LOOKING BACK: THE OLD WESTON RAIL LINE (March 23/01)

If it was to remain viable, Kingsport, a shipping outlet on the Minas Basin required a connection with the new railway line that was laid out through the Annapolis Valley about midway through the 19th century. On January 8, 1887, a public meeting was held in Canning to discuss financing a connector line. Prominent among the citizens attending was Leander Rand, M.P.P. and J. W. King of the Windsor and Annapolis Railway; it is said to be King’s suggestion that the connector line should be named the Cornwallis Valley Railway, or as area residents would fondly call it, the C.V.R.

The C.V.R. would eventually be built – it was operational by 1890 – and the tracks ran into Kentville to connect with the line that would become the Dominion Atlantic Railway. Early on, however, there was talk of bypassing Kentville and running the line due west to Sheffield Mills and thence to Middleton. The importance of having a railway line to service fruit growers in the region west of Centreville and north of what is now the 101 highway was realized early.

Eventually, a spur would be constructed to run west from Centreville into the heart of the Kings County’s fruit growing belt, the line the C.V.R, might have built but for pressure from the Annapolis and Windsor Railway. This spur line, called the Weston subdivision, was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway between 1912 and 1914, nearly two decades after the completion of the C.V.R.

The Weston subdivision ran west into the fruit belt for 14 miles with stations at Northville, Lakeville, Woodville, Somerset and Weston. Railway buff Leon Barron tells me that while there were stations at these communities along the line and passenger service was available, there were no permanent station agents. “The railway used a system of traveling agents,” Barron explained.

As mentioned, the fruit growing industry spurred the building of the C.V.R. and was the main reason the Weston subdivision was laid out. Leon Barron says there were at least 25 apple warehouses constructed along the C.V.R. line to service apple growers. When the Weston subdivision was added, another 19 warehouses were built between Centreville and Weston. These included the warehouses of private fruit companies, the United Fruit Co. for example. A few of these warehouses still stand along the right of way and the company logos can still be read.

Most of the tracks of the Cornwallis Valley Railway and the Weston subdivision were removed in 1962. The rights of way are still visible in many areas, however, and some are being used as walking and snowmobile trails. In a few areas on the Weston line, some of the cement culverts at stream crossings are still extant. The existing culverts are dated on the north side – “either 1912, 1913 or 1914,” Leon Barron says.

If you’re interested in looking at remnants of the Weston line, Leon Barron tells me there is a large cement bridge that crosses a gully near Woodville. Turn north at the Woodville intersection and a short distance up the road the line crosses by a poultry house. You can find the culvert or bridge by walking west along the old right of way.

A couple of the old Weston line stations are also still standing, Barron says. The Lakeville station was purchased by the Stirling family years ago and moved away from the right of way; the station now stands about a half mile away from the original railway line on Sterling land north-west of Lakeville.

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