Review: Dominion Atlantic Railway

The book “Dominion Atlantic Railway” by Gary Ness is a must-read for anyone interested in Nova Scotia railway history, or indeed Canadian railway history. Gary’s extensive research shines through in this lavishly illustrated book.

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The Dominion Atlantic Railway (DAR) ran from Yarmouth to Truro through the Annapolis Valley and along the northern coast of Nova Scotia. It connected to CN at Truro and also leased the CN-owned section between Windsor and Windsor Junction. It had running rights into Halifax over the Intercolonial Railway, later the Canadian National Railway / CN.

Gary starts by telling the story of the DAR’s predecessor railways – the Western Counties Railway (WCR) and the Windsor and Annapolis Railway (W&AR). The two railways battled it out for control, and eventually the W&AR and WCR merged into the DAR, with their first DAR trains running on October 1, 1894.

The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) was interested in extending its network east past Saint John, New Brunswick. Effective January 1, 1912 the DAR was leased to the CPR for 999 years.

What really made the DAR unique was that it mostly retained its own identity as an independent railway within the CPR empire. The locomotives and rolling stock soon became CPR standard but much of its fleet was still lettered for the DAR and it was operated fairly independently.

This book covers the DAR era thoroughly. It is broken into five eras: pre-CPR, 1912-1940, 1940-1956, steam to diesel transition, and the last era from 1960-1994 when it was sold to Iron Road and became known as the Windsor & Hantsport Railway. The 20-year W&H era is also covered in this book, albeit briefly, ending when the W&H ceased operation.

The photography is outstanding and the reproduction quality is as good as it can be. Some of the images are extremely old! The captioning is great and Gary has gone to the trouble of identifying individuals where he could. The level of detail in this book is great, and Gary did a great job of providing detail without bogging the story down. It’s a very readable book.

Dominion Atlantic Railway is available as a large-format paperback, from Nimbus Publishing, Amazon, or perhaps your favourite bookstore. It was published in 2014 so it may also be available in used book stores or your local library.

Just One More Thing

If you’re interested in learning more about the Dominion Atlantic Railway, the DARwiki is the place to go. This site, built by Steve Meredith and helpers, has a huge collection of articles and photographs related to the DAR. You might start with Jim Simmons’ article History of the Dominion Atlantic Railway and go from there!