RAILROAD TRIVIA – ASK IVAN OR LEON (October 16/98)

Leon Barron’s mind is like a computer. Ask the North Alton man about the railroad period in this region and with little hesitation he can endlessly recount lore, statistics, and trivia.

Ivan Smith, Canning, has the same passion for the railroad as Leon Barron. Like Barron he collects railroad lore. The difference is that Barron’s collection is stored in memory and file folders and Smith uses a computer. Smith’s web site (Nova Scotia History Index) has almost anything you might want to know about railroading in Nova Scotia.

Given their expertise, I asked Ivan and Leon for assistance when I prepared the recent column on the old Cornwallis Valley Railway. I received much more information than I could use in one column, so here’s a follow-up with some of the more interesting trivia.

In the previous column, I noted that the Cornwallis Valley Railway ran from Kingsport to Kentville. “Shouldn’t this have been the other way around?” some readers asked, since Kentville was the railroad headquarters? That is, that the C.V.R. ran from Kentville to Kingsport?

Over time people began to think of the C.V.R.. line in this way – as a spur of the Dominion Atlantic Railway that ran north from Kentville to Kingsport. However, the C.V.R. was originally a separate entity. Leon Barron tells me the founders of the C.V.R. seriously considered running the line west to Middleton, rather than to Kentville. This possibility, and stiff competition from the C.V.R. spurred the move by the Windsor and Annapolis Railway to buy out the new line.

Eventually, a line did run west from the C.V.R., the so-called Weston subdivision, which serviced the communities of Northville, Billtown, Lakeville, Woodville, Grafton, Somerset and Weston. Leon Barron thinks this was built around 1912, over 20 years after the C.V.R. line began operation. The Weston line was abandoned years ago but traces of the old rail bed and at least one bridge still remain.

Once the C.V.R. became part of the Windsor and Annapolis Railway, trains started to run daily from Kentville to Kingsport. There were eight stops or stations on the original C.V.R. line – Steam Mill Village, Centreville, Ford Crossing, Sheffield Mills, Hillaton, Canning, Pereau and Kingsport. The station at Aldershot Camp was added later (no date known). The so-called “Ford Crossing” is known today as Gibson Woods. No one could tell me why the Ford Crossing was so named.

I mentioned in last week’s column that the C.V.R. was fueled by apples (figuratively speaking) and there were at least 25 warehouses along the line. Leon Barron tells me that when the Weston subdivision was added, another 19 apple warehouses were constructed along the line from Centreville to Weston – further proof that Cornwallis Valley’s apple orchards figured prominently in the railroad’s growth.

A note from Ivan Smith on the C.V.R.’s passenger service: “In autumn, 1936, there was a level of passenger service on the C.V.R. which is today hardly credible. Two trips each weekday, Kentville to Weston and return, and two more Kingsport to Kentville and return. On Saturdays, three trips Kingsport to Kentville and return.”

It’s a convoluted tale but the C.V.R. became part of the Windsor and Annapolis Railway, which later acquired the Yarmouth and Annapolis Railway, and renamed itself the Dominion Atlantic Railway. While it was short-lived, the little C.V.R. became part of a railroad system that eventually ran uninterrupted throughout the length of the province.

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