New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

McAdam: Notes From the Early Days

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McAdam: Notes From the Early Days

The village of McAdam, in YorkCounty, was an important railway junction and maintenance terminal during the age of steam. The village history therefore parallels the history of railway transportation in New Brunswick.

The Saint Andrews and Quebec Railroad Association convened their first meeting in 1835. This was a very early date for their grand plan to link the Atlantic with the Canadas by building through what is now the state of Maine. The management was competent and energetic and, for a while, it seemed that the project would succeed. Problems arose, however, and construction never proceeded beyond Richmond Corner near Woodstock. That was in 1862 – twenty-seven years after the project was conceived.

The StA&Q never realized its dream but was, nonetheless, the earliest attempt at railroad building in the Province. It was also the first line to pass through a place called City Camp which would later be known as McAdam. By 1856, the StA&Q had a watering station at Little McAdam Brook about two miles from City Camp, and that marks the earliest development in the railroad history of the village.

There were many places along the railroad called ‘Camp’. They were sometimes only given numbers such as ‘Camp 7’, indicating the progress of construction crews. This may be how City Camp got its name, but there was more to it than that. There were several logging camps in the area and it may have seemed like a city of workers in the wilderness when the railway came through. There may even have been some sarcasm in the name, but no one knows the details of that now.

Railroad building was proceeding rapidly. The European and North American Railway had been completed in the early 1860s from Saint John eastward to Pointe du Chêne but most of New Brunswick had no rail service. Therefore, in 1864, the Facility Act was passed approving more rail lines. Many people knew this as the ‘Lobster Act’ because it envisaged rail lines stretching over the map like lobster claws in every direction. The real objective, however, was to build a Western Extension to the European and North American Railway from Saint John to Vanceboro.

The Western Extension was started in the summer of 1867 and was completed to Westfield a year later. The first ceremonial trip between Fairville and City Camp was on November 16, 1869 and regular traffic began about two weeks later. City Camp was then a junction and would continue to grow in importance. Construction between Bangor and Vanceboro was completed and the official last-spike ceremony was in Vanceboro on October 19, 1871. U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant and Canadian Governor General Lord Lisgar both attended.

 McAdam station pre 1900

The Old Station at McAdam, pre-1900

Conditions in City Camp were very basic in the early days. The closest town was Vanceboro, Maine, but there was no road. Commerce between the two communities was quite free along the track by push-car. Vanceboro’s doctor would be brought in by push car when needed, for example. A road was finally completed in 1885 using volunteer labour by off-duty railroad employees and, with this development, there came customs officers. Commerce across the railway bridge continued for a long time, however. Even in the 1950s and 60s boys would sneak across to buy beer thinking that they had evaded the border guards. The guards, on the other hand, knew exactly what was happening but likely thought that there were more important things to worry about. Finally, in the 1960s, a sign was placed on the bridge announcing the border, and allowing the customs officers the opportunity of laying charges.

There were about 400 people in the town by 1871. There were only some log houses and one general store run by Jimmy Haddock. It was in that year that the name of the town was officially changed from City Camp to McAdam Junction. The watering station at McAdam Brook was renamed Maudsley at the same time. The name McAdam Junction remained until 1941, when complaints were raised that the word ‘Junction’ was not in common use to describe the place not even by the Post Office. McAdam Junction then became simply McAdam.

The rail fare to Saint John was $2.45 in 1871, and it cost $1.25 to go to St. Andrews. The mail was delivered three times per week.

Schooling was also quite basic. There was a school by 1875, and there were 29 students by 1877. Ten years later, the School Inspector ordered several improvements. A map of Canada was put up, the ground around the school was leveled, and trees were planted. By 1890 the teacher was having difficulty managing her class and the Inspector recommended that the worst of the boys be expelled. There was a new teacher later that year, but he was even poorer at managing his class than his predecessor. He was alone with 64 students many of whom were behind in arithmetic and excelled at nothing. The Inspector then recommended that they put up an additional building and hire a second teacher. Part of the problem was that the School Trustees were not acting on his recommendations, because of upheavals in railroad ownership.

The 1880s and succeeding years were a busy time in the development of McAdam Junction. There were 16 trains per day in 1882. The number of railway employees grew from 47 in 1884 to 125 by 1890 and several hundred by the time of the First World War. The New Brunswick Railway (one of several consolidations and name changes) decided in 1884 to consolidate its maintenance at McAdam Junction and closed the shops at St. Andrews.

There were some unusual exports flowing through McAdam Junction. Over a ton of partridges were moved to the Boston markets in a single shipment in 1883, for example.

In 1889, the C.P.R. completed the International Railway of Maine between Vanceboro and Megantic, creating the Moosehead and Mattawamkeag Subdivisions which met at Brownville Junction. The first train between Montreal and Saint John passed through McAdam Junction on June 3, 1889. The C.P.R. leased the New Brunswick Railway in 1890.

The famous station building at McAdam would require a whole essay of its own. It is sufficient here to say that it was begun in 1900 and completed in 1901. Seventy-five foot extensions were added in 1910-1911.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

One of my grandmothers lived in McAdam, as did a favourite aunt. I used to work for the C.P.R. out of Saint John, and knew several Roadmasters and other people in McAdam. These notes are very brief, but they come with affection for the place.


  1. Redstone, W.A.,, The History of McAdam (1871-1977), McAdam Senior Citizens Historical and Recreational Club, 1977. This manuscript is apparently unpublished, but can be found at
  2. Nason, David, Railways of New Brunswick, New Ireland Press, 1992.

Written by johnwood1946

September 18, 2013 at 9:48 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. I am a long term resident of McAdam .I enjoyed this article .I have written several article on the village and I would say your facts are right on . David Blair

    David Blair

    June 25, 2014 at 5:35 PM

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