In the fall of 1958, a Chronicle-Herald columnist using the pen name J. B. King, published a photograph showing a rare railway scene in Kentville.

What was so unusual about the picture? King explained that it “probably (was) the only railway photograph in existence anywhere showing a coal-burner and an authentic wood-burner coupled together in such circumstances.” The fact that coal-burners were on the way out made the photograph even more historic.

The photograph was from the pioneer days of the Windsor & Annapolis Railway, King said, and is believed to be of “the original through express from Annapolis for Halifax.” King noted that the photograph likely wasn’t a shot of the actual first run on New Year’s Day in 1872. “But it could easily double for the event,” he wrote, “as the motive power and rolling stock are identical.”

When he was active in the 1950s and 1960s, J. B. King was noted as a historical researcher and writer about the railway. He was Henry Bruce Jefferson (1893-1970) a reporter, editor and civil servant, who from 1957 to 1961 wrote about railway history in the Chronicle-Herald, using the J. B. King pen name. Jefferson researched and wrote 191 articles on the old steam railway, all of which appeared in the Chronicle-Herald.

Commenting on the photograph in an accompanying article, King wrote that some of the buildings are “said to still be in existence and readers familiar with Kentville will find many points of interest. Prominent in the photograph is the Webster Hotel, which later became the Ralph L. Macdonald building. The building is still there today but appears to be unoccupied.

The photograph shows two church steeples. On the left is the Presbyterian church which opened in 1859 and was demolished in 1912. The site is now occupied by the Royal Bank of Canada. The church on the right, the St. James Anglican, was located on Aberdeen Street at the time. In his book on Kentville, Louis Comeau writes that the church was moved in 1883 (with oxen power) to its present site on the corner of Main Street and Church Avenue. In 1899 a brick and stone post office was built on the site the church occupied on Aberdeen Street.

In the 1960s, The Advertiser published King’s rare photograph, indicating it was Kentville in the 1880s rather than the 1870s. However, it’s most likely that King, a noted researcher, had the correct date. In the cutline accompanying the photograph, the newspaper identified businesses now long gone – McCarthy’s Shoe Repair and Glasgow’s Jewelry Store, for example.

In his writing, King never revealed the fate of the photograph – is it in the archives in Halifax, or what? At one time, before it was given to King, the photograph was on display in the Kentville railway station. The then Dominion Atlantic Railway manager, J. C. McCuaig, gave the photograph to a Kentville merchant (Donald Chase) who in turn passed it on to King.

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