Railroading in PEI – David Othen

By 1972 when we came to Atlantic Canada there were no passenger trains on PEI. A train ferry carried freight cars and when necessary locomotives from the mainland at Cape Tormentine to Borden and it usually operated at night.  The map from the back of CN Employees’ Operating Time Table 27 taking effect at 0101 Sunday, April 29th, 1973 shows the five subdivisions (S/D) that made up the railway on the island.

Map from CN Employee Timetable #27 April 29, 1973

The trackage on PEI was lightweight and only RSC-13s which had six wheeled trucks (later RS-18Ms which had received these trucks) and GE 90 tonners were permitted. The Murray Harbour subdivision had a weak bridge and only the GE 70 tonners were permitted on this branch.

You can get more information from Diesels on Prince Edward Island, an eBook by Steve Boyko.

Most freight was either agricultural supplies and machinery inbound and agricultural products mainly potatoes and some other vegetables outbound. A large number of reefers were used for this service, many leased from Merchants Dispatch Limited (MDL), often carrying the names of US railroads such as Illinois Central.

The last train with locomotives 1750 & 1786  left the island aboard the M.V. John Hamilton Gray on 28 December 1989. One locomotive, 1762, was preserved at Charlottetown and then moved to the station at Kensington.

This train from Moncton to Cape Tormentine is approaching Sackville NB at 10:30 am on 24 February 1974 and is bound for PEI . Most of the cars are empty potato reefers. The third locomotive is RSC-13 1730 which is returning to the island after attention at the Moncton shops.

GE 70 tonners

CN 30 & 35 are seen outside the main maintenance shops in Charlottetown in June 1976. Note the difference in the size of the CN logos and the edge of the turntable pit in the foreground.
The rear of the cab of CN 35 is seen inside the Charlottetown shops in August 1974. The engineer’s controls can be seen through the open cab door.
CN 40 is seen outside the shops on 20 June 1978. Note the steam style marker lights, bell and white flags (denoting an extra train).
CN 41 inside the Charlottetown, PEI shops, August 1974
CN 41 & RSC-13 1731 are seen inside the Charlottetown maintenance shops in August 1974.
Two years later, in June 1976, 41 has been repainted in the newer livery with an orange cab. It is switching the yards in Charlottetown where a string of potato reefers are stored.


Thirty five of these 1000 horsepower, six axle locomotives were built between 1955 and 1957 by Montreal Locomotive Works for use on CN branch lines with light weight track. All were retired by 1976.

1727 is switching the Charlottetown yards in August 1974. Note the brakeman standing on the ladder ready to apply the hand brake of the boxcar.
A year earlier, in August 1973, 1727 and sister 1728 are outside the Charlottetown maintenance shops waiting for their next duty.
1729 and a wooden caboose are waiting outside the station at Summerside for their next turn of duty.
CN 1730 outside Charlottetown, PEI shops, August 1973
In August 1973, 1730 and then 1733 are being moved out of the shops in Charlottetown.

RSC-18M (RSC-14)

As the RSC-13s and RSC-24s were scrapped their trucks were put under RS-18s of the 3843 – 3893 group. All had transverse fuel tanks and so there was space for the longer trucks. At the same time the horsepower was reduced electrically to 1400 from 1800.

CN 1752 is seen with a short train of three potato reefers and a Burlington Northern boxcar at Summerside on 30 December 1977.
CN 1754 is switching a boxcar of potatoes at the docks in Borden PEI on 9 June 1982.
CN 1759, 1752 & 1750 are in the yards at Borden on 3 July 1979.
CN 1751 had travelled from Summerside to Tignish on the previous day and now, on 10 June 1982,  is switching the vegetable packing sheds at O’Leary before returning to Summerside.
CN 1751 on 10 June 1982 approaching Tyne Valley, PEI.
As traffic dwindled trains became less and less frequent.  On 30 December 1985, 1756 brings a flanger and four grain cars into O’Leary.
After leaving the four grain cars 1756 continues with the flanger and caboose through Howlan to Tignish.
1762 preserved at Kensington on 1 August 1998.

More information on locomotives operated on PEI is in this book:
Diesels on Prince Edward Island.

Back to David Othen’s Canadian Train Photographs

This page copyright 1997-2012 by Pat and David Othen. Reproduced with permission of David’s widow Pat.

Leave a Comment