Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Clarenville Train Station and Display, Newfoundland

Train station and railway display in Clarenville, NL
My family went to Newfoundland in July 2016 for their first visit to the Rock. I had been to Corner Brook very briefly but this was my first trip to the east end of the island. We landed in St. John's and drove up to Twillingate, and on the way we stopped in Whitbourne and then in Clarenville to catch the railway sights.

Clarenville is an important hub in the area, being the largest town in the area and a service centre for the Trinity-Bonavista peninsula. During the time of the railway, it was a station stop for trains, and the Bonavista branch started at Shoal Harbour, 1.1 miles railway west of the station.

After the railway officially closed on September 29, 1988, a few work trains passed through Clarenville to gather equipment and facilitate rail removal. The last train to enter Clarenville was in October 1990 with engine 914 leading a boxcar, coach and caboose.

NF110 #900 in Clarenville, Newfoundland
CN 900 was restored to its green and gold Canadian National livery and looks great. It was the first NF110 unit built by London's GMD plant.

I find it interesting that the Newfoundland locomotives all have a "skirt" along the side covering the wheels that mainland units seem to lack. I wonder why they had it?

Behind CN 900 is diner #176, built in 1958 for CN by National Steel Car. Apparently this was the last diner built in Canada for the CNR.
Dining car CN 176, Clarenville, Newfoundland
The elements are taking their toll on the roof paint.

Engine 900 and diner 176 were transported by road from the Railway Coastal Museum in St. John's to Clarenville in the summer of 2007. At the time #900 was in CN "zebra stripes" and the diner was in a two-tone blue colour scheme.

Bringing up the rear of this short train is bright red caboose CN/TT 6061.
Caboose CN 6061
There are a few other pieces of railway equipment. Oddly there is no snowplow, unlike almost every other railway display on Newfoundland, it seems!

Two former US locomotives are preserved on a second track.
Former US Army 7596, Newfoundland Hardwoods #31
30 tonne Plymouth locomotive #31 was built for the US Army as #7596 and worked at the base in Argentia, NL before going to Newfoundland Hardwoods.

Former US Navy 65-00236, Newfoundland Hardwoods #32
The other Plymouth locomotive is a 35 tonne unit, built for the US Navy in 1943. It also worked at Newfoundland Hardwoods before being donated to the museum.

There are three flatcars present, mostly ex Newfoundland Hardwoods cars.
Flatcar at Clarenville, Newfoundland
Speaking of Newfoundland Hardwoods, this was an interesting operation that had its roots in the construction of the Gander airport in the 1930s. The asphalt for the runways was landed in Clarenville at a facility next to the railway yard and shipped to the future Gander airport in tank cars. Over time the facility got into pressure treated lumber and became Newfoundland Hardwoods, a Crown corporation. The facility is now privately owned.
A "double gear grab winch", whatever that is

Newfoundland Hardwoods still had three locomotives in 1989, according to the Canadian Trackside Guide (CTG), even after CN ceased operation. The #30 listed in the 1989 CTG is the #32 shown above; #31 is the same, and the 1989 CTG lists a 14 tonne Plymouth locomotive #32... not sure what happened to that one.

Loco selfie!
I am reasonably sure that Newfoundland Hardwoods was the last operating railway on Newfoundland, with two diesel mechanical locomotives, sixteen flat cars and about 3 miles of track. It ceased operating in 2005. Please correct me if I am wrong!

I am glad that the museum was able to acquire the locomotives and a few flat cars. The equipment is owned by the Clarenville Heritage Society.

The station itself is owned by the Clarenville Shriners (shared with the Masons) and is a registered as a municipal heritage building. It was built in 1942 and is one of the few mainline railway stations remaining in Newfoundland.

For more information:


Unknown said...

The skirting might have something to do with the Newfoundland Railway's tendency to cross paths with moose. The Newfoundland section of "Train Country" by Dudley Witney quotes a crewmember who compared the aftermath to hamburger; skirting probably cut down on the mess.

Albreda55 said...

What you are seeing is not skirting but part of the underframe which was specially designed for these narrow gauge versions of GM roadswitchers. Peter Cox provided this explanation in Canadian National Diesl Locomotives Vol. 2 produced by the CNRHA. See ( This was a similar concept to outside frames on some narrow gauge steam lonomotives therby reducing height and lowering the center of gravity. ). Al Lill

Canadian Train Geek said...

Thanks, Al! I appreciate the explanation and that makes sense.