By Wendell Lemon
Junction with CN Newcastle subdivision
From Timetable #30, April 25th, 1976
In early 1957, CN laid 23.1 miles of 100 pound rail deep in New Brunswick’s Northumberland and Gloucester Counties to serve Noranda’s new lead, zinc, silver and copper mine at Heath Steele. The tail of a new wye at Bartibog, mile post 19.9 of CN’s Bathurst Sub., branched in an westerly direction towards the mine site. Half-way in on this new Sub was a short siding called Midway. Construction was difficult as the line ran across bogs and through rock cuts. The Heath Steele mine was remote, surrounded by heavy woods, small streams and accessible by one poor road. A scale house for rail cars was placed just inside the gate at the mine.
About 1970, the Bathurst Sub. name was abolished and it became a continuation of CN’s Newcastle Sub. The Bartibog Sub. now connected at mile post 86.9.
Conrad Steeves alerted me to Ian Donaldson’s book Enter Diesel-Exit Steam. On page 16 of Ian’s book is a photo of a CN-VIP official opening train at Heath Steele. This was in November, 1957. The short train originated in Halifax and was powered by two CN passenger locomotives #6750 and 6752. The two year old MLW FPA-2s were flying white flags and pulling several CN Official cars. Also in the consist was a sleeper and a well stocked diner. On board were CN and Heath Steele personnel, news reporters, photographers and investors from the area. The premier of New Brunswick, Hugh John Flemming, and CN president, Mr Donald Gordon, were on board too.
At first, gondola loads were brought to the Newcastle by a lone Newcastle/ Chatham shunter for boat loading. The black dusty ore was scooped out of the cars and stock-piled on the wharf until a boat arrived. Tarps were used in an attempt to contain the black powder from blowing into the water and on near-by homes. Later, loads were left at Bartibog siding where west bound trains took them to Valleyfield, Que.
Single MLW RS-10s first worked the line and then MLW RS-18s did the work. Single locomotives could only handle 14 to 16 loads because of a steep grade at mile post 4. A 1960 and a 1980 timetable shows top speed as 30 miles per hour. I’ve been told this was often exceeded to get over mile post 4. In good times about 80 cars a week came off the Sub.
Lack of world demand and limited deposits resulted in the mine closing on May 4, 1983. It was about three years before CN applied for abandonment. Looks like they may have been waiting for a revival. However permission for abandonment was granted on October 15, 1987. The rails were soon removed and the Sub. wiped from Chaleur timetables. The Bartibog Sub. lasted 26 years.
Thanks to CN employees Dave Hambrook, Ed Barry and Conrad Steeves for information. Thanks also to Ian Donaldson’s book Enter Diesel-Exit Steam. Copyright Wendell Lemon