Millertown Junction-The Story of a Railway Community

There is one community, or should I say former community, in Central Newfoundland that I have yet to touch upon.  When I started out I was going to do something on it. I have written quite a bit of material about Millertown and the surrounding forests, but what about Millertown Junction?

Millertown Junction as a community came to life as a result of the Lewis Miller and Company operation at Red Indian Lake. Prior to this, there was reportedly a railway siding on the north shore of Joe Glodes Pond, and possibly water and coaling facilities for the railway. At one point in the 1890’s or 1900’s it was where the winter mail route connected from part of Green Bay.

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Passengers departing by sled from the siding at Joe Glode’s Pond. (Millertown Heritage Society)

As many will know, when the trans-insular railway was completed in 1898 it did not touch the shores of Red Indian Lake. So in order for the Lewis Miller Company to set up it required the construction of two branch-lines. One to the salt water at Burnt Bay, and the other to the actual mill site at Red Indian Lake, some 19.5 miles miles into the interior.

The site chosen for the line to depart from the mainline was a pond named for a Micmac Trapper, Joe Glode. Joe Glode’s Pond was located at the eastern edge of the Gaff Topsails area, where at the time there was a bit if activity going on with the railway as well as an associated stone quarry. Being located at the edge of this area, which would be renowned for its terrible winter weather, would actually help in the growth of this tiny inland community. The branch-line from Millertown Junction to Millertown was completed in 1900. Soon people moved into the area, either working for the railway, to hunt or trap, or to take advantage of railway traffic through the area as merchants or hoteliers.

Although Lewis Miller pulled out of Millertown in 1903, the eventual sale of his former properties to the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company in 1905 would spur on the growth of Millertown Junction.  Quite a bit of traffic would now run through here on the way in and out of Millertown: Loggers going into the camps around Red Indian Lake, miners and other exploring the mineral potential of the Harmsworth’s interior holdings, surveyors and company officials. Many visitors and dignitaries coming to Grand Falls during the early years also visited Millertown via the Junction.

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In the says of stream Millertown Junction was an important railway stop.

By 1921 Millertown Junction had a population of 101 people. Men in the settlement found employment not only for the Reid Newfoundland Railway, but also for the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company. A handful of men in Millertown Junction worked maintaining the Millertown branch-line and two were employed by the Company as fire wardens.(1921 Census). The Reid Railway maintained section crew as well as a station master, telegraph operator, and line repairer here. Interestingly, this remote inland rail junction also supported two merchants and a hotel. Believe it or not, this was the ideal location for a hotel at that time. Trains could be held up at Millertown Junction for days waiting for the line to be cleared, hundreds of loggers also transited through here on the way to Millertown. Often, the loggers would have to wait for the daily train to Millertown.

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Locomotive taking on water at Millertown Junction in this 1954 photograph by Thomas Norrell. (Canadian Science and Technology Museum)
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Buchans Mining Company locomotive passes through Millertown Junction. (Canadian Science and Technology Museum)

The fortunes of Millertown Junction would only get better, when the development at Buchans got underway after 1926. Most of the equipment required to build the mine and processing plants had to come through here, and when it was completed, the ore from the mines was all transported to Millertown Junction.

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Prior to 1957 the A.N.D Company operated a train between Millertown Junction and Millertown. Not only was it used by residents and visitors to Millertown, but also by loggers going into the camps in Millertown Division. Old Time Trains

By 1935 there were over a dozen people employed by the Railway at Millertown Junction. ASARCO/Buchans Mining Company also employed an employment agent there, at the time Buchans was a closed Company town and you couldn’t go there unless you had permission from the mining Company. 1935 census. Sometime in the 1940’s the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company built a hotel at Millertown Junction mainly to accommodate loggers headed in and out of Millertown. During the Second World War the United States Army built a repeater station here.

Millertown Junction AG Sept Oct 1956.
A rare picture of the community of Millertown Junction graces this piece that appeared in the Atlantic Guardian in 1956.

In 1956 Millertown Junction had a population of 201 and boasted: “two grocery stores, one dry goods store and two confectionery stores” as well as a two-room school and a church! (Atlantic Guardian). By that point Canadian National Telecommunications had taken over the repeater station. The A.N.D Company and ASARCo still provided employment in addition to those working with the railway. In addition, there was some large scale mineral exploration being undertaken at nearby Collishaw’s Siding, that brought some additional employment to the area.

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Aerial view of Millertown Junction taken by Lee Wulff in the mid-1950’s. (Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador)

But things were not all that rosy for Millertown Junction. Around that same time the building of the Buchans highway would drastically cut down on Millertown Junction’s importance as a transit point into the interior. In 1957 the Millertown portion of the branch-line was abandoned by the A.N.D Company. People could now dirve directly in to Millertown, Buchans and Buchans Junction.  Pleas were made for a connection to this route, but none was made until later. Gradually the importance of Millertown Junction eroded. The dieselization of CN meant that trains no longer needed to stop there for coal and water. A number of families would leave during the 1960’s, taking advantage of the government resettlement program. According to the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, 150 people were resettled from Millertown Junction between 1965 and 1975. Oddly, it was during this same time period that the community was connected by road to the Buchans Highway.

Until 1977 ore from Buchans still went to Millertown Junction. That year, both ASARCO and Price eliminated their rail operations. Buchans ore was trucked directly to Botwood for the few remaining years that the mine was in operation. For a while the ASARCO locomotives were parked on a siding at the Junction. Surprisingly, there were still 23 permanent residents in 1981. In 1990, the were reported to be none.

But Millertown Junction never really died. The area had always been immensely popular with hunters, even in the early 1900’s. The area was prime for caribou and partridge. Naturally Millertown Junction would transition to a cabin area. Today there are a large number of cabins at Millertown Junction and around Joe Glode’s Pond, and I do believe a few people live there year round.

-Bryan Marsh

3 comments

  1. I believe both Millertown and Lewisporte were named after Lewis Miller. There was a Lewis Miller that went to Glover’s Harbour every summer in the 1970s into the 1980s tuna fishing, he hired two locals Ray Mitchell (still living in Glover’s Harbour) and Perry Haggett (living in Leading Tickles). He was from Nova Scotia, but it was his father that was the man that the towns were named after to the best of my knowledge.

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    • Both were named for Miller. The man was likely he was a grandson. Miller set up in Nova Scotia after he left Newfoundland. His son took over after his death. Never knew there was much tuna in the area!

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  2. My Grandfather , George Wilcox lived in Millertown, his wife Olivia Purchase(Wilcox) , my father Wilburn (Bill Wilcox was born there, as well as other siblings….. my two older sisters were born there.They also lived in Buchans.

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