New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

Moncton, as Seen by a Journalist in 1876

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Moncton, as Seen by a Journalist in 1876

Fred. J. Hamilton was a Special Correspondent for the Montreal Gazette when he travelled on the Intercolonial Railroad from Riviere du Loup to Halifax in 1876. This excerpt contains his impressions of Moncton, and is from the book of his newspaper articles, also published by the Gazette.

Intercolonial yard Moncton

The Intercolonial Railway Yard in Moncton, 1877

From the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick



This is the eastern terminus of the Northern Division of the Intercolonial. The station is about 42 feet above sea level. Before going into a description of the general offices, car shops, etc., of the line it would be well perhaps to say something of the town itself.

The Town …

contains a population of about 4,000, and is built on the bend of the Peticodiac. This river is remarkable for the rapidity with which the tide ebbs and flows. As the tide rushes along it forms a “bore” or wall of water, making a breastwork, as it were, across the channel. The sight of this immense body of water has induced persons from long distances to visit the singular phenomenon. This “wall” commences at Stony Creek, seven miles distant, and travels at the rate of seven miles per hour with the flood tide.

The streets of Moncton are well laid out, although the houses are somewhat scattered. The town contains seven churches. There are two factories in Moncton; the first, an iron foundry, owned by Mr. C.B. Record, covers two and a half acres of ground and gives employment to thirty-five men. The factory appears to be thoroughly well fitted in its various departments, which include the moulding shop, the fitting shop, blacksmiths’, pattern and machine shops, in addition to a separate department for the manufacture of ploughs, which have gained some celebrity throughout the Province. The other establishment is a soap factory, owned by Mr. Torrie.

Moncton is well provided with …


One large building contains seven schools, and three other edifices are in course of construction. The whole, when finished, will cost about $20,000, exclusive of an annual expense to the people of the town of $3,000. apart from county and Government aid.

From its central position Moncton is bound to come into prominence. Already two bank branches are doing a fair business. The one is the bank of Montreal, the other the Bank of British North America.

There is good wharfage here, and would make a capital place for shipbuilding and lumber business, both of which industries have fallen off of late. The question of building a dry dock at Moncton has been revived from time to time; but it is questionable whether it will be put into practical shape for some time to come. Whether it would benefit the town or not yet remains an open question.

The Surrounding Country …

is devoted to farming. The crops are well forward. Crossing the river Peticodiac is a wooden bridge 1,700 feet long, which costs $80,000. This bridge connects with the county of Albert, which has a population of 10,000. The county is rich in its mineral resources, and is the seat of the celebrated Albert Mine, which has gained a reputation for the bituminous quality of its coal.

A branch railway has been built from Salisbury, fifteen miles above Moncton, to Hopewell’s Corner, forty miles long.

Twenty miles from here is Dorchester, the shire town of the county (Westmoreland), where the new Penitentiary for the Maritime Provinces is about to be built. This edifice, it is said, will cost $500,000, but this would appear to be an exaggerated estimate.

Moncton, which was only incorporated last year, is governed by a town council of six members, who elect their own chairman. Two men constitute the police force. Robberies occasionally occur, and, for a place of its size, two men are not enough. There is also a fire company, and an excellent new engine, purchased last year.

A weekly paper, the Moncton Times, is published in the Conservative interest.

The Working Force of the Line from Riviere du Loup to Halifax

From figures which have been furnished me here I have compiled the following approximate table of weekly expenditure for wages alone. As I could not get full particulars, on account of the absence of some of the officials, the following statement must be taken as far below the actual cost of working the road, for it will be observed that it does not include the salaries of the highest officers. It is merely given to enable the reader to form an approximate idea of the cost for labor only:—

700 Shopmen and 670 Engineers. This number includes other employees in locomotive and car shops. The rate of wages of these men is from $1.30 to $2.20. Placing it an average of $1.75 per day, it would represent for 1,370 men a daily expenditure amounting to $2,397.40 per day.

900 Trackmen at $1.10 per day, $990. per day.

400 Station men whose average wages are $500. per year, or per week $9.62. This for 400 men would give $3,848.00 per week.

340 Trainmen, including conductors, at $2.21 per day, and brakemen at $1.35 per day: Say 75 conductors at $2.21 per day, or $165.75 per day; and say 265 brakemen at $1.35 per day, or $357.75 per day.

56 Officers and clerks. Say 16 officers at an average salary of $1,000. per year; or per week, each, $19.23; or for the 16 a total of $307.68 per week. Also, say 40 clerks at an average of $600. per year or per week, each, of $11.53, representing for the 40 $461.20 per week.

Total 3066 Employees represent a total weekly expenditure of $28,082.88 per week.

Receipts from the Road

I was much disappointed at not being able to get a copy of the Returns of the Traffic Receipts since the opening of the line, which I was informed had not yet been made public. The only information I could get on this point was that the receipts from traffic since July 1st had been, in round figures, about $100,000 per month. That the bulk of the traffic was between Campbellton and St. John, of which fully seventy per cent, was between St. John and Moncton.

The Workshops

The shops, though large and roomy, are certainly not elaborate. There is nothing superfluous or costly about them. Cleanliness and discipline were very noticeable. There are about four hundred men engaged here in the various departments. The shops include the machine, erecting, blacksmiths’, boiler, tinsmiths’, carpenter, paint and pattern-maker’s shops, beside the brass foundry. The machine and blacksmiths’ shop alone cover an acre of ground. An excellent provision is made in case of fire by means of Knowles’ steam pump, made in Boston, which has a capacity of throwing 1,000 gallons per minute. There are three car shops, the first is two hundred and seventy-six by seventy-six feet, the second three hundred by forty-five feet, and the third one hundred and seventy-five by forty feet. At the time of my visit there were two hundred freight cars in course of construction besides twenty others, including passenger, express, smoking and conductors’ cars. There is a peculiarity in connection with the latter which should be mentioned. There are twelve built, thirty feet long, and ten feet wide, with a “bulge” or bow window in the side extending from the body of the car, by which means the conductors can have an uninterrupted view of the whole train before and behind. It was originally suggested to place an elevated seat for this purpose above the roof of the car, (as is the case in some of the cars in the United States) but for some reason or another this idea was abandoned. I believe the present plan is designed by Mr. Robt. Luttrell. The workshops are substantially built of brick, and to describe properly would take at least two columns of your journal. It took me an hour and a half to go through the various mechanical departments, only casually noting the various objects of interest. Any description I would give you would be necessarily dry and perhaps uninteresting to the general reader.

The General Offices …

are in a large, handsome brick building, and are elaborately fitted with the most improved office furniture and latest telegraphic improvements. The building is the headquarters for the General Superintendent, the Paymaster, the Engineer, Accountant, and Storekeeper.

The Station …

is an exceedingly handsome building, to which is attached a dining saloon said to be the finest in the Dominion. In the station is the General Passenger Agent’s office and Baggage Master’s Department.

This letter concludes the full description of the Northern Division of the Intercolonial Railway, in the completion of which your correspondent is much indebted to the officers, employees and private individuals along the line, who have invariably given him every reasonable information they have been able to impart.


Written by johnwood1946

June 4, 2014 at 9:43 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Thanks for this interesting article, my g-grand-father, his brother and a grandson all worked at the ICR in MOncton, my great-grand-father as a car inspector, his brother as a blacksmith and grandson as a clerk. I had another g-uncle who was a Moncton fireman at this time as well, so thanks for a glimpse of the past!


    June 4, 2014 at 8:53 PM

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