Railroad Apple Tree- Zone 4
Characteristics of the tree
The Railroad apple tree gives tasty, bright red apples. The fruit is small to medium in size, with ruby red skin. The flesh is creamy white, fine and very juicy. It melts in the mouth, and tastes mild and sweet. Railroad is very pleasant to eat fresh, and quite aromatic. Among its other qualities, the fruit does not oxidize for at least several hours after it is cut, making it a good option to use in fruit salads. The apples can be harvested by late-September, and will hang on the tree until ripe. Take care not to harvest them too late, as they can become soft on the tree. Also take note that this is not an apple for long storage, as it becomes soft quite rapidly.
The Railroad tree is self-fertile, and hardy to at least zone 4. We have noticed a slight sensitivity to scab (nothing to cause any real problems) and good resistance to fire blight (no sign of any shoots affected, despite being in close proximity to two heavily infected trees, in a year with perfect conditions for the development of the disease.)
Eric, the founder of the nursery, discovered this apple tree some years ago, during a search for old apple trees in the countryside. It seemed like the tree was waiting for him, right by an old railroad track, after which it is named. As he was driving back home he ate almost all the apples he had picked, leaving just one, as he wanted the others at home to get to taste this great apple. All agreed that it was worth giving everyone in Canada the chance to eat apples from this variety!
The apple trees we produce are grafted on standard-sized rootstock, so they are ‘full-sized’ apple trees (as opposed to dwarf or semi-dwarf). The life expectancy of this type of apple tree is around 100 years. The illustration shows different stages of its growth up until the age of 20 years (as one rarely plans a landscaping arrangement with a longer time period in mind). At 100 years old, the apple tree will be even larger than shown here – it can reach 7 m in height and spread over 9m – while the house might no longer exist!
You should note that this illustration is meant only to give a general indication of what you can expect, and the growth of your tree might look somewhat different. The development of a tree depends on the soil type, irrigation, fertilisation and climatic conditions. What we show here is based on our observation of observations of the growth of apple trees in zone 4, in rather poor soil. In zone 2, growth will probably be slower, while in a rich soil it would be faster.
All our apple trees are sold bare-root, without pots. They have been cultivated directly in our soil. Bare-root trees must be taken out of the ground and shipped during their period of dormancy, which is why we only ship trees in the spring. A big advantage with these kinds of trees, is that they take up very little space, and can therefore be easily shipped by mail all over Canada!
This photograph shows a 2-3-foot apple tree, just like one that you might receive. Depending on the height you choose at the time of purchase, the tree might be a little smaller (1-2 feet) or somewhat taller (3-5 feet.)
All our apple trees are grafted on standard-sized rootstock, which we grow ourselves at the nursery. Trees that are grafted on standard-sized rootstock will become full-sized apple trees (as opposed to dwarf, or semi-dwarf.) While the life expectancy of a dwarf apple tree is only about 20 years, full-sized apple trees such as those we propagate have a lifespan of around 100 years. We believe it is of the utmost importance to plant for future generations, which is one of the main reasons we prefer these kinds of trees.
Besides this, standard-sized apple trees also have many other qualities that set them above dwarf and semi-dwarf trees in our view. For example, their deep and well-developed root systems allow them to draw water from deep underground during periods of droughts. They are more vigorous and resilient, which in turn also makes them more disease-resistant. They are very hardy, and last but not least, much more productive!
To learn more about grafting and the role of rootstocks, see our article here!