A SNAPSHOT OF RAILWAYS IN NEW BRUNSWICK HISTORY
Planning for railways in British New Brunswick started from the Military march from here to Quebec during the War of 1812 along with the fact that the St. Lawrence River froze during the winters.
Plans evolved to the point that the Saint Andrews and, Quebec Railway Association was formed in 1835. However, some Americans didn't like the selected route resulting in the work being suspended and the area endured a 'cold war' known locally as the Aroostook War. This resulted in the donation of a large portion of New Brunswick to Uncle Sam under the Webster – Ashburton Treaty of 1842. This meant that changes to the railway route were needed.
Then we had Earl Fitzwilliam who in 1847 offering one hundred able-bodied labourers from his Wicklow estates in Ireland. To ensure the acceptance of these workers, the Earl deposited a £1,000 to the credit of the Railway Company to pay their wages, at the rate of two shillings a day, for so long as these funds lasted. So the Province got a group of Irish immigrants.
While the British were looking at encouraging East –West transport, but the 1850 Portland Conference showed the effect of the Americans with the adoption of the European & North American Railway to connect, Point du Chene, N.B., with Bangor, ME to speed communications between Europe and Boston and New York.
Being typical politicians, the Province was soon supporting at least one railway to almost everywhere in the Province. At times, N.B. had more miles of railway per area as well as population than any other location in North America. We often joke that N.B. was abandoning railways about the same time as other areas were just starting to build them.
A number of New Brunswick railway workers were noted for their inventions. In this group was the Miller Flanger. This flanger had been invented by a John Hamilton of the Fredericton Branch Railway. However, since he was coloured, his boss, Mr. J. H. Miller obtained the patent and it became known as the Miller Flanger.
Then there was the John Mitchell Lyons of Moncton who in 1882 patented a Separable Baggage Check, a coupon ticket method still used today in bus, train and air travel.
New Brunswick Railways saw their share of accidents including noted Bridge failures. Our own Albert County rail line had an interesting bridge collapse. It was interesting since the bridge contractor's daughter was injured on June 29, 1894 when the Shepody River bridge collapsed as the train to Harvey was passing over it.
Another interesting bridge collapse was the C.P.R. Bridge over the St. John River at Grand Falls, when on June 21, 1900 a mixed south-bound train broke through the second span of this bridge.
New Brunswick also had some unique train wrecks. One of these was known as the Penny Wreck at Palmer Pond on January 26, 1897. A train on the Inter-Colonial Railway carrying a car load of pennies from England derailed as it was passing this small pond in the Village of Dorchester and rolled down an embankment onto the ice of the pond spilling thousands of pennies around on the ice. While 2 people were killed in this wreck, the stories surrounding about the villagers and the pennies make interesting reading.
Other train wrecks in the Province include the Scotch Settlement wreck on February 20, 1914 as a special train from Buctouche was attempting to clear the rail line to Moncton that had been block 3 days with snow. A freak accident approaching a timber trestle derailed a snow plough that saw its demolition of the trestle and the death of four railway employees.
Then a few years later, on July 20, 1930, 4 circus workers were killed as the Al G. Barnes Circus Train derailed north of Moncton at Canaan Station,
Wars always caused railways to have interesting happenings. In 1915, a German Captain, Werner Von Horn was caught attempting to sabotage and destroy the bridge on the C.P.R. line over the St. Croix River on the Maine border at Vanceboro with dynamite.
Then due to the nature of the rail lines to the major shipping points at Saint John, and Halifax, saw most of the larger railway bridges manned by armed guards, especially in the period before the Americans joined the war effort.
WW I – Silk Trains was the Code Name for train in the East that carried Chinese works to the East coast to go to Europe to help with railways reconstruction in Europe.
WW I – Fish Trains was the code name that carried British Gold to pay the neutral Americans for their war efforts.
Saint John and Moncton each had a Street Car System. However, St. Stephen / Calais, ME had one of the two international street car systems along the Canadian / U.S. border.