RAILWAY LORE – ODDITIES ON THE LINE (July 3/07)

In the days when the railway ran through the Valley, many of the smaller communities had stations and station agents. Some of the stations were in what appear to be areas of little importance to the railway; a station was located in Steam Mill for example, which is surprising since it was located a short distance from the Kentville and Centreville stations. However, Steam Mill had one or two flourishing industries in its heyday and this may explain why there was a railway station.

One of the compilations attempted by railway historian Leon Barron was the listing of the names and locations of the numerous railway stations in Kings County, along with the agents who served in them over the years.

We got many a chuckle over oddities in the station list. The railway insisted on adding “village” to many of their station signs, for example, and it apparently didn’t matter if the stop was officially a village or whatever.

In some cases, the railroad appeared to be correct about the names. For example, the Steam Mill station carried a prominent sign that said it was Steam Mill Village. Two sources, Eaton’s 1910 Kings County history and Charles Bruce Fergusson’s Place-Names and Places of Nova Scotia confirm that the correct name is Steam Mill Village. However, Eaton placed the name of the place in quotes, perhaps indicating he wasn’t sure it qualified for village status.

One of the railway oddities Leon Barron pointed out to me was the location of Port Williams Station. If you had happened to stop at the Port Williams Station when riding the rails away back when, you would have found yourself in Greenwich.

Of course, we all know the railway line never ran to Port Williams. It almost did, however. When the railway was being planned it was at first decided to run the line from Wolfville to Port Williams, and thence westerly towards Kentville possibly after crossing the Cornwallis River.

After all the literature – tickets, schedules, etc., – with Port Williams Station on it was printed in England and shipped here, someone apparently took a second look and decided it was more direct and less expensive to run the line straight to Kentville along the south bank of the Cornwallis River. However, it was too late to change the literature and the name Port Williams Station remained. A few half-hearted efforts were made later to properly designate the stop as Greenwich Station but nothing came of it.

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