All Aboard! Exploring the Newfoundland Railway

Technology

Technology & Engines

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Dawn of the steam age

It was the vision of Englishman George Stephenson, the "father of railways" that led the way to the age of steam. Stephenson saw that the steam locomotive was the way forward for the railroads. Together with his son Robert, he established his locomotive works in 1823 and began to build steam locomotives. By the mid-19th century, the steam locomotive had been adopted worldwide by virtue of its strength, simplicity and reliability. The basic principles of the steam locomotive's design remained essentially unchanged until diesel-electric locomotives signalled the end of the age of steam.

The Steam Locomotives

The first locomotive engines used on the Newfoundland railway arrived in 1881 and were powered by steam. Some were purchased from the narrow-gauge Prince Edward Island Railway and were of the Huntslett 4-4-0 type. The first one of those to arrive in St. John's, via the S.S. Merlin on December 5, 1881, was a Huntslett which had been built in 1872. It was assembled at a skating rink in Fort William and was initially used to convey track and construction materials as the tracks progressed from St. John's harbour along what is now Empire Avenue (the Old Railway road). Another locomotive to arrive in 1881 was "Harbour Grace Railway" No.1, built by Hawthorne-Leslie in England. It ended up on the Anglo Newfoundland Development Company's Botwood Railway around 1918. Beginning in 1882, locomotives of the 2-6-0 type were purpose-built for the Newfoundland Railway Company in England by Hawthorne Leslie of Leeds.

The type numbers of the locomotives refer to the identifying characteristic of the distribution of wheels. The middle number indicates the large driving wheels which supplied motive power. A 2-6-0 tender type, such as Newfoundland Railway #7, had six driving wheels, two "pony wheels" in front and no trailer truck wheels in the rear. A "tender type" locomotive pulled its coal or wood tender behind, while locomotives of the consolidated type had the tender fixed to the engine.

R.G. Reid contracted to build the Halls Bay Railway in 1890. Under the Reids (1890-1923) most locomotives were purchased from the United States, notably the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia. The Halls Bay Railway purchased several of the 4-4-0 and 2-6-0 types from Baldwin in the 1890s. When Reid assumed operation of the whole line in 1898 the remaining Newfoundland Railway Company locomotives were incorporated into the Reid Newfoundland system.

Under the 1901 contract the Reid headquarters and shops were relocated to Riverhead, St. John's, at the new west end terminal, in 1903. There the Reid Newfoundland Company built its own cars and some motive power, with parts and running gear supplied by Baldwin. The Reid Newfoundland Company and the Newfoundland Railway were superb locomotive builders and did excellent work in overhauling and rebuilding locomotives. Ten of the "100-class" (4-6-0) approximately 75 tons, were built in St. John's primarily for use on branch line service. In 1911 they started building steam locomotives, and between 1911 and 1916 had built a total of 12 locomotives for their Newfoundland service. They were numbered 111 to 120 consecutively. The last two of those locomotives were used mostly in freight train service.

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Image of  a Blackman Company locomotive.
One of the first locomotives purchased by the Blackman Company for use in Newfoundland. Fabian Kennedy Collection.
Drawing of the Harbour Grace Railway No. 1, the first locomotive in Newfoundland.
One of the first locomotives to arrive in Newfoundland in 1881. Railway Coastal Museum.
Photograph of the Baldwin 108.
The Baldwin, #108 came to Newfoundland in 1900. A.R. Penney Collection
A 2-6-0 type locomotive stopping at the Placentia station, pre 1898.
Locomotive #7 at Placentia Station, pre 1898. A.R. Penney Collection.