The construction of the Newfoundland railway, 1875-1898

Cramm, Frank (1961) The construction of the Newfoundland railway, 1875-1898. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

For hundreds of years after its discovery Newfoundland was a fishing community. The lack of an agricultural hinterland produced an environment of isolation, ignorance, poverty and a credit system which tended to produce a stagnant economy, and which was not conducive to industrial development. However, the pressure of a growing population, concentrated along the shoreline, combined with frequent failures in the fishery, caused widespread distress and hardship in the 1860’s. It was under such conditions that the idea of a railway across Newfoundland was first seriously considered. The discovery of minerals and visions of international transportation and communication created an optimistic atmosphere in the Newfoundland Legislature, which led to a railway survey in 1875. The policy of the British Government because of the existence of the French Shore, however, forced the Government to postpone the commencement of construction for three years. The British prevented the construction of a terminus on the French Shore thus making the previous theories of international transportation inapplicable. In 1861 the government signed a railway contract with the Newfoundland Railway Company for a construction of a railway from St. John’s to Halls Bay (Green Bay). However, the company declared itself bankrupt when the railway was completed only as far as Whitbourne, with a branch line to Harbour Grace. Thorburn’s administration (1885-89) was more conservative with respect to railway construction. It supervised the construction of a branch to Placentia, but was accused of building it merely to strengthen their majority in the House of Assembly. W.V. Whiteway returned to power in 1889 and in 1890 a contract was signed with R. Reid which enabled him to continue construction as far as Port aux Basques. Construction was completed in the fall of 1897 and the first train operated over the line in June, 1898. However, the public debt accumulated through railway developments had become the main obstacle to confederation in the 1890’s and was to become the largest single cause of the financial collapse of 1934.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/7298
Item ID: 7298
Additional Information: Bibliography: 168-176.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > History
Date: 1961
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Canada--Newfoundland and Labrador
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Newfoundland Railway Company; Railroads--Newfoundland and Labrador--19th century

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