All Aboard! Exploring the Newfoundland Railway

Overview

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From this time until 1949, the government operated and maintained the railway and its coastal boats. During WW2, however, the condition of the railway deteriorated because of the excessive demands placed on it by the Allied effort in the Battle of the Atlantic.

After confederation with Canada in 1949, the Newfoundland Railway was operated as a division of the Canadian National Railway system until September 30, 1988.

The first locomotives employed in Newfoundland were made in the USA and UK. Under the Reid contract a number of cars and locomotives were manufactured in the machine shops in St. John's. Their performance varied widely making it difficult to deploy them according to actual needs or to develop a nationwide transportation system.

When CN took over the Newfoundland Railway in 1949, a change from steam powered trains to diesel engines took place. This change made the operation of trains more economical and efficient.

The history of the railway and coastal service is a fascinating story of the people who made it all work. The men and women labouring on the trains and ships, their determination to provide service under very adverse conditions, comprises an exciting chapter in the history of our province.

Railway Coastal Museum

The Railway Coastal Museum is located in the former St. John's railway station, also known as the Riverhead station. It was built in 1902 with 2 feet thick native granite blocks, and it was occupied in January 1903. It is three stories tall, measures 125 x 50 feet, and covers an area of 18,750 square feet.

The Museum tells the story behind the Newfoundland Railway and Coastal Boat Service in 42 themed exhibits. The exhibits are complemented by costumed mannequins, paintings, scale models of locomotives and coastal boats.

The Mini-theatre shows actual footage of train trips across the Island, and coastal boats servicing the Newfoundland outports. The theatre walls feature a 50 foot wide mural of St. John's Harbour, the City, and Signal Hill during the 1940s.

For many years the Newfoundland Railway provided the only way to travel by land across the Island. The Museum's large diorama takes the visitor through the actual railcars used by the Newfoundland Railway.

Enjoy your visit!

100-class engine under steam.
The first nine '100 class' engines were built by Baldwin, 1898-1900, as the Reid Newfoundland Company took over operation of the entire system. H.J Russell Collection.
Railroaders' Memorial at Whitbourne.
The Railroaders' Memorial at Whitbourne was dedicated in 1998. It displays the names of those who died working on the Newfoundland Railway. Ute Simon, 2008.
Railway Coastal Museum viewed from front.
The former St. John's Riverhead Station, opened in 1903, now houses the Railway Coastal Museum. Ute Simon, 2008.