The Newfoundland Railway and Resource Development

Hydro-electricity and Newfoundland Newsprint for the World

Those controversial land grants ...

Following practices used in Canada during railway building, the Newfoundland government awarded land grants to the Reids as part of the various railway building and operating contracts.

If you were the Newfoundland government at that time, unused wilderness land was much more plentiful than cash.

The size and location of these grants was often misunderstood ... and occasionally legitimately controversial.

Here's how they were generally awarded :

By the 1920s, the Reids had over 2.5 million acres of land.
For comparison, the CPR received 25 million acres via their grants.

While much of the CPR prairie land could be resold as farm land or town lots, most of the Newfoundland land grants were covered with stands of black spruce, white birch, and balsam.

At one point, the Reids owned a little over 25% of the potentially productive forests of Newfoundland ...

 ... Hmm ...

Who wants all this wood ? ... Canada's close ... but it has lots of lumber already ... dang !
    And how would we move it around ? 
        We've got this railway corridor and excellent water transportation at the island's edges.
            If we drive fine lumber logs down rivers from the forest, they would probably be bashed into pulp !
                And those local politicians want us to diversify the economy .
                    We should talk to the financial boys with the deep pockets in London

... if we could get them to put down their newspapers long enough !

Opening in 1909, the Anglo Newfoundland Development Company pulp and paper mill at Grand Falls produced 27,000 tons per year for its owner in Britain - a publisher who wanted to avoid any possibility of newsprint shortages or price spikes. Grand Falls was also considerably closer to Britain for shipping this bulky cargo than continental North America.

Consider the life-cycle of Newfoundland newsprint ...

Back in London on his "AND Company's" newsprint ... British journalist and Amalgamated Press publisher Alfred Harmsworth (later Viscount Northcliffe) printed the Daily Mirror, the Daily Mail, and The Times, among others, at the beginning of the 20th Century.

His papers generally catered to the new popular audience created by compulsory education in Britain.

Blazing British World War I debates on Lord Kitchener's performance, conscription, shortages of artillery shells at the front, and food rationing were touched off by Newfoundland newsprint.

... and in the days that followed, some of the same newspapers - printed on Newfoundland newsprint - would facilitate nutrition of the same popular audience's fast food snacking ... by serving as absorbent packaging for greasy fried "chips".

Electricity for the north

To mash up all that wood for British consumption two hydro-electric power stations were developed along the Exploits River in 1908 - one at Grand Falls and another at Bishop's Falls (maps coming up).

To put you in the mind of electrical generating technology back then, here is a cross-section of a contemporary power station at Grand'mere, Quebec from 1913 ...

Permanently located above the rows of heavy components are high capacity cranes ... which travelled along rails or guideways ... and were used to pull out heavy equipment for periodic maintenance or repairs.

At the right, one hovers over the spillway gate area. At the left, one stands by over the generating machinery. The turbine blades will be spun by the water. Above the turbines, the dynamos (generators) - when engaged - will produce electricity. The power proceeds up through the dam as it is prepared for transmission from the towers at the top of the powerhouse.

Building this type of installation inland in Newfoundland meant that all these heavy manufactured components would have to be taken to the dam location for final assembly ... by rail. Generally, so would the aggregate and cement for the construction of the dams and powerhouse.

Hydro electric plant: Grand'mere cross section  

Besides powering the mills, surplus electricity from the local hydro stations at Grand Falls and Bishop's Falls allowed people in the surrounding area to get their first opportunity to use electricity at home - particularly during the long, dark wintery nights ...

Everyone must have run out and bought central vacuums, whirlpool tubs, and home theatre systems to celebrate !

Grand Falls mill, formerly Anglo-Newfoundland Company, AND Company
The Grand Falls mill in the late 1960s with its narrow gauge Newfoundland Railway track.

To give you a rough idea ...
most of the forestry and related industry was north of the word "Newfoundland".

Newfoundland map - forestry in the north

Zooming in to that section of track, in the 1920s ...
The dotted black line is the railway and you can see Grand Falls with the Exploits River flowing by it at the right side of the map.

Little branchlines can also be seen up to ports at Botwood and Lewisport and also down to Millertown.
The AND Company owned and ran the Millertown (for wood supply) and Botwood (seaport) branches with its own equipment.

Newfoundland map: Humbermouth (Corner Brook) Deer Lake, The Topsails, Grand Falls, Bishops Falls

Another paper mill ... this time at Corner Brook

To the left side of the map above, you can see Grand Lake, Deer Lake, Humber River, Humbermouth and Humber Arm.
... and something was about to "Put the Hum on the Humber " ... Premier Squires and the rest of them sure had a way with words back then.

More power to you

It seems Corner Brook almost didn't happen. Back in 1915, the Newfoundland Power and Paper Company - in which the Reids had an interest - was planning to build a dam and redirect the natural outflow of the Grand Lake at its northern tip... to a power station near the northeast tip of Deer Lake.
(This project was eventually started in 1922.)

Following the practice previously used at older Quebec locations and at Grand Falls, the paper mill will would have been built right beside the power generation location in the Deer Lake area, to minimize transmission losses of the high voltage alternating current.

Also around 1915, grading for a railway line was begun from Deer & Grand Lakes to Bonne Bay - a potential seaport. You can see the faint line going through the "u" in "Humber River". The railway line construction was stopped shortly thereafter.

What changed?

It seems likely that the recent refinement of modern transmission line insulators ... dangling vertically like a string of bells or beads (suspension-type insulators) from a high tension tower ... made it clearly feasible for the project developers to transport high voltage AC power longer distances without significant losses.

The old ceramic insulators which screwed onto pegs (pin-type insulators) on crossarms were out !

By deciding to bring the electricity to the Corner Brook mill at tidewater, it would be possible to load the large rolls of newsprint DIRECTLY onto ships for sea transport, rather than FIRST hauling them by rail to an ocean port and THEN transferring the rolls to ship - as was being done by the AND Company in the Grand Falls area.

 ... uh, where were we ? ...

OK! so other stuff was going on in Newfoundland as well, eh? ...
And they had to finish off World War I, too (more about that later) ...
And the Reids were really, really tired of losing money as operators of the wilderness railway ...
Between 1920 and 1923 the Reids tried a joint arrangement with the government to keep things going ...
In May 1923, the Reids shut down the railway to illustrate to the government that they were serious.

As part of the sale agreement of the Reid Newfoundland Railway to the Newfoundland government in 1923, the three Reid sons, conveniently known as:
would be involved in building this new paper mill on the Humber. This would draw pulpwood from their timber lands around "the Humber" and Grand Lake to feed it. The British engineering company of Armstrong Whitworth had the majority stake in the operation and was responsible for construction of the mill, dam, diversion and power house.

Local railroaders were apparently irked by the "British attitude" of some of the visiting Armstrong Whitworth personnel toward the relatively primitive colonial railway and the unconventional resourcefulness of its operating personnel as the cultures clashed again.

Government subsidies for jobs, jobs, jobs

Today, historical accounts suggest that for the cost of dealing with some of the first unionized workers in Newfoundland ... paper mill operators got all kinds of government concessions :
In return, the government got about 1000 of those "better-than-fishin' jobs" at each of Grand Falls and Corner Brook.

I don't know what kind of special deals they got when shipping over the newly-nationalized Newfoundland [Government] Railway, but in the Corner Brook area, the railway and its employees were going to have lots to do ... at least until everything was built.

Corner Brook railway operations during construction

Since 1919, Bishop's Falls had been the headquarters and dispatching office for the Western Division of the Newfoundland Railway. BUT in 1924 the Western Division dispatchers were temporarily moved to the new settlement at Corner Brook.
(After the mill was substantially complete, the office moved back to Bishop's Falls.)

The advantages of moving dispatching to Corner Brook :
Keep in mind that the railway operated by timetable and train order rules, through telegraph communications, at this time.
There were no electric switches which dispatchers could flip to line up switches and signals.

Except for :
all movements on the mainline had to be authorized through written train orders : This snippet of a 1957 employee timetable shows the mileages between the crew change point of Humbermouth and Main Dam. The 1957 car capacities of sidings and "other tracks" are shown in the two right columns. It's 30 years out of date, but you get the idea.

The new paper mill was about 1 mile (west) beyond Humbermouth on the next subdivision - just to make things interesting.

Dam area 1957 - do you have any dam questions?

This new Corner Brook/Humber area had turned into one large construction camp ...

Corner Brook 1925, Newfoundland Railway

The postcard above is labelled 1925. Notice the abundance of trestling - this area was later filled in. The long storage shed seems to be complete, but the actual paper factory at the left seems to be "ghosted in" by an artist or a later double-exposure technique (?). Was most of this image taken before the mill's completion ? Notice the sailing ship of the type used for transporting some of the mill components.

To the east : In the foreground is the mainline and a train travelling to the right would be eastbound toward the "formal" Humbermouth railway yard about one mile away.  Later, Seal Head Yard was built immediately to the right of this view to provide more efficient service to the mill without blocking the mainline.

The mill yard trackage would later be operated by the mill itself as a private railway.

West of Corner Brook : After skirting westbound around the mill property at the left, I believe the westbound rails can be seen just over, and parallel to, the roof of the long storage shed as they run along the shore ... a road from the townsite travels more steeply up the hills above the railway.

Corner Brook's industry in full production

Newfoundland pulp drag

Reminiscent of an grossly overloaded prospector's mule, a Newfoundland steam locomotive tugs its train along beside a rocky breakwater. For general interest readers, a "drag" is an underpowered freight train.

The Reid's lost their Corner Brook mill involvement in 1926 as the International Power and Paper Company came in, and the mill is perhaps most famously known as a Bowater's mill - as in Sir Eric Bowater. This photo is reproduced from a minuscule reference in a ancient Canadian National Railway's staff magazine from the early 1950s.

This precarious method of carrying pulp logs was replaced by the use of bulkhead flatcars in later years ... Consistent with modern practice, the logs were then loaded across the centre axis and bookended by the bulkheads at each end.

Whether it was uprooting its dispatching office to make things run efficiently ...
or using the general purpose cars it had as efficiently as possible ...
the Newfoundland railroaders always seemed to do their best with the limited resources they had.

Below are additional photos of Bowater operations taken from other Canadian National staff magazines.

Workers roll out newsprint for loading on a ship.
The image at the centre of the roll is a Newfoundland dog's head with its tongue out

Corner Brook, Bowater Mill, Rolling out the newsprint

A special sling is used to hoist the rolls aboard.
Corner Brook, Bowater Mill, hoisting newsprint on ship

For Canadiana trivia fans, it was at this mill that Grand Falls native Gordon Pinsent
performed in the 1971 film adaptation of his novel

"The Rowdyman" ... 

"You're lovely! ... tell your mother!"

Corner Brook 1988, on the Newfoundland Railway
Above in 1988, trucks at the Corner Brook mill are dwarfed by the pulp wood stockpiles.
On this humid dark day a ship's superstructure can be seen against the dark hills of Humber Arm.
Like steel mills, paper mills never seem to shut down, they just change owners.

Corner Brook - Platinum Collector's Edition

A special bonus feature just for you :

An interesting artifact of the old methods of moving pulp logs down from the Grand Lake reservoir
is this log flume we found in the Deer Lake area one sunny day ...

Deer Lake water fun park, pulp log flume

Missing is the steam locomotive roundhouse which would normally surround it, is an old turntable.

Perhaps a covered turntable was originally used at this location
and perhaps the gap in the concrete is just a big "clean out door" for a bucket loader to use in winter?
Newfoundland Railway, Corner Brook, railway turntable

Here is the only bona fide train we saw during our June 1988 visit to Newfoundland.
An eastbound rolls into Seal Head Yard.

Newfoundland Railway, Seal Head Yard, Corner Brook

Almost immediately, the Corner Brook switcher started working on the tailend of the train.

Perhaps it was because the railway's end was very near and morale was low,
but I have NEVER heard harder switching and rougher joints than I did from that crew.
Newfoundland Railway, Corner Brook Seal Head Yard, CNR switch locomotive

Finally, looking southwest, back to Corner Brook. The main track is beside the rock cut.
The mill is beyond the container port and part of the town can be seen beyond that.

Corner Brook, Newfoundland. Looking southwest toward Corner Brook

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