The Heritage Corner, Springhill Record

Mar. 19, 2008

Mar. 19, 2008–The Springhill and Parrsboro Railway

When coal mining started in Springhill the coal had to be carted through the woods to places like Athol and Southampton and as far away as Londonderry (where the coal was used in the iron mines) as there were no roads. Also, with the formation of the Inter Colonial Railway which had a line from Amherst to Truro, the coal could be used in the locomotives and the coal company decided it should have a line built from Springhill to Parrsboro so they could ship the coal to places like the New England States and Saint John, New Brunswick. In 1877 this railway line was built by the Inter Colonial Railway Company with E.N. Sharp, a stock broker from Saint John, N.B. at the head of the project. At the time it had a capital of one million dollars and was given a subsidy by Act of the Legislature of Nova Scotia toward the construction of the railway of 5 thousand dollars a mile and ten acres of timberland. Since they only need five more miles of railway to connect it to Springhill Junction they decided to build it.

The first car of coal taken to Springhill Junction was on Dec. 6, 1873, by Hugh Tait. The first locomotive used on the line was a small government engine the “Star” with engineer Beverley White and Fireman David McNutt who were both Inter Colonial Railway men. The train from Springhill to Springhill Junction was from the start called the “Coal Train”. The first local driver was Alexander Coon followed by John J. Fraser, whose fireman for 13 years was John Scott. John Gullins was the first local conductor.

The Springhill and Parrsboro Coal and Railway Company was completed in 1877 with the first shipment of coal on March 15 th. They were given a right of way to use the line going to Springhill Junction by the Springhill Mining Company

When, in 1884, a Montreal Company took over the coal mines in Springhill it also bought the Railway line between Parrsboro and Springhill and the one between Springhill and Springhill Junction and amalgamated the two lines and formed the Cumberland Railway and Coal Company. The tracks were upgraded and 120, 9 ton coal cars were purchased and a new mine was opened in Springhill which started a boom for Parrsboro.

The first collision occurred in 1887 about a mile from the Junction between the water train and the coal train. John Richmond on the coal train was killed. William Strong was the first to meet his death on the railway.

The Cumberland Railway and Coal Company Line was extended in 1877 to White Hall a distance of 2 miles from the railway station in Parrsboro and a wharf was built.

There were three different Railway Stations in Springhill. The first was opposite the Company Boarding House (out by the stone dump) the third was to the north east of the first and the second was between the other two.

After many years of having connections with the main line of the Inter Colonial Railway and Parrsboro it was hoped that Springhill could become a railway centre so a scheme was launched for a line from Springhill to Oxford connecting with the new short line and the establishment of shipping piers at Pugwash and Wallace. This line was promoted by R.G. Leckie General Manager of the Cumberland Railway and Coal Company and Charles Annand of Halifax. A survey was started in Aug. 1886 and a camp was set up in the Black River Hills between the two terminals. The survey lasted until October and many changes were made. The surveyor was R.W. Leonard, C.E. and he made many changes to the design at Salt Springs including the oblique bridge over the brook, to a short bridge which had a curve at either end forming an S curve. The line crossed the Inter Colonial Railway at Salt Springs in a diamond crossing. The road was completed the following summer and was immediately condemned. The old bridge which spanned River Philip at Oxford which was to facilitate the shipment of coal from Springhill to Pugwash and outside markets was removed in 1942 and converted to munitions.

The train to Parrsboro carried lumber, freight, mail, passengers and limestone as well as coal. A special train was often used to take the children on a Sunday School Picnic. The children from the Sunday school would ride free but others could go with them for .25 cents. Some times there were 1200 people on that train.

Another use for the passenger train was for the Miners’ Annual Picnic. All the miners and their families would board the train in Springhill and spend the day in Parrsboro.

On June 14, 1958 the last train left Parrsboro for Springhill. Many Dignitaries gathered at the old station-house to board the train for the last time. The conductor for the last ride was Art Fraser.