Vol. 17 No. 11
Stay Safe in 87
Old Minto Sub
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.
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.
DREW INTEREST OF RAIL BUFFS
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.
ALBERT, THE SOFT-SPOKEN ORACLE
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