All Aboard! Exploring the Newfoundland Railway

Railway / Coastal History

Social/Economic Impact

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Trouters' Special

The trouting tradition in Newfoundland goes way back, perhaps to the arrival of the first European settlers. It was not until the early 1900's that the fledgling railway was able to come to the aid of the trouters. The Reid Newfoundland Company started running annual trains between St. John's and Placentia Junction on Victoria Day weekend. Trouters would arrive at the Riverhead Station, where the Railway Coastal Museum is now housed, ensuring to come early to get a good seat on the train. Others swaggered in at the last minute, under what some called "a full load".

Food, drink and musical entertainment contributed to a festive atmosphere on the train as it brought people to their favourite fishing holes. The atmosphere on the train in the evening was not much different, with people sharing their day's "fish that got away" stories.

Over time, the Trouters' Special became a regular part of Victoria Day. It found its way into popular culture and art; poems and songs were written about it and alcoholic beverages were named after it. It was such a popular event that Canadian National Railway continued to run the Trouters' Special for several years after it took over the Newfoundland Railway in 1949. Years after passenger service was discontinued, on May 22, 1983, CN ran a special commemorative Trouters' Special, the last of its kind in Newfoundland.

The Trouters' Special was not the only Excursion train that was hosted by the Reid Newfoundland Railway. Excursion trains were something that everyone could look forward to during the summer months. Some groups, such as church groups or other societies, would rent a car and have their own excursion to a pond or camp site. The Railway regularly promoted tourism to the interior of Newfoundland during the summer months.

Fishing basket on exhibit at the Railway Coastal Museum.
Fishing basket. Railway Coastal Museum.
Two hunters with slain caribou, pre 1912.
Successful hunt, pre 1912. The Reids, themselves avid hunters and anglers, promoted tourism from the first. 25.02.003 Coll-137, Archives and Manuscripts, QEII, Memorial University.
Customers inside Chaulk's Grocery store, Gander.
Improvements in transportation increased the availability and variety of North American consumer goods in Newfoundland. Atlantic Guardian Collection.