The Botwood Railway

The Botwood Railway

ANDCo #15a (1)

The Railway to Botwood was a result of the Reid Newfoundland Company being hard to deal with. Originally the shipping port for the mill at Grand Falls was supposed to be Lewisporte. In fact it was through Lewisporte that most of the machinery and materials used to build the Grand falls mill were shipped.

The Botwood Railway was not originally the brainchild of the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company. The Botwood Railway was originally planned by the Albert E. Reed Company to ship pulp from its mill at Bishop’s  Falls out of Botwood. The REED Company was not on overly good terms with the REID Newfoundland Railway due to the latter company’s worries and subsequent arbitration that the dam built for the Reed mill could potentially damage the railway trestle at Bishop’s Falls (Understandable because it was the third one built there). So rather than have to use the Reid Company’s services Reed decided to build it’s own line.

Construction camp of the Botwood Railway, between Grand Falls and Bishop's Falls, 1908. Origional caption says: Botwood Railway Construction. 4.5 miles from Grand Falls. 1907. List of names says "L-R: N. Powell (Carbonear Chainman), J. Parsons (Carbonear Cook), R. J. Kennedy (Holyrood Superintendent), P. Gruchy (Grand Falls Cost Accountant)"(GFCRR).   Built just ten years after completion of the Newfoundland Railway many of the men who built the Botwood Railway had worked in putting the main line across the island. (GFWHS)
Construction camp of the Botwood Railway, between Grand Falls and Bishop’s Falls, 1908. Origional caption says: Botwood Railway Construction. 4.5 miles from Grand Falls. 1907.
List of names says “L-R: N. Powell (Carbonear Chainman), J. Parsons (Carbonear Cook), R. J. Kennedy (Holyrood Superintendent), P. Gruchy (Grand Falls Cost Accountant)”(GFCRR).
Built just ten years after completion of the Newfoundland Railway many of the men who built the Botwood Railway had worked in putting the main line across the island. P. Gruchy is Phillip Gruchy, who started as an office boy and eventually attained the position of position of Vice president and general manager of the mill and AND Company. (GFWHS-http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/histoires_de_chez_nous-community_memories/pm_v2.php?id=record_detail&fl=0&lg=English&ex=00000776&rd=229143#)

The A.N.D Company enters into the picture in 1908 when it was decided that the mill at Grand Falls would have an increased production capacity compared to what was initially planned. The Reid Railway would not agree to ship the increased amount of freight at the price agreed upon in the original contract. So A.N.D came to an agreement whereas a Railway would be built from Grand Falls to Botwood on a 75-25% basis with A.N.D shouldering the majority cost and Reed the smaller amount.

First engine shipped to Grand Falls for shunting from the mainline during mill construction.
First engine shipped to Grand Falls for shunting from the mainline during mill construction.  A spur was built from the station to the mill site in 1907, even before it was decided to build a line to Botwood. Very little information is available on this little engine and many  railway enthusiasts have come to the conclusion that may have been locally fabricated.

The line from Grand Falls to Botwood was constructed in 1908. To build the line A.N.D employed many of the same men who had done similar work for the Reid Railway; including David “Davey” Steele. Steele was a Scotsman who had come to Newfoundland to work for fellow Scots-the Reids. After construction was completed Steele stayed on as Road Master of the Botwood Railway.Steele was succeeded by Thomas Arklie who was superintendent for many years.[i]

From the very beginning all of the locomotive and rolling stock was owned by the A.N.D Company. The port facilities were originally contracted out to a firm of Park and Storm. A.N.D took over from Park and Storm around 1916 and from that point forward handled all shipping and stevedoring at Botwood.

Botwood rr no 1
Anglo Newfoundland Development Company Botwood Railway Number 1. Number 1 was a 0-4-0T (Meaning that it had two drive axles with four wheels)  tank engine used for shunting at Grand Fall, Bishop’s Falls and Botwood. She was built by Baldwin Locomotive works in Pennsylvania in 1907 and had a 51 year career on the rails of Central Newfoundland.

The first engine, Number 1, was a little two axle 0-4-0T Baldwin tank engine used for shunting and switching. It was acquired in the summer of 1907 and would be used right up until the end of steam operations in Newfoundland in 1958. Two larger tank engines of the 2-4-2 and 2-6-2 type were acquired from Baldwin in 1909 for hauling pulp and paper to Botwood. The next year another engine was acquired also of the same type.[i] By 1920 the A.N.D Company had 10 numbered engines operating on the Botwood Railway.[ii] These ten engines included Number 7, the oldest locomotive in Newfoundland, bought used from the Reid Newfoundland Railway and the only survivor of the Botwood Railways steam fleet.

botwood rr first engines
The first four engines of the Botwood Railway at Botwood circa 1910.
Engine 7 mill
Botwood Railway engine Number 7. Of all of the steam engines used on the Botwood Railway #7 is the only one that remains in Grand Falls-Windsor. She was salvaged from the scrap heap and restored in the late 1970’s.

The Botwood Railway mainly shipped pulp and paper to Botwood, return trips were made carrying cargoes of coal, china clay, limestone and later bunker C oil to Grand Falls. After 1928 the Botwood Railway also hauled Buchans ore from Bishop’s Falls to Botwood. Passengers were also carried on a limited basis and the Company owned a couple of passenger’s cars for that purpose. Well known passenger runs were the Nickle Train from Botwood for patrons wanting to see a movie in Grand Falls and the trains that brought servicemen to Grand Falls from Botwood in their free time.

For many years the Botwood Railway offered limited passenger service. (CSTM)
For many years the Botwood Railway offered limited passenger service. A private rail car known as the Shanawdithit was used by the Compnay from around 1908-1930 to transport dignitaries such as Lord Northcliffe from Botwood. This car was sold to the Newfoundland Government in the 1930’s and used as a mobile school for children in communities like Millertown Junction, Rantem and other isolated railway settlements.

Most of the maintenance and repairs was done at Botwood where the Company maintained a repair shop, which is still standing. There was also a turntable located at Grand Falls in the mill yard across from Riverview Road.

Repairs and maintenance were carried out in the shops at Botwood.
Repairs and maintenance were carried out in the shops at Botwood. The snowplow on the left was at a park near Botwood for many years.The shops are still standing and now used for storage.

Canadian National began phasing out steam operations in Newfoundland in 1952, within a few years AND Co followed suit. The late 1950’s saw new engines and a new name on the rails of Central Newfoundland. In 1956 the Botwood Railway became the Grand Falls Central Railway a subsidiary of the A.N.D Company. The GFCRR was incorporated in June of 1956,

botwood last run bunker c
In March of 1958 the last steam engine ran from Botwood to Grand Falls.

Within two years of the incorporation of the GFCRR the fleet of steam engines was replaced. Ten or so steam engines were replaced by three diesel locomotives.[iii] The diesels were General Electric 70 Ton switcher types which would remain the mainstay of motive power for the remainder of operations.

First run of the General Electric Diesels on the Grand Falls Central Railway March 1958.
First run of the General Electric Diesels on the Grand Falls Central Railway March 1958.
Southbound GFRC train at grade crossing near Bishops Falls N (1)
One of the duties of the GFCRR was to ship bunker C fuel from Botwood to Grand Falls for use as fuel in the mill.

During the last years the diesels and their associated cars were all painted in a distinctive orange color. This was accompanied by the Grand Falls Central logo which after 1965 features a Price Newfoundland symbol in the middle.

GFRC 102 and caboose Grand Falls NF May 10th 1975 (1)
Grand Falls Central locomotive 102 at the Grand Falls mill, May 1975.

In later years there were in the vicinity of 60 people employed on the GFCRR and at the time railways were just not economical. Trucking was seen as a cheaper alternative especially when the distance between mill and port was less than thirty miles. Tractor trailer trucks were purchased in 1974 on a trial basis to determine if they were cheaper to operate than the railway. They were found to be more cost effective. The last paper shipped to Botwood via the Grand Falls Central Railway was shipped on June 29, 1977. From that point on all shipping to and from Botwood from Grand Falls and Buchans was done by truck. The three little orange diesel locomotives were shipped off to Costa Rica along with some of the rails and rolling stock. After a few years in Costa Rica these locomotives reportedly were sold to Nicaragua.

GFCRR train at the port of Botwood, 1967.
GFCRR train at the port of Botwood, 1967. Between 1928 and 1977 Buchans ore made up a large percentage of the freight shipped over the line and out of Botwood.
Part of the responsiblities of the Botwood Railway was to haul Buchans ore from Bishop's Falls to the Botwood ore shed for shipping.  The heavy ore cars were notorously hard to haul and were known as wiggly jigglies. There wieght nessestated the breaing up of trains at a place known as the Summit between Bishop's Falls and Botwood.  (watercolor by author)
Part of the responsiblities of the Botwood Railway was to haul Buchans ore from Bishop’s Falls to the Botwood ore shed for shipping. The heavy ore cars were notorously hard to haul and were known as wiggly jigglies. There wieght nessestated the breaing up of trains at a place known as the Summit between Bishop’s Falls and Botwood. (watercolor by author)
Buchans ore cars
Buchans Mining Company ore cars await transshipment at Windsor Station-1950’s.

The rail operations associated with the Grand Falls mill ended on the same tracks that they began. The little Plymouth switcher Number 100[iv] as well as a track mobile was retained for shunting small cargoes between the mainline at Windsor, down the same spur that was built around 1907 for mill construction. This continued until around 1987 shortly before all railway operations in Newfoundland were shut down.

GFCRR lco costa rica
Newspaper clipping from when the three Grand Falls Central Railway locomotives were shipped to the port of Limon in Costa Rica for use on the railway there. (http://www.solrswat.ca/1%20Equipment%20Roster/Locomotives/1556/70%20Ton%20Roster%2033000.htm)

Strangely enough, the Grand Falls Central Railway existed as a company for many years afterwards even though the rails had long been taken up. It was still filing annual returns until 1995 and was listed as a trucking Company. The president was normally the resident mill manager.

GFCRR Lcos  de Costa Rica
Former Grand Falls Central locomotives (at rear of the front engine) await disposition somewehre in Costa Rica Circa 1980’s. Grand Falls Central Rolling stock could be found in such exotic places as Bishop’s Falls and the jungles of Costa Rica. (http://www.solrswat.ca/1%20Equipment%20Roster/Locomotives/1556/70%20Ton%20Roster%2033000.htm)
ASARCO at Buchans operated its own rail line from Buchan's to Buchans Junction and via the AND Millertown line to Millertown Junction. Ore was taken from Millertown Junction to Bishop's Falls and then from Bishop's Falls to Botwood via the Botwood Railway. These locomotives and cars were parked at the siding near Windsor Station for many years. The box cars fell victim to vandalism sometime in the late 1980's. Photo courtesy of Andrew Baird)
ASARCO at Buchans operated its own rail line from Buchan’s to Buchans Junction and via the AND Millertown line to Millertown Junction. Ore was taken from Millertown Junction to Bishop’s Falls and then from Bishop’s Falls to Botwood via the Botwood Railway. These locomotives and cars were parked at a siding near Windsor Station for a few years. The box cars fell victim to vandalism sometime in the late 1980’s. Photo courtesy of Andrew Baird)

Millertown Branch and the Harpoon Tramway.

Lewis Miller had the Millertown Branch built by the Reid Newfoundland Company. He Also acquired one locomotive as well. Notice the unique hood ornament that has been affixed to this particular locomotive. (Red Indian Lake Heritage Society, Millertown 1900)
Lewis Miller had the Millertown Branch built by the Reid Newfoundland Company. He Also acquired one locomotive as well. Notice the unique hood ornament that has been affixed to this particular locomotive. (Red Indian Lake Heritage Society, Millertown 1900)
HARPOONTRAMWAYLATE
locomotive Car 1 of the Harpoon Tramway sometime in the 1940’s or 50’s.(GFWHS)

The Railway operations of the A.N.D Co were not confined to the Grand Falls to Botwood line. It also included a branch line from Millertown Junction to Millertown, This line had been built by the Reid’s for Lewis Miller to ship his lumber to Lewisporte in 1900. Miller also had acquired one locomotive off the Reid’s for shipping. The history of the Millertown branch between 1905 and 1910 is convoluted, it may have been owned by A.N.D Co, there are also reports that Reid Train crews were contracted to operate trains on it. Whatever the case maybe the branch was owned by A.N.D by 1910. The Millertown Branch served mainly to convey passengers (mostly loggers) to Millertown and after 1928 Buchans, Originally Botwood Railway engines were used but starting in the 1920’s smaller gas powered engines were used that were more suited to the light traffic on this line. In the late 1920’s, after the new dam was built on Red Indian Lake,  the Millertown Branch was extended south across the new dam on the Exploits River via what would become known as the Harpoon Tramway.

The Millertown Branch and the Harpoon tramway were mainly used to transport loggers into the camps of Millertown Division .http://www.trainweb.org/oldtimetrains/nfld/millertown.htm
The Millertown Branch and the Harpoon tramway were mainly used to transport loggers into the camps of Millertown Division .(source: http://www.trainweb.org/oldtimetrains/nfld/millertown.htm

In the beginning of pulpwood operations most of the wood was close to Red Indian Lake and the Exploits River. By 1928 cutting had progressed further and further inland away from the lake into the area around Lake Ambrose. At this point truck transport was in its infancy and it made more sense to build a tramway to transport loggers and supplies to the camps. The rail head of the Harpoon tramway was at Lake Ambrose where a rather substantial logging depot was built consisting of a couple of houses, bunkhouses, cook houses, barns, sheds and garages. This depot served the camps located further into the interior of Millertown Division which would be serviced by boats and portage roads.

The Harpoon Tramway Crossed the Exploits River at the main dam on Red Indian Lake. (Photo from http://www.heritage.nf.ca/society/and_co_railway.html)
The Harpoon Tramway Crossed the Exploits River at the main dam on Red Indian Lake. After the line to Lake Ambrose was closed an engine was still kept at the dam for some years to carry across vehicles and supplies.  (Photo from http://www.heritage.nf.ca/society/and_co_railway.html)

All of the engines used on the Harpoon Tramway were small gas or diesel locomotives. This no doubt would have been due to the light nature of the traffic and the fact that steam locomotives were more prone to starting fires. There were a few engines of this type, some of them looked rather like they were built locally for use on the line. At least one of these locomotives was reportedly bought to be used at the Octagon Pond steel mill after the closure of the Harpoon line.

HARPOON ENGINE
AND Co Number 22. This engine was reportly built by Vulcan in 1930 but it appears the engines was later replaced by one from a Caterpillar tractor.

Improved trucks and advances in road building led to the redundancy of the Harpoon Tramway. Its operations finished up in 1958. Part of the tramway was retained, a car ferry, which consisted of a locomotive and flatcar that shunted vehicles across the Exploits River Dam near Millertown. This operation continued into the 1960’s.

-Bryan Marsh

with special thanks

to Andrew Baird for research and pictures.

 

Special Thanks

This article would not have been possible except for the help of railway enthusiast Andrew Baird. Baird is a wealth of knowledge and provided me with many pictures of the Botwood Railway.

[i] http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/histoires_de_chez_nous-community_memories/CM_V2_Apps/ui/remWindow.php?remID=114980&remP=/sgc-cms/histoires_de_chez_nous-community_memories%2FCommunityMemories2%2FAEAB%2F0001%2Ftext%2F&remEx=The+Harmsworth+Connection&lg=Englis

[i] http://www.railways.incanada.net/industrials/Newfoundland.pdf

[ii] This does not include at least one unnumbered engine a 0-4-0 used for work train service and the shunting locomotive shipped to Grand Falls during construction.

[iii] An additional gas switcher had been acquired in 1953 which was used on the Harpoon Tramway and the Millertown branch. Later it was used for Shunting to the mill from the mainline even after rail shipments to Botwood stopped.

[iv] This is still on the Island, albeit in a deteriorating state at Trinity Loop.

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3 comments

  1. Awesome to read and see of the trains in Botwood . My dad worked on water front for about 40 years . Thanks for the memories

    Like

  2. What can you tell me about this crane:

    Industrial Brownhoist #10971
    Anglo Newfoundland Development Co. (42” gauge)
    Grand Falls Centeral RR #4 1957
    unknown display Bishop’s Falls, Newfoundland

    Like

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