Fairview Historical Society Articles Archives

The Railway and Fairview

Submitted by Devonna Edwards

I grew up on McFatridge Road in Fairview, our house was located down in a gully, close to Dutch Village Road (Joseph Howe Drive today) and the railway tracks. The whistle of the trains lulled me to sleep at night, and sang to me during the day. I still love the sound of a train as it chugged along the track.

The Railway played an important part in Fairview’s history not only visually but years ago, many people who lived there depended on it for their livelihood. The Canadian National Railway (CNR) employed countless Fairview residents.

In June 1919, the Canadian National Railways Corporation was formed.

Some people in Fairview employed with the CNR in 1918-19 are listed as follows:

Harvey Aalders- fireman CNR
William Bizong- timekeeper CNR Roundhouse
Kenneth Campbell- employed at CNR
Arthur Geizer- employed at CNR
William H. Jones- fireman CNR
George McDonald- brakeman CNR
Allan Malanson- employed CNR
William H. Pine- car foreman CNR
Ruben Purcell-policeman CNR
William Purcell- conductor CNR
James C. Ryan- brakeman CNR
Francis Taylor- watchman CNR
Frederick Wright- clerk CNR
Joseph W. Wright- clerk CNR

Earlier Railways were only used in mines and quarries, both rails and carts were made of wood at that time.
The Albion Mines Railway opened in 1839 to carry coal from the mine to a loading pier at Dunbar Point, near Pictou.

The First Railway

On June 13, 1854 the Sod Turning Ceremony took place at Richmond in the North End of Halifax.
Work on the railway began immediately at Richmond and by the end of 1854 contracts were given to build the railway from Halifax to Windsor and from Windsor Junction to Truro. The two lines were both under construction at the same time. The first railway completed was the Halifax to Windsor line in 1858 and the first passenger train made its maiden trip on June 3 with people gathering everywhere to survey the wondrous site. The second line completed was the Halifax to Truro track that made its maiden trip on December 13, 1858. It was part of the government owned and operated Nova Scotia Railway (NSR)

In 1867, the Nova Scotia Railway was taken over by the new Dominion of Canada as part of the Act of Confederation and portions of the Nova Scotia Railway (NSR) were later to become part of the Intercolonial Railway (1872) and finally the Canadian Nation Railway (CNR) in 1923. In 1867 the Nova Scotia Railway went from Truro to Pictou. On August 19, 1869 the Windsor and Annapolis Railway was completed linking Windsor with the town of Annapolis Royal.

Since 1854 the decades which followed saw the construction of other links to constitute the Dominion Atlantic Railway (D.A.R.) in 1894, operating since in 1914 as a subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The D.A.R. made a big change in 1956 when they replaced the steam locomotive with the new diesel engine fueled by oil. The passenger train named” Dayliner” made its first trip on August 20, 1956.

At first the trains were run by Steam Locomotives. Cordwood was used to fire the engines and at certain places there was a pile of cordwood ready to load on the trains provided by Section Men; in later years the change was made to coal for fuel.

The first engine used on the Nova Scotia Railway was known as the “Mary Ann”, driver Woodworth was drowned when the engine ran off the track at Fairview ((Clarke’s History of the Earliest Railways). A longer version of the story was found at the Halifax Archives and read like this:

At Fairview, The First Fatal Railway Accident in The Atlantic Provinces Occurred in 1856. It was not the first actual wreck on the old Nova Scotia Railway, the first occurred six months before, when the pioneer locomotive “Mayflower” had hit a horse near Africville, and turned over down the embankment, followed by the tender and two freight or baggage cars, one of which turned crosswise on the track and kept the two coaches with thirty passengers safely on the rails. The horse was torn to pieces, the engineer somewhat cut and the fireman painfully scalded about the legs.

Back to the first fatal accident:

On Monday morning March 3, 1856, Mr. Elias Woodworth, the engineer in charge of the Rolling Stock was killed about 9 o’clock while breaking track with the engine “Joseph Howe”. The fireman Thomas Corcoran was seriously bruised and scalded but did recover. A labourer broke his leg in jumping from a platform car. No passenger car was in use and no other people were injured. Mr. Woodworth head was found beneath the water and it is supposed that he was drowned, as the body was not bruised or cut.
The locomotive engine had ran off the track, it was going at the rate of ten miles an hour and just as it turned the curve beyond “The Three Mile House”, the ice being on a level with the rails, it ran off the track and taking the inclination of the curve after proceeding about 45 paces tumbled over the bank, caring with it the poor engine and the fireman. The Joe Howe crashed through the ice (about four inches thick) into the Bedford Basin and the fireman was trapped for twenty minutes because one of his hands was caught in some machinery.

Hard ice, extending under and beyond the snow sent the engine off the track, down the embankment in front of “Letson’s Tanyard”. It fell, wheels up in two or three feet of water. Mr. Woodworth must have been stunned by the fall and drowned in the water. Mr. Wood worth was a native of Annapolis County, who learned his trade of machinist in Boston and had a leading part in the building of the “Mayflower”. He hardly had reached his home province in the late fall of 1855 when he heard that his son Elias Jr. ,who was a locomotive engineer, had been killed in a head on collision at the old Boston and Worcester Railroad.

In 1903-04
The contract was given to Messers Reid and Archibald for building a second track on the Intercolonial Railway from Richmond to Rockingham. Work on the track commence immediately, starting near the Oil Tank. A work crew of more than a hundred Italian labourers were hired to work on the Halifax and South Western Railway (H. and S. W. R.) with the Italians quartered at Fairview. This system of railway included not only a direct line along the South Western Shore, but with the Central Railway from Middleton and Victoria Beach a wide range of territory was reached.

A polyglot swarm of Canadian, Russian, Galician and Italian labourers were busy filling the swamps behind Fairview and obliterating Stanford’s Pond (located next to Dutch Village Road, now known as Joseph Howe Drive and next to St. John’s Cemetery where the railway tracks can be seen today near the Fairview Overpass) tearing a narrow canyon through the deep rock from Dutch Village.

Today we are used to seeing the railway tracks on the right hand side of Dutch Village Road (Joseph 1914-18 Howe Drive today) as we are driving in the direction of Rockingham but before 1914 the railway track was located on the other side of Dutch Village Road. The property on McFatridge Road, where my old homestead was located, had the train track running through it. Hubert Smart said that the train that went through there was nicknamed “The Sauerkraut Express” by many of the locals because the first settlers were German people who made sauerkraut.

In 1918 Fairview Train Station was built. It was located just beyond the Fairview Underpass on the shore of the Bedford Basin. It was built on the site of where the old Three Mile House once stood. The station was demolished in 1957.

True stories regarding old time travel on the trains:

Travel on the Dominion Atlantic Railway (D.A.R.)

Conductor Joe Edwards told the story of a little girl traveller in whom he took a kindly interest, as the child had been placed in his charge when boarding the train at Annapolis. Busily engaged after leaving Annapolis, Conductor Edwards had failed to ascertain the destination of his charge, but frequently, when he passed the little girl’s seat, she would entreat him to be sure and let her know when they reached Morden Road (now Auburn). This stop was then a flag station, and in a moment of forgetfulness the conductor permitted the train to pass Morden Road. Suddenly reminded of his charge, Conductor Edwards pulled the cord and had the train backed up to the station, hastening to assure the little girl that they had reached her station. Thanking the conductor, the little girl reached for her handbag, volunteering the information that her mother had told her to be sure and take a pill, when they reached Morden Road Station, but she was travelling to Halifax.

Another story of travel on the Dominion Atlantic Railway

On leaving the Annapolis Station a male passenger was moved to pity by the incessant wail of a baby and the frenzied attempt of the mother to console the child. In confidence the mother told the sympathetic passenger that the child was hungry and she had forgotten to bring a supply of milk with her. A few minutes later the train made a stop; the kind hearted passenger alighted, and vaulting a fence, proceeded to milk a cow grazing in a neighbouring pasture. He returned triumphantly to the train, bearing a generous drink of milk for the child, the crew holding the train while he committed the humane act.

The Halifax South-Western Railway Company (H.S.W.R. Co.) extended from Halifax to Yarmouth, Bridgewater to New Germany, to Caledonia, New Germany, to Middleton, to Port Wade. It was built up from several railroad lines operating on the South Shore and Valley and amalgamated in the early 1900, to form the H.S.W. R. with its operating centre in Bridgewater.

A letter to the Editor of the Herald in 1903


A Christmas trip to Lunenburg by the Halifax and South-Western Railway

Sir, The Halifax and South-Western Railway, as well as nearly all the railways on the continent , advertise Christmas excursions, and the people of Lunenburg, who are living in all parts of Canada and the United States, try to spend Christmas at the old home, with the old folks. Many of them arrived in Halifax Friday night and Saturday morning, all anxious to spend Christmas Eve with their friends and families, and looking forward to the trip over “our railway” as they call the Halifax and South-Western. Imagine their surprise when instead of a first-class passenger train to convey them to their journey’s end on Christmas Eve, they found a slow freight train composed of a number of freight cars, two second and one first class passenger coaches, all coaches crowded to overflowing with some two or three hundred passengers.

The train started at 3 o’clock, exactly on time. The passengers increased as each station was reached until standing room was at a premium. All took it in good part. Were they not going home to spend Christmas Eve with their wives, sweethearts or the old folks? Mahone Junction was reached at last. The heavy freight and Christmas excursion train was one hour behind time, taking five hours to cover 70 miles.

As the brakeman announced “Mahone Junction! Change cars for Lunenburg!” seven-eighths of the passengers prepared to change for Lunenburg. And what a change! As they filed out into the black, stormy night, the rain was falling in torrents. One passenger coach only was alongside the station platform; the other two were alongside mud water, and as each passenger got off the car steps, he or she went down about four feet; many of them expecting to alight on a platform went sprawling in the mud. The scene was indescribable. The passengers getting off the car alongside the platform were even in a worse predicament. The cheese-paring management of the railway, in their anxiety to make the people’s money go as far as possible, made the plank platform about two feet short of the car steps, with the result that the passenger coming out of the car could, by the light of a kerosene lamp in the station, see a platform, and taking if for granted that this same platform, as is usual, extended to the car steps, stepped boldly off and went down between the car steps and the platform. Delicate women, small children, light and heavy men, all shared the same fate, and only the intervention of a kind Providence saved many from serious injury. But a worse fate was reserved for them. After being extricated from the car wheels, the mud and the water, all tried to get in the station out of the rain. Here the limit was reached. The waiting rooms, 7 by 12, with seating accommodation for about ten people, held about half the passengers, the rest being obliged to stand out in the rain. After waiting about fifteen minutes word passed around that the trains would cross at Bridgewater, instead of at Mahone as advertised. The trains were both ready at the same time. Lunenburg had the right of way, but Bridgewater, as usual, had the pull, and got there. Some sixty or seventy Lunenburg passengers would be kept out in the rain for an hour and a half; but passenger’s time counts for nothing with the Halifax and South-Western Railway Company, particularly if they are from Lunenburg.

The passengers in the station were even worse off than those outside; there was leaning room outside and no standing room inside. Delicate women and small children were obliged to stand continuously for three hours in this grand station, lighted with a kerosene lamp; no seats, no sanitary convenience, and nothing to eat within a mile. When this was realized word was received that the train, which was to take us to Lunenburg was off the track at Bridgewater, and we would have to wait until they got it on again, notwithstanding the fact that there were five engines and plenty of cars in Bridgewater, which could get around the wreck. But what does the management of the Halifax and South-Western care about the time of passengers compared to the loss of a few pounds of coal, particularly if they are Lunenburg passengers.

But all things must end, and about 10 o’clock the train was got on the track and arrived at Mahone, with a number of freight cars. After a wait of twenty minutes at Mahone, we left for Lunenburg and arrived there about 11 o’clock Christmas Eve, wet, tired, hungry and mad; victims of mismanagement. Many of the passengers after arriving at Lunenburg, had miles to drive before reaching their home.


Sept, 1867

A distressing and fatal accident occurred on the Windsor down train at Birch Cove, resulting in the death of Dr. Hogan of H.M 4th (King’s Own) Regiment and slightly injured another, both were passengers on the train.

It appears that workmen were engaged endeavoring to place on the track, the freight cars that were thrown off on the day before. They had succeeded in getting one of the cars almost on the track when the Windsor train came thundering along. There was room only, however, for the train to pass the freight car.

Dr. Hogan hearing a grating noise when the car was passing put his head out of the car window, looking in the off direction and before he had time to withdraw it, was struck by the corner of the freight car. The whole back of his head was torn off, producing instant death. The body was brought into the station and placed in the Ladies Waiting Room. He was returning to town from the military camp at Bedford where he had been stationed. Richard Hogan was only 24 years old. He is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Halifax.

Poem by Darrell Roberts

Memories of the Old Steam Engine Train

I wandered just the other day where I walked once long ago,
I strolled down by the railway track where it used to bring such joy
To sit and watch the train go by, to me it was a thrill,
To see that old steam engine and hear the whistle shrill.
I sat down by the crossing and my heart was filled with pain,
With memories of the days gone by and the old steam engine train,
I closed my eyes as I sat awhile and my thoughts reached back in time,
And I dreamed I heard the train once more as she rolled on down the line.
I could hear the engine puffing as she climbed up o’er the hill,
I could hear the old steam whistle its sound was loud and shrill.
I saw the black smoke pouring from the old smoke stack once more,
As the fireman shovelled on more coal to make those drivers roll.
I saw the cinders flying and I heard the old bell chime,
I could hear the steam escaping from those pistons worn with time.
She was rocking and a rolling like some monster from the past,
She was puffing and a blowing but my vision couldn’t last.
My mind did wander back again and I realized right then,
I only had the memories of the old steam engine train.
The stations have all disappeared, the hobos place of rest,
No water tanks to hide behind to catch the next train west.
The iron horse has gone away only memories now remain,
Memories of those days gone by and the old steam engine train.

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