July 1, 1876 125 Years July 1, 2001
By R L Kennedy
This year marked the 125th anniversary of the completion of the Intercolonial Railway. Its construction was a result of the Union of British North America agreement of July 1, 1867 whereby Nova Scotia and New Brunswick joined Canada. A railway connecting Halifax (Port on the Atlantic Ocean) with the River St. Lawrence to connect with the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada.
For political and military reasons it was constructed well away from the United States border, made all the worse as a result of the Ashburton-Webster Treaty of 1842 which gave disputed territory to the US, making a deep incursion into New Brunswick. Routes had first been surveyed in 1848. The route was selected November 6, 1868.
It was a major undertaking of railway construction, equal to that of the GTR, but through a much less populated area. It's Engineer-in-Chief was none other than (Sir) Sandford Fleming. Fleming faced a daunting task to cross many rivers requiring a number of lengthy bridges especially those over the Restigouche (boundary between New Brunswick and Quebec), and the famed Miramichi. The two branches of the Miramichi required twin bridges each made up of 6 spans of 200 feet each, for a total of 2400 feet. Sandford Fleming insisted all bridges be made of iron and stone instead of the usual wood. He was up against nay-sayers who thought the iron would turn brittle in winter and break! He fought this fiercely and finally succeeded. Time would of course prove him right. He also used 57 1/4 lbs. (to the yard) Bessemer steel rails, instead of much heavier but inferior iron.
The railway was broad gauge (5' 6"), also known as Provincial gauge, until 1875. Again, Fleming won his argument for Standard (4' 8 1/2") gauge.
The railway consisted of 178 miles in Quebec (Restigouche River), 241 1/2 miles in New Brunswick (Missiguash River), 80 miles in Nova Scotia to Truro, then 60 miles to Halifax built prior to Confederation.
Halifax, Nova Scotia to Moncton, New Brunswick 187 miles, ( 89 miles Moncton to St.John), to Campbellton, New Brunswick 372 miles, Riviere Du Loup, Quebec 561 miles, and Point Levi 674 miles (opposite Quebec City) to connect with the GTR. NOTE: This was later changed whereby the GTR was extended to Riviere Du Loup and this is where the ICR met.
The railway was completed July 1, 1876. The first through passenger train between Halifax and Quebec City ran on July 6, 1876.