If you traveled across Newfoundland anywhere East of Bishop’s Falls during the 1950’s chances are you will remember Joe Hampton’s car ferry. A barge connected to a cable that crossed the Exploits River. Most people would be surprised to learn that it operated for less than ten years, and that there was another similar crossing on the Exploits, one which operated for a much longer period of time.
The Badger scow ferry crossing on the Exploits River operated for about 55 years. Soon after the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company started producing paper at Grand Falls it acquired timber limits in the Badger area and started their second logging division. One problems was that a huge swath of these timber areas were on the south side of the Exploits, an area with no road or rail connection. So someone, sometime in these early years had the idea to run a cable across the Exploits and to attach a boat to it. In fact, the idea may have pre-dated the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company starting operations in Badger, though I am not banking on ever knowing.
The cable ferry was designed to use the current of the river as motive power, the scow was set at an angle so that it was carried across the 800 foot plus stretch of river “at a rate of about 5 miles per hour.”(Western Star, 1944)
By this method: people, supplies, trucks, tractors and horses were all conveyed over the river. On the other side was the Sandy Motor Road, which, by at least 1941, went into the bush some 26 Miles or more to Sandy Brook. Even before this time the ferry was connected to portage trails to areas like Black Duck, Pamehac Brook, Tom Joe Brook, and Red Indian Falls.
This method was not ideal, there were certain times of the year when navigating the channel was quite challenging and there were some men in Badger who were noted for there skill in getting the scow across. Usually beginning in January, the river would freeze up enough that it was used as an ice bridge.
But the haul-off normally started before the river froze over and the scow had to be used to bring over horses and tractors. Even during the waning days of the woods horse, 1960, it was noted that about 65 horses crossed over to “Sandy” on the scow. By that time the landing on the “Sandy” side was a busy place, with a number of buildings such as barns and warehouses, as well as a set of fuel tanks for the scores of tractors and trucks operating on that side of the river.
The beginning of the end for the scow came in 1962 when a bridge was completed across the Exploits River at Grand Falls. So that ended its use, right? There was a stay of execution, that kept it going for another three years. Although the bridge was across, the road from Grand Falls still hadn’t gone very far on the south side of the river. There were still logging camps and logging operations in the Noel Paul, Sandy and Cripple Back area that were not connected to the new road, nor had Sandy Brook been bridged.
In 1965 the new road and a new bridge crossed Sandy Brook and was connected to the old Sandy Motor Road and the need for the scow was gone. The bridge had a number of advantages over the old ferry as it had less weight restriction, and most importantly it could be used year round, unlike the ferry, which could not operated certain times during the winter and spring.
With the curtailment of logging operations around Twin Lakes and Noel Paul Brook and the beginning of logging operations closer to Grand Falls, there was no longer need to base operations out of Badger. Around the same time that the scow ended service most of the old logging Badger Division became part of the new consolidated Bishop’s Falls Division as Price Newfoundland consolidated four logging divisions into two: Millertown and Bishop’s Falls.
The cable scow at Badger wasn’t the only ferry crossing of this type operated by the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company. In the 1940s and 50s there was a ferry crossing near the outlet of Michael’s Brook on the Exploits River. Foreman-Contractor Ford Ball operated in a section of Badger Division on the western side of Noel Paul’s Brook. At the time this was far from the roads supplying the camps in Badger Division or Millertown Division. So these camps were actually connected to the Buchans or Millertown Railway via a road and this second cable ferry. This cable ferry was also used by Newfoundland Hardwoods when they were operating in the area in the 1950s.