Cape Breton Railways: An Illustrated History: An Illustrated History by Herb MacDonaldCape Breton Railways: An Illustrated History: An Illustrated History by Herb MacDonald

Cape Breton Railways: An Illustrated History: An Illustrated History

byHerb MacDonald

Paperback | July 18, 2012

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CAPE BRETON'S RAIL LINES are perhaps best known for their substantial roles in the coal and steel industries-and their decline as those industries faded away. Yet, despite their prominent connections to coal and steel, railways played many other important roles in the life of the Island.For a hundred years, railways carried people to and from Cape Breton as well as between communities on the island. Railways carried the mail; before the development of the telephone system, the railway companies provided telegraph service for occasions when the mail was too slow; railways moved freight and express for individuals and businesses; and the railways provided jobs, in large numbers, directly to their own employees and indirectly through companies whose products and services they used.The first horse-powered line at Sydney Mines is a contender for recognition as the first railway in Canada, a subject examined in chapter 1. The case for that honour requires a definition of “railway” based on a long-run sense of history-but any serious look at railways calls for a long-run view.In 1829, only four years after the opening of the Stockton and Darlington in County Durham, England, the railway age came to Cape Breton. The first lines on the island used horse-power for more than two decades. Steam locomotives did not arrive until 1853. The early Cape Breton experience was a direct transfer of early English technology, but what had happened in England over the course of two hundred years occurred on Cape Breton within the span of twenty-five years.Over the next century-and-a-half, as some areas of Cape Breton evolved from a rural and agricultural society into an urban and industrial one, railways played a central role in supporting the changes that took place. This book looks at those railways in the contexts of what was happening on and beyond the Island.Cape Breton's railways were shaped by factors such physical geography, availability of both capital and customers, and the distribution of population and industries. In response to those factors, railway builders and operators often had to make difficult choices and try to deal with factors they could not control.
Title:Cape Breton Railways: An Illustrated History: An Illustrated HistoryFormat:PaperbackDimensions:264 pages, 9.25 × 7.5 × 0.75 inPublished:July 18, 2012Publisher:Cape Breton University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1897009674

ISBN - 13:9781897009673

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lots of interesting information Herb MacDonald has carried out extensive research of original documents, in both Canada and England, pertaining to the establishment and operation of Cape Breton railways. He draws on this research to describe the development of railways and rolling stock, especially locomotives, from the horse drawn era through the early locomotive-hauled railways, started by the General Mining Association in the mid 19th century to carry coal to the docks, to the Intercolonial Railway, Canadian National, VIA and the Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway. One of the many fascinating discussions concerns the reasons for the purchase of three narrow gauge Fairlie Patent "double-ended" locomotives from the Avonside Works in Bristol, England for use on the Glasgow & Cape Breton Railway that ran from Reserve to Sydney and was later extended to Schooner Pond and finally to Louisbourg. Herb then describes the negotiations, that carried on for decades, before the railways in the Sydney area were finally joined by the Intercolonial Railway to the mainland, albeit using a ferry. Further chapters describe the transportation of coal and steel across the island in the 20th century, what it was like to work on the railways, the sale of the line between Truro and Sydney by Canadian National to the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway, the rise and fall of passenger operations by VIA Rail and the preservation of Cape Breton's railway heritage. The book is well illustrated with numerous archival black and white photographs and there are many information boxes that provide extra details on specific topics or quote newspaper articles or resolutions from meetings about the railways. There is lots to read for both the person with a casual interest in the railways of Cape Breton and for the serious railway historian who is seeking detailed annotated information about the railways on the island.
Date published: 2012-07-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Research Effort I started taking an interest in the history of Nova Scotia’s railways in the mid 1990s. Over the years, that fascination slowly developed into an attempt to develop a website with railway history as its theme. Like anyone that has ever attempted to research railways in the province, I soon realized how much conflicting and even erroneous information has been circulated as historical fact over the years. Although I was aware of much of the information present in Cape Breton Railways: An Illustrated History, I am also aware of the tremendous efforts the author has taken to separate fact from fiction. While I don’t feel the main focus of the work is to refute all published accounts, it is quite obvious that the author has done some intriguing detective work and resolved a lot of those inconsistencies and mysteries for us. I see Cape Breton Railways: An Illustrated History as a very coherent and rational package that allows the reader to fully understand and make sense of the circumstances that influenced the development and decline of railways on our island. As I would hope, the author’s account of that rise and fall is well supported by footnotes that document his source material and offer a little more insight into his research efforts. Throughout the entire book, I was very impressed how the author tied the story together, and kept the big picture easily in focus for us. The author has also offered an array of data in table form and has successfully interpreted what information was available to him. All the material and data flowed very well, and an effort was made to make sense of the statistics presented, so it is much easier to digest. The author made note of things that wouldn't have been considered if the tables had been presented without his explanation and interpretations. Looking beyond all the useful facts and figures the author presents in the work, I was very impressed how he dealt with conflicting details that can always frustrate a researcher when faced with such problems. The author also showed the reader that many events were influenced by outside factors that must be considered and put into context as well. I especially enjoyed how the author tied in the political atmosphere and the behind the scene speculations, that added so much depth to the facts. Also obvious throughout the book was that the author’s research tied up as many loose ends as the primary data allowed, and he also made note of where the source material falls short, or where further research efforts were needed. The author’s writing style has a certain flare and creativity that really draws the reader in and makes the story very interesting. His use of many entertaining stories from past published sources offers some very amusing side notes and puts a human spin on the material presented. I felt that summing-up the coal and steel industry of our island in one chapter was certainly no small feat. However, I do feel that the author did a wonderful job, without getting bogged down in the details that often sidetrack other works to the point that they lose some focus. The author’s treatment of the struggles of our forefathers and the labour movement was just enough to put the reader in the right frame of mind for the time period, without overpowering the chapter. Outlining the economic and political conditions in both Nova Scotia and the rest of Canada, also added a great deal of depth to the story. In doing so, the author was able to shed additional light on the downfall of the coal and steel industry, and the rail lines that served them. Overall, the book was very interesting and fascinating to me. It was able to tell a very complicated story in a very simple, but eloquently and sometimes entertaining manner. It not only included many unknowns, but it also offered many photographs that I have not seen in last 15 years of researching Nova Scotia’s railway history. I highly recommend this book to anyone that has just a passing interest in railways, or to those that are a bit more serious about their railway research. Take care, Robert A. Chant Glace Bay, NS Member of the Nova Scotia Railway Historical Society (Webmaster)
Date published: 2012-07-23