Thursday, December 18, 2008

Taking the Train

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, we took the train to Montreal for the day. I was somewhat wistful as I was riding into the city. The train tracks to Annapolis Royal were taken up in the 1980s. There are still many people who speak of their enjoyment of being able to hop on the train in the morning, spend the day in Halifax and travel home in the evening. As I sat on the train I was wishing that the tracks were still in place. It really is nice to sit on the train, chat with the other passengers and in a couple of hours step out into the middle of the city.

The first rail link to Annapolis Royal was established by the Windsor and Annapolis Railway in 1861. We were the end of the line for this system. More precisely, the railway wharf in Annapolis Royal was the end of the line. The successor of this wharf is the only active wharf on the waterfront today. The station was located in the middle of the parking lot beside the Farmers and Traders Market. Including passengers, the railway carried fruit from the Annapolis Valley, lumber, salt fish, and a wide variety of other products. One of the main reasons for our town's economic boom at the end of the nineteenth century was the railway.

While our line ended in Annapolis Royal, the line down the south shore came all the way around to Digby. The short distance between the communities was known as the missing link. Local merchants began to lobby the government to finish the missing link under the assumption that merchandise from the south shore would also flow through Annapolis. In 1891 the link was finally completed to the excitement of the local business community. It is at this time that the line across Alains Creek is established. Unfortunately, Annapolis was no longer the end of the line. The merchants soon learned that we were just another stop. Yarmouth quickly took over as the major shipping port for our part of the province.

Like many communities across Canada, Annapolis Royal found a great deal of its prosperity due to the arrival of the railroad. From 1861 until the 1980s, this was our steel link to the rest of the province and eventually the rest of Canada. Sadly this link has been removed and the option of traveling to Halifax by rail is gone.

On a happier note, the most recent incarnation of the Annapolis Royal train station (the image at the top of this post) still stands. This building, built in the Arts and Crafts style in 1914, has recently won a major award for its restoration by Jane Nicholson. The station is now home to the Clean Annapolis River Project.

There is another local railroad which ran from Nictaux to Port Wade but this story will need to wait for another day and another post.

All for now,
RGS

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