Opening late in the 19th century, the Cornwallis Valley Railway connected the bustling Minas Basin terminal of Kingsport with the rail line in Kentville. At the start, the CVR train ran twice daily six days a week, Monday to Saturday and once on Sunday. Between Kingsport and Kentville the train stopped at various communities along the way, where apple warehouses often were conveniently located. The Weston branch, running west from Centreville, was added in 1914, connecting the railway with some of the top apple producing areas in Kings County.
Primarily built to serve the apple industry and provide a connection to shipping at Kingsport, the CVR’s daily runs also made it convenient for students attending Kentville schools. In his website history of the CVR, Ivan Smith writes that the Monday to Friday trains served as the school bus of the time: “Students from the Kingsport, Canning, Sheffield Mills area who wanted a high school education traveled on the train to Kentville to attend classes at the Kentville Academy; at the end of the school day the afternoon train took them home.”
Smith says the railway and school schedules were coordinated to enable students to attend a full day of classes. On Monday to Friday, the train left Kingsport at 8:00am and arrived in Kentville at 8:40am. The station was only a few minutes walk from the school, allowing plenty of time for students to make the 9:00 o’clock start of classes. On the return trip the train left Kentville at 3:30pm, arriving in Kingsport at 4:15pm.
While at Kings County Academy, I was aware of what we called the CVR’s school run. A number of my classmates traveled on the train and the “train kids” stood out because their situation was unique. How many kinds in Nova Scotia, or across Canada for that matter, can boast they took the train to school?
The CVR’s morning and afternoon runs were a reliable method of transportation for school students attending KCA, even though the train tended to be a bit poky at apple harvest time. It seems the daily runs between Kentville and Kingsport were adequate to serve the general population as well. So it was a surprise when I found that in 1947 the railway supplemented the morning and afternoon trains with a bus run. I discovered this leafing through the May 1947 issues of The Advertiser. I found an advertisement in the papers informing the public of a combined bus and rail service between Kingsport and Kentville, with the first bus commencing May 1.
The advertisement published the schedule of the train and bus runs, advising passengers using the latter they could board at train stations in Kentville and Kingsport and would be “picked up and set down at all convenient points on the route;” meaning, I suppose, the regular train stops at stations such as Aldershot, Steam Mill, Centreville and so on. There was no change in the train schedule and train and bus tickets were to be interchangeable.
The bus run was scheduled to run from Kentville to Kingsport beginning in late morning and returning in the afternoon. It was short-lived, however. By 1949 the bus was gone. It hasn’t been forgotten entirely, however, and is remembered by many seniors who lived along or near the old CVR line. Surprisingly, not one source I looked at regarding the CVR line history mentions the railway bus; apparently as far as historian and railway buffs are aware, the bus never existed.
So, comes the question, why did the railway start a bus run? One answer may be that trains were too slow for a public that wanted faster connections between towns and villages in the area served by the CVR.
It’s interesting to note that when the Dominion Atlantic Railway cancelled the CVR bus, a train run with the identical schedule the bus used quickly replaced it. Historian Ivan Smith pointed this out in recent correspondence. Short-lived as it was, the bus was not a complete failure, Smith notes. “It seems there was enough business for the bus (running on its late morning eastbound, returning early afternoon westbound) to justify running the train instead of the bus.” It was, Smith says, “a rare example of replacing an existing bus service by a railway passenger train in rural Nova Scotia.”