Railroading in Newfoundland – David Othen

Newfoundland used to have a narrow gauge 3 foot 6 inch gauge railroad system but in 1988 all rail service was abandoned though work trains continued until November 1980.

The map below from the 25th April 1976 Employees Operating Time Table 25 shows the Newfoundland railway system.

Newfoundland employee timetable map, April 25, 1976

The headquarters of the Newfoundland Railway were at St. John’s in an elaborate stone station with the locomotive servicing facility and maintenance shops close-by. The station is now a museum.

The station building, platform and a group of locomotives awaiting servicing are seen below.

CN 946 at St. John’s, Newfoundland train station

For more photographs and information see our book: Newfoundland Railway – St. John’s to Holyrood September 1976, a preview of which may be seen here.

In Newfoundland three types of diesel locomotives were used – G8 (which also existed in a standard gauge version) and the NF110 & NF210 models which looked similar in shape. Freight cars from the mainland were retrucked at Port aux Basque so that goods did not have to be transshipped and two standard gauge switchers were stationed there for loading and unloading the ferries.

This picture, taken in the late evening from the station platform in St. John’s, clearly shows the difference in size between the G8 and the other two types of locomotives. NF210 #937 is parked ahead of G8 #805 with NF210 #935 behind and #927 to the right.

NF210 CN #937 in St. John’s

The difference between a NF210 (939 in the front) and a NF110 (903 in the rear) is clearly evident. 903 has a barrel type headlight with illuminated number and additional louvres on the hood.

NF210 and NF110 – CN 939 and CN 903

Doug Robinson took this photo in August 1962 of his uncle’s father with the lumber train 
at Humber Canal. CN 909 was the first NF210 built. The rear locomotive is 904 – an NF110. Thank you Doug for sending the photograph.

CN 909 and 904, contributed by Doug Robinson

In this picture, two NF210s – 931 & 936 are seen outside the stone maintenance shops still with the “1931 NEWFOUNDLAND RAILWAY” carved stone legend. The station building was at right angles to this building on the left.

CN 931 and 936 outside maintenance shops, St. John’s, September 24, 1976

Here two of the G8s, 803 & 804, which were built to a smaller loading gauge that permitted them to travel on all the branch lines in Newfoundland, are being serviced after returning with the mixed train from Carbonear and Argentia (a two day round trip) on 21 September 1976. The station building is just visible above the locomotives on the right.

CN 803 and 804, St. John’s, September 21, 1976

By 1976 the Cariboo passenger train (often known as the “Newfie Bullet”) had stopped running and only three mixed trains carried passengers. 

Mixed train #207 left St. John’s on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 10:30am for Argentia. It returned from Argentia to Whitborne as train #208. The following day as train #232 it travelled to Brigus Junction where it became train #211 and went along the branch to Carbonear, returning as train #212. Finally it again became train #232 for its return to St John’s where it was due to arrive at 15:15 on the day following its departure.

A second mixed train was scheduled to run daily on the main line between Deer Lake and Badger as #203 and #204 although I believe the coach was actually hauled between Corner Brook and Grand Falls.

Finally on Wednesdays a third mixed train ran from Clarenville to Bonavista and return.

On the morning of 24 September 1976, 927, an NF210 which along with the NF110 was mainly used for freight haulage (and earlier for the Cariboo) on the main line between Port aux Basques and St. John’s, is switching St.John’s yards with one of the passenger coaches used on the mixed train – note the small loading gauge – and several standard gauge boxcars that have been retrucked with narrow gauge trucks.

CN 927, St. John’s, 24 September 1976

Three G8s 802, 804 & 803 prepare to leave the station in St John’s with the mixed train to Argentia train #207 on 20 September 1976.

The train is seen leaving St. John’s and passing the yards on its way to Argentia on the first leg of its two day journey and also from the other side of the overpass.

From Argentia the train went to Whitborne and then the next day it went to Carbonear and returned to St.John’s. On 23 September 1976 train #232 is travelling along Conception Bay near Upper Gullies on it way back to St. John’s.

This is the rear coach which has an observation window for the conductor. Ahead of it is a baggage car.

Rear coach, CN train 232 Upper Gullies 23SE76

Photos of our trip between St.John’s and Holyrood are included in our book “Newfoundland Railway – St. John’s to Holyrood September 1976”. Click here for a preview.

Back to David Othen’s Canadian Train Photographs

Material on this page is copyright 1997-2012 by Pat and David Othen. Reproduced with permission of David’s widow Pat.

4 thoughts on “Railroading in Newfoundland – David Othen”

  1. I too visited the Newfoundland Railway. In July 1980 and 1982. It was an amazing operation! Far and away my favourite railway of any (including
    the Colorado Rwys). I returned in the summer of 2019 and I visited many
    of the “preserved” locomotives and cars. Some were in good to excellent
    shape. Some were just rusting hulks (Bonavista comes to mind with G8# 803).
    Everywhere I went it felt like a gut punch to the stomach. Having seen this
    equipment running it was just not the same and really hurt to see the remains.

    • Hi Ian, that would have been a great operation to see. I was not a railfan back when the Newfoundland Railway operated so I had no interest in going to see it. I wish I had the opportunity now, but at least we have the stories and photos and some film from when it still ran.

  2. Hi. I am from the UK and have stumbled on this book, on Blurb, quite by accident. I have only visited Canada once, in August/September 1976 and rode the train, with my cousin aged about 12 at the time, from St. John’s to Argentia and back to Whitbourne. This must have been about 4 weeks before the Authors visit! When I saw the preview content of the book the hairs on my neck stood up, and I ordered a copy straight away.
    I also rode the CN bus across to Port Aux Basques, and an overnight ship to North Sydney and a train to Halifax, returning the same way. Sadly never returned to Canada, and my Aunt and Uncle (now in their late 80s) have moved to Ottawa. Once this wretched Covid is over, hopefully a trip on the ‘Canadian’ beckons….

    • Hi Clive, thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. You were fortunate to ride the train when you did! If you want to ride the “Canadian” then you should get on that as soon as you are able… there’s no telling how long it will last in its current form.

      I hope you enjoy David’s book!


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