A Legislative History of Nova Scotia Railways
By John R. Cameron, 1999
PLEASE NOTE: The following are notes for a work in progress on Nova Scotia railway history. The main source is the statutes of Nova Scotia. References to the statutes are to the Statutes of Nova Scotia, referencing the year and the chapter number. - John R. Cameron
The main trunk of the Nova Scotia railway system, the line from Halifax to Truro, and its two main branches, to Windsor and to Pictou, were constructed as government public works. Howe, then a leader of the colonial government and soon to be the first railway commissioner, considered that government sponsorship was both necessary and desirable. Any profits from so important and valuable an undertaking, what is now referred to as a natural monopoly, should belong to all of the people. This was a rather alarming view to many in its day, although we are long accustomed to government railways now. As it turned out, railways were almost as good as highways for patronage purposes. The short contracts involving virtually every farmer along the line should have been sure vote-getters. The furor over Sanford Fleming's contract to build the Pictou branch took nearly fifty years to die down.
Nova Scotia Government Railway
In 1854, the then colony of Nova Scotia passed the first Railway Act, to authorize the construction of lines from Halifax to New Brunswick with branches to Pictou and Victoria Beach (a harbour in Annapolis County across Digby Gut from the Town of Digby) (c.1). The preamble recited the advantages to be gained, facilitating internal trade, developing resources, enlarging revenues and opening easier and more frequent communications with her neighbours. It bears the imprint of Howe's oratory. The first section established the principle that the railways to be constructed would be provincial public works, with routes and standards established by cabinet (governor in council) "as best adapted to promote the general interests".
The first line (s.2) would begin at Halifax harbour and run northerly, as a common trunk. Later routes would have to be approved by the legislature. A board of commissioners would build and operate the line on behalf of the government, with a chief engineer for technical advice and direction. Members of the legislature were barred from any contract. From this beginning, the lands needed for the railway and the cost of fencing were to be charged back to the counties and raised by local (property) taxation, even before the beginning of elected municipal governments. The commissioners were authorized to spend up to 200,000 per year. Another statute (1854, c.2) authorized a loan for this amount, to be a charge on the tolls of the railway system. The City of Halifax was deemed to hold 10% of the stock and receive 10% of the net revenues, and was required to pay 10% of the cost. The currency had to be expanded to allow for the construction: c.3.
The Appropriations Act (c.43), apart from various smaller items such as twenty-five pounds to aid the packet between Horton and Parrsborough and Windsor and Parrsborough, contained an item for five hundred pounds to Sykes and Co. "for survey of railway line from Windsor to Victoria beach".
In the early 1860s, railways continued to be a preoccupation. Acts establishing customs duties (the main source of government revenue at the time) included in the list of exemptions "iron rails for railroads". See 1860, c.1 and 1863, c.1. Railway land damages (the free right of way) were a concern. The assessment in Colchester had to be validated (1860, c.16). The Appropriations Act (1860, c.41) included "Eight hundred dollars to John Canty, to reimburse him for a sawmill destroyed by fire, pursuant to the report of the Committee on Railways". Provisions were included in the Railway Act to set the number of railway commissioners at three, and deal with trespass on, and theft of, railway property (1861, c.13). Halifax had to be forced to pay its 10% share of railway interest, as "on the thirty-first day of December 1860, there had been expended on the construction of Railways within this province a sum exceeding four millions of dollars" (1861, c.40). The Appropriations Act of 1862 (c.34) allocated $100,000 "to provide for certain Railway expenses".
An ill-fated early attempt to establish the Intercolonial Railway was the subject of 1863, c.23, which includes as an appendix printed copies of relevant correspondence and agreements. The Nova Scotia government clearly expected the project to succeed.
The Pictou branch, or at least eleven miles of it, was authorized in 1863 (c.22), for at most $400,000.00. The Appropriations Act (c.38) provided $100,000 for railway expenses and $400,000 for railway construction. The Pictou Branch (all of it) received new legislative sanction in 1864 (c.6). A new government had been elected. The only stricture was that the line run as far as practicable on a common route for the line to New Brunswick. Borrowing of $1.6 million was authorized. The railway commissioners were empowered to take the land needed to connect Pictou and Fisher's Grant (1865, c.12).
The new government was an active railway promoter. In 1865 (c.13), railways from Truro to New Brunswick (slow to proceed because of the barrier posed by the Cobequid Mountains) and from Windsor to Annapolis (with the province bearing the high cost of the necessary bridge across the Avon River at Windsor) were authorized. The Act provided for significant subsidies, and envisaged private construction and ownership rather than government public works as the first railways had been. The Act did, though, allow the province to take over the railway upon payment of its value, a provision frequently referred to in the early 1880s when an attempt was made to consolidate the railway system. The Truro to New Brunswick section was dependent upon action by the New Brunswick government to ensure the existence of a continuation to the Saint John and Shediac line.
A problem had arisen with taxpayer resistance in Hants County (an opposition stronghold later represented by Howe) to the levy for railway lands. The Windsor branch ran through Hants and its right of way gave rise to the problem. The statutory correction (1865, c.14) provided for the collection, by seizure, and removal to adjacent counties for sale if necessary. This, presumably, would avoid interference in the judicial sale by irate locals, as seems to have occurred. The preamble to the statute notes only that a large part of the assessment "remains uncollected and unpaid, and difficulties have been found in the collection thereof".
The Windsor and Annapolis
In 1866, the next major construction was initiated with the Act incorporating the Windsor and Annapolis Railway Company, chartered to join the two namesake towns. The statute (c.1) recites a contract of October 26, 1865, with George Knight and Company, London, to construct the railway. The new company would be the constructing, owning and operating entity. Land would be provided free (an almost-universal principle applicable to Nova Scotia railways over the next fifty years). Construction was to begin May 1, 1866. Appended to the statute was a memorandum of agreement signed by Avard Longley, Commissioner of Railways, and George Knight on October 26, 1865. The western terminus would be either Annapolis or Troop's Point, on the north side of the Annapolis Basin opposite Annapolis. A subsidy of 32,000 was to be provided towards the cost of the Avon River crossing. The parties agreed on joint operation of the province's Windsor Branch. Also validated was a February 1, 1866 contract to build the line.
Then, in 1867, a new contractor appears. Brassey, Punchard and Clark contracted to build the railroad under a new company of the same name (c.36). Provisions of the two statutes are almost identical, but the contract is now of November 22, 1866, and George Knight disappears from the picture. Real progress was now expected (and received). Provision was made to obtain the right of way in Hants County (c.4) and a station in Windsor (c.40). The province capitalized the subsidy for the new railway at 188,600 and authorized borrowing for that sum plus the 32,000 for the Avon bridge (c.7).
In 1868, the legislature clarified that, while the railway might be exempt from general property taxes (a question later litigated), it was not exempt from dyke rates levied on the proprietors to maintain dykes and drains on the old Acadian marshes (c.24). Commissioners to appraise the value of the land taken for the railway in Kings and Annapolis counties were provided for: cc.32 and 33. The appraisals by the juries, already done (based on plans filed in late 1867) were deemed inadequate and unjust in many instances. Further legislation (c.34) dealt with additional damages in Kings County.
In 1869, the corporate documentation was completely rewritten (c.23), essentially to reflect the English Companies Act. The shareholders and bondholders were undoubtedly happier with a more familiar corporate structure. The company did have a March 1, 1867 English incorporation. While most corporate action would take place in England, the articles provided for a Nova Scotia board of directors. Railway land damages continued to be a matter of concern: 1869, cc.33,34, 37; 1870, cc.31, 32, 33, 56.
The Windsor and Annapolis Railway Mutual Sick and Accident Fund Society was incorporated in 1873 (c.86) for the benefit of the employees of the Windsor and Annapolis Railway.
In 1877, the province undertook to guarantee the interest on 50,000 of debenture stock of the railway, reciting an arrangement with the creditors of the railway February 12, 1875 (c.28). The province was called upon to honour this guarantee, and the Appropriations Act for many years contained an item of $14,500 for Windsor and Annapolis Railway interest. In 1878, the guarantee was extended to the whole of the 75,000 issue (c.22).
In 1885, the Windsor and Annapolis was permitted to change the site of its station at Middleton (c.89), to a site that would better suit a common station with the Nova Scotia Central (originally the Nictaux and Atlantic).
In 1893, the Windsor and Annapolis was authorized to buy its rival, the Western Counties Railway (by then called the Yarmouth and Annapolis), for the sum of 265,000. The merged company was named the Dominion Atlantic Railway. Refer 1893 cc.141, 142 and 143.
The Windsor and Annapolis was a fairly successful railway. It was built quite quickly compared to most and, while it had its financial problems from time to time, eventually became a successful adjunct to the Canadian Pacific system as the senior partner in the four railways that became the Dominion Atlantic.
The Western Counties Railway
The story is murkier for the next-eldest partner in the DAR, the Western Counties' Railway. The successful joining of Yarmouth and Digby was for many years marred by the line's inability to connect Digby and Annapolis, owing to difficult country and the huge cost of the Bear River bridge and the Clementsport trestle. The linkage was achieved by the federal government in the 1890s, about the time the line was swallowed by the Windsor and Annapolis to form the Dominion Atlantic.
The Western Counties Railway was chartered in 1870 (c.81) to connect Annapolis and Yarmouth. Two of the incorporators, Thomas and Frank Killam, were members of a highly successful political and mercantile family in Yarmouth. Frank Killam was president in 1893 (see 1893, c.46). Initial capital was fixed at $2,500,000.00. A grant of 50,000 acres in Digby County and 100,000 acres in Yarmouth County was to assist in financing the railway. The right of way would be provided free of charge. Time for completion had to be extended in 1873 (c.4)
The Township of Yarmouth was authorized to take stock in the railway for up to $100,000 (1873, c.26), and that part of Yarmouth County outside Yarmouth Township was exempted from paying for the right of way (1873, c.43). The right of way in the Township of Yarmouth was again the subject of legislation in 1874 (c.59), authorizing the borrowing of up to $55,000.00.
Apart from the deemed ownership by the City of Halifax of ten per cent of the Nova Scotia Government Railway, the Township of Yarmouth is the only known example of a municipal unit holding shares in a railway company. This may be the result of the urban orientation of the unit (by the time other towns were incorporated, the "profits" to be gained from owning railway shares were seen to be illusory), or possibly the political domination of the area by the Killam family and other incorporators.
Another unique feature is the fact that Yarmouth was the only incorporated Township in Nova Scotia. It had been the only area to take advantage of optional municipal incorporation in the 1850s and, although it had petitioned to revert, it was obviously still operational. It became the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth when the County Incorporation Act (precursor of the Municipal Act) established province-wide elected municipal government in 1879.
In 1875, the Township of Yarmouth was allowed one director on the board of the Western Counties as long as it held stock in the railway (c.54). Miscellaneous corporate changes, including a reduction in borrowing authority, were also made (c.68). In 1876, the question of payment for right of way arose in Digby municipality (c.57) and a debenture issue was ratified (c.73).
As a work in progress, annual legislative amendments could be expected, but 1877 was a big year. The province replaced the subsidy with provincial debentures (c.29), and right of way claims were dealt with in Annapolis (cc.41, 42) and Digby (c.50). The Township of Yarmouth may have been falling behind in its payments on railway stock, as enforcement measures were enacted (c.63). Debenture exchange (to lower the effective interest rate) was authorized (c.71), and the time for completion was again extended (c.72). The next year saw continuing concern with the appraisal of land claims between Digby and Bear River, and elsewhere in the town of Digby (1878, c.35), a further extension (c.53) and a new debenture issue to complete the undertaking and build iron rather than wooden bridges (c.54).
In 1879, it became apparent that earlier debentures had not sold. Two series were authorized (c.64) to be a charge on the main railway (Yarmouth to Annapolis, the B series) and on the whole undertaking including the company's interest in the Windsor Branch (later held void by the courts) (the "A" series). The government was authorized to guarantee Western Counties debentures to an amount sufficient to ensure the completion of the railway from Digby to Yarmouth.
A company was incorporated in 1880, to merge the Western Counties and the Windsor and Annapolis and finish the railway to Yarmouth (c.69), as the Nova Scotia Railway Company. The Western Counties was authorized to sell (c.74). This grand merger did not take place for another decade, and then under the Windsor and Annapolis. In 1881, the trustee under the debenture was given instructions on how to obtain the consent of the bondholders to the merger (c.48) and the new municipality of Yarmouth was substituted for the former Township of Yarmouth in railway right of way bonds to the amount of $32,000.00 (c.49).
The provincial secretary was authorized to sell the Western Counties Railway for default in payments due under various guaranteed debentures (1886, c.16). This was one step in the attempt to consolidate the railway system: Railways Aid and Consolidation Act, 1886, c.1. Terms of the proposed sale were amended in 1887 (c.2).
Township of Yarmouth debt relating to the Western Counties Railway became a joint responsibility of the town and the municipality of Yarmouth following the incorporation of the Town of Yarmouth (1891, c.124). The Town had to borrow its share of the outstanding bonds in 1892 (c.128).
Amalgamation with the Windsor and Annapolis came about in 1893. Chapter 46 authorized a restructuring. It recited the change of name to the Yarmouth and Annapolis Railway by federal legislation effective April 1, 1893. The railway owed the province and the municipalities of Annapolis and Digby an amount in the range of 50,000. The new owners undertook to buy the thousand shares (issued at $100.00 per share) held by the town and municipality of Yarmouth for $20.00 each and agreed to spend 30,000 to improve the railway. Yarmouth municipality borrowed $30,000 to pay its share of maturing bonds (c.136). The sale to the Windsor and Annapolis was authorized by c.141. Provincial authorization was needed because of the debt due the province and its right to sell the railway for nonpayment of that debt. This Act cited the Dominion statutes (1887, cc.25 and 77) that declared the Western Counties to be a work for the general advantage of Canada and hence subject to federal jurisdiction. The Windsor and Annapolis was empowered to buy (c.142). The actual completion of the sale was postponed by c.143.
In 1894, the Legislature (c.28) confirmed the settlement of claims against the Western Counties (now Yarmouth and Annapolis) Railway: $70,000 paid in 1892, $85,000 paid in 1893 ($65,000 to the province and $10,000 to each of Annapolis and Digby) with the balance to be paid in 1894. The province could finally stop adding "$13,500 to pay Western Counties Railway interest" to its annual Appropriations Acts.
The last statutory mention of the railway was an authorization to the municipality of Yarmouth to pay off railway claims in part by "a railway poll tax" of $1.00 per person over age 21 (1896, c.79). By this time, future claims for new railways were possible.
The Eastern Extension
The Eastern Extension, from the Nova Scotia Government Railway Pictou Branch to the Strait of Canso and beyond, was a slow process. There was no simple way across the Strait, and no significant manufacturing or mining centre east of New Glasgow on the mainland to justify the cost. It was a political railway and, perhaps eventually, a connector to the mines of Cape Breton via rail ferry across the Strait. The causeway, which eliminated the ferries, was not completed until 1955. The original intent was to build the railway as a private undertaking, but it became a part of the Intercolonial early on.
The first attempt was the Louisburg Extension, planning a railway from New Glasgow to Louisbourg [then spelled Louisburg], an ice-free port that could, and later did, serve industrial Cape Breton (1872, c.63). The company was authorized to connect across the Strait of Canso by tunnel (now proven to be virtually impossible due to the depth of the Strait and the heights on either side, creating serious grade problems) or by steam ferry. A new company, the Eastern Counties Railway, was incorporated in 1874 (c.62) to build a railway from New Glasgow to the Strait of Canso and possibly run a ferry across it.
The Louisburg Extension was reincorporated in 1875 (c.66) for much the same purposes as the 1872 company, leaving out the tunnel.
In 1876, the province authorized the Commissioner of Public Works and Mines to contract for the construction of a railway from the Intercolonial at New Glasgow to the "Strait of Canseau", plus a ferry across, and then to the Bras d'Or Lakes and as far east as possible. The Act (c.3) authorized a subsidy of $8,000 per mile and 150,000 acres of Crown land, plus 2,000 acres per mile on the Cape Breton side. A generic railway statute to incorporate the Halifax and Cape Breton Railway and Coal Company (c.74) was passed to create a corporate structure that a successful contractor could use as a charter (c.4). The Eastern Counties Railways, possibly mindful of the increased subsidies, extended its deadline (c.71).
By 1878, the railway was in course of construction. Land costs were settled fairly reasonably in Antigonish County (c.32), although one person in Tracadie had to obtain a statutory extension of his appeal period (c.76). The Cape Breton Railway, Coal and Iron Company was incorporated (c.55) as a blanket corporation for any contractor prepared to build the railway from the Strait of Canso "eastwardly through the Island of Cape Breton" (c.56).
The contract for the construction of the railway was awarded to Harry Abbott, who assigned it to the Halifax and Cape Breton Railway and Coal Company (1879, c.65). An exception was that the province would not attempt to have the federal government transfer the line between Pictou and Truro to the company until the line between New Glasgow and the Strait of Canso was completed. The line had to be kept in operation; "one passenger train over the whole line each way each day, except Sundays, and such freight trains as may be sufficient for the prompt conveyance of the freight offered for carriage". Failure for any three-month period could see the province take over the entire railway. This limitation was the subject of serious (and unsuccessful) litigation by a major bondholder. The incorporating statute was amended to confirm the incorporation of Abbott and others under the enabling Act (the wording suggests an attempt to override the outstanding litigation) (c.70) and to confirm borrowing authority (c.71).
In 1883, the government, acting on an agreement of 1880, extended in 1882, agreed to acquire the railway for its cost, less grants paid. Abbott and his associates had to take their profit from the construction of the line (which they did). Cabinet was authorized to resell the line to the Dominion government (c.21). In 1884 (c.1) the province confirmed the conveyance of the Eastern Extension (by then the Nova Scotia Railway), the Pictou Branch (Truro to Pictou Landing) and the ferry steamer "Norwegian" to the Dominion for $1.2 million, plus rolling stock at cost and interest from October 1, 1883. The railway was actually transferred January 10, 1884.
The balance of the legislation dealing with the Eastern Extension, at least as far as the Strait of Canso, deals with right of way claims. Antigonish had to get its tax rate corrected: 1885, c.54. The claim of Charles Gregory was authorized in 1886 (c.55), although this was a construction claim (see notes on litigation). Guysborough paid the whole of the damages for the railway in the county and successfully sued St Mary's (the other municipality in the county, but quite distant from the actual construction from Auld's Cove to Mulgrave) for contribution. Legislation provided for the apportionment (1886, c.92). The Intercolonial was extended from Stellarton to Pictou and the town gave the land for the station at Pictou (1886, c.106). In 1889, it was agreed all municipalities would pay the land cost for this line (c.84) and Pictou Town was given authority to borrow up to $10,000 for the purpose (c.94).
The land issue did not settle quietly. There was significant litigation over the cost in Pictou County and, as late as 1902, the province recorded the expenditure of up to $1,500 to cover expenses incurred in connection with the Eastern Extension arbitration (c.42). Undoubtedly because the province sold the Eastern Extension to the federal government, the municipal units that paid for its right of way claimed refunds (Antigonish, Pictou, Guysborough and St Mary's). The province referred this issue to a three-person commission to report on "the justice and equity" of the claims (1905,c.3). In 1907, the commissioners were directed to report on an equitable solution (c.50).
The Guysborough Railway
The Musquodoboit Railway
The case of the Guysborough railway defies easy classification. It never really operated, though a significant part of it was built. Early versions anticipated a railway from New Glasgow to Whitehaven, a harbour or bay near Canso, thought by some to be the closest part of the North American mainland to Europe. Cutting shipping distances even marginally, was considered of major importance at the time. Later, the railway was proposed to run from New Glasgow to Guysborough. Other proposals looked at a railway from Upper Musquodoboit to Guysborough and the proposed railway was confused with the Musquodoboit Railway. In all cases, the railway itself was intended to provide direct rail access to Guysborough and open up a significant portion of the interior. The existence of the Eastern Extension as a parallel route (if more northerly) and the relative absence of good ports and significant economic activity at the termini meant the railway had no real opportunity for success. Latter day proponents still cite political opportunism as the main reason for failure, since the railway could provide enough traffic, generated by increased economic activity due to the presence of the railway, to pay for itself. While politics undoubtedly played a part in the failure of the project, success on a continuing basis was always unlikely.
The first project along these lines was the Eastern Railway, incorporated in 1870 (c.59) to construct a railway from the Nova Scotia Railway at New Glasgow to Whitehaven or some other convenient harbour on the Atlantic coast. One of the incorporators, Hugh Allen of Montral, was a major player on the national railway scene and later figured prominently in the construction of the eastern extension (New Glasgow to Strait of Canso). The company was to receive substantial Crown lands (50,000 acres in Pictou County, 10,000 acres in Antigonish and 100,000 acres in Guysborough). In 1871, the incorporating act was amended to ensure the railroad would run through Marshy Hope in Antigonish County, or there would be no land grant in Antigonish (c.61).
The Eastern Railway faded away. In 1877 (c.74), the Whitehaven Railway was chartered to connect Whitehaven to the Eastern Extension then being built. The same promise of 160,000 acres of Crown land was made and the company was given the right to build along the north shore from Pictou to New Brunswick, foreshadowing the "Short Line". In 1879, the company altered its charter (c.68) to eliminate the route to Whitehaven and concentrate on the north shore line.
The old Whitehaven was revived in 1886 with new incorporators, a new name (Guysborough and Atlantic) and a new mandate. The company was to build a line from the Eastern Extension (by this time in full operation) to Guysborough, and from Guysborough to a port on the south coast of Guysborough County. An alternative route was to run from the Eastern Extension to the south coast (c.164). One would normally expect a new charter with so many changes. The revival was likely to protect the promised land grant, which was no longer general government policy. The Railways Aid and Consolidation Act did provide a provincial subsidy of $3,200 per mile for any new railway. The charter was amended in 1889 (c.123), adding incorporators including an MLA. The Eastern Extension had become a full-fledged part of the Intercolonial by then.
In 1890 (c.78), a number of incorporators dropped out and the name was changed back to the Whitehaven Railway. A time extension was received. The charter was again extended in 1893 (c.180) and in 1896 (c.106).
The Dominion Eastern Railway was incorporated in 1897 (c.81) to run from Sunny Brae in Pictou County (the eventual starting place for such of the railway as was constructed) to Country Harbour, and from Country Harbour Cross Roads to Guysborough. Country Harbour is a well known undeveloped deep water port. Time extensions were obtained in 1898 (c.130). The share structure was modified in 1899 (c.131).
Then, in 1901, a new entrant was chartered: the Nova Scotia Eastern Railway (c.130). It had the same route as the Dominion Eastern, except for the addition of a route from Guysborough to the Strait of Canso. It was also authorized to co-operate in operations with a railway that might be built eastwardly from the Musquodoboit Valley to the St Mary's Valley where it would intersect the Nova Scotia Eastern. Even today, there is only a very poor connection between the upper Musquodoboit Valley and West River St Mary's. The Musquodoboit to St Mary's route, never built, was entrusted to the recently revived (1901, c.131) Musquodoboit Railway. The two railways merged shortly after.
The Arisaig and Country Harbour Iron and Railway Company was incorporated in 1906 (c.154) to, among other things, build a railway from the East River or New Glasgow to Arisaig in Antigonish County and thence to Country Harbour. The company added "coal" to its name in 1908 (c.134) and extended the time for completion of the railway. A further extension in 1911 (c.106) marks the last legislative notice of a separate route from New Glasgow to Guysborough County.
The Musquodoboit Railway, which was built and remained in operation for many years as a CNR branch, was first touted as the Halifax and North Eastern in 1887 (c.53). This railway was to run east from Halifax Harbour, through the Musquodoboit to Dean Settlement, crossing there to the Stewiacke River valley near Newton Mills to connect with the Intercolonial at Glengarry. This route in the Stewiacke valley would roughly parallel the Stewiacke and Lansdowne's proposed route a few miles to the west. Then, from Glengarry, the railway was to run down the valley of the Middle River to Westville. Since the promoters, like virtually all railway promoters of the day, had grandiose visions, they had added "also an extension and branches running into and through the counties of Guysborough and Antigonish, and connecting, if deemed advisable, with the Eastern Extension railway, or any other railway" to their routes. The main emphasis was on the line between Halifax and Newton Mills. This railroad, which showed a realistic view of route possibilities through empty country, died on the vine, possibly as a result of action by its better-connected competitor, the Stewiacke and Lansdowne.
Nine years later, the Halifax and Guysboro' was incorporated to connect Halifax and Guysborough by way of the Musquodoboit Valley (1896, c.83). Incorporators came from all along the route, even the suggested extension to Canso. An extension the next year (1897, c.86) was accompanied by a route change suggesting more emphasis on the connection to Canso.
In 1898, the Musquodoboit Railway was incorporated (c.126). It was to run from Windsor Junction through the Musquodoboit Valley (possibly paralleling the Old Guysborough Road) forty miles or thereabouts to Parker's Corner on the Sheet Harbour Road. Alternatively (as eventually built), it would run from Dartmouth east to Musquodoboit Harbour and up the Musquodoboit Valley to Parker's Corner. It was allowed to run easterly, although, as built, it never did.
This company was revived in 1901 (c.131) (it had failed to meet the two-year time limit in its original charter) and was extended from Parker's Corner easterly into Guysborough County through the St Mary's Valley to connect with the proposed Nova Scotia Eastern. It was also authorized to lay out a branch line to Sheet Harbour. It was guaranteed running rights over the Nova Scotia Eastern to Guysborough (1901, c.130). To what extent the apparent co-operation between the two railways was voluntary and to what extent it was government imposed is unclear.
Real progress appears to have started in 1902. The Musquodoboit and the Nova Scotia Eastern were merged as the Nova Scotia Eastern (c.136), with the consent of the shareholders, with all of the rights and privileges of both railways. The new routes included those contemplated by its predecessors and a branch line to Truro. Halifax County, noting that construction had begun, voted $5,000 towards right of way costs and obtained the necessary legislation to borrow it (1902, C.59). Nothing was to be paid, though, until the railway was complete and in running order. At this time, the focus seemed to be on the line from Windsor Junction.
The new railway contracted with the province February 3, 1903 to build the line and receive a higher subsidy, a total of $5,000 per mile. The authorizing statute (1903, c.1) recited the company had provided satisfactory evidence it could complete the job. The railway would run from Dartmouth easterly through the Musquodoboit Valley to Melrose in Guysborough County (District of St Mary's, north of Sherbrooke), then via Cross Roads, Country Harbour to Guysborough and the Strait of Canso, with a line from Melrose to New Glasgow and a line from Cross Roads, Country Harbour to deep water at Country Harbour proper. The subsidy would be paid in stages as the various sections of the railway were completed: Dartmouth to Musquodoboit, then to Melrose, then to Cross Road, Country Harbour, then to Guysborough, then to the Strait of Canso, and for the New Glasgow and Country Harbour branches. Advances were allowed if completion was guaranteed. The government retained the right to buy the railway if the company failed to operate it. The entire proposal covered about 200 miles of railway. Corresponding changes were made in the corporate charter (c.213). A brief extension was granted at the next session (1903-4, c.138), nine months of breathing room.
A further extension is 1905 (c.129) implied the company had not done well. Even the deadline for filing right of way plans had to be extended. The legislature, in an unusually tough mood, continued the railway for only a few months and provided for it to be turned over to someone else who would actually build it.
In 1906, the province was authorized to substitute at $12,000 per mile loan for the direct subsidy in order to get a railway built between Halifax and Guysborough (c.1). A new company, the Halifax and Eastern, was incorporated to do the job (c.161). Interestingly, one of the incorporators was Hugh Allen (of the Montral shipping family) who had been involved in the construction of the Eastern Extension thirty years before.
The railway was vaguely described: Dartmouth to Guysboro', with a line to New Glasgow and to tidewater at Country Harbour. The loan limit was raised to $13,500 per mile in 1911 (c.28), with authority to come back to the legislature for more money, but the economic conditions of the First World War effectively ended hopes of finishing the Guysborough end of the line.
The history of the Musquodoboit Railway, that was actually constructed, and the Guysborough Railway, which was only partly built, managed to get mixed up with each other since, to Halifax eyes, at least, they seemed to be going in the same direction. This confuses any attempt to deal with them separately, even though they were very different projects.
The Midland Railway
The Midland Railway was a sport that ended up being finished and in operation. The euphoria of their first success so inflamed the directors that they proposed follow-up branches covering half of Nova Scotia. Then the Dominion Atlantic bought it out and it settled down to be an ordinary branch line for over fifty years.
The first evidence of the Midland proposal (Windsor to Truro through the centre of Hants County) was the 1887 proposal for the Hants Central Railway (c.54). (1887 was a very good year for railway proposals.) The Hants Central proposed a line from the Intercolonial near Truro westerly through Colchester and Hants Counties to the Windsor branch, crossing the Shubenacadie River near Maitland. The land between the Shubenacadie River and Windsor is rough and sparsely settled, but the major obstacle was the Shubenacadie River near its mouth. This is the scene of what are now claimed to be the highest tides in the world, and a tidal bore is a daily occurrence. The unheralded Shubenacadie River bridge was a major undertaking. The piers are still evident today from the highway bridge, only completed in the 1980s.
The Hants Central legislation was amended in 1890 (c.74) to put the head office in Truro, allow additional tolls if a bridge was over 200 feet long (which the Shubenacadie crossing would be) and ratify a bond issue. With matters apparently well on the way and in hand, this railway disappeared.
The Midland Railway was incorporated in 1896 (c.85) to run from Windsor to Maitland and then to a point on the Intercolonial between Truro and Stewiacke. The legislation seemed to show an intention to run to Truro via Clifton and from the Intercolonial to Eastville, with an extension to the coal and iron fields in Pictou County. This route repeated the likely route of the Stewiacke and Lansdowne. The railway was also authorized to run branch lines to ports on the Atlantic and the Gulf of St Lawrence. It was an ambitious proposal.
By 1899, there is strong evidence of a successful railway venture. The town of Truro was authorized to borrow $30,000 to pay a bonus to the railway if the line between Windsor and Truro was completed. West Hants (c.98) was authorized to borrow $11,000 for the right of way, Windsor also obtained borrowing and appraisal legislation (c.101) and East Hants got borrowing authority (c.102) and a new appraisal. The appraisal set aside totalled $8,547.00. The railway's own powers were extended to include a dock at Windsor, branch lines to the antimony mines near West Gore (in Hants County) and lines to New Germany, Chester and a point on the railway between Shelburne and Halifax, and from the Intercolonial railway between Truro and Londonderry to Parrsboro (c.130). It also extended the time to complete the line from Windsor to Truro.
The terms of the town of Truro's borrowing and expropriation were amended slightly in 1901 (c.91), demonstrating that it was getting close to bonus time.
In 1902, the company raised its sights again. New routes were authorized (c.175): west from Windsor to the Halifax and South Western, and to the Nova Scotia Central or Middleton (in direct competition with the DAR) and from Truro along the Bay Shore to Parrsboro. The line to Eastville is raised again, suggesting it might not be possible to actually reach the settlement. New routes were also the main focus in 1903. The county of Colchester obtained authority to borrow money to buy the right of way for the proposed line from Truro to Tatamagouche or Brule. The legislation dealing with the settlement of land claims in Windsor was amended (c.129), with similar changes for West Hants (c.132) and East Hants (c.133). The company changed its charter to allow for a railway from Truro to the Northumberland Strait (c.233).
Then, in 1905, the railway was sold to the Dominion Atlantic (c.130). The authorizing statute recited the completion of the railway from Windsor to Truro and the agreement of the shareholders to sell. The Dominion Atlantic was authorized to run from Truro to the Northumberland Strait, but was not given (or chose not to attempt) the balance of the Midland's wide-ranging network. The acquisition of the Midland gave the DAR a fairly level shortcut to Truro and the continental network, avoiding the Windsor Branch (if necessary) and the years of litigation it engendered.
Cornwallis Valley Railway/North Mountain Railway
The last link in the Dominion Atlantic started life as the Cornwallis Valley Railway, again in 1887 (c.59). The proposed route was from Kentville or Berwick to Kingsport, giving Kentville and the Annapolis Valley access to a port. The next year the route was clarified (1888, c.87): Kingsport to Kentville by way of Centreville, and from Centreville west to connect with the Windsor and Annapolis at the junction with the Nictaux and Atlantic (Middleton). The company was also authorized to operate steamers out of Kingsport to ports on Minas Basin and the Bay of Fundy. Telephone powers were added in 1889 (c.82).
Legislation in 1890 dealt with corporate borrowing (c.73) and defined the division of right of way costs totally $29,985 (c.105). A few corporate changes were made in 1891 (c.94) and the western terminus was redefined to reflect the name change to the Nova Scotia Central (c.116). Then, in 1892, the line was sold to the Windsor and Annapolis (c.107) and a final settlement was made of the outstanding right of way claims (c.108). The sale to the Windsor and Annapolis was confirmed in 1893 (c.102), notwithstanding any failure to comply with financing or construction deadlines and relieved the W & A from any obligation to build a railway west from Centreville.
This paved the way for the North Mountain Railway a decade later. Incorporated in 1902 (c.130), possibly as a subsidiary of the DAR (it had primarily English incorporators), the railway was to run west from a point on the former Cornwallis Valley between Kentville and Canning west to the DAR between Berwick and Middleton or some point between the DAR and the North Mountain. Time was extended by 1903-4, c.137; 1906, c.163 and 1908, c.133. The competitor for the same route, the Annapolis Valley Railway, was suspended for a year to allow the North Mountain to start work (c.131) (another example of a railway being chartered to push the completion of another line) and Kings County agreed to pay for the right of way as far as Kingston (c.132). By 1910, the railway had become the North Mountain Division of the Dominion Atlantic Railway (c.136) and the DAR got direct expropriation authority. Time was extended again in 1912 (c.201), with the consent of the Kings council. Arbitrators were appointed to settle the land costs and their appointments were validated in 1913 (cc.133, 134). This railway barely missed the almost certain cancellation that Wold War I would cause for others: steel shortages during the war and a severe depression after, not really overcome in Nova Scotia until World War II.
The Stewiacke and Lansdowne Railway
The tale of the Stewiacke and Lansdowne is particularly sordid, involving a reasonable, if optimistic, railway proposal, the likelihood that at least some track was laid, a former premier as a major promoter and financial disaster including litigation to recover the balance of shares subscribed for but not fully paid up. The story begins in 1886, with the incorporation of a company to build a railway from "some point on the Intercolonial Railway between Brookfield and Milford stations, to some point at or near Lansdowne siding on the Pictou Branch railway so-called, traversing the Stewiacke Valley". The Stewiacke Valley was a major agricultural area of prosperous farms, but the upper end of the valley and on to Lansdowne was (and is) largely unpopulated. The route was sensible and the connection, some miles south of Westville, sound. But was there enough traffic to support another Truro to New Glasgow railway? The evidence suggests there was not.
The next year the company obtained a mechanism for settling land claims and authorization to connect directly with the coal fields at Westville (1887, c.62). In 1888 (c.84), the company's powers were broadened, Simon Holmes and Charles Annand (former premiers) became incorporators, and the route was modestly redefined. Pictou County agreed to a subsidy in lieu of a free right of way; $500 per mile not to exceed $8,000, payable when the railway opened to traffic (c.91).
Fever struck the company the next year (1889, c.85), when routes were extended in every direction. Branches were authorized to connect with the Intercolonial at Halifax harbour and Windsor Junction, and with the Windsor Branch at Windsor through Newport. Another line was to run east through Antigonish and Guysborough counties to connect to the Eastern Extension. The provincial subsidy was limited to the line to Eastville. The extensions may have been added to entire shareholders. At least one later lawsuit was defended on the basis that the shareholder had only agreed to contribute towards the western extension to Windsor (he lost). These putative extensions may have represented the optimism generated by actually having laid some track (as with the Midland), but surely dissipated the company's energies and diverted them from their original objective.
The company tried again in 1890 (c.63) with an entirely new description of its route map, adding a railway from a point between Newtons' Mills (at the head of the Stewiacke) and Westville westerly to the New Brunswick border. This further duplication of existing lines made no economic sense and suggests that the railway's route extensions were only made on paper to suggest the company would build all the long-for railways Nova Scotians were pushing for. Government money (the usual salvation) just was not there. The Act did recite that the company had issued bonds at $15,000 per mile for the 25 miles between the Intercolonial and Eastville. Was the extended route map an effort to make the bonds more saleable as securities of an extensive railway network?
More prosaically, Colchester agreed to pay for its portion of the right of way, up to $9,000 (1890, c.98). Pictou County prepared to borrow its promised subsidy (1891, c.98). Land damages were the subject of the 1892 amendment (c.87). Pictou County changed its grant from $8,000 back to $500 per mile for up to sixteen miles from the Colchester line to Westville (1893, c.117) if the line was completed by February 1, 1895.
Then the railway went broke. By 1900 (c.120), the province was taking over that part of the line paid for by Colchester County, including the entire railway between the Intercolonial near Brookfield to Eastville, still in Colchester County, about 25 miles. The lands were to be held in trust for a railway to Eastville upon payment to the government of specified amounts. The list of amounts, Schedule A, amounts to three closely printed pages. An amendment the next year (1901, c.51) added even more debts to the list.
Pleas for help to the Dominion government had failed. Holmes and John S.D. Thompson, a prime minister, had been colleagues in the Conservative provincial government of 1878-1882. Thompson had actually succeeded Holmes as premier. But expecting Ottawa to subsidize the construction of a competitor of its own railway was unrealistic. The Stewiacke and Lansdowne was perhaps the most spectacular failure in Nova Scotia's railway history. It had plenty of company.
The Sydney and Louisburg
On Cape Breton Island, the most complete set of railway arrangements was that to connect the city of Sydney with the ice-free port of Louisbourg (spelled Louisburg until 1966, c.97). Here there were railways as early as the 1860s, serving the mines and doing double duty as public passenger and freight carriers. The Sydney and Louisburg was essentially an industrial railway to serve the mines at Sydney, New Waterford (Lingan), Dominion and the various parts of Glace Bay (particularly Bridgeport), Donkin and Port Morien (Cow Bay). The final version of the railway was a Dominion Coal Company enterprise and, when the railway was finally abandoned, it was owned by the Cape Breton Development Corporation (Devco), the owner of the Cape Breton coal mines.
Industrial Cape Breton was in some parts criss-crossed by industrial railways for the mines, the steel plant at Sydney and the two versions of the Sydney and Louisburg that were built.
The Louisburg Railway was incorporated in 1864 (c.36) to run from Louisburg to Cow Bay (now Port Morien) and thence along the northerly slope towards Bridgeport (now part of Glace Bay), Lingan or Sydney. Robert Belloni, the promoter, had extensive coal interests in Cape Breton, including the Block House mine at Cow Bay (1864, c.38). The same year, the International Coal and Railway Company was incorporated in 1865 (c.50) to run from Sydney to Louisburg. Belloni was still involved, as was John Jacob Astor, Jr (perhaps for the glamour of his name). The Block House Mining Company was authorized to guarantee its bonds (c.55). The International Coal and Railway Company was still active in railway ventures (1865, cc.65, 66; 1866, c.115; 1867, c.53).
In 1868, the Glasgow and Cape Breton Railway Company was incorporated (c.53) to build a railway from Sydney to Cow Bay via Bridgeport, connecting the mines but avoiding the difficult crossing of the Mira River. Its charter specifically avoided interfering with the vested rights of the International Coal and Railway Company. Other evidence suggests the International Coal and Railway Company and been running railways from at least 1865, doing duty as a public carrier on a regular basis.
A new Glasgow and Cape Breton (also incorporated in England) was chartered in 1872 (c.71) to connect Sydney and Cow Bay, extended to Louisburg. A new Block House Coal and Railway Company was incorporated at the same time (1872, c.72). The Cape Breton Company was incorporated in 1874 (c.73), also based on an English incorporation, representing an amalgamation of the Lorway, Schooner Pond and Glasgow and Cape Breton companies. This company had authority to build a railway, "the existing Glasgow and Cape Breton railway", to Louisburg.
The next Sydney and Louisburg Railway was incorporated in 1881 (c.73), having taken over the Cape Breton Company. Among the assets taken over were "the line of railway hitherto operated by the said Cape Breton Company, limited, and the lands whereon the same is situated". This railway ceased operation when a storm took out the bridge over the Mira.
In 1886, the International Coal Company, federally incorporated in 1877, having acquired the coal mines in Cape Breton (at Bridgeport) and the railway from the mines to Sydney, formerly of the International Coal and Railway Company, obtained authorization to operate the railway "leading from the mines of the company at Bridgeport to Sydney for general traffic and the conveyance of passengers and freight for hire" (c.145). The company's solicitors apparently overlooked the fact that federal legislation could not then authorize a company to operate a railway wholly within the bounds of the Province and the point had arisen in litigation. At this time, the old Sydney and Louisburg was not running to Louisburg.
Another Louisburg Railway was incorporated in 1891 to run from Sydney to Louisburg (c.127). Among the incorporators was Sir Donald A. Smith of CPR fame, and Hon. Loran E. Baker of Yarmouth, who had his hands in a lot of railway pies in Nova Scotia. Other incorporators were from Sydney and Cow Bay. An amendment (1892, c.84) secured the company a property tax exemption for the railway, a common feature of most Nova Scotia railway statutes that was eventually enshrined in general legislation (and has made it back into today's Railway Act).
The Act incorporating the Dominion Coal Company (1893, c.145) gave it the railway powers commonly possessed by a mining company, plus the specific power to construct a railway between the harbours of Sydney and Louisburg. The Dominion Iron and Steel Company (1899, c.139) also possessed railway powers, and its tracks wandered over downtown Sydney between elements of the steel plant, and from the plant to the piers.
Dominion Coal leased its lands to Dominion Iron and Steel to April 1, 1992 (1903, c.188). The lease is interesting because of its references to the railway interests of Dominion Coal, particularly its railway "commonly known as the Sydney and Louisburg railway". Other interests conveyed included the Sydney and Glace Bay Railway (streetcars). Contracts that passed included coaling contracts for the Intercolonial Railway at Sydney, the Dominion Atlantic Railway at Yarmouth, the Reid companies in Newfoundland (who then owned the Newfoundland Railway), Canadian Pacific Railway at Montral, the Great Northern Railway at Qubec and the Montral Street Railway. Legislation authorized improvements in the Dominion Coal railway, particularly the alignment at Catalone to eliminate a problem with washouts, and raising the embankment at Sydney to 8-1/2 to 10 miles out to reduce the limiting grade between the collieries and the shipping piers at Sydney. The two companies shared at least some officers. The lease was cancelled the next year (1903-4, c.156).
The North Atlantic Collieries were authorized to build a railway between the company's mines at Cow Bay or Port Morien to Louisburg (1903, c.241).
As a result of litigation, the exact tax status of the Dominion Coal Company railway was set out by legislation (1905, c.61). The line from the shipping piers to the cake ovens and a portion of the old Sydney and Louisburg at the coal yard were to be taxable. These portions of the railway were not actually open to use by the general public, and were used exclusively for the company's own purposes. A reduction in the minimum height over the track for Sydney bridges was authorized by 1906, c.159.
In 1910 (c.171), the two Dominion companies effectively merged their rail operations in yet another Sydney and Louisburg Railway. The officers of the railway were to be the officers of the two parent companies. The Dominion Coal Company was authorized to sell its railway to the new Sydney and Louisburg (1911, c.122), which was authorized to buy it (1911, c.155). Another bridge, this time in Dominion, was exempted from the height requirements (1912, c.238).
The Sydney and Louisburg, backed by the strong financial presence of the coal and steel companies and guaranteed coal traffic to Louisburg (at least in winter) continued to run trains into the late 1970s, including steam excursions. The station at Louisburg still stands, although the track is now taken up. It was always an important connecting link between Sydney and Glace Bay. Even in the early 1970s, groceries were delivered to the stores by rail and any interruption in the schedule could mean short rations.
The Cape Breton Railway
Another Cape Breton railway, usually known as the Cape Breton railway, ran from the Strait of Canso to St Peter's on the St Peter's canal. In spite of great ambitions, this railway could never muster the cost of the swing or draw bridge that would be required if it were to hurdle the canal to reach Sydney, as originally planned.
The main route of the Intercolonial Railway ran up the centre of Cape Breton Island, crossing the Bras d'Or Lakes at Barra Strait (Iona) over a long and expensive bridge complete with swing span. The Bras d'Or Lakes are a navigable waterway which once saw considerable freight navigation. The St Peter's Canal was constructed to give this inland waterway access to the Atlantic Ocean at its southerly tip. To the north, the lakes have ocean access through the Great and Little Bras d'Or. An arm of the lakes reaches in to Whycocomagh, making Orangedale, rather than Iona, the trans-shipment centre for northern Cape Breton Island.
Attempts to gain access to industrial Cape Breton tended to favour the southerly approach, because of the cost of crossing Barra Strait and the problems involved in another rail ferry in addition to the one at the Strait of Canso. Another problem solved by the Intercolonial, using unlimited federal money, was the large trestle at Ottawa Brook. The route up through Iona is among the most spectacular in Cape Breton, rivalling the Cabot Trail. Great scenery makes for difficult railway construction, however. Yet, the route to the south and east of the Bras d'Or lakes is scarcely less rugged. It is not surprising that, with one railway already in place, no real success ever attended the attempts to parallel it.
As early as 1878, the first Cape Breton Railway was chartered (c.55) to build from the Strait of Canso to Sydney or Louisburg by way of St Peter's, with branches to West Bay, Whycocomagh, Broad Cove and other points on the Bras d'Or Lakes. While some attempts were made to get the companies interested in the Eastern Extension to agree to run rails in Cape Breton,, too, the next serious step seems to have been the Cape Breton Extension (1884, c.70), to run from the Strait to Sydney or Louisburg. Its incorporators included the president of the Anglesea Railway of Philadelphia, a railway contractor from Toledo, Ohio, and the president of the Ontario Pacific Railway. Whether these were chosen to prevent a respectable front or were seriously interested in the project is unknown. A land grant of 2,000 acres per mile was promised. The charter was revived in 1886 (c.75).
A new entrant for the St Peter's route was the Cape Breton Railway and Annex Steamboat Company (1886, c.76), promising a railway from the Strait of Canso to St Peter's, from East Bay to Sydney, and from North Sydney to a point below George's River on the Little Bras d'Or, a total of 48 miles. The company intended to run steamships to connect its lines on the Bras d'Or and crossing the Strait of Canso to connect with the eastern extension. Apart from the number of transfers from ship to rail involved, which was not as serious a problem at the time, the concept was a well thought out combination of steamship and rail transportation economics. The incorporators, who included the mayor of Halifax, were apparently men of substance.
A new Cape Breton Railway Extension was incorporated in 1890 (c.72) to build from the Strait of Canso to Sydney or Louisburg. At $400,000.00, it appears to have been seriously undercapitalized. It was extended in 1892 (c.81).
Then, in 1896, came the Canso and Louisburg Railway, incorporated by veterans of the might-have-been railways such as Benjamin Pearson and the Hon. Isadore LeBlanc (c.84). This railway was to run from the Strait of Canso to Sydney or Louisburg, with branches from Grand Ance (Anse) to Arichat on Isle Madame and connecting with other railways. The intent was to run through St Peter's. This was extended in 1898 (c.131), but then disappears.
The railway that was actually built was a further reincarnation of the Cape Breton Railway Extension. This company's 1899 charter (c.126) took the unusual step of not specifying the route, although the drafters may simply have overlooked it. The recitals show the promoters intended to build a shorter and more direct route between the Strait of Canso and Louisburg "than at present exists". The incorporators also obtained authority for a bridge, tunnel or ferry over the Strait of Canso.
In 1900 (c.168), the Cape Breton Railway Extension received authority to run a branch from Barrosois, St Louis on its proposed line to Arichat. By 1902, the line was underway: Cape Breton County obtained authority to borrow $16,000 for the right of way (c.67); Richmond County got authority for $10,000 (c.122) for a line from Cash's Cove on the Strait of Canso to the Cape Breton County line; Richmond County was divided into appraisal districts on the line of the St Peter's Canal (c.123); and the company got power to build branch lines in Cape Breton County (c.190).
The railway got stuck on the canal, however, even though the province came through with a subsidy of $5,000 per mile for the railway from St Peter's to Louisburg (1905, c.2). By now, the railway was commonly referred to, even in the long titles of statutes, as the Cape Breton Railway. Later, we find the corporate name was actually changed to the Cape Breton Railway Company on July 11, 1901, and that the line from Point Tupper to St Peter's was built (see 1921, c.154). This 1921 statute refers to a forthcoming sale of the line to the Government of Canada and confirms land acquisition and the change of corporate name. Rather surprisingly, for a railway that was actually constructed and in operation, the statutory framework for this railway seems to have been fairly slipshod and not up to the same level of thoroughness of most railway promotions. On the other hand, the company may have paid more attention to content than form, with results that paid off in an operating railway.
The Short Line (Oxford to Pictou)
The so-called Short Line along the shore of Northumberland Strait had its origin in proposals by the first Whitehaven Railway Company, which switched its focus from the route to the Atlantic in 1879 (c.68). The name comes more directly from the Great American and European Short Line Railway Company (1882, c.23), incorporated to build a railway from the northern part of the island of Cape Breton, near Cape North, to the Strait of Canso and from New Glasgow to Oxford or Amherst, with branch lines in Cape Breton and in Pictou, Colchester and Cumberland counties, including the operation of a ferry over the Strait of Canso and either running rights over the Eastern Extension or a parallel railroad. This was a grandiose project by a grandiose company that had similar broad plans in New Brunswick. The next year, it extended its route plans (1883, c.25) to run from New Glasgow to the New Brunswick border at Tidnish and from Spring Hill Mines (Springhill) to Spring Hill Junction or Oxford Station or some point between. Another railway was to run from Maccan to the Bay of Fundy near Joggins Mines, and another from Tidnish to Amherst. However, the legislature did insist that the company's first obligation was to complete and operate the line between Oxford Junction and Pugwash, which appears to have been under construction at the time. Land acquisition was the subject of the 1884 statute concerning this line (c.7). The corporate name was changed to the Montreal and European Short Line Railway Company, and its assets, chiefly in Cumberland, Colchester and Pictou counties, were charged to the North American Construction Company (1885, c.39). The railway from Oxford to New Glasgow had been constructed, but work was suspended owing to a shortage of funds which the mortgage was intended to alleviate. It seems to have worked; the line was built and operated into the 1980s as part of the Canadian National network.
Proposals for parallels or extensions include the Nova Scotia Northern (1902, c.133; extended 1903-4, c.139; 1905, c.133), an ambitious unbuilt project that sought some of the original trackage, including the route from Pugwash to Tidnish.
The Inverness and Richmond
The people of Inverness were long-suffering and a bit jaded by the time the Inverness and Richmond finally made Broad Cove. The railway up the west coast of Cape Breton Island had a long history of proposals, since there was adequate traffic along the route to justify a railroad even in today's tighter market. Significant coal mines existed at Mabou, Port Hood, St Rose, Chimney Corner and Broad Cove (Inverness). There were a great many efforts to extend the railway north to Cheticamp, but there was a much smaller market there and, while promises were made, in fact the railway stopped for good at Inverness.
The first effort to reach Broad Cove from the Strait of Canso was the Inverness Railway (1874, c.63). In addition to the railway, the company was authorized to run a ferry across the Strait of Canso to connect to the projected Eastern Extension. The Inverness Coal Field and Railway Company was the new company name (1875, c.67). Its powers were extended to include coal mining at Broad Cove and to provide a free right of way for its railway. These powers were repealed in 1876 (c.75), and the company again renamed to the Inverness Coal, Iron and Railway Company. A preferred stock issue was authorized in 1878 (c.57). The company was revived in 1886 (c.146), but lost its railway powers and became strictly a coal mining company with respect to the mines at Broad Cove. At the same time, it was authorized to sell its undertaking.
Coming at Broad Cove from a different direction was the Inverness and Victoria Railway (1887, c.57), which was to be built "from some point on the Cape Breton railway now being constructed by the Dominion government, via Whycocomagh to Broad Cove coal mines, Margaree and Baddeck, with a branch to Cheticamp and other points" (s.1).
The same year, the first Inverness and Richmond Railway was chartered (c.60) to run from Margaree to Mabou and Port Hood, then to Hawkesbury, "connecting with the Cape Breton railway now being constructed", with a branch to Whycocomagh. The Act was amended in 1888 (c.78) for corporate matters and the route was altered (c.79) to run from the rear of Port Hawkesbury in Richmond County [the precise location of the Richmond Inverness boundary in this area was not resolved until a few years ago] through Port Hastings, Judique, Port Hood, Mabou and Margaree to a point at Eastern Harbour, Cheticamp. The County of Inverness was authorized to borrow up to $25,000 for the right of way (c.83). The legislature was growing impatient; the time was extended only to May 1, 1889 (1889, c.83). This probably meant the railway construction was about to get underway.
In 1890, Inverness County, which had already agreed to pay for the right of way, agreed to pay a subsidy of $20,000 per ten miles of road completed (c.68) and obtained authority to borrow up to $100,000 to cover the cost of the estimated fifty miles of railway from Port Hastings to Broad Cove Coal Mines. The subsidy would be half if a Dominion subsidy was acquired. A smaller subsidy was offered for the extension to Cheticamp. Appeals from right of way appraisals were dealt with at the same session (c.69) and the corporate structure was altered (c.70).
Surprisingly, the Inverness and Victoria was extended for a further three years in 1891 (c.84). At the same session, Inverness made another attempt to finalize the land claims (c.88).
In 1892, the legislature was more concerned with seeing the railway completed. The charter of the Inverness and Richmond as extended to 1894 to allow for the completion of the line from Port Hawkesbury to Cheticamp (c.105) and was extended again in 1894 (c.94), 1896 (c.105) and 1897 (c.89).
There was a little more progress in 1898. Inverness County was authorized to borrow up to $50,000 for the right of way (double what was first authorized in 1888) (c.106). An agreement between the county and the railway was ratified (c.107). The railway's charter was amended to cover a line from the Strait of Canso to Cheticamp by way of Port Hood, Mabou, Broad Cove and Margaree. A branch from Mabou to Whycocomagh was contemplated, to connect with the Intercolonial near Orangedale. (Most earlier Whycocomagh connections had been planned for the Margaree Valley; this proposal ran by Lake Ainslie). The agreement recites the county's intention to grant up to $100,000 at the rate of $1,000 per mile, to be payable $50,000 on completion of the line to Broad Cove and the remainder on completion to Cheticamp. While the company agreed to construct the line to Broad Cove, the extension to Cheticamp depended on federal and provincial subsidies of $3,200 cash per mile. The provincial government was already committed to that level of subsidy. Interestingly, the agreement refers to a resumption of construction. Completion to Broad Cove was anticipated for July 1, 1898.
In 1899 (c.133), the agreement between Inverness and the company was extended to give an extra year to complete the line to Broad Cove, with thirty miles to be finished in 1899 and the remaining 23 miles in 1900. The company was also authorized to construct a branch from the Intercolonial to Port Malcolm, another example of successful construction leading to expansion plans.
The railway neared completion in 1900. The province had been talked into a subsidy of $4,000 per mile, $800 per than allowed by the General legislation (c.41). This subsidy was only for the Broad Cove line. Inverness increased its borrowing limit for the land claims to $60,000 (c.81) and revised the way it was handling claims (c.82). The railway obtained approval to once again extend its completion date, this time to June 15, 1901, with the first thirty miles to be completed in 1900 (c.85). A recital confirms that thirty miles of track had been laid by December 31, 1899. Finally, the municipality and the newly incorporated town of Port Hawkesbury agreed on their respective shares of the land claims (c.86).
The railway was pretty well finished in 1901. Inverness municipal council obtained authority to pay its bonus of $1,000 per mile for a branch from the main line to Orangedale as originally agreed, but inadvertently omitted from the agreement (c.107). A new method of settling the land damage claims was adopted (cc.109, 111). The right of way lands issue came up again in 1902 (cc.104, 105).
Now that the railway had been built from the Strait of Canso to Broad Cove and was in operation, it was financially more secure. So it looked for traffic, and bought the Inverness-Richmond Collieries and Railway Company of Canada, which operated coal mines at Broad Cove (1902, c.162). The merged company was renamed the Inverness Railway and Coal Company.
In 1903, the legislature tidied up some loose ends. Some of the land expropriated on plans filed before 1899 had been abandoned by the railway. In consideration of the construction of the coal shipping pier at Port Hastings and the promise to build another at Cheticamp when the railway gets there, if needed, and the company's gift of land at Broad Cove (property of Broad Cove Coal company), the municipality agreed to pay for the rest of the land needed for the railway (c.97). The pier at Port Hastings had to be completed by January 1, 1903 (it must have been, or an extension would have been built into the statute). The company did not get authority to grant (free) an eighth of an acre to the new town of Inverness for a town building until 1909 (c.92). The site was at the corner of Railway Street and Central Avenue.
The Joggins Railway
The Joggins Railway was essentially a mining railroad to get coal from the mines at Joggins and River Hebert to the Intercolonial at Maccan. The first railway (1883, c.76) was to run "from the Shores of the Bay of Fundy, at or near the Joggins aforesaid, to the Intercolonial Railway, at or near Maccan Station". In some ways, this is the simplest case of railway legislation in Nova Scotia, for, by 1887 (c.63), the Minudie Railway Company was being chartered to connect "a suitable point on the Joggins railway to Minudie in the county of Cumberland", another coal mining centre. The simplicity of the early legislation is clearly the result of a fairly short, fairly easy route for a bulk product, coal, in ample supply. The only serious engineering problem was the bridge across River Hebert, and that was a relatively simple problem.
The Minudie extension was more complex. In 1888 (c.80), that company was authorized to cross the Joggins Railway and extend its operations up the west side of River Hebert to Young's Mills, a distance of five or six miles. Interestingly, at the same session (c.85), the Joggins Railway, renamed the Joggins Coal and Railway Company, was authorized to also build a railway to Young's Mills, up the east side of River Hebert.
In 1889, the land damages question arose (c.102). Apparently, the railway took too much land for its right of way. A new survey was undertaken and filed. The statute validated the new plan and provided for the appraisal of the value of the land taken. The next year this action had to be repealed (1890, c.106) as it had been taken without notice and the Joggins Railway company "had been in possession of the lands hereinbefore mentioned for a long time". The new survey was cancelled and a list of valuations appended to the statute was validated. There were 38 names on the schedule. The municipality was required to pay the values set out. In 1891, two earlier plans were validated (c.76) and the towns required to pay their shares.
Corporate changes were the theme of the next several years. The Canada Coals and railway Company (which included the redoubtable Simon Holmes among its incorporators) was incorporated by statute in 1892 (c.159) with general railway powers. It acquired the Joggins Railway. A minor amendment was made to its charter in 1893 (c.189).
A Minudie Coal and Railway Company was incorporated in 1903, with authority to run a railway from River Hebert Corner to Minudie, crossing the Joggins Railway and River Hebert (c.190). This appears to be much the same line as originally chartered to the Minudie Railway in 1887. The charter was amended in 1905 (c.137), but the railway proposal remained much the same.
The Spring Hill and Parrsboro
The Spring Hill and Parrsborough was an early coal railway from the mines at Springhill (then spelled as two words) to tidewater on the Bay of Fundy at Parrsboro, long an important harbour. The Spring Hill and Parrsboro Coal and Railway Company was incorporated in 1872 (c.70) as both a mining and a railway company. Its proposed route (shown as built on an admittedly optimistic Atlas) would join the Intercolonial at Spring Hill Junction with the mines and Parrsborough. It was one of three railways (the others being New Glasgow to Louisburg and Annapolis to Yarmouth) for which provincial subsidies were promised (1872, c.17). The subsidy was confirmed in 1874 (c.12): 10,000 acres, and $5,000 per mile in cash or bonds. The company received borrowing authority (1874, c.72). The next year the company had to get a statute to explain its borrowing authority: 1875, c.69. Then, in 1883 (c.85), the company had to be liquidated. The railway was clearly in existence at the time. However, the revenues were insufficient to pay the interest on the bonds and the company was bankrupt. Interestingly, this railway appears not to have received a free right of way.
The Liverpool and Milton
The Milton Tramway was incorporated in 1872 (c.64) to construct a horse tramway from Fredericksville Mills on the east side of the Liverpool River to a rafting place on the west side a short distance below the Lower Bridge. The tramway was to be laid in the road and would cross the river on the Upper Bridge. This is a precursor of parts of the railway constructed some years later, and shows a unique relationship between a tramway and a later railway.
The Liverpool and Milton Tramway was incorporated in 1896 (c.88) to construct a tramway or railway in and between Liverpool and Milton "and on to the pulp mill". The confusion between tramway (rails set in a road) and railway was due to the fact this railway was always a little of each, the tracks being laid in the streets of Liverpool, but operated by main line steam locomotives characteristic of railways rather than the electric trolleys of street railways. The authorized railway was in the streets of Liverpool and Milton, and the highway between them, "thence by the west side of the Mersey River [referenced to as the Liverpool River in the Milton Tramway charter] to the premises of the Milton Pulp company, limited, and thence across the river to the pulp mill". Again, unlike electric interurbans, this was a standard (4 feet, 8-1/2 inches) gauge railway. An alert company also had authority to operate omnibuses or sleighs for passengers if there was too much snow for the trains. The Act was suspended until May 15, 1896, when it would take effect unless the Nova Scotia Southern's plan for a Liverpool to Annapolis railway had been put into effect. The statute is an interesting blend of street railway and general railway powers and restrictions. The Nova Scotia Southern was not moving, for the next year's minor amendments (1897, c.87) included the removal of the clause giving that railway precedence.
In 1900, the name was changed to the Liverpool and Milton Railway (c.176). The company was allowed to run its trains across any of the streets in Liverpool and across the head of the docks in the harbour, as far out as Fort Point. The company was relocating its track to less frequented streets and trying for better access to the harbour. The company also obtained power to sell the undertaking. The Town of Liverpool's authority to regulate the railway in the town gave rise to some very messy litigation, as well as a first-hand record of the railway in operation provided by the trial judge. Then, in 1907 (c.14), the sale of the railway to the Halifax and South Western was authorized, with the province lending $13,500 per mile to pay for it. Apparently, this deal did not go through at once, since the company was given authority to run a line from Milton via Greenfield and Caledonia to Bear River, and had its capital increased, in 1910 (cc.151, 152). Perhaps this was a manoeuvre on the part of McKenzie and Mann, since this railway is not mentioned again in the statutes.
The Nova Scotia Central
The Nova Scotia Central, from Middleton to Bridgewater and Lunenburg, was a long time building. The statutory maze of its various reorganizations as it wended its way towards Bridgewater over the South Mountain is remarkable. The progress of the railway was as slow as its famous Blueberry Special, so-called, because (at least by report) a passenger could jump off the front end and pick a pail of blueberries before the last coach came by. These trains were typically fairly short, reducing the apparent speed even more. Another name for the trains was the Sauerkraut train, obviously referring to the German original of the settlers in Lunenburg County to which they were bound.
The route, up the Nictaux River and then down the Lahave, presents serious difficulties for railroading. The Nictaux gorge in its upper reaches has little flat land. The overland route to Bridgewater was seldom used; the real destination was Liverpool. The 1860 Appropriation Act (c.41) refers to a grant of $60 to John Merry "to enable him to keep a halfway house between Liverpool and Nictaux". (The Merry family resided generally in the Zwicker Lake area.)
The Nictaux and Atlantic Railway Company was chartered in 1873 (c.40) to build a railway from Middleton, in the Annapolis Valley, to Bridgewater and Mahone Bay, with an extension to Liverpool. Middleton was already served by the Windsor and Annapolis, but Bridgewater would not be connected directly to Halifax for another thirty years. The railway was well-capitalized in theory: the authorized capital was $2.5 million with power to raise it to $5 million. The company was to receive free land for a right of way, plus 75,000 acres of Crown land in Annapolis and Lunenburg counties, and 25,000 acres in any other county it passed through.
In 1875, the company changed its name for the first time, to the Nova Scotia, Nictaux and Atlantic. The opportunity was taken to extend the time for start-up and for completion. Provincial policy to assist the railway was spelled out in 1876, c.2, authorizing splitting the proposed subsidy among several companies if they would build parts of the railway from Middleton to Lunenburg, provided the line was diverted to run within six miles of Pleasant River Bridge, Queens County. Gauge was set at standard (4'8-1/2"). In 1878 (c.23), the requirement to divert to near Pleasant River Bridge was deleted.
A further time extension was obtained in 1879 (c.67). The "railway from Middleton to Lunenburg" was part of the grand scheme for railway consolidation advanced in 1882 (c.20), at the last session of the Holmes-Thompson administration. This Act (in a schedule) noted both that the line had yet to be constructed and that it would run about seventy-two miles. The new company would get unexpended subsidies less a potential arbitration award for unpaid labour and materials on the Nictaux and Atlantic, as well as 150,000 acres of land located as provided in the Nictaux and Atlantic legislation.
The company's own legislation was also amended in 1882 (c.22). It would get an extension and a subsidy, but the subsidy was cut because the route was shorter. Railway wharves were to be built at Lunenburg, Mahone Bay and Bridgewater. A spur to Mader's Cove was authorized. Interestingly, the company was required to use steel rather than iron rails. The land subsidy was to be conveyed as soon as the company spent $30,000 of its own money. The financial subsidy would be paid $10,000 for every $20,000 spent by the company, but half the total subsidy would be held back until completion. The company was required to settle all outstanding claims. As well, a line to Liverpool (bonused at 2,500 acres of land per mile) was authorized. The final section of this comprehensive revitalization provided that the company was exempt from the proposed railway consolidation.
Two years later, the company needed more time, although it had settled the outstanding claims and resumed operations (1884, c.6). The Provincial Loan Act (1884, c.3) authorized borrowing $350,000 to pay the subsidy to the Nova Scotia, Nictaux and Atlantic if it became entitled to it. Another extension (but only to the middle of December) was granted in 1885 (c.38).
Another name change followed in 1886 (c.17), this time to the Nova Scotia Central Railway Company. A further extension of time was granted, if the company demonstrated that it had vigorously resumed operations. A further extension came in 1887 (c.3) and the company received further powers and had its financing approval. Part of the subsidy held back was also advanced. Then in 1888 (c.77), it was allowed an extension if it had laid 34 miles of track and the balance was in an advanced state of completion.
In 1889, it seems the company was getting close to the end. One act (c.79) extended time and allowed more of the outstanding subsidy to be paid. Another provided for the terminal at Bridgewater (c.80). Still another (c.81) allowed the railway to extend its line from Middleton over the North Mountain to Margaretville on the Bay of Fundy. The geographical obstacles this line would face are perhaps no more than those already overcome in traversing the South Mountain (higher, though not as steep). This is another case of sudden optimism overcoming a company when its railway seems finally complete.
In 1890, there were another three statutes relating to the line: c.65 respecting compensation for landowners in Lunenburg county, c.66 to change the location of the railway near Mahone Bay and to ensure the payment of its bills, and c.67 respecting the depot at Bridgewater. The railway was regarded as substantially completed. Land compensation in Lunenburg was the subject of 1891, c.67; c.93 provided for final payment of the subsidy, but as the railway "has been in operation for over a year, but is not thoroughly completed", payment would be postponed until it was completed to the satisfaction of Cabinet.
Completion, of course, did not mean the railway's troubles were over. Optimism was high though. Land damages (1892, c.114) were still unsettled and the railway obtained a one-year extension for final completion (1892, c.115). "Owing to the length of time that the Nova Scotia Central Railway was under construction, and the many changes that were made from time to time in its location, certain doubts and disputes have arisen as to the width of the said road in certain localities, and the quantity of land expropriated therefor" (1893, c.47), it was necessary to define the route specifically. A highway was authorized from the station in the rear of Mahone Bay to the village (1893, c.116).
In 1891, the Central Railway Company was incorporated to build a railway from New Germany to Windsor or Bedford. Among its incorporators were James D. Eisenhauer and Fletcher B. Wade, active in financing the Nova Scotia Central (c.125) to allow the Central to buy the Nova Scotia Central and, at the same time, extend a branch to Annapolis Royal. At this time, Eisenhauer and Wade had effective control of the Nova Scotia Central debentures. The charter was renewed in 1896 (c.89), authorizing acquisition of the Nova Scotia Central and a line to Annapolis Royal, and a line from Blockhouse or Mahone Bay to Halifax. Another statute (1896, c.90) recites an order of foreclosure on the Nova Scotia Central on bonds of $1,000,000, with sale to Eisenhauer and Wade for $550,000, with a subsequent sale to the Central Railway and validates the transactions. The Crown lands that were to go to the Nova Scotia Central were vested in the new company. Then, in 1903, the Central Railway was authorized to sell out to the Halifax and South Western, with the province advancing $425,000 to the H&SW in return for a first mortgage on the Central. The H&SW was also authorized to borrow a $100,000 by way of a second mortgage on the Central, and the general H&SW mortgage to the province under 1902, c.1, became a third charge. Mackenzie, Mann & Co. Limited were to get the proceeds of the second mortgage.
Thus, thirty years after it was first proposed, but barely ten years after it was completed, the Nova Scotia Central became part of the Canadian Northern, eventually Canadian National. The route was operated for passenger service into the 1950s and for freight until abandoned in the 1980s.
Pugwash and Spring Hill
Pugwash, on the shore of the Northumberland Strait in Cumberland County and now the location of important salt mines, was an early target for railway promoters seeking to connect the Intercolonial with salt water. Eventually, it was served by the Short Line, until that line was abandoned by CNR. The Pugwash and Spring Hill Railway was chartered in 1872 (c.61) to connect the coal mines at Spring Hill (now generally spelled Springhill) to Pugwash. At Pugwash the coal could be shipped up the St Lawrence to Montreal. Other proposals were attempting to connect Springhill to the Bay of Fundy in order to tap the American market. On completion, this railway would get 10,000 acres of Crown lands. In 1874, the Legislature agreed that it would be enough if the railway just ran from Thompson Station on the Intercolonial to Pugwash Harbour (c.61). The Act was extended and new incorporators (investors) were added in 1877 (c.73) and again in 1879 (c.69).
Legislation was needed to encourage some shorter extensions. The then Town of Dartmouth was authorized to pay a subsidy of $4,000 a year for up to twenty years to any company building a line from Windsor Station (or any other point on the Intercolonial) to Dartmouth (1882, c.37). This was a large sum, as the statutory limit on the total tax levy for Dartmouth was only $15,000 at the time. Any funding from the Government of Canada would be used to reduce the cost of the subsidy to the Town. The authority was replaced the next year and also allowed the Town to strike a deal with the Government of Canada to extend the Intercolonial, and gave the Town the option of paying the subsidy at the rate of $2,000 per year for forty years. The Central Short Line Railway Company (1892, c.131) was eventually chartered to construct this line (notable incorporators included Fletcher Wade, of the Nova Scotia Central and Simon H. Holmes) but, in fact, the Government of Canada through the Intercolonial actually built the connection.
Railways in Halifax
Halifax, already served by the railway, did relatively little. Perhaps it had been burned by having to pay ten per cent of the cost of the original Nova Scotia Government Railway (although later it did contribute to the cost of the right of way for the Halifax and South Western). In 1884, (c.30) the legislature confirmed the location of the siding from Richmond to the Nova Scotia Cotton Manufacturing Company, which had been laid in and across various streets with the consent of City Council. The next year (1885, c.50), the city was authorized to subsidize the cost of the siding to $9,000, as it would be of general assistance to others. The factory itself was located south of Young Street and east of Oxford (now housing).
North Sydney offered a bonus to attract the railway, but then spent years trying to pay off the loan and get the money back. First was the undertaking to pay for the land for the right of way, station grounds and terminal facilities "for the extension of the Cape Breton railway into the town of North Sydney" (1888, c.88). The ratepayers had approved September 8, 1887. The particular Cape Breton railway the town was concerned with was the Intercolonial, the only railway likely to (and which did) run into the town. The follow-up legislation came twenty years later. In 1909 (c.98), the town was authorized to borrow short term, postponing the issue of further debentures, pending a decision by the federal government as to whether it would repay the $3,200 expended under the authority of the 1888 statute. A further extension was received the next year (1910, c.94), the next (1911, c.76) and the next (1912, c.121). A final extension was received in 1913 (c.106).
The then Town of Sydney agreed to provide the land for an extension of the Cape Breton railway from Freshwater Creek to Barrack Point, up to $4,000 (1888, c.89).
The Springfield Railway
The Davison Tramway (later the Springfield Railway) was the most significant of the various logging railways that were built and operated in Nova Scotia. It was originally chartered in 1904 (1903-4, c.146) to run from a point on the Halifax and South Western (former Nova Scotia Central) between Alpena Station (south of Nictaux) and not more than two and one-half miles south of Cherryfield and from any point on the Caledonia branch, to points on the timberlands of the Davison Lumber Company (or which it has acquired). The name was changed to the Springfield Railway Company the next year (1905, c.135). Time for completion was extended in 1906 (c.158). In 1920 (partly as the result of a lawsuit, or perhaps the change gave rise to one), the company was authorized to run its rails to any point on the margin of a river or lake to which logs from any of the Davison lands could be driven (c.182).
Mabou and Gulf
Another industrial railroad was the Mabou and Gulf, intended to serve coal mines in and around Mabou, Inverness County and, in part, to overcome the monopoly of the Inverness and Richmond, which had its own coal mines at Inverness. The original charter (1902, c.134) authorized a railway to connect the Mabou coal mines with the Inverness and Richmond and with Mabou Harbour. Another line would connect with the Intercolonial near Orangedale and a third would connect the Intercolonial with a shipping pier at Caribou Cove or Inhabitants Bay, Richmond County, for access to the Atlantic Ocean.
The next year, Inverness County council rescinded their grant of $6,000 in lieu of a right of way for the Mabou Coal Mining Company and instead granted a free right of way to the Mabou and Gulf for the whole railway in Inverness County (1903, c.96). The right of way was to be generally 100 feet wide, with up to five acres for a station, ten acres at junctions or terminals and ten acres for a shipping point at Mabou Harbour. A separate resolution, confirmed by the same statute, provided an additional subsidy of $1,000 per mile for the line to Orangedale. These resolutions were revalidated by 1903, c.98. The County was authorized to borrow $30,000 to pay for the land required and taken by the Mabou and Gulf for the railway tracks, stations and appurtenances (1903-04, c.96). In 1905 (c.98), the county received authority to apply $8,000 of the money borrowed under 1900, c.81 ($60,000 for the Inverness and Richmond) towards the cost of the Mabou and Gulf land between Mabou coal mines and the junction with the Inverness Railway at Glendyer.
The Mabou Coal and Railway Company was incorporated in 1908 (c.135) with power, among others, to acquire the Mabou and Gulf. It altered its incorporators and extended time in 1910 (c.153).
Middleton and Victoria Beach
In western Nova Scotia, the Middleton and Victoria Beach was essentially an industrial railroad to give the Torbrook Mines access to a port without having to use the Dominion Atlantic. It was soon acquired by the Halifax and South Western, to give its former Nova Scotia Central line access to Annapolis County and a port, and ran general freight as part of the Canadian National until finally abandoned in the early 1980s. A fairly large port installation was constructed at Port Wade, the western terminus. The line west of Bridgetown was abandoned about 1928. This line came closest of any to being the railway to Victoria Beach first authorized by the 1854 Railway Act.
The first effort to establish a railway along the north side of the Annapolis River west of Bridgetown was the Granville Valley and Victoria Beach Railway Company (1891, c.126). Incorporators included forestry giants such as Robert Fitzrandolph and John Barnaby, general merchants like W.W. Pickup, James N. Thorne and W.W. Chesley, and lawyers like Parker, Fay and Thorne. This railway gathered twenty-one of the men of substance in western Annapolis County to its support. The railway was planned to run from the Windsor and Annapolis at Bridgetown west to Victoria Beach.
The Granville and Victoria Beach Railway and Development Company (1897, c.82) represented a second attempt to build the same line. Among its incorporators were Orlando T. Daniels, later an attorney general, and John Ervin, perhaps the father of incorporated Bridgetown. There was enough interest that it was worth getting an extension (1899, c.129). When the next extension was obtained (1901, c.160), the name was changed to the Middleton and Victoria Beach Railway Company and the eastern terminus was moved to Middleton. Perhaps there had been trouble working out arrangements with the Dominion Atlantic, or possibly the management was wary of having to depend on a single connection. Just as likely, the Torbrook mines were starting to produce ore in quantities attractive to any railway.
Bridgetown ratepayers approved giving the railway a free right of way (1902, c.62). Unusually, the town itself acquired the land and turned it over to the railway. Special authority was needed to acquire the whole of the trotting park in Bridgetown, which the railway effectively destroyed (1903, c.117). The municipality of Annapolis borrowed $30,000 to pay for the right of way outside the town (1903, c.119). The company validated its organization (1903, c.175) and obtained authority to sell. Changes in the location of the line west of Bridgetown were authorized by 1903-04, c.142.
As part of the Halifax and South Western's acquisitions program, it picked up the Middleton and Victoria Beach in 1905. The province lent up to $10,000 per mile, less subsidies, to help pay (1905, c.1). The subsidy payable to the Middleton and Victoria Beach was cancelled in return for the loan.
The mortgage to secure the provincial loan on the Middleton and Victoria Beach was confirmed by 1906, c.2. By this point, the sale had been completed. Mileage was fixed by Cabinet at forty. A subsidy of $96,000 had been paid, leaving $304,000 to be advanced to the H&SW towards its purchase cost. As part of the mortgage the H&SW undertook to maintain rail service on the line.
Halifax and South Western
I. The Coast Railway (Halifax and Yarmouth)
The Halifax and South Western finally completed the south shore railway between Halifax and Yarmouth. It was part of the Canadian Northern Empire of Mackenzie and Mann, and fell with it to become a part of Canadian National Railways. Along the way, it acquired the Nova Scotia Central, the Middleton and Victoria Beach and the Liverpool and Milton railways. The last of its lines was abandoned in the 1980s.
The legislative history of the H&SW is extremely complex, as befits a railway heavily dependent on government support throughout its brief life. It starts with its predecessors on the province's north shore.
Railways to Yarmouth, Shelburne and Liverpool had been promised for decades, but the inhospitable terrain and the relatively small population deterred railway building. An early entrant was the South Shore Railway, chartered in 1892 (c.130), to connect Yarmouth with Shelburne, via Barrington.
The next year, the Coast Railway was chartered (1893, c.154). It had a complex history and there is some thought that it was created to be bought out. This was originally planned as a narrow gauge railway, which would be cheaper to build, virtually the only narrow gauge public carrier the legislature ever authorized. The original plan was to connect Yarmouth via East Pubnico, Wood's Harbour, Barrington Passage and Shelburne to Lockeport. Soon (1894, c.102), the company was active and extended its plans to include branches from Tusket to Carleton and Kempt (inland in Yarmouth County) and from Pubnico Head to West Pubnico (down the west side of Pubnico Harbour). Another branch would run from Barrington Passage to Port LaTour. additional powers were granted in 1895 (c.124), the most important of which was the authority to change to standard gauge. The 1896 statute (c.103) dealt with the acquisition of land and materials, authorized the extension from Lockeport to Bridgewater via Liverpool, and extended its time. The extension to Liverpool as authorized subject to the Nova Scotia Southern's right to build it first, another example of the legislative pressure put on that company to do what it had undertaken to do.
The next of the annual statutes (1897, c.84) records that the Coast (not the Nova Scotia Southern) now had the authority to connect Lockeport and Liverpool, and the company could extend its line from Bridgewater into Halifax. It could also carry on the business of an express company (c.85). By 1898, c.128, its time was extended (under tight conditions) and the line was changed to connect with the Nova Scotia Central. A branch from the north end of the Liverpool and Milton to Caledonia was approved.
Then, in 1899, a new appraisal was ordered in Barrington (c.123, at the Coast's cost). More significant was a thorough revision of the company's statutory authority (c.128) which changed the company's name to the Halifax and Yarmouth, reflecting its current pretensions. Bonds of up to $5,000,000 were ratified. The whole was subject to proclamation, an unusual attribute of railway legislation.
The new appraisal was validated (1900, c.105). Barrington paid for some of the right of way (1903, c.45), suggesting that construction was very slow to proceed. That line had been authorized ten years before. A new branch was authorized, from Arcadia and Salmon River to Tusket Wedge (Wedgeport) (1903-04, c.136).
Then came the takeover (1905, c.1), where the H&SW bought the Halifax and Yarmouth with provincial funding of $13,500 per mile. The last mention (1906, c.128) was to settle land claims in Argyle.
The Coast (Halifax and Yarmouth) was constructed as far as it got with virtually no public money, unlike its successor.
II. The Nova Scotia Southern
Another contender on the South Shore was the Nova Scotia Southern, which had switched it focus from the Annapolis to Liverpool route; it was formerly the Annapolis and Atlantic.
The Annapolis and Atlantic was originally incorporated in 1888 (c.82) to build a railway from Annapolis to Liverpool, with a main branch to Shelburne and Sand Point and branches to Barrington and Lockeport. An extension was granted in 1890 (c.76) and again in 1891 (c.128). In 1892, the company was authorized to build a line to Halifax (c.69), provided that the line from Annapolis to Liverpool was built first. The name was changed to the Nova Scotia Southern in 1893 (c.65), at which time the prohibition on connecting with Halifax before the railway between Annapolis and Liverpool was opened was taken out and the entire focus of the railway shifted to the south shore. The statute was reworked in 1894 (c.76). Extensions were granted in 1895 (c.133) and in 1897 (c.88. The company was to build from Shelburne to New Germany and from Indian Gardens to the Liverpool and Milton Tramway by the end of the year (1897, c.88), although, if thirty miles of track were laid, the company could have an extra year. From this statute and others that gave construction rights to other companies, subject to the Nova Scotia Southern building its railways, it is apparent the government was losing patience.
Then, in 1898 (c.129), the company lost the right to run into Liverpool as the cost of its latest extension, and was to build from the northern end of the Liverpool and Milton to Caledonia.
In 1899 (c.134), the railway lost its line to Annapolis and was required to build fifty miles of track, ten of which were to be north of Liverpool (from Indian Gardens). The lines left were from Sand Point on Shelburne Harbour to the Central Railway in Lunenburg County and from Indian Gardens to the Liverpool and Milton's northern terminus. A further time extension (1900, c.185) saw the Nova Scotia Southern get back its line from the Central Nova Scotia to Chester and Halifax.
Then in 1903 (c.3), the railway was simply vested in the Halifax and South Western. There is no hint of the reason or authority for the action. Other sources suggest the statute merely confirms a sale. Nothing further is heard of the Nova Scotia Southern until 1909 (c.7), when a statute was passed to provide compensation with respect to lands taken by the Nova Scotia Southern outside the limits of the New Germany to Caledonia line acquired and completed by the Halifax and South Western.
III. The Halifax and South Western
The legislative story of the Halifax and South Western itself begins in 1901 and involves another 34 statutes over the next twelve years. The government of the province, anxious to see a railway from Halifax to Yarmouth on the south shore, proposed substantial aid (1901, c.3). Any part of the railway already constructed (such as the line from Yarmouth to Barrington built by the Coast Railway) was eligible for the same aid. A corporation to construct the new railway could be established by proclamation, letting it get started faster. Cabinet was authorized to buy the line from Yarmouth to Barrington, if need be. The aid promised was a loan of $10,000 per mile, rather than a subsidy. In all likelihood, Mackenzie and Mann had already approached the provincial government.
The H&SW contract was ratified in 1902 (c.1) for a railroad from Halifax to Yarmouth. The contract called for construction from Halifax to Barrington Passage. The province would lend $13,500.00 per mile of the main line. The company also agreed to build a line west fro the Nova Scotia Central to Caledonia. William Mackenzie signed the contract on behalf of the company, which had been incorporated August 21, 1901 (the contract was dated August 20). The line was mortgaged to secure the loans with, apparently, $3,200 per mile (the old subsidy) to be forgiven on completion. The company's charter was confirmed by 1902, c.3 (original grant July 30, 1901).
In keeping with the Mackenzie and Mann reputation for actually building what they said they would, then moved rapidly. In 1903, their purchase of the Central Railway (former Nova Scotia Central) was confirmed (c.2) at substantial expense to the province, which advanced $425,000 towards the acquisition cost and the company raised another $100,000, paid to Mackenzie, Mann & Co., by second mortgage. The Nova Scotia Southern, as noted, was simply vested in the H&SW (c.3). The City of Halifax provided up to $5,000 to pay for the right of way (c.75), as did the County of Halifax (c.83) and the Municipality of Chester borrowed up to $30,000 for its share (c.152).
The next session (1903-04) saw ten statutes related to the Halifax and South Western. Cabinet was authorized to borrow enough money to cover the costs of the agreement with the company (c.7). The City and County of Halifax sorted out their respective responsibilities for the right of way (cc.53, 54, 55). The Municipality of Lunenburg was authorized to borrow money for H&SW land (c.105) and apportioned the liability among the towns and the municipality (c.106), which included the land for the branch to Caledonia. Bridgewater had to borrow its share (c.109). The railway was swiftly moving west: Queens borrowed its share of land cost as well (c.123). However, an extension of time was needed (c.134) and authority was granted for new lines (never built) from the Caledonia branch to Liverpool, from Lunenburg to "the village at Ritcey's Cove" [Riverport] and through Petite Rivire and Dublin Shore (west side of the Lahave River) (c.135).
The acquisition of the Halifax and Yarmouth (former Coast) and the Middleton and Victoria Beach was confirmed in 1905 (c.1), at a loan cost to the province of $13,500 per mile for the Halifax and Yarmouth, and $10,000 per mile for the Middleton and Victoria Beach. Queens increased its borrowing limit for land from $10,000 to $30,000 (c.117) and the Municipality of Shelburne obtained authority to raise its share (c.120). Since the railway crossed a good many streets in the then-unincorporated town of Shelburne, some of which were unopened, and had graded the road thought the town, the municipality had to be given authority to close the streets to public use to avoid an excessive number of crossings (c.122). Barrington also borrowed for its share of the connection (maximum $6,000) (c.125).
The next year, 1906, was taken up by land claims. A mechanism was adopted to settle claims with respect to the former Coast Railway in Argyle, at the expense of the H&SW (c.128). A street near Halifax was diverted (Dutch Village Road from Fairview to the head of the North West Arm) to simplify the crossing (c.129). Liverpool agreed to provide a right of way and station grounds, and to share in the cost of the right of way in Queens County (c.147), and Shelburne borrowed up to $3,000 for its share of right of way costs (c.151).
The mortgages on the railway were consolidated and interest capitalized in 1907 (c.11). The company's powers were extended to include telegraph, telephone, gas and electricity (c.12). Liverpool agreed to provide land for a short spur connecting the main line with the waterfront (1908, c.125). The survey in Queens County from one mile east of Broad River to the western boundary of Queens understated the size of the land to be taken; the larger area was vested in the company and Queens had to pay for it (1908, c.127).
In 1911, the Halifax and South Western was authorized to sell the lands it had received as part of its purchase of the Central Railway (the original Crown land grant) if the proceeds were used to pay down the debt due the province (c.27). Title problems in the Shelburne revised right of way were resolved (1911, c.78).
A new statute (1912, c.27) authorized the H&SW to issue new bonds up to $20,000 per mile of its railway, including acquisitions (which by this time included the Liverpool and Milton). The province credited the company with the $3,200 per mile subsidy on the lines from Halifax to Mahone Junction and from Bridgewater to Barrington Passage, the lines actually built by the H&SW. Also credited were the whole of the Middleton and Victoria Beach (the subsidy for which had earlier been cancelled), the Liverpool and Milton (which apparently never got a subsidy) and the branches to Caledonia Corner and to Torbrook Mines. Interestingly, the bonds were to be guaranteed by the Canadian Northern. Financing was also the subject of the last statute to refer to the Halifax and South Western (1913, c.64).
The Dominion Atlantic Railway
The Dominion Atlantic Railway, which eventually absorbed the Windsor and Annapolis, the Western Counties, the Midland and the Cornwallis Valley, was essentially regulated by federal legislation. Nonetheless, a few provincial statutes apply to it. In 1905, its acquisition of the Midland was confirmed (c.130) and it was authorized to build the Midland's proposed line from Truro to the Northumberland Strait. The province guaranteed DAR debentures of 190,000 in 1910 (c.134). There was a minor amendment (1910, c.135) and the land cost for the right of way for its North Mountain Division was settled (1910, c.136).
The Dartmouth and Cow Bay
A strange little railway was the Dartmouth and Cow Bay, essentially an electric suburban line chartered in 1911 (c.120) to run an electric railway (street railway) in Dartmouth with an extension to Cow Bay Beach. This was one of the railways undoubtedly seeking to use the electric railway subsidies brought in that year (1911, c.7). Corporate powers were extended and its time for completion put off in 1914 (c.170). It was likely a casualty of the war, since it is not heard of again.
Postwar statutes are rare but, in 1920, Amherst needed statutory authority to close a street and convey it to the federal government to cure a crossing problem (c.95) and to allow a siding for Amherst Pianos to be installed on conditions (c.99). The crossing description was modified in 1922 (c.61).
Another set of later statutes dealt with the Halifax Terminals, constructed by MacKenzie, Mann & Co. The Government of Canada expropriated land near Point Pleasant Park for railway and terminal purposes. Some streets had been opened in the are, but compensation to the City was to be limited to any cost it had actually incurred (1913, c.71), even through it technically owned the streets. Then, in 1917, an agreement between the City and the Government of Canada respecting the location of "the Ocean Terminals of the Canadian Government Railways at Halifax" was ratified (c.87), settling the compensation payable to the City for streets, taxes and services.
Note: all references of the nature: 1913, c. 87 are references to the Province of Nova Scotia annual statutes (the year) and chapter number in that volume. Proper citation is: S.N.S. 1913, c.87. The Government of Canada also legislated extensively in the area of railways, although not to the same extent as the provinces until late in the period considered. These statutes are not considered above, and to that extent the material may be somewhat misleading.
Note to Readers: a few of the inferences from statutes implied in the foregoing are wrong, although the actual content of statutes is accurately portrayed. Correction of errors and omissions would be appreciated. These notes, which may be of some interest to others, were collected for my personal use in a planned history of Nova Scotia railroads that may some day come to pass.
©1999, John R. Cameron, all rights reserved.