Story of the Musquodoboit Railway

Before the railway came to the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia, goods were slowly hauled over rough dirt roads or else moved along the coast by boat.

The first effort towards bringing the railway service to the area east of Halifax was in 1884. This was the year that the first railway bridge was completed from Halifax to Dartmouth, across the Narrows of Halifax Harbour.

A Dartmouth man, Duncan Waddell, was in charge of construction for the huge stone pier upon which the swing section or “draw” of the bridge would rest, so vessels could be allowed to move into Bedford Basin, located north of the narrows. The stone pier, located near the Dartmouth shore, was constructed in about 35 feet ( about 10 m ) of water, by driving piles into the gravel bottom to a depth of five or six feet ( about 2 m ). These acted as guides for building the pier, which was to hold the bridge, being built by the Starr Manufacturing Company of Dartmouth.

The wooden trestle-work of the bridge, constructed by M.J. Hogan of Quebec, rested on eight foot ( 2.4 m ) stone-filled cribs, spaced on the harbour bottom every 10 feet ( 3.0 m ). The piles were then secured to the cribs. As the depth of the water was about 75 feet ( about 22 m ), the piles had to be built in three sections, and spliced with eight-inch ( 20 cm ) deals* spiked into place. This proved to be extremely weak, especially when no form of side-bracing was used.

* Deals: Fir or pine boards or planks cut to standard dimensions;
planks of softwood timber, such as fir or pine, or such planks collectively
[Middle English dele, from Middle Dutch
and Middle Low German dele, plank.]

**(The first bridge across Halifax Harbour, claimed to be the first swing-type bridge completely built of steel in Canada).**

The 1500-foot ( about 460 m ) wooden structure, used solely for the railway line, was curved with its convex side pointed towards Bedford Basin. This was designed so as to resist the flow of ice through the Narrows.

During the summer of 1891, just seven years after the Intercolonial Railway finished construction, the government was made aware of the extremely weak condition of the bridge. But, improvements were never made.

Just minutes before midnight on September 7, 1891, two-thirds of the bridge was ripped from its footing during a mighty storm. All that remained was about 150 feet ( about 50 m ) on the Halifax end, the draw and its pier, plus a few hundred feet from the draw to the Dartmouth shore. The Acadian Recorder of September 8, 1891, put the cost of repairs at well over $50,000.

Suggestions were put forward by Dartmouth Town Council that it would be better to construct the railway line along the shoreline from Bedford to Dartmouth, rather than rebuild the bridge. However, the federal government decided to rebuild the structure, stating that the land route was not “deemed advisable.” Like the first bridge, it was poorly constructed and not braced. This time it was made more in a straight line and thus made much shorter. Completed in 1892, the contractor was Connor’s of Moncton, New Brunswick.

It was about six hours after a train crossed the bridge on a calm Saturday night that it came down again. About 2:00am, on July 23, 1893, almost two-thirds of the bridge slipped into the water and floated up into the Basin.

Left stranded on the Dartmouth side of the harbour were 34 freight, coal and boxcars. Of these, 19 were at the sugar refinery with the remaining at several other industrial sidings. Most of the cars were Intercolonial, although seven were G.T.R. [Grand Trunk Railway] or C.P.R. [Canadian Pacific Railway].

“How flimsy the structure was, is shown by the collapse, for it came down in less than two years with hardly a breath of wind moving,” the Halifax Herald commented.

The Acadian Recorder explained the cause of the disaster on July 25: “An explanation of the breaking away of the Narrows Bridge is that the piles were worm-eaten almost through between high-water and low-water mark. When the last train went over on Saturday evening its supposed that these rotten supports gave way, and resting on the surface, the bridge actually sinking the that extent, or being held very frailly. Then, when the tide rose, sometime after midnight, these broken timbers were lifted, sagged, and the whole thing swept away. The danger of loss of life may therefore be seen. Death was lying in wait, but his ambush was happily escaped.

** (George Chapman was on the Dartmouth railway survey with the engineers. All the old routes were traversed and one new survey made. It crosses Wright’s Stillwater, near Hardwood Grove and then leads into a gulch that extends right through to West Waverley. Only one or two cuts of any depth occur, and no trestling to speak of. This line is 8½ miles long. It is east of Anderson’s Lake and does not go near the Enchanted Lakes or Lake Charles. This gulch suits admirably for railway construction. It is so level, and there are gravel beds right along for ballasting and grading. The survey terminates at Windsor Junction. At this end there is a choice to be made. The aim was to connect with the old branch at the bridge. But the idea is now to bring the line in on the highlands, and fall down slowly to some point nearer Dartmouth than the Narrows. The object of that is to enable mills and factories that are going to be built in the north end to have a siding that will bring raw material in as well as take products out. The old line was inconvenient in that respect. It was in the shore, and the land rises so abruptly from the harbour that it was folly to think of building sidings to factories above. Halifax Herald, 24 July 1894)**

At a meeting of the town council in Dartmouth, the following was presented: “J.C. Oland, Esq., Mayor of Dartmouth: The undersigned citizens of Dartmouth request you call a meeting of the ratepayers at the earliest possible date to consider the advisability of memorializing the Dominion Government and requesting them not to rebuild the Narrows Bridge, but to build a branch road to Windsor Junction.”

In 1896, the Intercolonial Branch Line from Windsor Junction to Dartmouth was opened, a distance of 12.5 miles ( 20.1 km ). It was during this same year the Halifax and Guysborough Railway Company Inc., was formed to build a railway from Halifax to Guysborough via the Musquodoboit Valley. No work was completed on the line.

On January 30, 1897, residents of the Musquodoboit Valley met at Middle Musquodoboit to discuss the proposed railway. Disturbed by the fact that no work was being done on the line, they “endorsed a proposal to construct a railway from Halifax via the Musquodoboit Valley to Guysborough,” and urged immediate government action. However, the residents of Guysborough and area wanted the line to be constructed from Sunny Brae.

** (A proposition has been made to Minister of Railways Blair (and to Mr. Fielding, when he was acting in that capacity), that the Dartmouth branch line should run over its length, from the junction to the town, thirteen miles by electricity, instead of at present. The proposition comes through John Starr and Sons Limited. It is claimed that a great success has been effective and far less costly for short branch lines. The saving effected is said to be great, and that in the case of Dartmouth, it could have half a dozen trains a days where there are now three. 1898) **

During March of 1898, the Musquodoboit Railway Company was incorporated under Nova Scotian Statutes. The projected line was to run from Dartmouth to Dean’s Settlement, in Guysborough County, by way of the Musquodoboit Valley. When construction failed to start, the charter was extended from its original expiry date of March 1900 to the following year. Still no work was done.

** (The Musquodoboit Railway survey is finished. A gentleman in town from that vicinity says that the surveyors finished their work yesterday morning from Waverley to Upper Musquodoboit. They report that it is a fine roadbed, and thus ensuring quick time in construction. 1898) **

During 1901, the Nova Scotia Eastern Railway Company, Inc., was formed to construct a line from Halifax area and New Glasgow to Country Harbour and through on to Guysborough town. The following year the Musquodoboit Railway Company and the Nova Scotia Eastern Railway Company amalgamated under the Nova Scotia Eastern name. Under the directorship of M.H. Fitzpatrick, it was to construct a railway from New Glasgow to Guysborough and Dartmouth to Dean’s Settlement. Again, no work was completed.

In 1903, the provincial government contracted with the Nova Scotia Eastern Railway Company to construct a railway from Dartmouth to Country Harbour using a provincial government subsidy of $5000 per mile ( $3100 per kilometre ). However, the English financiers refused to back the railway company and the work still didn’t get started.

** (Ferry Commission Chairman Johnson brought up the matter of a new ferry waiting room on the Dartmouth side. He thought that the next building should be of brick, and if they would interest the Dominion Government it might be arranged to have the trains stop, and report from there, making a kind of station. In this the commission were agreeable. Mr. Troop suggested that as Mr. Russell of the I.C.R. would be in town it would be as well to ask him to look over the place, and make suggestions. 1901) **

The company was given a time extension on their charter, by the government, through 1903 and into 1904. During 1904, Mr. Fitzpatrick did manage to start a short section of track, a move that helped win votes for some government members. However, the line had only started when Mr. Fitzpatrick died, and Mr. Coffee, his secretary, took over the company, and continued to negotiate with the men of money to receive sufficient backing to continue. But then, Mr. Coffee died, and all efforts seemed to stop completely. The company was given a time extension into 1905, with a provision attached that the Dominion Government could enter into a new contract with another company if the Nova Scotia Eastern did not complete the line as promised within the time given.

On June 7, 1906, the secretary of the Nova Scotia Eastern Railway Company informed the Minister of Railways and Canals of Canada that his company would not build the railway line. All rights, including subsidies, were to be transferred to a new company being formed.

In 1906, Sir Montague Allan, a Montreal financier, along with C.J. Coll of Stellarton, general manager of the Acadia Coal Company, with the backing of the Acadia Coal Company of Pictou, organized the Halifax and Eastern Railway Company. Incorporated under Chapter 161 of the Nova Scotia Statutes, the new company was to build a line from Halifax-Dartmouth to Dean’s Settlement and from Sunny Brae to Guysborough town (for coal export). The total mileage was to be 230 miles ( 370 km ), and the provincial government contracted with the company for a subsidy of $12,000 a mile ( $7450 per kilometre ), with the federal government kicking in $3200 a mile ( $1990 per kilometre ). During the summer and fall of 1906, the provincial government paid for a survey of the proposed route. This was completed in 1907, but a disagreement arose over which route to take, and both Sir Allen and Acadia Coal Company withdrew their support. The plans died.

1906 map showing the surveyed route from Deans to Eden Lake (never built)
1906 map showing the surveyed route from Deans to Eden Lake (never built)

This is a portion of a "Map of the Province of Nova Scotia to illustrate the report 'Gold Fields of Nova Scotia' by E.R. Faribault" complied and published by the Geological Survey of Canada, 1906. This map was primarily a geological map, but it also showed all existing railways in Nova Scotia and several that were in the planning stage. (On the left side of this map, along the Stewiacke River, we can see a part of the planned route of the Stewiacke Valley & Lansdowne Railway, which got as far as constructing part of the roadbed — cuts and embankments — but never laid any rail.)

** (One of the worst accidents in Dartmouth for years occurred this morning about 9:00 o’clock, when George Conrod, a native of East Chezzetcook, was struck by a train and fatally injured, dying a few minutes after being removed to the hospital. George Conrod generally comes up to Halifax once a week, does business, and returns home. He usually comes up on Friday, but in this case he came earlier, arriving late last night. It is his custom to put his horse and team in Edward Warner’s barn overnight. This morning he was up and about early, making preparations for a return home, as the weather looked very threatening, and as he wanted to reach home before the storm broke in all its fury. Shortly after 7:30 he harnessed his horse and started for Matheson’s mills, backed his horse in, and commenced to get on his load. (It may be explained here that just as the train reached the Cove there is a sudden turn, which leads past Matheson’s.) The horse was backed away at a safe distance from the track, and just about the time the train came along Conrod was up on the seat and was about to start. The horse, ever alert, heard the train come rumbling along, even before the master, and picked up its ears and began to start. Conrod endeavored to pull him in, but without success, the horse getting well in the middle of the track. Looking up Conrod must have been horror stricken at the sight that met his gaze. There, not fifty yards away, was the train coming south, at a pretty good pace, and there was the horse stubbornly standing on the track, as if determined to resist the oncoming locomotive. What were the thoughts of the man as he looked in the face of death can better be imagined than described. There was the train coming on at full speed. He might have saved himself, but with great self-sacrifice he endeavored to save the horse, and in doing so received injuries, which caused his death a few minutes after his arrival at the Victoria General Hospital. 1901) **

During 1908, the provincial government was still trying to get the line built. Negotiations were set up with J.B. Bartram of Toronto, with a provincial subsidy of $6400 per mile ( $3980 per kilometre ), which was matched by the federal government. This gave a total of $2,700,800 for the revised route of 211 miles ( 339 km ). Bartram (J. Bogert Bartram, Vice-President, Canadian General Securities Co. Ltd.) began to seek financing in order to raise the remaining capital necessary to build the railway.

By 1910, the survey was completed and the route agreed upon. On June 13 th , a charter was set up for construction, setting out the starting date as September 1 st , with the work to be completed by the first of September, 1913. This was for a new route of 216 miles ( 348 km ), Dartmouth to Guysbourough via Dean’s Settlement and from New Glasgow to the main line from Dartmouth near Country Harbor Cross Roads, and on to deep water at Country Harbour.

By now, the federal government didn’t want to be involved in branch line construction unless under Intercolonial policy, so the branch line became a federal concern. As no work had been carried out, the federal government could enter into contract with anyone. By the summer of 1911, the survey wasn’t completed, and no decision was reached on the route. The Dominion Government, through the Department of Railways and Canals, purchased in the autumn of 1911, the Halifax and Eastern Railway plans (paid by the ICR Capital Account in 1912, a total of $85,000). With the plans came all the rights attached.

The new contractors were Cavicchi and Pagano, who started work in 1912. As one railway employee put it, the line was “built out of scrap” rail from the main line, mostly 56 pound ( 56 pounds per yard, or 27.8 kilograms per metre ), with some 67 pound ( 67 pounds per yard, or 33.2 kilograms per metre ), 70 pound ( 70 pounds per yard, or 34.7 kilograms per metre ) and 80 pound ( 80 pounds per yard, or 39.7 kilograms per metre ). There was very little 85 pound ( 85 pounds per yard, or 42.2 kilograms per metre ), as the main line from Truro to Halifax was then only 85 pound. A lot of ballast came from Debert (outside Truro), with 30 to 40 yards ( 23 to 30 cubic metres ) per car, of which it is reported that only about 5 cubic yards ( about 4 cubic metres ) was good ballast.

The rest of it was made up of rocks, some up to three feet ( one metre ) in diameter, and clay, which would spray water as trains passed over it. A little ballast came from the slag piles at the steel mill, but it made very poor ballast. Crushed stone was considered the best, although cinders were used quite a bit. The cinders were easy to handle, nice to pack, and good to trim. But as work progressed, problems arose, mainly with poor drainage, especially in the spring and fall. Much of the work was done with pick and shovel, working by hand.

At Cole Harbour, before the railway causeway was built, the whole harbour was very shallow. It was once full of horses, as dykes and gates were used. During the construction on the line, the men could leave the track, dig two buckets of clams, and be back in thirty minutes, and most of that time was for walking. To build the long causeway, wooden trestles were constructed, then side-dump cars buried the trestles by dumping fill from above.

Rocky Run, at the end of Porter’s Lake, couldn’t keep the lake properly drained, so a canal had to be cut at Three Fathom Harbour. A Mr. Conrod made a “fortune” one fall, earning $100 for 100 days of work. As the area was mostly rock, drillers, most of them old miners from East Chezzetcook, were employed. They worked on the canal for years, especially when an election was coming up. A wooden bridge crossed the canal (later to be replaced, in 1912, with a concrete bridge, built by Harry O’Brian).

By 1915, the line was graded close to Dean’s Settlement, with track laid for ¾ of the distance. Few of the bridges were completed, as some were being manufactured out of steel in Ontario and Quebec. Railway stations were not built immediately, as the line moved onward, but constructed a little later.

Resident Engineer for the construction of the line, during 1912 and 1913, was Robert Porter Freeman, BSc, MEIC, who took two years off from his civil engineer degree at the Nova Scotia Technical College to do this work.

The Construction Engineer for the first section, from Dartmouth to Eastern Passage was Reginald E. McCollough. This area was later extended to Cole Harbour and on to Lawrencetown.

Huge passenger train

During the July 1 st holiday of 1915, a “huge train” of 14 passenger cars of Masons made an excursion up the line.

On July 1 st 1916, the line was officially opened to Upper Musquodoboit, a distance of 66.63 miles ( 107.2 km ) from Woodside (outside Dartmouth). The first train travelled the route on January 3 rd . Once completed, the line became part of the Canadian Government Railways.

In Musquodoboit Harbour, the train stopped near the site of the present station. A caretaker sold passenger tickets, but after a few months, Musquodoboit Harbour (known to the railway as the “Harbour”) became the first booking station. The first agent was H.L. Hall followed by the first permanent agent, Fred Lomas.

Upper and Middle Musquodoboit stations were set up during the latter part of 1916.

The first engineer on the route was John Daine, a man who would run on the line for almost 18 years. The first arrangement for passenger service on the new railway was with a passenger car attached to a freight train, making a round trip every other day, except Saturday. On this day, a full passenger service was provided. The first conductor was Harry Baker and the first baggage master was Murray Haines. The first roadmaster was C.W. Archibald, and some of the first section foremen included Andy Feetham, Percy Conrod and Herbert Gaetz.

The first agent at Middle Musquodoboit was Harold West, sent out to open the station. H.L. Hall replaced him on May 8, 1917, until 1920, as the permanent agent.

Track layout at Upper Musquodoboit (showing the wye at end of track)
Track layout at Upper Musquodoboit (showing the wye at end of track)

Before the wye was established at Upper Musquodoboit, to turn the engines around, trains were often pushed up the line, rather than being pulled. A wye was eventually established, with one also being constructed at Windsor Junction. Also located at Windsor Junction was the first water tank used to keep the steam locomotives filled. The next water tower was located at Seaforth. Musquodoboit Harbour did not have a water tower, but at Bayers Lake, a couple of miles ( 3 or 4 km ) north of the community, a stand pipe was used. The stand pipe was operated with a sluice under ground, bringing water down from a small lake, which was dammed and situated in the hills above the railway line. The same type of system was used in Dartmouth, except the water was supplied by the town water supply. The last water tank on the route was located at Meaghers Grant, near the Musquodoboit River.

Maintenance on the line was carried out at the small two-engine roundhouse in Dartmouth. The roundhouse had no turntable and relied on a wye, which was installed for turning the locomotives. One of the jobs of the night man at the roundhouse was to keep up steam in the engine by using cheap slabwood as fuel.

14 trains a day

Once the line was established, the number of daily trains slowly increased to the point, around 1919, when there were 14 trains a day. Most of the trains were gravel trains, with one passenger train (each way) per day and a general freight train every other day.

** (A railway roundhouse was gutted in Dartmouth early in the morning of December 30, 1901 – one of the last major news events of that year. The Acadian Recorder reported: “An alarm of fire at 12:05 this morning was for a blaze in the I.C.R. Round House. Young Patterson, son of Wm. Patterson, discovered the blaze, and sent in an alarm, and when the firemen with the apparatus arrived on the scene flames were bursting from all sides of the building. The firefighters soon got to work, and quickly had streams of water playing on the fire, but it seemed to have no effect, and it was decided to pull down one side of the building, which was done, and about 2:00 o’clock the flames had been drenched out. The building is pretty well wrecked, all the inside being burned, only the walls standing. A locomotive was also totally destroyed. The origin of the fire is not exactly known, but it is stated that the cause was a spark from the engine. 1901) **

Hand cars were, as on other railways, used a great deal by the sectionmen. In addition to the standard hand “pumper”, there were a few velocipedes (a 3-wheel vehicle powered by its passenger) around, considered to be a good car. The first type of motor cars supplied by the railway were Sylvesters, however, the federal government wasn’t in any hurry to provide them on this line. One of the section foremen, Percy Gaetz, became tired of the pumpers, and so he purchased one himself. It consisted of a motor unit to convert a pumper. After reading an ad in a magazine, and seeking railway permission, he ordered one and attached it to his old hand car. Some time later he ran into a gravel train at Terminal Beach and broke the water jacket on the “Casey Jones”. He had to send for a new water jacket, but shortly after he went on the extra gang and sold the unit to Amos Gaetz and Art Kniffer because “they got tired* of pumping too”.

*Handcar – How it works 8:13

In addition to the usual commercial and industrial sidings in and around Dartmouth, and the oil refinery sidings at Imperoyal, there were a number of sidings put in along the line.

At Cole Harbour summit, a special passing siding was put in so that trains could be cut in half, making two short trains, to be hauled over the summit (elevation c. 110 feet or 33.5 metres ), Along Lawrencetown beach areas, a short siding was put in during the “dead of winter”, using a crew of about 40 men. This siding was used to haul beach gravel, which was used in concrete production in the days before the rock crushers. Terminal Beach was a fairly extensive siding, also used for the removal of beach gravel. On this siding saddle back (water tanks over their boilers) “Dinkies” were used to haul the gravel cars from the loading ramps out to the main line siding, when the gravel train would be “made up.” As with other such sidings on the line, the company using the siding had to build it and maintain it as well. The maintenance was usually carried our by the railway crews and the company was billed for the service. This siding has now been completely removed, leaving nothing but the old ramps and bushes.

Near the canal at Three Fathom Harbour, a siding was used to hold the cars that were loaded from Logan’s Mill, situated at the bottom of Porter’s Lake. On a straight stretch, past the canal, was another siding, parallel to the main line, and next to the highway. Across the highway was a gravel pit, where the gravel could be hauled out and dumped into the waiting cars from ramps built out from the highway, next to the siding. This siding has also been removed.

There was a fairly long siding at Seaforth, running from the main line, across the highway, and out onto the beach area. Gravel from here was used for bridges in back of Halifax. “Dinkies” were used to haul 2 or 3 cars at a time out to the main line siding, where the complete train would be “made up”.

Petain siding was put in by a chap named Steve Woodward. In addition to being used as a passing track (several of the main line sidings were open on both ends), cars of lumber were loaded from another mill that Lou Logan operated down by the lake.

Another siding used for lumber and pulp wood was located along the curve at Chezzetcook. Some of the lumber, in later years, was hauled into the siding by trucks, from Porter’s Lake.

Musquodoboit Harbour, a short siding was provided at the station and another one just east of the community to supply the bulk oil storage tanks.

Bayers Lake, a couple of miles ( 3 to 4 km ) past Musquodoboit Harbour, Robin Jones and Whitman spent close to half a million dollars building a mill and box factory, turning out lumber, barrel staves and headings, as well as boxes. A siding was provided, holding up to 6 cars. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, about 100 cars a summer were loaded on this siding. Today, only the flat grassy area reveals that a siding was once located on the spot.

The siding at Meagher’s Grant was used for shipping our lumber and pulp wood. At Middle Musquodoboit, there were several sidings, serving the bulk oil plant, lumber companies, as well as general freight. At the end of the line, Upper Musquodoboit, several sidings served lumber industry, general freight and the shipping of limestone from Mosher’s Limestone plant.

In addition to these larger sidings, there were also a number of small ones at various spots for general freight or a small local business, such as at Desert Station, Elderbank, Reid and Kent.

Some of the stations along the route were fairly large, and quite nicely finished, with waiting rooms, freight sheds, ramps, platforms and living quarters for the agent. Some of the larger ones were located at Dartmouth, Musquodoboit Harbour, Middle Musquodoboit and Upper Musquodoboit. The Dartmouth and Middle Musquodoboit stations have been torn down (with the Dartmouth station being replaced with a concrete cracker box!), while the Musquodoboit Harbour station has become a community center and railway museum. The Upper Musquodoboit station is the only remaining original station in operation (as of 1979). The “Upper” station, however, is in very poor repair and probably will not exist much longer. In addition to the larger stations, smaller ones of various sizes were provided at about two dozen other communities. While some had living quarters, most were not much more than a shelter or shed. They have all been torn down or sold.

During the depression (1929-1939), much rebuilding was carried out, just to give men work, in many cases. Pay amounted to 25 cents an hour for a ten hour day. During this time, some of the wooden bridges were replaced with concrete ones, ditches were dug, and the shoulders were widened. Crush stone ballast was added to many sections. This upgrading, including replacing the rails with heavier tracks, took place over a number of years, but the line never did reach a very high standard of quality.

Trains were often called “Blueberry Trains”, being so slow that some passengers claimed you could pick berries as it went along. But blueberries weren’t the most popular thing with the man who came along every so often to clean the outside toilets at many of the stations. He hated the blueberry season, and wasn’t very happy as he came along with his shovel and other tools all rolled up.

As Canadian National Railway (originally Intercolonial) began to replace all the steam engines with diesel locomotives, the number of steam engines in the 1950’s and 1960’s declined steadily. The last steam engine reported to have used the line is Canadian National 3409.

As the use of personal automobiles for travel to Halifax-Dartmouth increased with better highways, and trucks began to replace the train for shipping goods, the train service declined. In 1959, the timetable was changed so that the daily train left Dartmouth at 6:00am and arrived at Upper Musquodoboit at 9:15am, returning from Upper at 10:15 to be in Dartmouth at 2:15pm This plan was just the opposite to the natural passenger travel pattern, and the number of passengers fell off sharply. The railway then applied for the removal of passenger service, being the standard method used by most railways to gain permission to drop passenger service that could not pay for itself. The last passenger train service on the line was in 1960.

Since 1960, the freight service has also declined, due to shifts in handling methods. Trains on the line now travel on an “as needed” basis, with no trains usually travelling the line in winter. The only cargo still travelling over the line is general freight once in a while, some wood products and a little limestone. Due to the poor condition of the line, there has been a 25 mph ( 40 km/h ) speed limit over most of the line.

Canadian National applied about 1975 to discontinue operation on the line, except for the Dartmouth area. The future of the line is unknown at present (1979), but it will take a new source of freight to keep it going, or it may soon follow the fate of other branch lines.

** (The new diesel engine, recently purchased by the CNR is mainly employed in the run from Dartmouth to Windsor Junction. The growth of the Dartmouth area in general, including expansion of Imperial Oil, Irving Oil, Fairey Aviation and the Navy have made the Dartmouth railyards one of the busiest centres in the province. 1954) **

1980 update:
The hearings into the closing of the line were held this year in Middle Musquodoboit. The railway was the only submission to support the closing and a number of submissions opposing it were presented. As of December 1980 no word has been received on the results of the hearing.

The Musquodoboit Railway, officially known as the Dartmouth Subdivision, between Caldwell Road (mile 20.50) and Upper Musquodoboit (mile 81.87) was officially authorized abandoned on 28 August 1983 by Board Order R-32623. In October 1991 this abandoned section was sold "en bloc" to the Province of Nova Scotia for $107,750 based on an area of 735 acres at the overall rate of $146.50 per acre.


Dorman, Robert: A Statutory History of the Steam and Electric Railways of Canada, 1836-1937. Ottawa, Dept. of Transport/King’s Printer, 1938.
MacDonald, Bruce: The Guysboro Railway. Antigonish, NS: Formac Publishing Company.

Letters and interviews:

Dominion Bridge Company
Freeman, Barberie Ogle
Hall, H.L.
Matheson, Rand
Myers, S.A.
Parker, William A.
Ritcey, Robert M.
Rout, George S.
Tibbetts, R.C.
Weary, P.H.
Williams, Mrs. E.S.
Conrod, Percy

The late David E. Stephens was the founder and a director of the Musquodoboit Railway Museum, Musquodoboit Harbour, Nova Scotia. He is the author of IRON ROADS: RAILWAYS OF NOVA SCOTIA and former editor of the Directory of Canadian Railway Museums and Displays, as well as the author or five books (mainly historical non-fiction).

Source of this text:

Also see:
Guysborough Railway by Bruce MacDonald
Musquodoboit Harbour Railway Museum
History of Railway Companies in Nova Scotia
History of Telegraph and Telephone Companies in Nova Scotia

First uploaded to the WWW: 2012 August 13
Latest update: 2021 February 21