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Sydney man campaigning to save railway in mother's memory

Gord Seury rail meetingGord Seury holds up an ad in the Dec. 14, 1991, edition of the Cape Breton Post that featured his late mother, Alma, campaigning to save passenger rail service in Cape Breton. Seury was one of about 60 people who attending a working meeting of the Scotia Rail Development Society on Wednesday in Sydney.

SYDNEY — A quarter of a century ago, Gord Seury’s mother campaigned for the return of passenger rail service to Cape Breton.

On Wednesday, the 74-year-old Sydney resident was one of about 60 people who attended the latest meeting of the Scotia Rail Development Society, the local organization aiming to preserve Cape Breton’s railroad infrastructure in hopes of once again having trains roll across the island.

Seury said he showed up at the meeting at Sydney's Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion because of his late mother’s love of the railway. And he brought a full-page union ad that appeared in the Dec. 14, 1991, edition of the Cape Breton Post. The ad featured a letter written by his mother Alma and included picture of her on the old tracks.

“She loved it, she would take the train a few times a year to visit family down the line and she made a few trips out West — she loved the train,” said Seury, whose mother died in 1995 at age 79.

“She did what she could do to save the service then, so I guess I decided to come out and see if I can help out now.”

The gathering was more of a working meeting than an open public debate about the future of rail transportation in Cape Breton. For the most part, those in attendance were already committed to the cause.

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Groups try to keep Cape Breton rail effort on track

2015 05 01 11 10 26 rail meeting advance2Photo: (© Chris Shannon/Cape Breton Post) David Rae, chair of the Scotia Rail Development Society.
SYDNEY — Focus groups concentrating on the interests of specific communities in the future of Cape Breton’s rail line are being set up as part of the effort to engage the public and retain the service.

By Nancy King Cape Breton Post

The idea for the groups came from Rev. Greg MacLeod at a meeting this week of the Scotia Rail Development Society, and they would focus on four areas — central Cape Breton, the northside, Glace Bay and Sydney.

“My point is the railway is more significant than most people think,” MacLeod said. “There’s special interests in different communities."

David Rae, who chairs the society, said "the unifying factor is the rail … but there are different areas of interest and expertise.”

On the northside, the particular concern is around Marine Atlantic traffic. MacLeod said if the trend of diverting freight to Halifax to transport to Newfoundland continues, avoiding North Sydney altogether, the ferry service could be reduced to solely passenger traffic.

“That’s a danger,” MacLeod said.

In Glace Bay, the interest is around the reopening of the Donkin mine and how the coal it would produce would be moved.

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President’s update

david raeScotia Rail Development Society President’s update

This is the first e-newsletter from the Scotia Rail Development Society. It aims to update our membership and the wider community on the developing campaign to retain the Cape Breton-Truro rail line.

The meeting on 1 May was attended by over 200 people and the Society currently has 155 members. At the meeting we heard news from Deputy Minister Paul LaFleche that any decision to abandon the rail line would not be taken until after February 2016. The involvement of Mayor Clarke, MP Mark Eyken and MLA Alfie MacLeod at the meeting was excellent. There have been other developments in the past 8 weeks, summarised below.

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Efforts to save Cape Breton rail line chug along

rail signA Genesee and Wyoming sign is seen in this file photo of the rail line in Sydney.By Nancy King Cape Breton Post, Published on August 11, 2015

SYDNEY — The annual inspection on Cape Breton's rail line is up this week, meaning the already-rare sighting of a moving train in Cape Breton will be non-existent.

A Genesee and Wyoming sign is seen in this file photo of the rail line in Sydney.

As it stands, commercial traffic on the line has ceased, with owner Genesee and Wyoming having discontinued service on the Sydney-to-St. Peter's junction section of the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway. It had been occasionally used to move locomotives to Sydney for repair and maintenance, however.

But David Rae, chair of the Scotia Rail Development Society that formed in an effort to save the line, said that will no longer be the case once the required annual track inspection expires.

"We understand there were two locomotives that were having some maintenance work done in Sydney and that they would be heading back before Friday, but we don't know any more than that," Rae said.

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Campaign for CB rail about to enter a new stage

SRDS perspective banner tracks

Scotia Rail Development Society: the campaign for Cape Breton rail line about to enter a new stage

The Scotia Rail Development Society held a meeting of its committee and concerned members on Tuesday 28 th July at Cape Breton University (CBU) Shannon School of Business.

The meeting was chaired by Dr David Rae, the Business School Dean who will be representing the Society at the Ministers Rail Advisory Committee at Port Hawkesbury on 30 July. 25 members attended - from the Committee, local businesses, community groups and from transport and industrial backgrounds.

"The rail closure threat has gone a little quiet but we believe the campaign is about to enter a vital period" said Rae. "Three reports commissioned by the Provincial Government are expected to be shared with the Ministers Rail Advisory Committee on Thursday. We will be pressing for those reports to be made public as soon as possible. The reports deal with what happened to the traffic which was lost to the rail line, the potential sources of new traffic, and the investment needed to bring the line back to safe operating condition, based on an engineering study. These reports are likely to hold vital information which the Province will use to determine whether to grant or refuse an application for abandonment by the current owner, Genesee Wyoming, who withdrew all services on the line last December."

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Brief History of Rail in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Railway
By Greg MacLeod

Fifty years ago Nova Scotia had marvelous rail service, but gradually it has been cut back. Rail Services were provided from the Atlantic to the Pacific by the government owned company, CN.

During the last 50 years, railway services were abandoned piece by piece.

In September,1961, the last train operated on the round trip Maccan - River Hebert - Joggins, in Cumberland County. In that same year, the Cornwallis Valley Railway was abandoned.

In 1981 the CNR abandoned the Liverpool to Yarmouth main line and the Bridgewater to Bridgetown branch.

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Our Mission Is Fourfold:

  1. Explore various options for continuation of the rail service to Sydney, Cape Breton
  2. Demonstrate the vital importance regionally in order to support the continuation of the rail link to Sydney, Cape Breton
  3. Support efforts to ensure continuation of the rail link to Sydney, Cape Breton
  4. Secure in perpetuity the right of way of the line

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