The apple orchards at Port Rowan

Apples must’ve been big business in Port Rowan at one time, and they’ll figure prominently on my layout, too.

Down By The Bay, a history of Port Rowan that I’ve mentioned before on this blog, notes that during the First World War, an apple dehydrating plant was located across from the station. (As its name suggests, this plant created dried fruit. It was shipped out via rail, eventually to Allied soldiers fighting in Europe.)

The plant disappeared before the era I’m modelling, so I won’t have trainloads of apples heading out of Port Rowan – although when Andy Malette at MLW Services releases his highly-anticipated CNR eight-hatch refrigerator car in S scale, I will have to ship the occasional carload of apples off the team track.

Regardless, as the righthand side of my CNR track map shows, the railway entered the Port Rowan yard by passing between farm fields…
 photo PortRowan-Plot-Web_zpsli8hidhh.jpg

…and I know from speaking with people like my friend Rich Chrysler that these were apple orchards. (Indeed, one can still find Port Rowan-area orchards today.)

So, I will have to model the orchards.

While visiting a local hobby shop this week, I found a package of tree armatures (Woodland Scenics TR1121) that will make a good starting point for my trees. A three-inch model tree represents a 16-foot tree in S and one wouldn’t want apple trees much taller than that: They’d be too hard to pick. So this package of 57 armatures seemed like a good starting point.

The armatures come flat – the modeller bends them into “tree shapes”. I did this during a free moment yesterday and set them on the layout to see if I liked the effect:
Port Rowan Orchards - a beginning photo PtR-Orchard-03.jpg

I do – but I will also need two or three more bags of armatures to fill the space!

As can be seen in this photo, it will take a fair bit of work to transform them into realistic looking apple trees…
Switch stand and orchard photo PtR-Orchard-01.jpg

…but I think these plastic armatures will better capture the cultivated look of apple trees than (ironically) more natural materials such as Super Sage Trees. (I’ll have plenty of places to use Super Sage elsewhere on the layout, too.)

Have another look at the orchards on the CNR track map. Note that there’s a private crossing to allow the farmer to tend orchards on both sides of the tracks. While doing orchard-y things yesterday, I also distressed and stained some strip wood and added the farm crossing:
Farm crossing photo PtR-Orchard-02.jpg

I also added ballast between the two wooden crossings. I’ll finish this crossing when I do the ground cover in the orchard, with a lane for an old farm truck or tractor+wagon.

I’m looking forward to this project – but ask me again after I’ve done 150-200 apple trees!

7 thoughts on “The apple orchards at Port Rowan

  1. “I’m looking forward to this project – but ask me again after I’ve done 150-200 apple trees!”

    Aww, Couldn’t be harder than individual clumps of weeds could it? 😉


  2. Hi Trevor — Here’s a childhood reminiscence from vacationing at my grandparents’ cottage at nearby Turkey Point. I shared this with you in an e-mail some time back but it seems appropriate to repeat it here.

    Hugh and Vera MacDonald were fruit farmers and friends of my grandparents — a 60ish couple who separately hosted my younger brother and me for overnight stays, a sampler of life in the orchards. Satellite map of Kendall Road, just west of Vittoria, suggests that their old place is still in the orchard business today, but what you’ll notice is that their property was contiguous to the Port Rowan branchline.

    I was riding along with Hugh on his Ferguson tractor hauling a big barrel-like blower while he sprayed insecticide way out among the rows when I heard the whistle!, jumped off, ran like crazy back through the apple trees, past their outbuildings and elevated tank, past the house, out the lane to the road and up to the crossing just as the train was passing — side rods clanking sloppily. Wow! I sure wished I could have been aboard.

    That happy memory is revitalized through your modeling. Keep up the good work!

    • Hi Dick:
      Thanks for this – it’s a great story!
      I will try to do that memory justice on the layout…

  3. Trevor,

    The spacing of trees in my maternal grandparents’ apple orchard in Burgessville (Oxford County), planted in the early 1940s, was approximately 50 ft. (based on a ca. 1945 aerial photograph), which provided ample room for the trees to grow and for a tractor to easily maneuver wagons between trees and turn at the end of the row.

    Although I was young (and therefore had a different perspective) the trees were much larger (30 ft. tall/diameter) than those seen in many of today’s Oxford County apple orchards.

    Picking up of the “juice” apples (before my time they’d be destined for the Canada Vinegars’ plant in Norwich) was for many years the family’s Thanksgiving tradition. The picking of the what we called “eating” apples was contracted out.

    That said, tree size and spacing should be whatever looks right. I’m enjoying following your progress via the blog.

    Jeffrey P. Smith
    Lee’s Summit, Missouri

    • Hi Jeff:
      Thanks for the kind words and the information. As with many things in this hobby, my orchard is a compromise.
      50-foot spacing is approximately 10 inches in S. If I spaced trees that far apart, the resulting orchard would have 5 or 6 trees in it – hardly convincing as a commercial operation. So, more and smaller trees it is, and it will look correct to those who have driven past or visited orchards in today’s world.
      The most important detail – the one that will convince people they’re looking at an apple orchard – will be adding red apples to the trees…

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