All Aboard! Exploring the Newfoundland Railway

Railway / Coastal History

Accidents and the Weather

Accidents and the Weather Slideshow

CN Push Plow on display outside of the Whitbourne Museum, 2006.

Newfoundland's rocky and indented coastline has always been a hazard to coastal shipping. Captains and crews risked their lives as a matter of course. They knew well that no one could control the weather. Ferocious winds, blinding snow, ice and thick fog banks often prevented coastal boats from landing in the scheduled harbours. Seasickness, long delays, days spent stormbound in one harbour or another or jammed tight in the ice were a matter of course. Many a ship was wrecked and many crew members' lives lost while battling the elements.

High winds and winter storms were of particular danger to trains in certain areas of the island, particularly the Gaff Topsail. The 'Gaff Topsail' was known by everyone in Newfoundland - including people who had never been on the railway - as a place of deep snows and wild winds which often required burning furniture to keep steam going in the boiler of a train stuck in a snow drift for days. Passenger trains would run short of food and yet the high stakes poker games would continue in the dining cars of trains marooned by the winter storms. An eminent railroader A.R. Penney wrote: "The direct route over the Gaff Topsail was feasible but it was certainly not practicable. The railway should never have been built there". Wayne Greenland Collection.

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