All Aboard! Exploring the Newfoundland Railway

Railway / Coastal History

Newfoundland Railway

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The End of an Era

In 1969 the Newfoundland operations of Canadian National were constituted as an autonomous division known as Terra Transport. Canadian National spent millions of dollars on narrow-gauge cars and improved facilities. However, in competition with highway trucks, the railway's share of the freight market declined steadily. There was an annual deficit of $35 to $40 million. The cross-island trains began to be designated as "Extras." First to go were the branch lines. The last train on the Bonavista Branch ran on November 23, 1983. The Argentia and Carbonear Lines ceased to operate September 1984, and most stations were boarded up. The Lewisporte Line heard its final train whistle in 1987. An agreement was reached between the federal government and the Newfoundland provincial government. In return for $800 million for highway improvements, all rail service in Newfoundland would cease September 1, 1988.

The last train left Bishop's Falls at 10:00 A.M. September 30, 1988, for the 138 mile run to Corner Brook.

Dismantling began as soon as the last regular train ran September 30, 1988. By 1990 all was gone, having been auctioned off, sold, or scrapped. All that remained were some railway buildings, the right-of-way, and a couple of spots where the railway ties were left in the ground.

The railbed has since been designated a "T'railway" and a linear provincial park.

Princeton Station in poor repair.
Princeton Station, Bonavista branch line. CN Pensioners Collection.
Abandoned railway equipment in Avondale.
Abandoned railway equipment. 2008, Ute Simon.