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.