Cape Breton Railways: An Illustrated History

Herb MacDonald

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ISBN: 9781897009673

Cape Breton Railways: An Illustrated History

An Illustrated History

  Author:   Herb MacDonald    
  Publisher:  Cape Breton University Press

CAPE BRETON’S RAIL LINES are perhaps best known for their substantial roles in the coal and steel industries-and their decline as those industries faded away. Yet, despite their prominent connections to coal and steel, railways played many other important roles in the life of the Island.For a hundred years, railways carried people to and from Cape Breton as well as between communities on the island. Railways carried the mail; before the development of the telephone system, the railway companies provided telegraph service for occasions when the mail was too slow; railways moved freight and express for individuals and businesses; and the railways provided jobs, in large numbers, directly to their own employees and indirectly through companies whose products and services they used.The first horse-powered line at Sydney Mines is a contender for recognition as the first railway in Canada, a subject examined in chapter 1. The case for that honour requires a definition of “railway” based on a long-run sense of history-but any serious look at railways calls for a long-run view.In 1829, only four years after the opening of the Stockton and Darlington in County Durham, England, the railway age came to Cape Breton. The first lines on the island used horse-power for more than two decades. Steam locomotives did not arrive until 1853. The early Cape Breton experience was a direct transfer of early English technology, but what had happened in England over the course of two hundred years occurred on Cape Breton within the span of twenty-five years.Over the next century-and-a-half, as some areas of Cape Breton evolved from a rural and agricultural society into an urban and industrial one, railways played a central role in supporting the changes that took place. This book looks at those railways in the contexts of what was happening on and beyond the Island.Cape Breton’s railways were shaped by factors such physical geography, availability of both capital and customers, and the distribution of population and industries. In response to those factors, railway builders and operators often had to make difficult choices and try to deal with factors they could not control.

Details and Specs
ISBN associated with this title:9781897009673
Item CB0090
PublisherCape Breton University Press
PublisherCape Breton University Press
Published onJuly 18 2012
Language eng
Pages 264
Format Paperback
Dimensions9.25(in) x 7.5(in)
Shipping weight520(g)
Status ACTIVE TITLE
HERB MACDONALD has been researching and publishing in the field of Canadian railway history since 1999 when he completed a Saint Mary's University MBA thesis on Nova Scotia's first locomotive-powered railroad. A frequent contributor to Canadian Rail, the journal of the Canadian Railroad Historical Association, he is a three-time recipient of the CRHA annual award for best article in that journal. The most recent of those awards was for his 2010 study of early horse-powered railways at coal mines in Cape Breton.Macdonald's work has also been published in England by the Railway and Canal Historical Society, the Stephenson Locomotive Society and the Institution of Civil Engineers. Since 2001, his papers on Canadian topics have been appearing in collections from a series of British conferences on early railways sponsored by organizations including the U.K. National Railway Museum and the Newcomen Society for the History of Engineering and Technology.Recently retired from the Nova Scotia public service, Herb is now a Research Associate at the Gorsebrook Research Institute for Atlantic Canada Studies at Saint Mary's University, Halifax.