Chatham Junction

Occasionally I get an email from someone who needs some historical railway information. Sometimes it’s an author trying to confirm some details, or see what train was feasible for their character to take; often it is someone doing some research on their ancestors and trying to find out how they traveled across Canada.

Recently I was contacted by someone doing some research on the Chatham Branch Railway. This was a relatively obscure little railway in New Brunswick, part of the Canada Eastern Railway started by Fredericton-area industrialist Alexander “Boss” Gibson and Jabez Snowball as the Northern and Western Railway.

They were specifically interested in the station at Chatham Junction (pictured above). I had never seen this photo, and normally I would reach out to Art Clowes for more information, since he did extensive research on New Brunswick railway stations. Alas, Art died this year.

His legacy lives on, though. I have a copy of his railway station photo collection, although it’s probably a dozen years out of date. Chatham Junction isn’t in there. I also have a collection of maps that he drew, including a great one showing all of the railways of New Brunswick. I’m including a fragment of it below.

Canada Eastern Railway map, by Art Clowes
Canada Eastern Railway map, by Art Clowes

The Canada Eastern is shown in green. Note that between Blackville and Derby Junction/Chatham Junction there are two lines, one north of the southwest Miramichi River and one on the south side.

Compare that to this map from the 1907 Intercolonial Railway public timetable in my collection.

Chatham Junction area, 1907, from Intercolonial Railway public timetable
Chatham Junction area, 1907, from Intercolonial Railway public timetable

According to Construction of Railways in Canada Volume II (1885-1931) the Northern & Western / Canada Eastern was built in three parts:

  1. Chatham Junction to Blackville, 20 miles, opened January 1, 1886
  2. Chatham to Deep Water, 2 miles, opened November 23, 1886
  3. Gibson to Indiantown, 96 miles, opened August 15, 1887

(Indiantown is known as Renous now – not to be confused with the Indiantown that was north of Saint John)

I believe the reason why there were two lines between Blackville and Derby/Chatham Junctions is because the Intercolonial built the line on the north side of the river after the Canada Eastern built theirs. Eventually the Intercolonial acquired the Canada Eastern in 1904, and, having no need for essentially duplicate lines, the southern line was dismantled… after 1907, since passenger service was still offered then.

The orange line going north from Moncton / Pacific Junction was the Intercolonial Railway, and there were/are several “junctions” in close proximity – Chatham Junction, Derby Junction, and Nelson Junction.

Here’s a map of the area where the two branches of the Miramichi River come together, with the three junctions marked with hearts:

Derby Junction, Nelson Junction and Chatham Junction

Derby Junction is by the words “The Enclosure”. Nelson Junction is by the “118” marker on the other side of the river, and is the only real junction remaining; this is where the line to Chatham still branches off from the main line. Chatham Junction is at the bottom edge of the map and is basically in the middle of nowhere.

Looking at a satellite view of Chatham Junction, it is still clear after all these years that the rail line to Chatham crossed the Intercolonial Railway at a right angle, with a wye connection between the two railways. Note the “Old Track Road” confirming this was a railway line.

Wye connection between Canada Eastern Railway and Intercolonial, many years later
Wye connection between Canada Eastern Railway and Intercolonial, many years later

Anyway, back to Chatham Junction and the station. It’s hard to believe that there was a station here – with a hotel! – but apparently there was.

I looked at the New Brunswick Provincial Archives and they list Chatham Junction as having a population of 25 in 1898. The map that is included on that page dates from 1954 and calls the junction Passmore Junction.

Passmore Junction
Passmore Junction

Note the name just above the text “Passmore Jct” – Jabez B. Snowball, the co-founder of the Northern and Western.

I tried searching for both Chatham Junction and Passmore Junction in the New Brunswick Provincial Archives image library but nothing came up. Passmore was listed as a location on the CN main line for many years (even in 1993) but it wasn’t a passenger stop.

I have to imagine that the station was dismantled or relocated in the 1910s once Chatham Junction ceased to be an actual junction.

If you have any information on Chatham Junction and the station, please comment or email me at steve@traingeek.ca.

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