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:

Newfoundland Railway no date

All the photos below were taken in late September 2017.

 

Lewisporte

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.

IMGP8156-Corner Brook display

St. John’s

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 former Newfoundland Railway shop building in St. John’s

Back side of Coastal Railway Museum 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.

Display at the Coastal Railway Museum

One of the displays inside the museum, located in one half of a former passenger car.

Display train at Coastal Railway Museum in St John's

The display train at Coastal Railway Museum in St John’s. Ex-CN NF210 #906 is accompanied by a baggage car and a coach.

Motor car at Coastal Railway Museum in St John's

A Fairmont motor car at Coastal Railway Museum in St John’s.

 

Holyrood

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.

Mural at Holyrood

A steam-powered passenger train appears on the mural in Holyrood.

Historical plaque at Holyrood

The railway history of Holyrood

The Station Diner at Holyrood

The Station Diner in Holyrood is a replica of the original station.

The Station Diner at Holyrood

The “track side” of the Station Diner building at Holyrood.

Trail at Holyrood

The Newfoundland T’Railway trail at Holyrood is on the former main line. What a view train passengers would have had here!

 

Avondale

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.

Station museum at Avondale

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.

Depot museum at Avondale

The Avondale station sits in its original location, and a section of 42″ gauge track is still in place next to the building.

Motor car by depot museum at Avondale

A Fairmont M19 motor car, modified for narrow-gauge service, sits on a set-off track next to the Avondale station.

Caboose CN6059 at the Avondale museum

Canadian National caboose #6059 with the TerraTransport logo tails the display train.

Caboose CN6059 at the Avondale museum

Another view of Canadian National caboose #6059.

Coach CN769 at Avondale

Coach #769 wears the CNR “maple leaf” logo.

Coach CN769 at Avondale

Coach #769 is displayed in CN green and gold at Avondale.

Coach CN769 at Avondale

Another view of coach CN769.

Newfoundland Railway #233 (RPO) at Avondale

An ex-RPO (railway post office) car painted as Newfoundland Railway #233. This car was actually built after CN absorbed the Newfoundland Railway.

The display train at Avondale

A view of the display train, looking back towards the station at Avondale.

Newfoundland Railway #233 (RPO) at Avondale

The Newfoundland Railway logo is proudly worn by RPO #233.

CN925 at the Avondale Railway Museum

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.

CN snowplow #3465 at the Avondale Railway Museum

There were a lot of snowplows in Newfoundland—almost every train display seems to have one! At Avondale, the plow is CN3465.

Section of Newfoundland Railway track at Avondale

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" at the Avondale Railway Museum

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.

View of Avondale Railway Museum

A last view of the Avondale Railway Museum. I was impressed by this little museum and wish them luck with their endeavours!

 

Whitbourne

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.

Station building at Whitbourne

The former-CN station at Whitbourne, now the municipal offices

Station building at Whitbourne

The former-station building at Whitbourne, with the display train off to the right

Display train at Whitbourne

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 at Whitbourne

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.

Baggage car at Whitbourne

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.

Newfoundland Railway coach at Whitbourne

This un-numbered coach is another car built in 1943, as Newfoundland Railway #33.

CN caboose at Whitbourne

This unnumbered caboose was CN #6053 when in service.

Display train at Whitbourne

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

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 station at Carbonear

The railway station at Carbonear still exists. It is now owned by the Carbonear Heritage Society, and used as a museum and visitors’ centre.

The station at Carbonear

A historical plaque on the Carbonear station

Historical plaque at Carbonear railway station

A historical plaque with the history of the Carbonear railway station

CN803 at Carbonear

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.

CN803 at Carbonear

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.

Section of track at Carbonear

A view of the short section of track still in place, leading away from the Carbonear station.

CN803 at Carbonear

The G8 is on display in the remains of the Carbonear yard. The station stands further away, past the building with the clock.

 

Western Bay

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.

Station at Western Bay

The track side of the Western Bay station

Station at Western Bay

The back side of the Western Bay station

Station at Western Bay

Another view of the Western Bay station, in the traditional yellow-and-green Newfoundland Railway colours

 

Harbour Grace

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.

Station at Harbour Grace

The station at Harbour Grace as twilight falls

Station at Harbour Grace

The Harbour Grace station—again with the yellow and green colours!

Station at Harbour Grace

The station from the express room end

Station at Harbour Grace

The entrance for the express room, and a vintage CN sign

Motor car at Harbour Grace

Next to the Harbour Grace station is this 42″ gauge Fairmont MT14 motor car.

 

Postscript—-Delson (Montreal)

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.

NFLD equipment in Montreal

#805 wears a different paint scheme than its sister in #803 in Carbonear. At least this unit still has fuel tanks!

NFLD equipment in Montreal

CN #805 is one of 6 G8s built for use in Newfoundland.

NFLD equipment in Montreal

A narrow-guage stock car

NFLD equipment in Montreal

Ex-CN coach #760, built by Canadian Car & Foundry in 1949, is in pretty rough shape. The whole train is leaning towards the shed.

 

2 Comments

  1. Don Driscoll November 1, 2017 at 12:42 am

    The Station Diner in Holyrood was just built as a sort of copy of the station and is not the station itself. I took pictures of the Holyrood station in 1985 and you can see them on Facebook page “The Newfoundland Railway”. Just type Holyrood in the search box on the left side of the page and you will be able to see the pictures of the station. Glad to see you had a great time when you were here.

     
    • Jeffrey Dobek November 1, 2017 at 7:40 am

      Thank you for this information, Don. I have updated the text in the article.

      It was a fantastic visit—first time and hopefully not that last!

       

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