I first learned of CN’s narrow gauge operations in Newfoundland when I read Tom Nelligan’s article on the island’s mixed trains in the June 1980 edition of Passenger Train Journal. It took me 37 years–until 2017–to finally make a visit to the island. Unfortunately for me, the railway closed back in 1988! Still, having the better part of a week to spend in St. John’s, I wanted to see what ghosts were left of the railway in the Avalon region at the eastern end of the island. There was a surprising amount to see, even 29 years after closure…
For orientation to the sites listed below, refer to this Newfoundland Railway Map:
All the photos below were taken in late September 2017.
I didn’t know that there was an equipment display in Lewisporte. We were just passing through on the cross-island bus when the the Lewisporte Train Park appeared. Fortunately, I had my camera ready as the display passed outside the bus window! The coach here appears to be in the best condition of all I saw in Newfoundland.
At the far eastern end of Newfoundland, the capital of St. John’s was the “home” of the Newfoundland Railway. Here were located the main shops, along with the largest station. Today in St. John’s, parts of the railway infrastructure still exist. The main shop building still stands, now part of the port facilities. The St. John’s station is now the Railway Coastal Museum, with exhibits about the railway and the coastal steamer services, and a display train outside.
The former Newfoundland Railway shop building in St. John’s
The back side of the Coastal Railway Museum in St. John’s, located in the former passenger station. A passenger car has been split in half and “attached” to the museum. The other side inside the building contains mock-ups of various types of passenger cars (sleeper, diner, coach, post office); these show museum visitors what train travel would have been like.
One of the displays inside the museum, located in one half of a former passenger car.
The display train at Coastal Railway Museum in St John’s. Ex-CN NF210 #906 is accompanied by a baggage car and a coach.
A Fairmont motor car at Coastal Railway Museum in St John’s.
Located on the main line west of St. John’s, Holyrood has a nice little display remembering the railway. A replica of the station building stands along the right-of-way, in use as a restaurant. Next to it, a large mural commemorates the railway, along with a plaque outlining the history of the railway in the town.
A steam-powered passenger train appears on the mural in Holyrood.
The railway history of Holyrood
The Station Diner in Holyrood is a replica of the original station.
The “track side” of the Station Diner building at Holyrood.
The Newfoundland T’Railway trail at Holyrood is on the former main line. What a view train passengers would have had here!
The next station west of Holyrood on the main line was Avondale, and here today you’ll find the Avondale Railway Museum. Based in the restored Avondale railway station, the museum has inside and outside exhibits. At Avondale you will also find the longest surviving section of 42″ gauge track in Newfoundland.
The Avondale station was originally built as a telegraph repeater station ca. 1870–80, and became a railway station about 1900. It has been lovingly restored inside and out, and now serves as a museum as well as a meeting space for the community.
The Avondale station sits in its original location, and a section of 42″ gauge track is still in place next to the building.
A Fairmont M19 motor car, modified for narrow-gauge service, sits on a set-off track next to the Avondale station.
Canadian National caboose #6059 with the TerraTransport logo tails the display train.
Another view of Canadian National caboose #6059.
Coach #769 wears the CNR “maple leaf” logo.
Coach #769 is displayed in CN green and gold at Avondale.
Another view of coach CN769.
An ex-RPO (railway post office) car painted as Newfoundland Railway #233. This car was actually built after CN absorbed the Newfoundland Railway.
A view of the display train, looking back towards the station at Avondale.
The Newfoundland Railway logo is proudly worn by RPO #233.
The “power” for the display train is CN 925, an NF210 built by GMD. It is “power” in name only, as it is only a shell, without a diesel engine inside.
There were a lot of snowplows in Newfoundland—almost every train display seems to have one! At Avondale, the plow is CN3465.
The last extant section of the Newfoundland Railway main line exists at Avondale. Running for about 1.5 km starting at the station, the line is used for rides on a small homebuilt excursion “train”.
The “Avondale Express” is a home-built train used for giving rides in the summer over the approximately 1.5 km of remaining track at Avondale.
A last view of the Avondale Railway Museum. I was impressed by this little museum and wish them luck with their endeavours!
The town of Whitbourne was located west of Avondale on the Newfoundland Railway main line. At one time a branch split off here, leading to Blaketown and Heart’s Content. Today, the station building is in good condition as the town office, and apparently also holds a small museum, which was closed on the day of our visit. Next to the station is a line of display equipment, all of which shows a lack of attention.
The former-CN station at Whitbourne, now the municipal offices
The former-station building at Whitbourne, with the display train off to the right
It’s another snowplow! The display train at Whitbourne sits on part of the former main line. It has no number, but the snowplow is apparently ex-CN3459.
NF210 #940 wears the TerraTransport logo. This locomotive is also a shell, without a prime mover. There were originally 38 of these 1200-horsepower locomotives built for use on the 42″ railway in Newfoundland.
This now-unnumbered baggage car was built in 1943 for the Newfoundland Railway as #242. In later CN service it worked as #1602, and was eventually retired to work-train service as #4147.
This un-numbered coach is another car built in 1943, as Newfoundland Railway #33.
This unnumbered caboose was CN #6053 when in service.
The display train, as seen from the rear—I hope the community will be able to do something with this train. It is quickly deteriorating and needs some attention!
Carbonear was located at the end of the Carbonear Branch, running north off the main line. The branch extended further north to Grate’s Cove and Bay de Verte, but these extensions were abandoned in 1934. In the latter days of the Newfoundland operations, Carbonear was served by a mixed train from St. John’s.
The railway station at Carbonear still exists. It is now owned by the Carbonear Heritage Society, and used as a museum and visitors’ centre.
A historical plaque on the Carbonear station
A historical plaque with the history of the Carbonear railway station
On display near the Carbonear station is ex-CN #803, a GMD G8. The G8s were light-weight locomotives built primarily for use on the branch lines to Carbonear, Bonavista and Argentia.
Poor #803 is just a shell, with no prime mover. Even the fuel tank is missing! Six G8s (875 h.p.) were delivered to CN for use in Newfoundland.
A view of the short section of track still in place, leading away from the Carbonear station.
The G8 is on display in the remains of the Carbonear yard. The station stands further away, past the building with the clock.
The line running north of Carbonear to Grate’s Cover and Bay de Verde was closed in 1934, but 83 years later, the little wooden station in Western Bay still stands and is in use! The building is used as an office for the North Shore Central Ambulance Service.
The track side of the Western Bay station
The back side of the Western Bay station
Another view of the Western Bay station, in the traditional yellow-and-green Newfoundland Railway colours
Between Carbonear and the main line at Brigus Junction, the branch line passed through Harbour Grace. The station here still stands and is home to a small museum.
The station at Harbour Grace as twilight falls
The Harbour Grace station—again with the yellow and green colours!
The station from the express room end
The entrance for the express room, and a vintage CN sign
Next to the Harbour Grace station is this 42″ gauge Fairmont MT14 motor car.
Just over a week after leaving Newfoundland, I had a chance to visit the Exporail museum in Delson, Quebec, near Montreal. Here I found a refugee from Newfoundland—a short train of Newfoundland 42* gauge equipment on display.
#805 wears a different paint scheme than its sister in #803 in Carbonear. At least this unit still has fuel tanks!
CN #805 is one of 6 G8s built for use in Newfoundland.
A narrow-guage stock car
Ex-CN coach #760, built by Canadian Car & Foundry in 1949, is in pretty rough shape. The whole train is leaning towards the shed.