All Aboard! Exploring the Newfoundland Railway

Railway / Coastal History

Newfoundland Railway

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The Branch Line Problems

The new branches proved expensive to operate, carrying only passengers and occasional freight. After the government took over the railway in 1923, effort was made to serve the less-travelled lines using trolley-like "day coaches" on the Bay de Verde, Trepassey and Heart's Content lines. The Bay de Verde and Trepassey lines were closed in winter, and in 1931 were closed altogether. As Heart's Content was a winter port for the A.N.D. Company that line continued sporadically until 1938. The Bonavista branch remained in operation through the summer of 1938.

In 1928 a 19-mile branch connected the new mining town of Buchans with the Millertown railway at Buchans Junction. It remained in operation (also employing sections of the Millertown line) until the final trainload of ore was shipped in 1977.

The demands of WWII saw not only increased use of all remaining branches, most particularly Lewisporte and Argentia, but also the last railway line to be built in Newfoundland. In 1941 the Unites States Army began a 10-mile line from USAF Base Harmon Field (Stephenville) to the main line. The USAF line continued in use until 1963.

The Telegraph Service

The first telegraph system in Newfoundland was established as part of a plan to land a trans-atlantic telegraph cable in Newfoundland. The first telegraph lines were between St. John's and Trepassey and St. John's and Carbonear, operational in March 1852. In 1854 the New York, Newfoundland and London Telegraph Company was granted a 50-year monopoly on telegraphy on the island, subsequently assumed by the Anglo-American Telegraph Company (AAT). The AAT contract, however, allowed the colonial government to provide telegraph connections on the Island in areas that the company did not think would be profitable - which meant everywhere except the Avalon Peninsula.

Diesel engine at Millertown.
Diesel engine at Millertown with supplies for nearby logging camps