CANADIAN RAILWAY TRILOGY: PART II - IN SEARCH OF THE
CANADIAN RAILWAY TRILOGY: PART II
- IN SEARCH OF THE NEWFOUNDLAND RAILWAY
Text by Jack M. Turner, Photos by John C. Turner
Train riding would now take a back seat for a week
as we would travel by highway and ferryboat to Newfoundland, Canada's
island province. However, the railways would not be far from our
minds as one of our objectives was to search for remnants of the
Newfoundland Railway which was abandoned 20 years ago. We didn't
expect to find much and likened this to an archeological dig with a
section of weed covered track found here and there and maybe a rusted
train car hiding in a wooded area.
We departed Baddeck, Nova Scotia at dawn as we had
to check-in for the Marine Atlantic ferry to Argentia, Newfoundland by
7:00am. The size of our ferry, the Joseph & Clara Smallwood
was an impressive sight as we exited the main highway and made our way
to the check-in booth. The Smallwood was built in Lauzon, Quebec
and entered service in 1990. Her capacity is 1,200 passengers
with the ability to carry 370 automobiles or 77 tractor trailer trucks
or a mixture of both. We drove onto the ship through the open
hinged bow then at the far end of the bottom deck were directed up a
ramp to park on the second deck. The immense size of this ferry
already was evident.
A small tote bag was carried upstairs as this would
be a 17 hour crossing (on most trips the 260 nautical mile crossing
takes 14 1/2 hours) and access to vehicles would be closed during
sailing. After checking in at the purser's desk, we were given
keys to the private cabin we reserved for the journey. Our cabin
was larger than a deluxe bedroom on Amtrak and VIA Rail trains and it
contained four berths (two upper and two lower) which were set up for
sleeping, a writing desk, a porthole sized window, and a bathroom with
shower. There was a limited number of cabins on board and ours
would be put to good use for several sleep periods.
Other passengers settled into a variety of
accommodations: dormitory sleeping berths, a general seating area
resembling train coach seating, fully reclining seats similar to VIA
Rail's old Dayniter seats, and lounge seating at tables. With a
passenger load this trip of under 300, there were no space
issues. Outdoor deck seating also was available but the chilly
air temperatures of the Gulf of St. Lawrence made this less than
desirable except for short stretches.
Mealtimes aboard the Joseph & Clara Smallwood
were enjoyable as the ship offered a cafeteria serving hot and cold
meals. An ice cream stand was popular during the afternoon and
evening and a lounge complete with regional folk singers attracted a
good following. Recent release movies played throughout the
journey in the general seating area and there was a video arcade for
the younger crowd. With all these activities and the opportunity
to sleep easily, the day passed surprisingly fast.
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The harbor at
North Sydney, Nova
Scotia as seen from our Marine Atlantic ferryboat.
standing at the
entrance to the harbor near North Sydney.
A model of our
& Clara Smallwood.
seating is available on
Marine Atlantic ferries.
During the evening the islands of St. Pierre
appeared on our port side. These islands are still a part of
France and were a sign that Newfoundland lay ahead. Our arrival
in Argentia came at about 1:00am and within 20 minutes we were on the
for St. John's, the provincial capital. The sight of a long
string of cars on the highway at that late night hour was strange yet
comforting as they signaled that we were not alone in the wilds of
Newfoundland especially in light of the numerous warnings to beware of
moose. Thanks to ample sleep aboard the ferry, the two hour drive
passed quickly and we arrived at the Courtyard by Marriott in St.
John's, our base for the remainder of the night as well as the next
night. The front desk clerk was expecting us and greeted us with
a warm smile and within minutes we were settled in.
The Courtyard by Marriott was a perfect place to
stay as it is new, has excellent rooms, and an outstanding location on
the harbor. Across the street are several small shops worth a
visit and an attractive park is just a
block down the street. A short drive takes one to the prosperous
looking downtown area where multiple stores await the eager
shopper. The morning light revealed a beautiful harbor view from
the window of our mini-suite which helped prepare us to view the sights.
Whale Watching and Touring
Outside St. John's
A half hour drive south from St. John's took us to
Bay Bulls, a tiny fishing village located on a bay of the same
name. Here we boarded a tour boat operated by O'Brien's Whale and
Bird Tours for a 2 1/4 hour tour of the Witless Bay Ecological Preserve
that included the spotting of approximately 25 whales, many at close
range as they surfaced for air. Humpbacks, Minke, and Fin Whales
were seen this day and all aboard agreed their expectations had been
surpassed. The tour also took us alongside an island where
hundreds of Atlantic puffins and other shorebirds could be clearly
observed. Puffins are a favorite of most bird watchers as they
possess colorful beaks and unique faces that endear them to
everyone. Newfoundland and Alaska have the two most plentiful
populations of puffins. An added bonus was a close view of a 75
foot tall iceberg that had been grounded in Witless Bay. With
about 90% of its mass below the water's surface, the twin-spired berg
made an amazing sight as our tour boat circled around it. We
learned that this iceberg likely was formed approximately 12,000 years
ago in Greenland and may have taken three years to travel to this
spot. Typically the icebergs arrive in May and finally collapse
A placid scene
in the fishing
village of Bay Bulls, Newfoundland.
The first whale
we spotted in Bay
surfaces near Bay Bulls.
surfaced right beside
our tour boat.
is spotted from the
O'Briens tour boat.
A highlight of
our tour was this 75
foot tall iceberg.
of the giant iceberg
in Witless Bay.
Jack Turner (right)
with wife Christine, and son/TrainWeb photographer John enjoy the
circuit around the iceberg.
Our boat circled the iceberg several times to allow
a look from all angles and the first mate kept busy obliging
passengers' requests for photos in front of the towering iceberg.
Enhancing the tour were skipper Wayne Maloney who possessed an uncanny
knack for finding whales and first mate/tour guide Darryl Boyd who
provided commentary and musical entertainment in well timed
doses. Along the way we enjoyed the local folk songs sung by
Darryl as they set the tone for our week in this maritime region.
Later in the day we returned to Bay Bulls for an excellent lunch at a
restaurant operated by O'Brien's which stands across the road from the
boat dock. The O'Brien's tour is a must for any visitor to
Newfoundland and for us it was the perfect introduction to the island.
puffins are in abundance
near Bay Bulls.
puffins are seen up
close from the O'Briens tour boat.
into the grassy
hillside and roost on rocks overlooking the sea
upon the rocks while
shorebirds fill the sky.
One of O'Briens
tour boats passes
off the coast.
A coastal view
at Bay Bulls,
First mate Darryl Boyd (left) and
skipper Wayne Maloney (right) following our tour.
Our driving tour next took us farther south along
the Avalon Peninsula to the Colony of Avalon. Here George
Calvert, who later came to be known as Lord Baltimore, established a
fishing community named Ferryland in the 1620s. The colony had a
colorful history complete with what amounted to a hostile takeover, tax
evasion, and in 1651 the deportation to England of another Englishman
who had taken control of the colony along with all of
Newfoundland. After a brief stay at Ferryland, Calvert sailed
southward, eventually founding what today is known as the state of
Maryland. Today visitors are welcomed to the recreated Colony of
Avalon which features the original forge, well, cobblestone street, and
planter's house as well as a reproduction of the kitchen and the
kitchen garden. An excellent interpretation center contains
numerous artifacts uncovered during archeological digs that can be
observed near the
The view from
near Ferryland can
be reached by driving on a narrow trail then hiking another half mile.
archeological dig at the Colony
Back in St. Johns, we caught up on our sleep,
relaxed at the Courtyard by Marriott, and visited a couple of the
nearby shops. A display case in the hotel lobby was worth
inspection as it contained a variety of cruise ship china spanning
several decades. We decided to stay in for dinner which was a
wise decision as the food from the hotel's Smitty's Restaurant was
delicious. Our final major attraction to visit in the area was
Signal Hill National Historic Site, where Guglielmo Marconi received
the first transatlantic wireless signal in 1901. Signal Hill
stands 525 feet above St. John's harbor offering an unparalleled view
of the narrow passage leading to the harbor as well as the St. John's
skyline. From atop Signal Hill we could view one of the
peninsulas to our south which actually is the farthest east point in
North America. Cabot Tower stands atop Signal Hill and
commemorates the 400th anniversary of John Cabot's sea voyage to
Newfoundland. Nearby along the entrance road are two other
worthwhile attractions, the park service visitor center which houses
artifacts telling the story of Signal Hill and Johnson Geo Centre which
explores geology and the ecological resources of the region.
the street from the
Courtyard by Marriott hotel in St. John's.
by Marriott, St.
Harbour and downtown St.
John's seen from Signal Hill.
St. John's Bay
and the entrance to
St. John's Harbour from atop Signal Hill.
stands at the top of
Heading North in Search of the
Departing St. John's we found the first remnant of the
abandoned Newfoundland Railway at the Railway-Coastal Museum.
This museum is housed in the copper roofed train station that dates to
1903 and resembles many mid-sized Canadian cities' train
stations. Outside the museum stands a display of three or four
passenger cars and an engine that operated on Newfoundland Railway's
passenger trains. Forty-five minutes later we ducked off the
Trans Canada Highway and took a side road to Avondale where we found
the small Avondale depot which has been turned into a museum. Two
CN passenger cars along with CN diesel engine # 925, a Terra Transport
caboose, and a snow plow stand on a short stretch of rail beside the
depot. One of the passenger cars now serves lunch on certain days of
the week and a miniature train offers short seasonal rides.
Coastal Museum occupies
the former train depot in St. John's.
passenger train equipment
stands outside the museum in St. John's.
depot at Avondale
serves as a rail museum.
train offers seasonal
rides at Avondale.
The Newfoundland Railway used narrow gauge tracks to
cross the island in an arched route that traveresed the north and
central parts of the island en route from St. John's to Port-aux
Basques. Eventually the line was taken over by Canadian National
and, in its final years, Terra Transport. In addition to the main
line, there were several branch lines serving some of the peninsulas
that jut out along the coast. Time would not permit us to explore
all of the branch lines and look for spots such as Trinty Loop where
the railroad looped over itself on its way to Bonavista.
When we began planning for this trip, it appeared
that three or four days in Newfoundland would suffice as our Atlantic
Canada map made the island appear to be just a bit bigger than Prince
Edward Island, Canada's other island province. Fortunately,
further study of a map sent by the Newfoundland tourism agency made me
realize that the province was actually quite large; it had been shrunk
to a smaller scale on the Atlantic province map in order to fit.
Even our scheduled six days were not enough to cover every piece of
real estate we would have enjoyed visiting. The drive from St.
John's to Port-aux-Basques on the southwest coast was 905 kilometers
(about 11 hours) not including side trips or sightseeing stops.
As we resumed north along the Trans Canada, John
spotted some railway equipment a couple hundred feet from the highway
at Clarenville. Here we discovered CN engine # 900, a coach, and
caboose standing beside the wooden depot that was marked as home of the
Masonic Lodge. As we made our way northward we found a
couple of nice railway bridges crossing rivers and the edge of scenic
harbors. Chance findings such as these appeared throughout our
journey and we wondered how many other unremarked remnants of the
Newfoundland Railway await other railfans and historians.
preserved set of
Canadian National equipment behind the restored depot at Clarenville.
One of many
bridges that remain standing. This one is between Clarenville and
Our stop for the evening was in Port Blandford at
the Terra Nova Golf Resort, a wonderful lodge located just south of
Terra Nova National Park. This property caters to golfers as the
resort has two beautiful golf courses but it also is a tremendously
convenient stopping point. The view from our room was stunning
with a clear vista of Clode Sound with hills forming a backdrop to the
water. A nice swimming pool and attractive grounds including a
trail to the waterfront made for good alternatives to golf. The
cart trail for the 18 hole Twin Rivers golf course takes golfers over
two salmon rivers and includes its signature 18th hole where golfers
tee off over a set of waterfalls. The 9 hole Eagle Creek course
is also popular as it winds along Clode Sound and often allows views of
bald eagles. An evening drive through this small community
revealed a few more traces of the railway in the form of short trestles
over creeks flowing into Clode Sound. This community has a very
small population and dining choices are limited to the hotel restaurant
or a roadside sandwich shop.
The front of
the Terra Nova Golf
Resort in Port Blandford.
The view from
our room overlooking
River cuts through one
of the golf courses at Terra Nova Golf Resort.
Clode Sound from the
Twin Rivers course's 1st hole tee box.
Golfers tee off
over this waterfall
on the 18th hole.
Sunrise as seen
from our room at
Terra Nova Golf Resort.
Charm of Twillingate
The following morning we made the lovely drive
through Terra Nova National Park as the highway passed through forests
of rich firs and balsams while tempting us with occasional views of
Clode Sound and Newman Sound. Beyond the park we pulled off at a
scenic overlook above Gambo and enjoyed the panorama of Freshwater Bay
and the town of Gambo below. The remains of a Newfoundland
Railway causeway and bridge spanned the sparkling blue waters at the
headwaters of the bay and from our perch atop a hill, it was easy to
imagine the arrival of the next train.
river flows past the
visitors center in Terra Nova National Park.
Railway trestle and
causeway entering Gambo as seen from an elevated highway rest area.
We passed through Gander whose airport and
accompanying air base have a rich aviation history. The TCH was
left at this point as we turned onto a side road bound for the charming
town of Twillingate which was 102 kilometers (about 1 1/2 hours) off
the main highway and well worth every minute. The drive to
Twillingate took us past numerous scenic brooks, along Gander Bay, and
other sparkling bodies of water including Dildo Run, Friday Bay, and
Main Tickle. At the end of this drive Twillingate Harbour lay
ahead with a healthy dose of boats either docked or moving across the
water. After a morning of driving we were ready for lunch and
followed local advice to dine at the Cozy Tea Room and Bakery, a
charming little eatery located on the ground floor of an attractive two
story house. Homemade soups, sandwiches, breads, and pies are the
favorites here and we enjoyed delicious local fare - pea soup with
doughboys followed by a slice of apple pie. The tasty soup is a
Newfoundland speciality and contains split peas, celery, turnips,
onions, diced potatoes, and carrots as well as the dumpling-like
doughboys. While we dined, a steady stream of customers came in
to purchase home baked breads, pies, and other baked goods.
One of many
coastal scenes on the
drive from Gander to Twillingate.
Cozy Tea Room,
a favorite dining
spot in Twillingate.
Twillingate is known as the Iceberg Capital of the
World and after lunch we boarded a tour boat operated by Iceberg Quest
Ocean Tours for a two hour tour. Captain Barry Rogers welcomed us
aboard and we took a perch on the upper deck for an excellent
view. The tour first took us around Twillingate Harbour where a
number of fishing boats were either docked or setting out to sea.
As in all of Newfoundland, lobster traps abound but these boats also
were heading out in search of a variety of fish living in the waters of
Notre Dame Bay. From the harbour we could appreciate the charm of
this 2,600 resident community as its shores were rocky in places and
sandy in others. Attractive coastal homes stood on hillsides
along all sides of the "u-shaped" harbour. The name Twillingate
derived from the French word Toulinguet as to French fishermen who
settled there in 1700 the area resembled a point of land by that name
near Brest, France.
Leaving the inner harbour we passed Long Point
Lighthouse which stands as a sentinel at the north end of Twillingate
Island. The open waters beyond the inner harbour revealed a
coastline dotted with small rocky islands and jagged sea carved rocks
upon which waves splashed to the rhythm of the sea. We learned
that Captain Rogers' ancestors first settled on one of these rocky
islands which today are uninhabited. Soon a couple of whales were
spotted surfacing and disappearing into the frothy waters. One of
the beauties of tours such as Iceberg Ocean Quest is the opportunity to
speak with the boat captain as you sail along. We learned a great
deal about the area's history and what it is like to live in this part
of Newfoundland. We were captivated by the story of a recent tour
in which thick fog moved in and the captain heard a "whomp-a-whomp"
sound that could be mistaken for failing engines. As they neared
an iceberg floating just off Twillingate, the fog cleared enough to
determine the source of the unusual noise: a helicopter lowering coast
guardsmen onto the berg to simulate a rescue mission.
A fishing boat
leading the way out
of Twillingate Harbour. These guys may stay out for several days.
One of many
islands just offshore
from Twillingate. Our captain's ancestors lived on one of these
stands sentinel where
Twillingate Harbour meets Notre Dame Bay.
islands dot the coast
About an hour into our tour, we rounded a rocky
point and a magnificent iceberg came into view. It was grounded
in a small cove where it would likely meet its end in a couple of
weeks. The berg stood with two tall wings standing about 100 feet
high and a smaller neck a bit shorter than that. All these
protrusions were connected just below the waterline. One
interesting characteristic of icebergs is their resemblance to other
objects. Some are said to look like houses or castles set adrift
in the ocean. Approaching this berg, one of the wings looked like
a lion's head but the front view resembled a swan gliding across a
pond. This berg had shown up in the area in May and spent a
period of time in Twillingate Harbour before the tide took it back
along the shoreline out of sight of the town and harbour. "One day it
was over there," stated Captain Rogers, "then over there the next day,
then back beside our harbour, then it moved close to where you see it
now." Every new day brought suspense as the morning tour would
search for the iceberg's location until one day it was gone. This
drama plays out each year as tides and wind conditions help the
icebergs play a game of maritime hide and seek. A few days after
our tour, a television and print media advertisement for Red Bull
energy drinks was to be filmed on location at this iceberg. On
our return journey we passed a hole-in-the-wall location where waves
carved a large hole in the rocky seaside ledge then another point
where three rocks rose from the waters to resemble three ladies
standing in the sea. As the tour came to an end we smiled with
the knowledge that this had been one of the highlights of our
Newfoundland visit. We regretted that our schedule did not permit an
overnight in Twillingate as the community had proved to be both secnic
and filled with hospitable people.
upon the shoreline
north of Twillingate.
A 100 foot tall
Twillingate resembles a swan. Note the height compared to a
taken from the top
deck of our tour boat shows the immensity of the iceberg.
Rogers steers the
Iceberg Quest II during our coastal tour.
Captain Rogers poses beside the
tour boat after returning to Twillingate.
A small public
and other fishing
gear at a boat dock in Twillingate.
We retraced our route across Twillingate Island and
along the top of Chapel Island to Boyd's Cove where we diverged from
the route we followed in the morning. Route 340 follows Loon Bay,
Indian Arm, and several other inlets in its scenic path to
Lewisporte. As was the case throughout our visit to Newfoundland,
we would have enjoyed taking any number of side roads leading into
little coastal villages had time permitted. Nevertheless, we were
getting an excellent view of the province's highlights with our
itinerary and we would leave with no regrets. We ducked into
Lewisporte in search of preserved Newfoundland Railway equipment we
heard about during our boat tour. After searching in vain for a
few minutes, we resumed our southward drive along Route 340 and my wife
Christine shouted out: "Over there!" On our left stood the
Lewisporte Train Park with picnic tables and a set of railway equipment
on display. The combination of concentrating on the road and the
late afternoon hour had caused me to miss this and had she not been a
great spotter, I would have driven right past. The display
included a CN snow plow, CN engine, Terra Nova Transport coach, and a
CN caboose. Once more we marveled at how many signs of the
Newfoundland Railway we had found. A quick check of our rail maps
indicated that Lewisporte was on a short branch line of the
Newfoundland Railway that survived into CN operation. By late
afternoon we pulled into Grand Falls-Windsor, population 14,000, for a
night at the Mount Peyton Hotel.
A snow plow
leads a set of
preserved railway equipment at Lewisporte Train Park.
A Terra Nova Transport coach.
Train Park is a
popular roadside picnic area.
Gros Morne National Park and Western
The Trans Canada Highway takes a leisurely route
west of Grand Falls-Windsor, heading west then north, then southwest in
its trek toward western Newfoundland. The undulating land
provided pleasant views of attractive hillsides, lakes, streams, ponds,
and lots of lush green trees as we made our way past the West Brook
Ecological Preserve, south of the Baie Verte Peninsula, and along Sandy
Lake, en route to Deer Lake where we stopped for lunch before turning
north on Highway 430. At the south entrance of Gros Morne
National Park we turned west on Route 431 and followed two lochs, East
Arm and South Arm, that empty into spectacular Bonne Bay. Near
Woody Point we visited the Gros Morne Discovery Centre, an outstanding
facility that explains the history, culture, environment, and geology
the region while offering picturesque views of Bonne Bay. A few
miles west of the Discovery Centre we encountered The Tablelands, a
vast geologic area where various layers of the Earth's crust including
the mantle can be viewed. At points the landscape resembled a
lunar scape with large boulders and brownish dirt everywhere emulating
the moon. North of the Discovery Centre we found the cute Wood
Point Lighthouse surrounded by a green meadow and wildflowers
overlooking Bonne Bay.
One of the
outstanding views in
Gros Morne National Park.
A river seen
from Highway 431
near Lomond, Newfoundland.
The same river
flowing into a loch.
Mountain rises across
Bonne Bay seen from the
Gros Morne Discovery Centre.
presents a lunar
like landscape where the Earth's mantle can be seen.
Back on Route 430 we entered the main section of
Gros Morne National Park and climbed along the east side of East Arm
with Killdevil Mountain and Gros Morne Mountain on the opposite side of
the highway. A stop at the park vistor centre gave us more
information and perspective about Gros Morne which has been designated
a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Five minutes later we arrived in
Rocky Harbour where we would stay at the Fisherman's Landing Inn.
Rocky Harbour is a strategically located town of just over 1,000
residents. On summer nights the population is increased by guests
at its handful of motels. A walk along the waterfront boardwalk
overlooking the harbour is a must at sunset as the views of the setting
sun can be magnificent as was the case this night. A couple of
miles away the light of Lobster Cove Lighthouse blinked against the
coral colored sky as twilight painted the sky a cocophony of
colors. The 40 room Fisherman's Landing Inn offered at door
parking, clean rooms, and a quiet setting for the night. Another
convenience was the motel's laundry room for which there was no charge
Landing Inn was an
excellent lodging choice in Rocky Harbour.
Sunset from the
boardwalk in Rocky
Lighthouse can be seen
at the end of a peninsula across the harbor.
Harbour sunset paints the
sky with a mad splash of color.
Following breakfast in the motel dining room, we
drove north along the coast past Sally's Cove and Martin Point to the
parking lot for the Western Brook Pond Boat Tour. The 2 mile walk
to the boat dock passed through forested areas with fir and various
other trees, coastal bogs flanked by wild iris and other plants, a
large lake, and a savanna-like area that one could imagine to be in
Africa. When we reached the dock we were at the end of a 16
kilometer long lake, the longest in Gros Morne National Park. The
lake is basically an inland fjord, an oxymoron as fjords open into the
sea. Once upon a time this fjord did open into the sea before
eventually becoming land locked. Western Brook Pond was carved by
glaciers over a billion years ago and the boat tour takes two hours to
navigate its winding path between towering cliffs to the headwaters of
the pond. The view was constantly changing as the sheer walls of
rock lined both sides of the fjord. Patches of snow remained in
areas where shade prevented melting while at other points evidence of
rock slides was present. Waterfalls, some as high as 2,100 feet,
rained water over the side of the cliffs at many points along the tour
and the boat was able to pull within a few feet of the base of one of
these. A moose and her calf were spotted close by along a small
sandy beach; amazingly this was our first moose sighting of the
trip. Among interesting tidbits we learned from our tour guides
was the story of how the tour boats were transported to Western Brook
Pond a few years ago. As the fjord no longer connects to the sea,
the boats had to be brought in by helicopter then assembled
onsite. The airlift was necessary as the boggy ground was not
able to support the weight of the boats. During the summer, Bon
Tours operates the Western Brook Pond tour several times a day as well
as several other tours covering various parts of Bonne Bay not far from
The sheer rock
walls of Western
Our tour boat
offered close views
of this magnificent waterfall.
long Western Brook
Pond winds between numerous mountains.
Some of the
mountains are covered
with lush vegetation.
Brook Pond boat tour
provides ever-changing scenic vistas.
One of the
largest waterfalls along
Western Brook Pond.
path through the
mountainous region can be traced in this view.
Jack, John, and
Christine enjoy the
view from the stern of the tour boat.
A 2,100 foot
cascades over a cliff.
A moose and her
calf wander along
the shore of Western Brook Pond.
Our tour boat
guide and captain
following the tour.
The two boat fleet of Western Brook
plants line the edge of a
small lake that we passed on the hike to the boat dock.
With our final boat tour complete, we drove a short
distance north to Cow Head to explore a bit more of the western coast
of Newfoundland. The Northern Peninsula, where the Vikings first
landed near St. Anthony, would be another region worth exploring if a
couple more days were available. This time we turned back south
and headed to Lobster Cove Lighthouse where visitors may tour the lower
level of this working lighthouse inluding the former light keeper's
residence. The view from this location was beautiful and numerous
trails in the area offered pleasant walks through meadows and
forests. After one last pass through Rocky Harbour, we travelled
back through Gros Morne National Park to Deer Lake where we turned
southward for our final night in Newfoundland.
between Cow Head and
Lighthouse is a
popular stop in Gros Morne National Park.
The town of
Rocky Harbour as seen
from Lobster Cove Lighthouse.
descends along the edge
of East Arm, an extension of Bonne Bay.
About 20 minutes past Deer Lake we found Marble
Villa which contains condominium suites overlooking the Marble Montain
Ski Resort near the community of Steady Brook. Our spacious
accommodations were welcomed as they offered a separate bedroom and
living room, two televisions, and a full kitchen. Outside the
living room's picture window the ski lifts to the top of 1,791 foot
Marble Mountain were plainly visible. The mountain receives an
average of 16 feet of snow annually which makes it Newfoundland's
favored ski destination. The resort's base lodge stood just a
short distance away from our building which would be convenient in
winter. There are 35 ski trails with names such as Kruncher, Hot
Dog, Cruiser, Blow Me Down, Twister, and Corkscrew at Marble
Mountain. The lovely grounds included a nice playground for
children with a wooden replica train and a replica boat making perfect
play areas for kids. The resort is located in the Humber Valley
whose namesake river is right across the highway. A 6 mile drive
took us into Corner Brook for dinner and a look at Newfoundland's
second largest city with a population of 20,100. Including the
entire Humber Valley area doubles this population figure.
our stopover in
Steady Brook, is a condo style lodge that caters to snow skiers.
runs are visible behind
at Marble Villa
includes a wooden train for kids to enjoy.
Following dinner we searched for the historic
railway station operated by Railway Society of Newfoundland. Much
to our surpise, the museum was open until early evening. Located
in Humbermouth, just outside Corner Brook, this site features a
restored railway station and several pieces of Newfoundland Railway
rolling stock. Historic photos of the last passenger train
(nicknamed the Newfie Bullet) and a collection of conductor's hats are
displayed inside. The railway's only remaining steam engine #
593, leads a static display train consisting of a box car, baggage car,
coach, dining car, and sleeper Twillingate. On another track one
finds a snow plow, diesel engine, and caboose. All equipment may
be toured by visitors who also will enjoy the display of conductor's
hats and photos inside the depot. Other signs of the Newfoundland
Railway were found in the form of bridge supports in the Humber River
and other streams between Corner Brook and Steady Brook.
remaining steam engine, # 593, is displayed outside the Humbermouth
A display case
inside the depot
museum contains conductor hats and model rail equipment.
Sleeping car Twillingate.
A section made
up for sleeping
inside the Twillingate.
Newfoundland Railway coach.
Newfoundland Railway coach.
The dining car
appears ready to
welcome passengers to dinner.
gauge tracks are still
in place at Humbermouth.
One of many
surviving CN narrow
gauge engines we found in Newfoundland.
A snow plow is
displayed at the
museum in Humbermouth.
Our final day in Newfoundland started with a visit
to Tim Horton's, the iconic Canadian doughnut shop chain which had a
store close to Marble Villa. A half hour south of Corner Brook we
turned west and visited the Port-au-Port Peninsula standing between
Port-au-Port Bay and St. George's Bay. After passing through
Stephenville, we again found remnants of the railway in the form of
abandoned trestles over various rivers and streams. As we pulled
into Port-aux-Basques another railway museum stood beside the highway
and we had left just enough time for a look at the museum, gift shop,
and adjacent set of equipment that included a snow plow, Newfoundland
Railway diesel engine # 934, a couple of tank cars, a wooden box car,
sleeper Port-aux-Basques, two baggage cars, and a caboose. An S-2
motorcar is preserved inside the museum along with other railroad
relics. Passenger trains operated to and from Port-aux-Basques on
schedules that connected with the ferries to and from North Sydney,
River near Corner Brook.
Railway trestle near
A snowplow and
engine at Port-aux-Basques.
Port-aux-Basques is displayed in her namesake town.
logo appears on the
side of train cars in Port-aux-Basques.
trails a baggage car
behind the museum.
display consist at
painting on the outer
wall of the museum.
A motorcar is
preserved inside the
museum in Port-aux-Basques.
The March 1964 Official Guide of the Railways carded
two Canadian National passenger trains between Port-aux-Basques and St.
John's. Train # 2 was a triweekly passenger train that took about
23 hours to reach St. John's. Number 2 and westbound counterpart
# 1 connected with the ferry at Port-aux-Basques. Train # 204 and
westbound sister # 203 offered mixed train service which took over 32
hours to St. John's. All of these trains made over 35 regular or
flag stops during their trips across the island including Stephenville
Crossing, Corner Brook, Deer Lake, Grand Falls, Gander, Gambo, Port
Blandford, Clarenville, and Avondale. Mixed trains also operated
on branch lines to Carbonear, Argentia, Lewisporte, and
Bonavista. The December 1951 Official Guide listed one train, the
Caribou, (train # 1 westbound and # 2 eastbound) serving the route on a
27 hour schedule with 8 section-1 drawing sleepers included in the
consist. Winter trips on this line could be an adventure with
trains occasionally snowbound for days in remote mountain
locales. The same 1951 schedule showed ship connections to London
and Liverpool, England from St. John's as well as various other
Newfoundland connections between railway stops and Twillingate and
other Newfoundland points.
In late afternoon we boarded Marine Atlantic's ferry
Caribou for the 5 hour, 96 mile crossing to North Sydney. The
Caribou was built in 1986 and honors the SS Caribou which was torpedoed
and sunk by German U-boat U-69 in the early morning darkness of October
14, 1942 during the North Sydney to Port-aux-Basques run. Today's
MV Caribou stands 179 metres long and can carry 1,200 passengers
including 370 automobiles, 77 tractor trailers, or any combination of
the two. We drove onto the ship's second vehicle deck via the
stern while other vehicles loaded simulataneously on the lower vehicle
deck. We would exit via the bow door at North Sydney. The
departure from Port-aux-Basques was scenic as much of the town was
visible atop hills overlooking the enclosed harbour. The light of
a lighthouse guarding the entrance to the harbour could be seen for
miles as we entered the Gulf of St. Lawrence and watched Newfoundland
recede into the distance. Our visit to Newfoundland had exceeded
our expectations and for almost a week we had enjoyed the beauty,
hospitality, and peacefulness of this remote land.
arriving in Port-aux-Basques.
aboard the Caribou was
larger than a railroad bedroom.
line the shore in
Port-aux-Basques as seen from the ferry.
Another view of
from the deck of the Caribou.
protects the harbor
entrance at Port-aux-Basques.
One of many
areas on the ferry.
The gift shop
and front desk area
aboard the Caribou.
entertainment in the lounge.
throughout the crossing.
The crossing passed quickly as we enjoyed a good
meal in Caribou's cafeteria, rested in our cabin, enjoyed a movie in
the general seating area, listened to music in the lounge, and bought
ice cream cones from the shipboard ice cream stand. Our arrival
in North Sydney came at about 11:00pm and within a half hour we were on
our way into Sydney for an overnight at the Barrington Suites
Hotel. The drive into Sydney actually took about 20 minutes as
the ferry terminal is located outside of the city proper. Our
suite overlooked the harbour and despite the late hour, the view was
outstanding. The suite was appointed with comfortable new
furniture and included a separate living room and bedroom along with
many conveniences that made it the perfect place to stay. In the
morning we would enjoy continental breakfast then walk along the
waterfront boardwalk behind the hotel before beginning the homeward