New Brunswick Railway

New Brunswick Railway
Locale western New Brunswick, Canada
Dates of operation 1870–
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge), 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)
(Cape gauge) until 1881[1]
Headquarters Woodstock, New Brunswick

The New Brunswick Railway (NBR) was a historic Canadian railway operating in western New Brunswick. Its headquarters were in Woodstock.

Contents

History

New Brunswick industrialist Alexander Gibson commissioned a survey in 1866 for a railway line extending from his mill facilities in South Devon at the junction between the Nashwaak and Saint John Rivers opposite Fredericton, north to Edmundston to service timber lands which he leased from the Crown.

A charter for the railway was received from the provincial government in 1870 and the New Brunswick Land and Railway Company was formed. Part of the charter provided for additional timber land based upon construction performance, thereby making Gibson one of the largest landowners in the province.

The route was envisioned to eventually extend further north along the Madawaska River and Lake Temiscouata to the St. Lawrence River at Rivière-du-Loup; however, the company never built beyond Edmundston, leaving this connection to be completed by the Temiscouata Railway.

The system was initially built to the narrow gauge of 42 in (1,100 mm). The entire system was converted to standard gauge in 1881.

Original NBR narrow gauge lines

The southern section of the main line ran along the east bank of the Saint John River from South Devon northwest to Keswick where it headed inland (north) away from the Saint John River and followed the Keswick River to Barton before heading west to Millville and northwest to East Brighton and Hartland where it again followed the east bank of the Saint John River. This section was built between 1871 and 1873.

The section from Hartand to Edmundston was much more difficult to construct and was built between 1871 and 1878. The line from Hartland north to Perth remained on the east bank of the Saint John River. At Perth it crossed to the west bank, bridged across the mouth of the Aroostook River, and continued to Grand Falls, where it crossed back to the east bank before continuing to Edmundston.

The Aroostook River Railroad built up the south bank of the Aroostook River from Aroostook, New Brunswick to Caribou, Maine with the line being completed between 1873 and 1876. It was leased to the NBR in 1878 and Aroostook became a major division point with extensive yard facilities.

Acquisition of NBCR

In 1881, the company name was changed to the New Brunswick Railway Company and the line was converted to standard gauge. The following year on July 1, 1882, the NBR acquired control of the New Brunswick and Canada Railway (NBCR) under a 999 year lease.

The NBCR traced its history to the St. Andrews and Quebec Railway which had a charter to build from Passamaquoddy Bay at St. Andrews north to McAdam and on to Quebec City across much of what is now northern Maine; construction plans in the 1840s from southwestern New Brunswick to Canada East halted due to uncertainty over the location of the International Boundary with the United States. The border was subsequently resolved in the Webster-Ashburton Treaty and the SA&Q began construction in the early 1850s, however, the delays saw the competitive advantage of St. Andrews disappear with the opening of the Atlantic and St. Lawrence Railroad in 1853 that connected the Canadian rail network at Montreal, Quebec with the Atlantic coast port of Portland, Maine. In 1856 the SA&Q declared bankruptcy and its assets and charter were purchased and reorganized as the New Brunswick and Canada Railway with track extended north to Richmond Corner near the newly defined border. Although the NBCR intended to complete construction across Maine to Quebec City, it would never extend beyond Richmond Corner due to the political situation in the United States during the 1860s (American Civil War) as well as the financial situation NBCR faced with the competing European and North American Railway project.

The 1881 conversion of the NBR to standard gauge track, followed by the 1882 purchase of the New Brunswick and Canada Railway saw a 9.5 mi (15.3 km) section of the NBR's original narrow gauge line between Shewan and Hartland abandoned. A new line was built from Shewan west to the east bank of the Saint John River at Newburg where it joined a new line being built from the NBCR at Debec via Woodstock where it crossed to the east bank of the Saint John River and on to Hartland.

Acquisition of the Western Extension

The European and North American Railway's (E&NA) "Western Extension" was built from 1865-1869 from South Bay on the west side of the Saint John River opposite Saint John to the International Boundary at St. Croix. In 1883 the E&NA "Western Extension" became part of the NBR.

Lease to Canadian Pacific Railway

Beginning in 1886, the Canadian Pacific Railway began looking to expand its presence east of Montreal. Typical of much of its expansion in southern Ontario, CPR looked to purchase or lease existing lines rather than survey and build itself. CPR president George Stephen was a shareholder with Gibson in the NBR and looked to extend the CP system to New Brunswick or Nova Scotia.

Between 1886 and 1888, CPR built the International Railway of Maine, also referred to as the "Short Line", across a gap between Quebec's Eastern Townships and the Maine Central Railroad at Mattawamkeag, Maine (on the European and North American Railway "Maine" section). From Mattawamkeag to the International Boundary at Vanceboro-St. Croix, CPR gained trackage rights from the Maine Central.

CPR sought, and was given, a lease on the New Brunswick Railway for a period of 990 years beginning on July 1, 1890, resulting in a mainline from Montreal to Saint John and the feeder network of ex-NBR branchlines up the Saint John River valley. Until the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in the 1950s, Saint John would become CPR's winter port on the Atlantic when Montreal was ice-bound.

CPR lease of the Tobique Valley Railway

The Tobique Valley Railway built up the Tobique River from Perth to Plaster Rock with the line being completed between 1891 and 1894. It was leased by the CPR in 1897.

Interchange with National Transcontinental Railway

In 1912, a section of the government-built and operated National Transcontinental Railway (NTR) opened between Moncton and Lévis. Part of the NTR closely paralleled Canadian Pacific's original NBR narrow gauge line between Cyr (just north of Grand Falls) to Edmundston, along the east bank of the Saint John River. In the 1930s, CPR abandoned a 26 mi (42 km) section of the former NBR between Cyr and Iroquois (approximately 1 mi (1.6 km) east of Edmundston) and used trackage rights over Canadian National Railways, which the NTR had been merged into in 1918.

Sale of forest holdings to K.C. Irving

In the 1940s, CPR sought to reduce non-railway properties in New Brunswick and entered into an agreement with industrialist K.C. Irving, whereby the entire NBR was sold to his forestry subsidiary J.D. Irving Limited, while CPR would remain the operator of the railway trackage. In this fashion, Irving was able to secure some of the most extensive timber holdings in the province.

Abandonment by CPR

In 1988, citing declining traffic, CPR grouped all of its lines east of Montreal into a new internal marketing and business unit called Canadian Atlantic Railway (CAR). Also beginning in 1988 and extending through to 1993, CAR began the process of abandoning much of the trackage of the former NBR system, citing declining traffic and bridges which were washed away in the spring freshet and ice jams of 1987. CPR completely removed itself from operations east of Montreal in 1994 when CAR trackage was sold to shortline operators. The only remnant of the NBR system is a short segment of trackage in Grand Falls, operated by Canadian National.

Interestingly, the J.D. Irving company retains ownership of the NBR right-of-way and is today the operator of the New Brunswick Southern Railway, although NBSR does not operate on any of the original NBR trackage. It does operate a portion of the former NBCR trackage to St. Stephen as well as the former E&NA trackage from Saint John to St. Croix.

Narrow-gauge locomotives

Number[1] Builder Type Date Works number Notes
1 Mason Machine Works 0-4-4F second-hand locomotive of unknown origin
2 Mason Machine Works 0-4-4F 1873 489
3 Mason Machine Works 0-4-4F 1873 509 allocated CPR # 531, but scrapped before being re-gauged
4 Mason Machine Works 0-4-4F 1873 510 allocated CPR # 532, but scrapped before being re-gauged
5 Mason Machine Works 0-4-4F 1873 526 allocated CPR # 533, but scrapped before being re-gauged
6 Mason Machine Works 0-4-4F 1873 527 sold 1882 to Herkimer, Newport and Poland Railway
7 Mason Machine Works 0-4-4F 1873 531 sold 1881 to Prince Edward Island Railway 2nd # 1
8 Mason Machine Works 0-4-4F 1873 532 sold 1881 to Prince Edward Island Railway 2nd # 2
9 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-6-0 1877 4211 sold 1882 to Harbour Grace Railway but lost at sea
10 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-6-0 1878 4345 sold 1882 to Harbour Grace Railway # 12

Notes

  1. ^ a b Lavallee (1972) p.95

References

  • Lavallée, Omer (1972). Narrow gauge railways of Canada. Montreal: Railfare Book. ISBN 9780919130210. OCLC 516037. 

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