RIDING THE WARTIME TRAIN NORTH TO ALDERSHOT (September 9/08)

“About an hour ago I went (to your railway website) and just kept on reading and reading,” I wrote Internet historian Ivan Smith when we were “chatting” back and forth via e-mail recently.

The local train schedules posted on Smith’s website brought back memories of the time some 60 years ago when I had a newspaper route that involved trains. My route consisted of picking up a bundle of daily newspapers from the morning train from Halifax, then taking the train to Camp Aldershot to hawk them.

I wrote Ivan Smith that I was mixed up about how I could pick up newspapers from one train and then immediately after, take the train to Camp Aldershot. “Surely,” I wrote, “the train that came up from Halifax didn’t make the run north to Aldershot, Steam Mill, Centreville, and so on, but it’s confused in my mind. I was just a kid then, not in my teens. As I recall, there was little time between picking up my papers and jumping on the train to Aldershot Camp.”

I was in a sort of unique situation, but I didn’t know it at the time. I had a wartime newspaper route requiring two railway lines to make it work. I didn’t realize this until Ivan Smith explained how the railway was operating two lines.

“The train from Halifax did not go northward to Aldershot, Steam Mill, Canning and Kingsport. The train from Halifax continued westward along the Valley, toward Yarmouth. There was a separate train from Kentville northward to Kingsport. The Kentville, Aldershot, Steam Mill Canning, Kingsport train ran on the Cornwallis Valley Railway, which was owned by the D.A.R. The C.V.R. trains were scheduled to connect closely with the D.A.R. trains. When a D.A.R. passenger train arrived at Kentville, a C.V.R. train was ready, standing at the station on a separate parallel track, about 20 feet north of the D.A.R. main line.

“Passengers could get off the just-arrived D.A.R. train, walk across the platform and get on the waiting C.V.R. train. Meanwhile, the D.A.R. conductor would be keeping a close eye on his train, which was scheduled to hold at Kentville for 15 minutes, so there was lots of time for arriving passengers to get off and departing passengers to get on. There would even have been time for a passenger to get off and buy a sandwich at the station restaurant.

“You would have got your newspapers from the baggage car, and walked across to the waiting C.V.R. train. There was no fear the train would leave without you. If the incoming train from Halifax happened to be late for any reason, the C.V.R. train would wait until it arrived so that passengers could make the connection. The train crews in those days were careful that nobody was left behind.”

Isn’t it odd how you suddenly remember things clearly, once someone tells you what you should remember? In other words, once Ivan Smith told me how the wartime trains ran north from Kentville, I recalled doing exactly what he said. I paid the princely sum of 10 cents for the train ride north to Camp Aldershot. Not a lot maybe, but it cut into the 70 or 80 cents I generally made every day if I sold all my papers.

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