel sources made way for the diesel engine, making the steam engine obsolete. In the early 1940's the first diesel train passed through Selkirk. The engineer who drove through Selkirk spotted an elderly woman and her granddaughter, who he recognized, waiting for the freight train. Thinking they
might enjoy a trip on the test train, he called them aboard and dropped them off at their destination, Bear River. It is not certain as to what date the diesel train started being used on a permanent basis.
The railroad slowly started to diminish as years passed and service, especially passenger service, was discontinued. Most of the railroad buildings were either bought and made into homes, were used as storage houses, or were left on site. The station house in Selkirk was sold to Ed McInnis and moved to Monticello and is now owned by Philip Gallant.
The St. Charles Station was sold to Ed McInnis of St.Charles and used for storage. The present owners of the former station house are Warren and Sharon Foulkes of St. Charles. The potato grading house at St. Charles burned to the ground in the fall of 1964 or 1965 during a dry spell. An older caboose was purchased by a man from Montreal and was moved to the cliffs at St. Margarets beach and is now being used as a cottage .
Selkirk was a busy place at one time. On the west side of the Selkirk Road, there was
MacIntyre's Store and Post Office
-Post Office and possibly the store opened in 1925 and closed down in 1960. Owned by Mike MacIntyre.
-Still standing and still in use for meetings.
MacPhee's Blacksmith Shop
-This shop was a forage and a woodworking shop. Owned by Hughie Roddie MacPhee. In operation approximately, 1920's, 1930's.
-This store had three previous owners. The first was Angus McCormack. The second owner was Ronald J. MacAdam, who was running it during the time of the First World War. In later years the Co-op (I'm assuming a group of resident's acting as a cooperative) took over the store and hired A.J. MacAdam as bookkeeper and manager. In 1942, the Co-op went under. John Roddie MacPhee and Art Cahill, two Co-op members, purchased the contents and made their own store at Mr. MacPhee's home.
-The warehouse was built to house goods for the store by the MacAdam's, the store owners at the time. It was located north of the store.
-MacAdam's also owned a steam mill, which was located about 100 yards west of the store. Water was pumped from the West River to provide steam for this steam-powered sawmill. This mill operated previous to the mid to late 1920's. Its start up date in unknown.
On the east side of the road there was
-This store was opened in 1942 by John Roddie MacPhee and Art Cahill after the closure of the Co-op. It was a general store selling anything from sugar to animal feed and was part of the MacPhee home, located at the front of the house.
-This store was operated during the early 1900's and was believed to have closed before 1921 or 1922. The owner was a Mr. MacEachern who was nicknamed Oakin hence the name Oakin's store. Like the MacPhee store, this store was attached to the front part of the house.
This is the "Store, House, Mill" that was talked about in Frank MacKinnon's story, with the house and store belonging to the MacEachern's and the Mill being Larkin's Mill. However, during the time this store was in operation, Larkin's Mill
was actually (Big Archie) MacCormack's Mill. It changed hands twice before becoming Larkin's Mill in 1937, the owners being Gabriel MacDonald in 1920 and Albert Quigley in the 1930's.
Shovelers were paid around two dollars an hour.
Vince Murphy was a station agent in St.Peters.
The passenger service stopped around 1964 or 1965 not to sure about the date.
Willie Johnny Alan MacKinnon use to light the stove in the station house in Selkirk. Daniel McInnis did so as well, after Mr. MacKinnon retired.
A railroad truck used to go along the tracks (purpose unknown).
207Old trolly car for repairs now at the Elmira Railway Museum
31 août 2002
Elmira, Prince Edward Island
208Edward and Tissa Deveau
Edward worked for the railroad in many capacities. In the mid 1940's, he began office work for the railroad upon finding out that there was an over abundance of telegraphers, for which he had been training for at the time.
His experience enabled him to get work as relieving office worker and freight handler in many areas of the Island including Montague, Souris, Charlottetown, Kensington, Summerside and Tignish.
For these jobs he was receiving $85 every two weeks, which was considered top pay. He also took shovelling jobs whenever they came up, whether it was shovelling coal or snow.
He too remembers shovelling snow at the Raw Cut, a snowbank that appeared every year between Harmony and outer Souris limits which caused the train to become stuck numerous times.
Mr. Deveau and his wife Tissa recalled many interesting things about the railway. Although it was before their time, they remember hearing about the narrow to wide gauge shift. Many men worked all one Saturday and Sunday to make the track wider.
All new engines and cars had to be sent here to travel on this new track as the spacing of their wheels could not be adjusted. The old engines and cars were then sent to Newfoundland where the narrow gauge was still being used.
The stations where tickets were sold and where station agents were hired to perform this and other duties were Elmira, Souris, Bear River, Morell and Mount Stewart.
Other stops the train made in between were at what was referred to as "Way Stations." These included Harmony, New Zealand, St. Charles, Selkirk and Ashton, all east of St. Peters. Store orders and other items arriving by train to these way stations had to be pre-paid as there were no agents there to handle the money.
During the war, many of the railroad men joined the service. To fill these now vacant spots, some of the men who were left were promoted until their return, i.e. firemen or brakemen could be promoted to engineer.
When the tracks were being sprayed to control the growth of weeds, the Deveau's heard as did Leo Gallant that Agent Orange was the chemical being used. At this time, this chemical was not known to be dangerous.
Many railroad workers were recalled during this interview. They included:
Jack (the Lake) MacDonald, a man from St. Peters Lake who was a station agent in Souris
Artie (Johnny Vie) MacDonald and Harry Leslie, section foremen
Harold McGaugh, sectionman
Joe Campbell, sectionman (after Harold McGaugh)
St. Clair and Frank Paquet (brothers), engineers
Andrew Murrant, worked at the Souris Station
Harold Delany, station agent in Souris (after Peter Holland)
Mike Fitzpatrick, section foreman
Billy Fitzpatrick, freight handler (after Frank Whalen, around 1947).
In closing, Mr. Deveau said the railroad workers were like family and there was a great companionship between them.
The Elmira Station was once a booming spot for visitors and the community. Many people came and went but the "Pierce" family were remembered by many and had quite an involvement with the railway.
There was a train every day at Elmira, the station was always packed with people waiting. Arthur MacNeil was responsible for picking up the mail.
One night he fell asleep waiting and someone put itching powder down his shirt. Poor Arthur soon awake, the itching nearly drove him crazy and he had no idea what was causing it. Cammy's uncle, Bill Pierce, was post master which was just across the road from the station. Neil Cheverie delivered the mail.
Cammy shovelled snow on the Elmira to Harmony Section. There were times they were on four tiers in a cutting. It was much colder in those years, but in April things warmed up making the snow stick to the shovels and they had to wax the shovels to make the snow slide off easily.
Jack Pierce, Cammy's uncle, bought livestock and shipped them by train from Elmira and East Baltic. When working in East Baltic, he rode the morning train to the Baltic and would walk back to Elmira.
A brother by the name of Kenneth Pierce learned how to operate the key and moved to Northern Ontario to work as a dispatcher. The work as a dispatcher was and still is a demanding job. Mistakes are not tolerated. Kenneth remained with the railway until his retirement a few years ago.
In the early 1900's a mill just north of the rail line sawed the lumber for the rail ties used for the Elmira Branch. Blasting Powder was used to cut the way through rocks and could heard for miles.
Percy Steele, station agent for Elmira, lived in the station with his wife for a short time. In the winter he was known to drive his Model A Coupe down the track when the roads were blocked with snow.
When the train had a lay over in Elmira on Sunday's, the crew liked to spend their day off fishing. Cammy's father made them gaffs for catching salmon. Returning from a day of fishing with the new gaffs, which had proved to be successful, they gave him one for payment. Mr. Pierce was a Blacksmith.
Although there was no real violence or crime mentioned in the interviews, except for stealing coal, Cammy can recall several incidents. Pick pockets were a big problem in Charlottetown.
They would occupy the station every day waiting to hit on their next victim. Cammy's sister had her purse stolen when she drifted off to sleep. It wasn't safe to leave anything unattended. The Harvest Train that went out west was not safe for women to travel on. In the early 1900's, one woman waiting to board a train (not on P.E.I.) was dragged into a car and killed.
A man and woman loading hay onto a wagon had their horse shot and killed by someone shooting from the moving excursion train out west. A man returning from the West had his whole summer's pay stolen when he fell asleep waiting to board the train. He of course, never got it back.
Lastly, at one place the train made a stop at was a liquor store. A group of men went in, taking everything they could carry and breaking the rest.
211The late Greg Kent driving the P.E.I. Miniature Railway, at the Elmira Railway Museum.
26 septembre 2003
Elmira, Prince Edward Island
212The P.E.I. Miniature Railway was moved from its original location in Kildare Capes, P.E.I. and was officially opened in the summer of 2003. The tracks wend their way over 6000 feet of terrain near the Elmira Railway Museum.
August 9, 1951 - January 21, 2004
Greg came to work at the Elmira Railway Museum at the opening of the P.E.I. Miniature Railway. He was the Railway's first Engineer in Elmira. In addition he was a talented jack of all trades, and master of many. His talents and skills were an asset to the Museum. Greg was an outstanding community leader and volunteer.
215Enjoying the Fall colours on a trip on the P.E.I. Miniature Railway
18 octobre 2003
Elmira, Prince Edward Island
216The P.E.I. Miniature Railway travelling through the fall colours in Elmira, P.E.I.
218The P.E.I. Miniature Railway coming in towards the station at Elmira, P.E.I.
219Engineer Greg Kent brings the P.E.I. Miniature Railway Train into the station.
26 septembre 2003
Elmira, Prince Edward Island
220Engineer, the late Greg Kent brings the train in to the station area, for passengers at the P.E.I. Miniature Railway Station. The railway is a featured attraction at the Elmira Railway Museum.
221Part of one of the largest model railroad collections in Eastern Canada, at Elmira Railway Museum.
26 septembre 2003
Elmira, Prince Edward Island
222The Elmira Railway Museum was pleased to receive the Model Railway Collection of the late Robert Mepham of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. This is one of the largest collections in Eastern Canada. Mr. Mepham was and Economic Developer with the Federal Department of Industry and lived throughout Canada during his working life.
223Part of one of the largest model railroad collections in Eastern Canada, at Elmira Railway Museum.
26 septembre 2003
Elmira, Prince Edward Island
224The is only a small part of Mr. Mepham's collection. It is situated in its display building at the Elmira Railway Museum.
225Part of one of the largest model railroad collections in Eastern Canada, at Elmira Railway Museum.
26 septembre 2003
Elmira, Prince Edward Island
226Mr. Mepham was a talented hobbyist. Several of his models were fashioned after actual P.E.I. and C.N.R. structures from the past. The models are arranged on a large cut out map of Prince Edward Island.
228The layout for the model railway is in the shape of Prince Edward Island. The trains run continously across the "landscape", much as the regular train service did for over a century on the Island.
You could hear the train whistle for miles, anyone working in the fields or woods would know the time of day and what station the train was at just by the sound of the whistle. During World War II young men who joined the Armed Forces were stationed all over Canada. Trains were used to transport the young recruits to there new homes. They were given their train ticket and meal tickets for the trip out. At the end of the war it was quite a different trip back home, as the war was celebrated on the train from coast to coast by the men returning home.
Meeting the train was a big event in the lives of the rural people, trains not only brought freight and passengers it also brought communication by way of mail. The postmaster met the train often carrying the mail on his back 1/2 mile to the post office. The train station was also a very busy place, as many as ten freight cars would be lined up waiting for potatoes to be loaded.
Princess Elizabeth, who is now Queen Elizabeth nd Prince Phillip visited Prince Edward island on the Royal Train. One couple from England, who travelled the train from Liverpool to New Glasgow, found that the cars were much smaller and a more narrow gauge track was used.
232Entrance to the Confederation Trail
The rails are gone, but the stories remain. The eastern entry to the Confederation Trail is found at the Elmira Railway Museum. Prince Edward Island's tip-to-tip trail, was developed on the abandoned railway lines and takes you into wetlands and hardwood groves, through quaint villages and along sparkling rivers.
In August, 2000, Prince Edward Island became the first province in Canada to complete its section of the Trans Canada Trail. Since then Island communities have been working to complete various sections across the province.
234While this may be the "end of the line" for the railway on Prince Edward Island, many fond memories are preserved at the Elmira Railway Museum in P.E.I. You are welcome to visit the Museum and surrounding area to see the many artifacts and learn more of this important part of Prince Edward Island's heritage.
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