Friday, July 3, 2009

SS Empress at the Railway Wharf

This image, taken about 1880, shows the confluence of two forces which brought Annapolis Royal to its economic peak between 1869 and 1891. This period was of course the Golden Age of Sail in the Maritimes. Communities in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island were all prospering due to the fishing, shipping and shipbuilding industries. Waterfront communities enjoyed a period of prosperity which we have not seen since. During this period in Annapolis Royal, we had the additional advantage of being the terminus of the Windsor and Annapolis Railway. Produce from the Annapolis Valley was transported to Annapolis Royal where it would be stored or packed into waiting ships. From here the ships would take Nova Scotia products to ports around the world.

In this photograph we see the steam driven paddle-wheeler SS Empress waiting for a load of passengers. The SS Empress left Annapolis Royal for Saint John, New Brunswick on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday evenings. The cost of a one way fare from Halifax to Saint John using both the train and ferry cost $5.00 in 1872. While this seems inexpensive today, in the 1870s this was a substantial sum. The average salary at the time would be in the range of $1.00 per day. In addition to the Bay of Fundy service to Saint John, another ferry worked the waters between Annapolis Royal and Boston.

Sadly, this is a photograph which could not be taken in Annapolis Royal today. The missing link in the rail line between Annapolis Royal and Digby was completed in 1891. This made Annapolis Royal simply another stop on the line. The ferry service to Annapolis Royal came to an end shortly after this time. With changing economic times, the train tracks themselves were pulled up in the late 1980s after more than 100 years of rail service.

All for now,
RGS

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