Nova Scotia has two Shortlines – the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway and the Windsor & Hantsport Railway – and had a variety of industrial railways based on gypsum mining, coal mining and steel manufacture and fabrication though most of these have now been replaced by trucks.
A mixture of second-hand power is used on the shortlines, with the Windsor and Hantsport initially using entirely Alco/MLW RS-23s, initially four then three at a time, then GP9Rs and finally B23-7s!
Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway
This railway runs 230 miles from Sydney, Cape Breton to the Canadian National interchange at Truro, NS. It used to carry coal from the DEVCO mines near Sydney and steel products (mainly rails) from Sydney Steel but the phasing out of the mines and steel plant has reduced this traffic to a trickle.
Now, much of the traffic is from the Port Hawkesbury/Point Tupper area including forest products from the paper mill (closed temporarily in 2011-2) at Point Tupper, and natural gas by-products from offshore gas. In the New Glasgow area Michelin receives supplies as does Kimberley Clark. These two industries also ship out products by rail. Some logs and general merchandise are also hauled.
In 1997 Mainline freights were hauled by Alco/MLW C630Ms (there was one M636 on the roster) and two GM GP50s borrowed from the Indiana & Ohio Railway (IORY). By the end of 1999 all the Alcos had been retired and are being scrapped or sold and mainline power was six GP50s still in BN livery but lettered IORY or CBNS.
These four-axle units were not liked by the crews on the steeply-graded route and were replaced by four leased HATX SD45s. After these were scrapped four SD40-2s were leased from Helm.
To see more photos and a preview of our book on the CB&CNS click here.
Here unit 2039 with sister units 2003 & 2034 head train #305 through Barney’s River NS on 6 October 1997.
Minutes earlier we got this panned shot of 2039 passing through a colourful wooded area alongside the highway at Marshy Hope..
Here IORY GP50 3108, CB&CNS C630Ms 2016 & 2032 and IORY GP50 3109 head train #306 through Sydney River NS on 6 October 1997.
CB&CNS train #306 is eastbound on a beautiful fall day between Barney’s River and Marshy Hope. HATX SD45-2s 912, 910 & 914 are the power on 16 October 2001.
CBNS train #306 with Helm SD40-2s HLCX7172 7869 CEFX GP20D 2015 (built by MPI) and Helm SD40-2 HLCX8151 pass Antigonish Harbour on 12 August 2011
Switching was performed by Alco/MLW RS-18s but then a diverse collection of Geeps including one GM GP18 arrived from other shortlines and many were eventually retired and scrapped. Now three leased LLPX GP15s and two GP9-4s in RailLink livery share turns on these duties and on the short freights across Cape Breton Island.
The next two photos show GM GP18 4700 preparing train 305 at Sydney on 6 October 1997. Note that the locomotive does not have the full railway name but only the initials C.B.& C.N.S. The locomotive was built for GTW.
The Windsor & Hantsport Railway Company
This railway ran from Mantua to near New Minas with a branch to the Canadian National mainline at Windsor Junction. Total trackage was about 60 miles. It mainly hauled gypsum from the mines in the Windsor area to the loading dock at Hantsport but also developed new business hauling logs, feed grain, cooking oil, produce and general merchandise.
The initial roster was entirely Alco/MLW RS-23 units purchased from CP Rail. Only one unit was repainted, all the other units had the CP Rail name (but not the logo where it existed) painted out with black paint and were lettered WHRC in white. The maintenance shops were able to repair all parts of the RS-23s (or had suppliers who could) and the staff kept the fleet running as long as it is economically viable to do so. Eventually they were scrapped and the traction motors and engine blocks sold.
They were replaced by four ex CN GP9Us leased from the Central Manitoba Railway which ran on the WHRC for just over five years.
Subsequently as business declined two ex-Conrail B23-7s were purchased but they only operated on the WHRC for about six months before the line closed – the economic downturn had caused the closure of the gypsum mines.To see more photos and a preview of our book on the WHRC click here.
In 1997 the WHRC began a series of summer-weekend excursion trains between Windsor and Hantsport although on some occasions the train went to Mantua. The railroad purchased two open-air cars and one ex-VIA dayniter car (which is air-conditioned) and runs the consist with their repainted caboose # 150 and a locomotive at each end, though they are not mu’d together and so the rear locomotive only idles.
Fundy Gypsum near Windsor has two mines – one at Mantua and one at Dimock’s both served by The Windsor & Hantsport Railway. Both are now closed. The gypsum company has several GE 25T & 45T locomotives which were used for loading at the mine sites. The cars had air-operated bottom doors. At Hantsport the cars were pulled through the unloader and the doors were opened one at a time so that the gypsum fell onto a conveyer belt. The cars were switched using a GE 45T but for several years one of the WHRC locomotives was used.
National Gypsum operates the largest gypsum mine in Canada at Milford. Generally two seventy car trains are operated each day by Canadian National from the mine to the shipping dock at Wright’s Cove Dartmouth. However during the economic downturn this has been reduced to one train per day usually at night except during the coldest weather.
At Wright’s Cove the gypsum is stockpiled prior to loading onto ocean freighters which take the gypsum to wallboard manufacturing plants in the United States.
Until mid 2000 National Gypsum had three locomotives, the biggest of which was a remote-controlled GE 100 ton locomotive (built in 1971) which switched the loaded cars at the mine (the cars are pulled through the loader by a hauser with prongs that push on the axles). The engineer carries a control pack at waist level and radio signals are sent to the locomotive via a repeater located on the roof of the loading building.
Cars are unloaded at Wright’s Cove using a rotary tipper (up until May 2003 when the new National Gypsum bottom unloading cars came into service). Each car has to be pushed into the tipper, uncoupled and then the rest of the train is pulled out of the way. The incoming car pushes the unloaded car down a grade where it is positioned using the hand brake by a brakeman who climbs onto the car as it leaves the tipper. An un-numbered British-built Hunslet 0-6-0 (built in 1986) used to perform these duties. A GE 45 ton locomotive (built in 1955) was kept as spare locomotive although the Dartmouth crews say they prefer it because it has better braking power than the Hunslet. The Hunslet and the rotary tipper are generally controlled by an operator using a beltpack . He also uncouples the cars as they enter the tipper. Both have now been scrapped.
In October 2000 National Gypsum obtained two GM switchers which were reconditioned and equipped for remote control by A.A. Merrilees. The first unit 506 (an SW900) arrived in Dartmouth in early October but despite having a cut down cab would not fit through the unloader (the cab would not fit through the car clamps). The second unit (now numbered 507) is also remote controlled and has worked at the Milford mine site since early 2001. It is ex CN 8512:1 later 7162 – an SW8. It was subsequently fitted with a special dust filter.
In May 2003 National Gypsum took delivery of about 120 higher capacity, air dump cars built by Johnstown America Corporation. These are painted grey, lettered NGCX and many carry the names of employees (each had to sign a release to allow their names to be put on the car)! Now trains are only about 60 cars long and two SD75Is have difficulty getting the loaded train up the grade from the mine after stopping to align the switch to enter the main line.
Trenton Car Works
The railroad car manufacturing facility at Trenton, outside New Glasgow, was originally owned by Hawker Siddeley, then Lavalin and then by Greenbrier Industries. After Greenbrier took over the locomotives and facilities looked much cleaner and tidier but they closed the plant and consolidated their operations in the US when demand for freight cars dropped. There were two GE 45T locomotives – 2701 & 2702.
A wind turbine manufacturing plant has recently been established by Daewoo.
Sydney Steel Corporation (SYSCO)
The Sydney Steel Corporation has had several owners during its lifetime including DOSCO (Dominion Steel and Coal). In the 1990s it was “downsized” and manufactured rails for domestic and foreign railroads. The internal narrow gauge railway was closed. The works interchanged standard gauge cars with the CB&CNS and used a mixture of locomotives including GE 65T & 80Ts as well as SW8s & an SW9. After many attempts to sell the plant, it was closed in 2002 and was subsequently demolished.
Cape Breton Development Corporation (DEVCO)
This crown corporation was formed in 1968 to improve the economy of Cape Breton and increase employment. One division – the coal division – was formed to operate the mines in Cape Breton and the Sydney & Louisburg Railway which became the DEVCO Railway. In the 1970s it had a motley collection of second-hand ALCO RS1s, RS23s and RS27s. From 1979 to 1983 they purchased thirteen GP38-2s some of which had power take-offs so that they could be used as emergency generators at the mines.
The railroad hauled the coal to the washing plant at Victoria Junction and then either to the loading dock at Witney Pier, to the domestic coal terminal at Dominion or to the interchange with the CB&CNS at Sydney.
When the mines closed several of the GP38-2s were sold (three went to the New Brunswick Southern Railway) and the coal pier and railroad were purchased by Emera (owners of the Nova Scotia Power Corporation). Coal is now imported through the pier and hauled by train to Victoria Junction where it is unloaded by a special tipper that has an electric remote controlled “pusher” that runs on a short track inside the building parallel to the line of coal cars and positions them for rotary tipping. After blending, the coal is trucked to one power station and taken by train to another. The cars have rotary couplings and so do not have to be uncoupled. The railroad is operated by the Quebec Railway Corporation as the Sydney Coal Railway.
Material on this page copyright 1997-2012 by Pat and David Othen. Reproduced with permission.