I was extremely thrilled when John Glass and Vaughan Thompson called requesting that I make a presentation to you on my father's association with the Miniature Railway. I think this is a great occasion to bring up a subject such as the Minature Railway as the large locomotive systems are gradually disappearing from the Canadian scene. It seems like such a loss of labor, money and a noble tradition. I personally feel that it is an error to dismantle such a part of our heritage. The Miniature Railway has also disappeared from our scene. It has been some fifty years since the Railway was operated on Island Park, and it is my pleasure to tell you as much as possible on the involvement and operation of my father's dream. My father, Albert Wort, was born on a farm at Bulls Creek, Carleton County in 1875 of English heritage. His father came from a family of boat-builders (overseas schooners). He moved to this area from Waterborough, NB. Albert's father lost his life in a woods accident early in Albert's life. Albert attended school at Cedar Hill. The school is still standing, just north of the Indian Reservation, south of Woodstock. Albert had to discontinue school at an early age to help support the family after completing Grade 4. Most of his employment was engaged with factories and mills which used steam for power. Albert Wort was eventually chosen as Superintendent of the Pumping Station in Woodstock and remained in this position until his death in 1941. At this time he would be employed there for a period of 47 years. The pumps in the station were all steam-driven. You might be interested to know that one of his duties was to walk around the town and light all of the street lamps which were fuelled by illuminating gas. My father was a very quiet, unassuming individual; a very good father; and the best friend I every had. Although he was admitted to the New York Inventors Club for improvements made to his newer engines, he would rather not have it mentioned nor elaborated on. The Railway was my father's hobby and dream for most of his life. After many years of planning and designing, construction of No. 1 was started in 1913. After many trials and disappointments, the first engine was completed in 1920. At this time, the town park was located near the location of the present Government Garage Building in Woodstock. The first engine operated at this park during the Exhibition of 1921. The next year the Railway, together with the Agricultural Fair, took up permanent quarters on Island Park and operated there each year until 1936. On this date, Mrs. Donald Bish, from New York, agent for a "Prince of India" purchased two locomotives and four coaches which were immediately shipped to India. Harold Aiton from Hartland was in service in India during World War II and happened to see them in operation. The Prince had laid tracks from his residence to the post-office to drive the engines and pick up the mail. My father immediately made plans to replace this equipment with newer, modern engines and coaches. This equipment was completed in 1938. The new engines were numbered 3 and 4. During the Exhibition on Island Park in 1938, both engines and coaches were back in service. In 1939 with the outbreak of World War II, the Exhibition on Island Park was cancelled. The Miniature Railway was also put in mothballs, being stored on Island Park. My father passed away in 1941. In 1945, I returned from service and immediately began restoring the engines to working order. During their stay on the Island Park, supervision was not available from our family; and at times, the soldiers tried to operate them -- they needed a great deal of restoration. On completion, I tried to encourage several business people with no luck. The locomotives, coaches and rails were eventually sold to Lewis Bearce of Caribou, Maine. On year during the Winter Carnival, he had tracks laid down Main Street and operated them during the event. At his death, the locomotives were sold to a professional ballplayer in North Carolina. I would like to describe the operation of the system as at Island Park. The locomotives were operated mostly during fairs and carnivals. The maintenance on equipment and tracks were generally done during the summer months. New railway ties were installed, bridges and buildings painted or white-washed, and grass cut along the right-of-way. Electrical and plumbing lines were also repaired. At least one of the locomotives was moved to the home workshop for repairs and upgrading during off-season. There was about a half-mile of track extending from the upper and of the Island near where the highway ramp came off the bridge to the area of the Midway near the Raceway. Many people that attended the Exhibition at this time walked to Island Park to board the train and drive to the midway. There was a ticket booth at the upper-end of the track as well as the lower-end or yard area. The fare was five cents per person, one-way. The Railway proceeded from the upper-end, over one road with marked Railway Crossing signs, along the line to a 100-foot tunnel, then on to a 100-foot bridge, on over another marked road and then through a lighted-trestle and on to the main yard. The main yard consisted of a roundhouse, water-tower, coal shutes, turn-table, switches for a siding, and the main office and canteen. The locomotives were equipped with two coaches, and they would move off when needed when not on a time schdule. Each lomotive and coaches was manned by an engineer, conductor, both in their proper uniform. They were busy from noon until mid-night during the fall fairs. Now to mention about some of the basics of the locomotives. All engineers were of a different design according to the wheel arrangement. They were completely steam-operated using wood or coal for fuel. The gauge, that is, the distance in width between the rails was 16-1/2 inches as compared to the standard railway of 4 ft.8-1/2". inches. Why the smaller gauge is that there was so much competition among miniature railway builders to see who could build a smaller engine and still be large enough to haul passengers. The boilers were water-tube type as compared to fire-tube, used on large locomotives. The water-tube types were popular in France. Electric power for headlights and cab lights were supplied by an ordinary car battery. Brakes were steam-operated design operated by a valve from the cab to drums on driving axles. The locomotives were of two sections. The front section consisted of the engine-proper. The rear section was known as the "coal car" or in railway terms was called "the tender" which contained the fuel and water storage. The locomotives were painted black with brass, copper or aluminum trim. The coaches were generally wood-construction, large enough for 18 passengers. They were painted red with a trim. John Glass requested that I mention names of some of the crew members. All of the crew members were family, friends and neighbours. My father made it a point to use very dedicated people whom he could reply on in an emergency and take interest in the operation of the system. Maurice Craig of Woodstock, a CPR locomotive engineer, spent many hours operating the engines. He was well-respected by my father. Prescott Stairs and Kirk Stairs filled in as conductors. Robert King filled in as engineer along with the Wort brothers. My father in later years only drove the engines when they were testing them after repairs. The "railroad gang" will be identified later. The ticket sellers were the Wort sisters. The photographer was well-known John McKinley of Harvey Studios, of Woodstock. King Studios did an excellent job reproducing and enlarging pictures for this event.
CREDITS: Much of the above was secured from the Carleton Historical Society, Woodstock, New Brunswick. It appears to be from a 'talk' by Gordon Wort.
Island Park was also known as Connell Park and Exhibition Park during its period of existance from approx. 1890-1966. Around 1966 a Hydroelectric Project flooded the island.