For­got­ten trails

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - An­drew Robin­sons is The Com­pass’ editor. He has a sin­gle vague mem­ory when it comes to trains trav­el­ling in New­found­land and can be reached at editor@cbn­com­pass.ca.

The New­found­land T’Rail­way sys­tem presents a re­mark­able op­por­tu­nity to those cu­ri­ous to ex­plore the province via an all-ter­rain ve­hi­cle. Funny to think that par­tic­u­lar recre­ational trail owes its ex­is­tence to the ob­so­les­cence of another mode of trans­porta­tion.

It’s been 46 years since pas­sen­ger trains last rum­bled along the rail­way in this province (with the oc­ca­sional mixed pas­sen­ger-and-freight run ap­par­ently still a thing in the 1970s). The last time a freight train de­liv­ered cargo in New­found­land was 1984.

For a sub­stan­tial por­tion of the is­land’s pop­u­la­tion, mem­o­ries of trains trav­el­ling through com­mu­ni­ties they grew up in are non-ex­is­tent.

Toronto-based au­thor Ron Brown has a new book out called “Rails to the At­lantic” that fo­cuses on rail­way her­itage in Que­bec and At­lantic Canada. It’s in­ter­est­ing to learn that New­found­land only has 17 for­mer sta­tions that have found new life. Prince Ed­ward Is­land, which also lost its rail­way ser­vice as road trans­porta­tion be­came more re­li­able, has over 60.

The for­mer Bri­gus Branch line has the best col­lec­tion of sur­viv­ing sta­tions, in­clud­ing those in Clarke’s Beach, Har­bour Grace and Car­bon­ear. The Clarke’s Beach sta­tion re­ceived new life last month when the town opened it to the public as a site to learn about the com­mu­nity’s history.

Car­bon­ear’s sta­tion con­tin­ues to ac­cept visi­tors dur­ing the sum­mer months, and there has been some talk on coun­cil of try­ing to see how the town might go about spruc­ing up its 956 Ter­raTrans­port train. That piece of history is rust­ing, and the rail­ings it sits on per­ma­nently are re­port­edly wob­bly ( fur­ther in­vest­ment will no doubt be de­pen­dent on price).

Rail­way history does have en­dur­ing ap­peal. Aside from those of an older gen­er­a­tion who re­mem­ber what it was like hav­ing trains to get from one town to another, there’s an end­less sup­ply of young rail­way en­thu­si­asts. Kids re­main fas­ci­nated by trains, with tele­vi­sion pro­grams like “Chug­gin­ton” and “Thomas & Friends” surely help­ing.

Con­tin­u­ing to pro­mote New­found­land’s rail­way history is worth­while. In the in­tro­duc­tion to his book, Brown ex­presses his in­ten­tion to en­cour­age peo­ple “to celebrate the rail­way age — to visit the her­itage rail­way sta­tions that re­call the golden age of rail travel.”

The so-called “golden age” for get­ting to-and-from places by rail might not have been the eas­i­est of times for trav­el­ling in this province, but it def­i­nitely mer­its preser­va­tion.

Rail­way history does have en­dur­ing ap­peal. Aside from those of an older gen­er­a­tion who re­mem­ber what it was like hav­ing trains to get from one town to another, there’s an end­less sup­ply of young rail­way en­thu­si­asts.

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