LOOKING BACK – THE C.V.R. LINE (October 9/98)

The old Cornwallis Valley Railway, which ran from Kingsport to Kentville with eight stops along the way, in one sense was fueled by apples and farm produce.

Started by private interests in 1889, the C.V.R. apparently was built mainly with the apple industry and farmers in mind. From Kingsport the C.V.R. track to Kentville ran for 13.59 miles through the farm communities of Steam Mill, Centreville, Gibson Woods, Sheffield Mills, Hillaton, Canning and Pereau; according to railroad history buff, Leon Barron, the line was dotted with apple warehouses, 25 laying next to the tracks with numerous other storage barns and an evaporator for apples close by.

While the C.V.R. ran to Kentville every day except Sunday, making the trip twice on weekdays and three times on Saturday, providing a passenger service must have been the least of its interests. In her history of the Dominion Atlantic Railway, Marguerite Woodworth writes that in the late 1800s “the fertile district between Kingsport and Kentville, which up to the present had depended for transportation of its produce on the small vessels calling at Kingsport and Canning, or by team to the railroad in Kentville, began to agitate for a railway of its own.”

That agitation came to a head on January 8, 1887, when at a public meeting at Canning it was decided that a rail line from Kingsport, “passing westward through Cornwallis to join with the (existing) railway at some point west,” was a necessity. The proposed line had the backing of Leander Rand, M.P.P, and officers of the Windsor and Annapolis Railway (W. & A.) which hoped the new line would have its terminal point in Kentville.

Several months later (Woodworth gives the date as May 3) the Cornwallis Valley Railway Company Ltd. was incorporated, the federal government granting the line a subsidy of $3,200 per mile and right of way. Government engineers did the groundwork that summer and by June 1889 work on the C.V. R. began in earnest. The location of the C.V.R.’s terminal was still undecided. The C.V.R. was built with the idea that one of the existing railways in the region would eventually take it over. “While no official announcement was made,” Woodworth notes, “a tentative understanding was reached with Mr. King (of the W. & A.) and the construction consequently proceeded toward Kentville.”

By December in 1890 the Cornwallis Valley Railway was in full operation. The C.V.R. rented equipment and terminal facilities at Kentville from the W. & A. and began competing with it immediately. The C.V.R.’s line ran to the government wharf at Kingsport, where steamers from New Brunswick docked, and it soon had the lion’s share of freight traffic. This situation quickly triggered an offer by the shareholders of the W. & A. to buy out the C.V.R. The transfer was made on July 26, 1892; the little C.V.R. may have had the shortest period of operation of any railroad in Canada.

It’s odd that while it ceased to exist in name after a few years of operation, as late as the 1960s railroad men were still referring to the run to Kingsport as the C.V.R. line. The line served the region known as the Cornwallis Valley for over half a century; most of the tracks were removed in 1962.

In 1993 all that remained of the original C.V.R. line were several miles of track running to Steam Mill Village; these tracks were torn up in October, 1993. All that remains of the little C.V.R. today are memories, a few photographs, and scattered remnants of the old right of way.

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