All Aboard! Exploring the Newfoundland Railway

Railway / Coastal History

Newfoundland Railway

Previous Page Page 7 Next Page

The Branch Lines

The election of 1908 - the year R.G. Reid died - was fought between Sir Robert Bond and Sir Edward Morris. In 1909 the People's Party of Sir Edward Morris was elected, having promised branch lines in several areas of Newfoundland. As the cost of the branch lines escalated (reaching $7.5 million) accusations of conflict of interest arose. Morris' opponents argued that many of the contracts were awarded to the Reid Newfoundland Company without tenders - giving the company unfair concessions in return for its support during Morris' campaign. Morris replied to these accusations by saying "What do I care for the Audit Act when there are people in need of bread?"

Morris' statement reveals the political motivation behind the branch line program. The branch lines were not going to be profit generators, but the construction and maintenance did provide people in the area with new employment opportunities. They were not very important from the railway's long-term business perspective, but they were crucial to a politician who wanted to win the support of rural Newfoundlanders.

The Branch Line Problems

The new branches, although popular in the older areas of settlement which they were to serve, did not open new areas or encourage new significant industries. The first new branch was an 88-mile line to Bonavista, which opened in November 1911. The Trepassey branch, the longest at 104 miles, was constructed 1911-1913, providing a rail connection to St. John's from the Southern Shore. Along the south side of Trinity Bay, the Heart's Content branch (42 miles, incorporating parts of the original Harbour Grace line) was completed in 1915. Finally, the Carbonear branch was extended by a 48-mile line to Grates Cove-Bay de Verde in 1915. This extension was closed in 1930; however, the branch continued to Carbonear until 1983.

With the onset of WWI, the branch line program was halted before the last two lines were complete. The Fortune Bay line, intended to be a 57-mile link to the coastal steamer at Terrenceville, was abandoned in 1915, although 43 miles had been railed. The Bonne Bay branch, projected to run 35 miles from Deer Lake, was abandoned with the line only partly graded.

Tracks by the waterfront in Heart's Delight, c. 1928.
Heart's Delight, c. 1928. Coll-137, Manuscripts and Archives, QEII, Memorial University.
Leaving for overseas. Soldiers with train in Port aux Basques, 1915.
Sergeants and other soldiers of the Newfoundland Regiment at Port aux Basques, waiting to begin the next stage of their journey overseas. 1915. Trail of the Caribou.