Halifax Urban Greenway: Railway Cut Development - Short Version
Railway Cut Development


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Development of the Halifax Railway Cut (1912-18) - Short Version


The plan for a railway and shipping terminal at Greenbank near Point Pleasant Park was announced with great fan-fare at a Board of Trade luncheon on October 30, 1912.

The route chosen by F. W. Cowie, the federal government engineer,called for a double track line branching off the Intercolonial Railway (I C R) at Three Mile House, Fairview, on Bedford Basin,curving southwest, around the city and running through the most attractive residential district bordering on the Northwest Arm.

The Federal Government's engineers had prepared four proposals for combining an ocean and a rail terminal, even one located in Dartmouth, but they were well prepared to forestall objections to their preferred plan entailing the line through Halifax's South End residential district. They promised a line going below ground level at just above Quinpool Road, and hidden in a cutting at depths varying from 35-60 feet to eliminate nuisance from smoke and noise. And they promised "artistic" bridges on all intersecting streets to obviate level crossings.


The official start-up date was to be July 31,1913. However, it may have been a token beginning because little equipment was on hand till nearly a month later. On August 21,1913, the Herald reported "thirty-eight dumping cars, two locomotives and two steam shovels' were on their way to the city.

Steam shovel used in construction (P.A.N.S.)

Work began first at the Fairview end of the line on Bedford Basin, and a few weeks later at the Harbour end, at Greenbank near Point Pleasant Park. The work trains from the Fairview end discharged their cargo into Bedford Basin to build the freight-marshalling yards. Those from the Greenbank end dumped the rock into the Harbour where some of it was used to build the breakwater.

Trestle bridges put up at street crossings until completion of permanent bridges were undoubtedly viewed with some trepidation by what were then called "autoists" and also by passengers on the street railway along Quinpool Road.

By the time the work was completed there were sixteen handsome concrete bridges. The contractors proudly advertised that the longest single span was 144 feet, and the longest bridge, at Young Avenue, was over 210 feet.

The two work crews finally met sometime in the fall of 1917.

That the work had gone doggedly the war years was to prove providential after the Halifax Explosion on December 6, 1917,destroying the North Street Rai1way Station and the lines leading to it. But for the new line, relief workers, medical supplies, food, and the hundreds of other necessities would have been much slower reaching the wounded and homeless.

The first official passenger train, the Maritime Express, steamed out of the still incomplete new station on December 22, 1918,carrying a distinguished group of governmental and business dignitaries bound for Fairview, thus ceremonially inaugurating the new service.

Extracted from "South End Railway Cutting: Report No. 2 of the Area Studies Groups", Pierre Taschereau, Halifax Field Naturalists News, No. 27, Spring 1982.

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