Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The New Brunswick and Canada Railroad

New Brunswick and Canada Railroad Trip Pass, 1882
In my last post I mentioned there was a second railway bridge over the St. Croix River between McAdam and Vanceboro. This wooden bridge was a late part of the very first railway in New Brunswick.

Back in the early 1800s the town of St. Andrews was a very prosperous town, a serious rival of Saint John in the area. In 1827 a group of entrepreneurs attempted to secure British funding for a railway from St. Andrews to Quebec City, to provide all-year shipping access that was unavailable to Quebec due to the annual freeze of the St. Lawrence River. They were denied funding but St. Andrews did not give up. They had surveys done in 1836 and 1837 and recommended a route that unfortunately went through what could be northern Maine - although the border at that time was not firm. Recall that the Americans and the British clashed in the War of 1812 - the USA was still not trusted. After the Aroostook War and the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842, the planned route definitely went through Maine and was unacceptable.

St. Andrews was persistent and in 1847 the St. Andrews-Quebec Railway Company secured a grant of 20,000 acres of land from the province, to go with private British funding, provided the line reached Woodstock, NB. Construction began in 1848, but after numerous difficulties work stopped in 1853 as they ran out of funds. The line had been graded for 25 miles and there were only about five miles of track laid, to Chamcook. The line laid for four years, its "advanced" iron rails rusting away.

New Brunswick and Canada Railroad Pass, 1880
A new company was formed in 1857, the New Brunswick and Canada Railway Company. By October 1, 1857 the first 34 miles were opened to the public. They reached Canterbury in December 1858, and after some delay the railway was opened to Richmond Corner during July 1862. Sadly the company ran out of money and went into receivership in 1863. The line ran from a now secondary port to a field near, but not connected to, the town of Woodstock. I believe it was extended to Woodstock in 1868 and it eventually crossed the border to Houlton as well, although it never did connect to the Bangor and Aroostook Railway servicing Houlton.

Back of New Brunswick and Canada Railroad Pass
Meanwhile, the European and North American Railway was built between Saint John and Point-du-Chêne, and its Western Extension followed, built between Saint John through City Camp (now known as McAdam) to cross the St. Croix River to connect to Vanceboro, Maine as discussed in my previous post. The line was complete in 1871.

Apparently the New Brunswick and Canada wanted a piece of this American action. The following are some news clippings from the period, kindly provided by railway historian Art Clowes.
Woodstock, The Carleton Sentinel, Page 2  - Saturday, May 3, 1879 - A branch railroad from the New Brunswick and Canada road at McAdam Junction to Vanceboro is projected.  It will be about 6 miles long; the object is to secure billing of freight from Vanceboro to Houlton, Woodstock and the upper country district.
There was some skepticism about the need for this railway, given that the Western Extension already ran over the same route.
Woodstock, The Carleton Sentinel, Page 2  - Saturday, May 31, 1879 - On Monday last ground was broken on the new piece of railroad between McAdam Junction and Vanceboro, and the work of construction is now being proceeded with.  It seems to us that any apparent or real necessity for this branch, in the interests of the public, or of any corporation, must result from a want of foresight or a blunder on the part of somebody.  It is certainly not demanded by the pressure of traffic.
However a July piece seems a lot more positive.
Woodstock, Carleton Sentinel, Page 2 - Saturday, July 5, 1879 - The Branch Railroad between McAdam and Vanceboro is being constructed with considerable rapidity, and will be probably open to traffic early in the coming fall.  While, to outsiders, this piece of road looks to be entirely unnecessary, if the parties interested in it and in the now established road would consider their differences reasonably, it may on its completion very greatly effect adversely the business both of the St. John and Maine and European and North American roads, while tending to benefit in the same degree the New Brunswick and Canada road.
By the way this New Brunswick and Canada road; which was a long and sort of standing joke, for large feeling railroad men, and which even now is, on account of the utilitarian rather than ornamental character of its equipments, slightly regarded by many, is yearly becoming a more important feature among our railroads; it has developed a very large milling and lumber business along its line; has become the chief artery of trade communication with the up-river Counties on both sides of the line, and is, probably, under its very prudent management, making more money than any other road in the lower Provinces at all events.
It may be stated in this connection that the work of relaying the track north from McAdam Junction has been in progress for some days past, and probably the whole 12,000 tons of new steel rails will have been placed before this is published.
New Brunswick and Canada Railway map, 1871
The new line was built just north of the existing European and North American line. In fact, if you've driven between McAdam and Vanceboro, you're driving on the roadbed at least part of the way.

The line was completed on October 9, 1879, with the first train running that same day.
Saint John, NB, The Daily Telegraph, Page 3 - Wednesday, October 15, 1879 - HOME AFFAIRS - New Brunswick and Canada Railway - Some months ago the New Brunswick and Canada Railway Company decided to extend a branch from McAdam Junction to Vanceboro and thus connect direct with the trains of the European & North American Railway.  The reasons for the building of this extension have been before stated.  The work on the road was pushed rapidly, the country was level and favourable to rapid railroading, and a large crew of men were employed.  A wooden bridge was erected for the road across the St. Croix River.  The laying of the rails was completed on Thursday of last week, and on that day the first train ran over the road,  It is now in first-class condition and the trains are running regularly.
The New Brunswick and Canada's rails were originally laid on the broad or Provincial Gauge (5'6" between rails) but must have been converted to standard gauge (4' 8.5") prior to 1879, in order to be able to interchange with the Maine railroad.

In a final bit of irony for a very troubled railroad, the New Brunswick Railway acquired the New Brunswick and Canada Railway on July 1, 1882 and then acquired the Western Extension in 1883. With both railways under the New Brunswick Railway banner, there was no need for two parallel lines between McAdam and Vanceboro. The 1879 line was abandoned and its route now forms part of highway 4 to the border.

I wasn't able to find any photos of the second bridge over the St. Croix - not surprising given that it only carried railway traffic for a few years - and in fact photos of the New Brunswick and Canada Railroad are pretty scarce.

I hope you've enjoyed this little New Brunswick railway history tour. If you have any comments, corrections or additions, please comment!


Unknown said...

Always an interesting read Steve.
I like to read about the history of other areas particularly when they involve railroads and "fallen flags" as it where. Too bad no known photos exist of the second bridge.
Excellent write up. Someday I will get to see New Brunswick first hand.


Chris BIGDoer Doering said...

It so nice to read of railway history from the very early days, an era that's often ignored or avoided by most writers.

Great job Steve.

Steve Boyko said...

Thanks Glen and Chris, I'm glad you liked this post. There's not a lot of information online about the smaller former railroads/fallen flags.

Howal said...

Thanks for researching and writing these pieces. I love reading about the old transportation systems in SW NB.


Steve Boyko said...

You're welcome, Howal!