New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

An Opening Salvo in an Ongoing Argument

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From the blog at

 Lizzie Morrow Photoshoped

“The Lizzie Morrow” launched in 1864 in Oromocto, and owned by George Daniel Morrow and partners. Painting in possession of the NB Museum.

St. John was in competition with Halifax to be the primary British port on the Atlantic.

The following document is from 1845, which is quite early in the history of railways in New Brunswick. The Saint Andrews and Quebec Railroad had been envisaged ten years earlier, but by the 1840s it was still struggling to build beyond the limits of St. Andrews itself. There were no other railways, and the Halifax to Quebec line, with which this document was concerned, would not be built beyond the Nova Scotia border for about another twenty years. The European and North American Railroad from Saint John to Pointe du Chêne was another early road, but was also far off in time.

At least the Ashburton treaty had been concluded, which settled the border between New Brunswick and Maine. The failure of the Saint Andrews and Quebec was due, in part, to this dispute, and any other railroad from the Maritimes to Quebec City would have to take the line into account.

One problem for Saint John was that it was on the wrong side of the river. Any railroad from Saint John to Fredericton and northward would have to cross the Saint John River somewhere, and it would be another forty years before a railway bridge was built across the Reversing Falls.

It would not be correct to conclude from this early date that a pioneering spirit was being demonstrated in railroad building in New Brunswick. If anything, New Brunswick was falling behind. Railroad technology was advancing almost daily, and lines of railway were being built around the United States at a feverish pace. This was even though the first line was only eighteen years old and railroad technology was in its infancy. Every sort of strange invention was being experimented with, such as John Wilkinson’s proposal in 1847 for a “wooden railroad” in New Brunswick.

At the time of this document, a railroad had been proposed from Halifax to Quebec City. The route would extend from Halifax to “The Bend” (Moncton), and then in a more or less straight line to Grand Falls and thence to Quebec City. In other words, it was to be a line from Halifax to Quebec City, while ignoring New Brunswick to the greatest extent possible.

At the same time, a New Brunswick Railway was proposed from the west side of the harbour at Saint John, up the river through Fredericton, and onward toward Grand Falls and Quebec.

Thirteen men met in Saint John on Monday, October 28, 1845. John Robertson was in the Chair, and Isaac Woodward was the Secretary. The purpose of the meeting was to approve a report to the London Committee for the Carrying-On of a Rail-Road in New Brunswick. The report was entitled Report on the Prospectus of the New Brunswick Railway, and summarized the view of its author (John Grant, N.B. Government Engineer) and of this local committee. The Report was approved, and resolutions were to be prepared that same day for conveying it to London.

The purpose of the report was to argue that the Halifax to Quebec project should be diverted toward Saint John at The Bend, and then up the Saint John River toward Grand Falls and Quebec. However, such a line would necessarily be along the east side of the River, requiring a bridge to access Fredericton, which was probably not feasible in those days. In the end, they found a way to propose that Halifax to cut out of the action altogether as, of all things, a “friendly compromise.”

Following is the report:

Report on the Prospectus of the New Brunswick Railway


Having done me the honor to express a desire that I should Report upon the “Prospectus of the New Brunswick Railway,” I have much pleasure in offering a few remarks, which I trust may, in some slight degree, aid in placing in its proper light before the public, this interesting and important subject.

The extraordinary results that are likely to arise out of the accomplishment of the project in question, it would, I feel, be presumptuous in me to attempt to predict. When, therefore, I have placed one or two leading facts before the reader, I think I may very safely leave him to form his own anticipations.—1 beg, then, to either inform, or remind him, that there has hitherto, for want of roads, been scarcely any communication between the lower and upper Provinces of North America; we can therefore readily imagine the vigorous impetus that would, by the opening of a Railway, be given to both the Agricultural and Commercial interests of these Provinces, as well as the opening up, by branches, of some of the finest mineral districts of Coal, Iron, &c. now remaining latent, from being placed beyond the means of individual enterprise.

The changes from time to time occurring in England and the old countries of Europe, frequently excite our wonder; yet they do, I think, fall short of the startling changes effected on many parts of the American Continent, where we find extensive and flourishing towns, containing thousands of industrious inhabitants, possessing much wealth,—where, but a few years ago, stood the trackless forest, inhabited only by the wolf, the bear, or the elk

We have the practical success of our enterprising neighbours of the United States before our eyes; having in some cases, opened a first communication to wilderness country, by means of Railway; thus by rapid strides creating a moral and physical revolution in the condition of some, and a topographical and statistical change in other parts of their country, that would have otherwise taken many years to accomplish. There are those who have the hardihood to object to the employment, in this or any other way, of the means which modern discoveries in the arts and sciences have placed at our disposal; things, they say, should not be forced, but permitted, according to their ideas, “to take their natural course.” How truly absurd a doctrine it is; at what period, I would ask, might it not, with equal claim to consideration, have been urged; until, by a retrograde march, we at last arrive at the simple tools of the barbarian—fire and a stone axe.

It is, doubtless, in many cases, not so much the difficulties and labour of clearing the wilderness lands, in a newly-settled country, that retards the value of property, or the full development of its resources, as the want of a rapid, economical, and safe transit, to suitable markets.

Had the projectors of the New Brunswick Railway no more in their power to shew, than, that, at first, merely the Interest of the Outlay could be realized; it ought to appear to all reasonable and thinking men, a most promising investment, as a rapid and steady increase in its profits must take place; it cannot possibly retrograde, either through opposition, or untoward events: if other lines are subsequently brought into operation, they can be lateral branches only, and must of course tend to materially increase both its traffic and profits.

In a retrospective view of the history of either kingdoms, states, or individuals, we discover certain epochs or periods of remarkable change, the “time and tide,” as the immortal bard expresses it, “which, if taken at the full, leads on to fortune,” such a period has, I venture to predict, arrived for this country; and a rich harvest does certainly await all those who may take advantage of it.

There are, I regret to say, two conflicting schemes now before the public, “The Halifax and Quebec,” and “The New Brunswick,” and as it is very clear they cannot both advantageously go into operation, it would be well, before going further into the merits of the New Brunswick line, to afford an impartial examination to the claims of the former.

This line, commencing at Halifax, Nova Scotia, is to proceed by the head of the Bay of Fundy to the Bend of the Petitcodiac River, in New Brunswick, and from thence, in nearly a direct line, to the Grand Falls, as shown on the Map by a blue line.

In this line there appears to be an excess in the distance over that of the New Brunswick of about One Hundred and Fifty Miles; and on reaching that Province, it proceeds directly across it, thereby not only avoiding all the towns and places of any importance, but traversing, from one end to the other, a continued and unbroken tract of wilderness country. Was the Railway to be exclusively, or even to a great extent, a Government work and considered as one of defence, or prospective benefit to the Province, without considering immediate returns tor the outlay, of any moment, it might be well worthy of attention; but when, on the other hand, it has to be constructed at the expense of Stockholders, a large proportion of whom may have no further interest in the matter, beyond it being a good investment for their money, it alters the case very materially.—All things considered, I cannot look upon it as less than preposterous; and I should think, no capitalist with a map of the country before him, can view it in any other light, or risk his money in the scheme as now proposed, if persisted in.

I cannot avoid expressing my approval of the observation in the Prospectus; that if the Halifax and Quebec Railway should be undertaken, it could best come in connection with this Company “The New-Brunswick Line” at the City of Saint John, &C.; than which, I certainly do think, nothing could be more rational or comprehensive. They would, by embracing this proposition, effect a saving of at least Thirty Miles in the distance, confer a mutual benefit, enhance the success of both, and establish public confidence, by the exhibition of unanimity. It would likewise have the advantage of passing through nearly all the principal Towns of New Brunswick, and a well settled Country, and of course gives the fairest prospect of a profitable return;—this connection is shewn on the Map, by a green line.

The Country from Saint John to the Grand Falls I consider, partly from personal knowledge, and all the information I can procure, as generally favorable to the undertaking, and no very great engineering difficulties likely to occur. It was by some suggested, on reaching Fredericton, it would be best to cross the River Saint John, and proceed in as direct a line as possible to the Grand Falls.

The cost of a Bridge across the Saint John would be a most expensive undertaking, and the risk from the freshets and ice in the Spring so great, as to present an almost insuperable barrier. After passing the River, it would have to proceed on this route, almost entirely through wilderness lands, and is consequently liable to the same objections as the Halifax line; besides the ground is not so favorable, and by creating a tortuous route, to avoid many difficulties, it is probable no very great saving of distance might be made.

On the South-West or Fredericton side, from all the information I can procure, the ground is, generally speaking, more favorable, and not so many difficulties likely to arise, although to the eye of a casual observer, such may in some parts present themselves, where they do not really exist, as the country is throughout its whole length and breadth so intersected with water courses, that a careful and judicious survey, taking advantage of the valleys through which they run, will, I believe, without leading much out of the way, be found to afford moderate gradients.

This line will have the advantage of passing through an extensive tract of prosperous and well-settled country, and must, from occupying a position—as may be seen by the red line on the map—through which the shortest possible line can be traced on British Territory to the sea, ultimately form a portion of the Main, or Trunk Line, from the Upper Provinces.

As many may, from want of correct information, be deterred from embarking in a scheme, which, from the apparent lowness of its estimate, may to those who would base their calculations on similar works in England, have much the appearance of a trap for capitalists in that country, I shall endeavour to explain the anomaly in as perspicuous a manner as I possibly can.

1st. It is a fact well-known that owing to the necessity of having to employ Counsel, and other professional aid, as well as the procuring of evidence, all the preliminary steps, previous to the passing of the Act of Incorporation, is in England attended, in most cases, with enormous expense, which in this country will be comparatively very little.

2d. In the construction of Railways in England, a very great expenditure is incurred, either in the purchase, or to erect extensive and costly works, to avoid the injury of a great deal of valuable property, over which the work has to pass. No such expenditure will be required in this country, as we can have our choice of ground gratuitously.

3d. There will be a more than considerable saving in having the greater portion of the material on the spot, and free of any expense, except its manufacture; and where, in many cases, expensive viaducts and embankments will be required, strong wooden structures may, from the abundance of the material, with great economy, be substituted.

It was my intention, had I been in possession of the necessary materials, to have furnished detailed comparative statements: I must, however, content myself with observing, that an approximation may be made, by making the allowances as required by the preceding observations, and adding about forty per cent on labour, and also the freight of the rails.

The calculation, deduced from the half-yearly accounts of the Manchester and Liverpool Railway, I find that a Locomotive will convey fifty-six tons over a distance of thirty miles at a cost, including Coke, of 1s. 11½ds., sterling, per ton, which amount, I am told, in the United States, is reduced to about two thirds. I will, in the meantime, however, for want of decided information, make my statement according to the first.

The expense of construction, from Fredericton to the Grand Falls—a distance of one hundred and thirty miles—I will put down, including the first cost of Engines, at £500,000 Currency.

The Interest on which, at 6 percent, is £30,000—0—0

Conveyance of 10,000 tons of Goods by Locomotive power, would incur an expense, at 10s. 1¾d. per ton, of £5,072—0—0

7,000 tons downward Freight, at 10s. 1¾d. £3,551—0—10

1,000 tons of conveyance of Passengers, at the same rate £507—5—10

Expense of Management, and Incidental Expense, say £3,000—0—0

Making a Total of £42,130—6—8

Which being deducted from the amount of the Schedule in the Prospectus, (£64,000) would leave a balance of £’21,869 13s. 4d. Currency, to be disposed of by Dividend or otherwise.

If the Schedule be fairly stated—and I have every reason to think that it is in some respects underrated—this result is most conclusively promising.

Since writing the preceding pages, I have seen a Map, published by the Halifax and Quebec Railway; so miserably distorted and imperfect a sketch, as to give the most erroneous idea of either the distances, courses of the routes, or positions of the different places in either of the Provinces. On reference to a proper map of the country, any disinterested person must at once admit the superiority, in every respect, of the route proposed in the New Brunswick Prospectus, to that of either of the lines proposed by the “Halifax and Quebec.”

In the first place, if we consider the lines of each as independent of the other, then the terminus of one line will be at Halifax, and of the other at Saint John, there will be a saving of about one hundred and fifty miles in favour of the latter.

In the next case, we will suppose the two lines as into one at the City of Fredericton:—

The distance from Halifax, by Truro, to the Bend of Petitcodiac, in New Brunswick, is 135 miles; and from thence to Fredericton, 110 miles—in all, 245 miles. The distance from Halifax to Annapolis, by Windsor and Horton, is 127 miles, and from thence across the Bay of Fundy to Saint John, 40 miles; from thence to Fredericton, 57 miles—in all, 224 miles: shewing a difference in favour of the latter line of 21 miles, to which if we add the 40 miles by Steam-boat, there will be 61 miles, which at £3,800, per mile, will amount to £231,800—0—0

To construct a Bridge across the River Saint John, at Fredericton—if it can at all be accomplished without risk from the freshet and ice—could not cost less than £30,000—0—0, Total, £261,800—0—0

By no means an inconsiderable saving. Besides the advantage of passing through some of the most settled and finest parts of Nova Scotia.

As the want of liberality to meet each other’s views in a friendly compromise, will create great delay, and probably a very unfavourable impression on the public mind, I shall be glad to hear that immediate negotiations are entered upon, and brought to a speedy close, as much preparatory business will have to be gone through before the opening of the season, when the Survey ought to commence, I shall, in the interim, endeavour to procure every information that I think may be of service in promoting it, and which I shall have great pleasure in, from time to time, transmitting, and wishing you every possible success.

I have the honour to subscribe myself

Your most obedient servant,


Civil Engineer and Surveyor, Surveyor General’s Department, New Brunswick

To Alfred L. Street, Esquire,

Solicitor to the Company in New Brunswick.

At the adjourned Meeting:, the following Resolutions were passed:—

Resolved, That this Committee being greatly impressed with the vast advantages which must result to this and the sister Provinces of Nova Scotia and Canada, by the establishment of a Railway connecting Quebec, the Grand Falls, Fredericton and Saint John, with Halifax, are prepared to make every exertion in their power to forward this great undertaking.

Resolved, That this Committee, having attentively examined the different Routes projected, are fully satisfied that the Line above designated (in connection with Steamers across the Bay of Fundy) passing, as it will, through a highly cultivated and densely populated portion of both Provinces, holds out inducements which are obvious to all persons having a knowledge of the local position and capabilities of the Provinces, and which, it is evident, are not presented by either of the Routes proposed to pass round the Head of the Bay.

Resolved, That even if the co-operation of Nova-Scotia, so much desired, cannot be secured, it is, nevertheless, of the highest importance to this Province that a Rail-road, connecting the Grand Falls with Fredericton and Saint John, should be undertaken without delay; And your Committee feel assured of the cordial support of the Legislature to such a Line, as one of great public benefit, and as presenting the fairest prospect of a profitable return for the capital invested.

Resolved, That, in the opinion of this meeting, the Stock required to be retained for this Province be £100,000, provided the Line recommended in the foregoing Resolutions be adopted; whereas, in the event of its coming round the Head of the Bay, through the wilderness, to Fredericton, the amount subscribed in this Province would, be exceedingly limited.

Resolved, That the proceedings of this Meeting be printed, and copies, together with Mr. Grant’s Report, transmitted to the Local Committees at Halifax, Quebec, and Fredericton.

Adjourned, sine die,


I. Woodward, Secretary


Written by johnwood1946

April 23, 2014 at 9:41 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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