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 Vol. 17 No. 11
 November, 1987

Stay Safe in 87

Old Minto Sub
its Personalities
and Operations

Omer Lavallee

While in New Brunswick late in September, I motored up to the Grand Lake area to try to find traces of the old Minto Subdivision. The eastern half of this branch, abandoned in the 1960's, extended for 72 kilometres between Norton and Chipman, passing through such places as Scotch Settlement, Washademoak, Bagdad, and Young's Cove Road. In the 1950's, it attained a certain amount of fame as the locale of Canadian Pacific's three oldest operating steam locomotives.

 Click to enlarge
CP 29
 Click to enlarge
CP 136
 Click to enlarge
CP 144

Classes A1 Number 29, and A2 numbers 136 and 144, built in the mid-1880's but completely rebuilt just before the First World War, were the only locomotives light enough to operate on this section, which consisted of a number of bridges with restricted axle loadings. The two best-known were the structures at mileage 69.5 over an arm of Washademoak Lake, and at mileage 90.08 right at Norton.
Trains on the Washademoak drawbridge were restricted to 13 kilometres an hour, while the iron spans over the Kennebecasis River at Norton - over a century old when the line was abandoned - could tolerate only half that speed.
The combination of antique technology and scenic locale attracted railway buffs from near and far. They made the pilgrimage to the New Brunswick woods to see, photograph, and sound-tape mixed trains Numbers 159 and 160, which were headed by the last remaining 4-4-0 type engines used in daily service on a common-carrier railway in North America.
The personalities involved with the trains were as interesting as the operations. Perhaps the best-known was John Myers, the indefatigable regular engineman in charge of the veteran locomotives.
On my first visit to the line in 1949, the conductor was Ernest Folkins, whose nephew, Wentworth Folkins of Toronto, is a respected popular artist specializing in railway subjects. During the 1950's, members of the train crew most familiar on my visits were Percy Lister and Irving Swift.
Another personality was the locomotive foreman at Chipman, and amiable Acadian named Albert Pontbriand. To the soft-spoken Myers, Pontbriand was the "oracle" as far as the engines are concerned. John's conversation was peppered with "Albert says this..." or "Albert says that..." Nonetheless, it must be acknowledged that the ministrations of both men were largely responsible for the fact that the three engines lasted long enough to be preserved.
In fact, Number 29, built in 1887 and the last of the trio to remain in service, was chosen to make the last official run of a steam locomotive on the CPR's lines. This took place out of Montreal on 6 Nov 1960.
The locomotive is now displayed at the Salem & Hillsborough tourist railway (Editor:  As of 2008 it rests in front of CPR's head-office in Calgary, Alberta.) near Moncton, N.B., not too far from the scenes of its exploits on the Minto Subdivision. Number 144 can be found at the Canadian Railway Museum at Delson, Quebec, while Number 136, not on display, is stored in the Toronto area (Editor:  It is currently owned by the South Simcoe tourist railway out of Tottenham, Ontario).

This CP Rail News article is copyright 1987 by the Canadian Pacific Railway and is reprinted here with their permission. All photographs, logos, and trademarks are the property of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company.     Victoria British Columbia Canada