FLASHBACK: LUMBERING DAYS ON CAPE BLOMIDON (November 25/05)

According to Nova Scotia Legislature records, the Blomidon Railway Company was incorporated in 1911. There’s little doubt that our own Sir Frederick Borden was behind plans to build this railway and he may have had his lumbering interests in mind. Sir Frederick owned a considerable tract of woodland in the Cape Blomidon/Cape Split area; and while the records aren’t clear on it, he may have been harvesting timber there when the idea of a new railway line was floated.

Was it mere coincidence that while the Blomidon Railway’s main service area would be north and northwest of Wolfville (Port Williams, Canard, Starr’s Point, Canning, Woodside, Pereau, etc.) a spur line would also run to the top of Cape Blomidon and continue to Scots Bay and out to Cape Split? Probably not, but there’s no documentary evidence that the Blomidon line was proposed solely to harvest timber.

Yet why build a railway in the area unless its main purpose was to harvest the thousands of acres of timberland atop Blomidon. The Cornwallis Valley Railway (CVR) connecting Kingsport to Kentville already existed at the time and there appears to have been no need for another line. I suppose we can conclude that creating a new railway simply to help Sir Frederick Borden harvest lumber wouldn’t have been popular. Hence the new line offered service to areas on the Valley floor not covered by the CVR along with spurs to Blomidon, Scots Bay and Cape Split.

It’s known that before the Blomidon Railway Company was incorporated, Sir Frederick was already busy lumbering on Cape Blomidon. As early as 1899 Sir Frederick was operating there and according to records found by Leon Barron, this led to the establishment of a small self-contained community on Cape Blomidon. Barron tells me there may have been twelve families established there as a result of Borden’s lumbering operation and there were a store and a school.

Another record of Borden’s lumbering activities on Blomidon exists in a story written some 30 years ago by G. David Dwyer. Mr. Dwyer’s article (published I believe in this newspaper in 1974) describes Borden’s operation in detail, mentioning a sawmill, a cookhouse, a general store on the mountaintop, and a “thriving community both under the mountain and on top.”

Dwyer writes that Borden first located his sawmill on Blomidon and “sluiced” timber down the mountainside “a distance of half a mile” to the shore. The mill was later relocated to the base of the mountain. Even later, Dwyer says, “the logs were moved tree-length down the mountain and floated to a mill at Kingsport.” A tug, the Millie K, was built at Blomidon solely to “tow the boomed tree-length logs” to Kingsport.

No tracks were ever laid for the Blomidon Railway but Borden, operating under the name of “The Supply Company” may have pioneered telephone service in the Blomidon area. According to Leon Barron, Borden connected his lumber camps and probably the mill as well with telephones. Dwyer writes that the “village of Lower Blomidon or Whitewaters also boasted a telephone company and connected the village under the mountain with those person employed in the woods.”

Government records indicate that when Borden was active on Cape Blomidon there were several telephone companies in communities he had planned to service with his railway. One was the Scots Bay Telephone Company servicing Scots Bay, South Scots Bay and vicinity; there was also the Blomidon Mutual Telephone Company, which may have been Borden’s and the Valley Telegraph and Telephone Company servicing Canning, Berwick and Kentville.

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