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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.

CNR had been a government owned company but became a private company in the 1990's. Instead of CNR, the name was changed to CN. CN maintains the line from the Pacific to the Atlantic. The subsidiary, via rail, become the rail passenger service.

1990- Via Rail closed down the service from Sydney to Truro

1993- CN sold the 400 km railway line between Sydney and Truro to the American company RailTex in October for $20,000,000.

2013- Rail Tex sold the line Truro-Sydney to another American company, Genesee Wyoming.

2014- Via Rail reduced the service from Montreal to Halifax from a train six days per week to three days per week

2014- Genesee Wyoming announced closure of the section from Port Hawkesbury to Sydney

2015- The provincial government formed a committee to seek solutions.

When the coal mines and steel were active up until 1968, the Cape Breton section of the rail line was very profitable. However, the new companies that took over from CN made very little effort to develop and foster new freight business.

Without rail service a number of smaller companies are at risk. The lack of rail service will be a serious obstacle to any port development. Some analysts say that the freight that is now being loaded off the rails in Moncton were carried by train to Newfoundland and Sydney, then it would be profitable.

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Our Mission Is Fivefold:

  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
  5. Demonstrate that rail transport is the most affordable and environmentally friendly land transport for climate change

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