THE BAY ROBERTS RAILWAY STATION
The Bay Roberts Railway Station, a Municipal Heritage Site and Provincial Registered Heritage Structure, is over 100 years old. In 1898, the Carbonear line was constructed. By 1908 , when George Abbott became Station Master, the Bay Roberts Railway Station had been built and was ready for occupation. The Reid Newfoundland Railway, later the Newfoundland Railway, and finally the Canadian National Railway were responsible for both coastal boats and the railway. Until the 1960s, the combined systems were a major and sometimes the only method of transportation around Newfoundland, and the Station was the link to both. By the early 1980s roads and airplanes had become dominant in transportation and communication, so the branch was abandoned and the Station closed in 1984.
Sealing Disaster - An Abbott family story relates that the bodies of men from the area who had died in the Newfoundland Sealing Disaster arrived at the station platform as Gwen was born upstairs in the station on April 5, 1914.
Wartime - The train brought building materials for the construction of Western Union Cable Building and Cable Avenue in 1913. During World War II, the Bay Roberts Railway Station played a small part in defending the Western world. Soldiers arrived through the Bay Roberts Railway Station to protect vital telegraph connections between Britain and the US at the Cable Building, including the private line between US President Roosevelt and UK Prime Minister Churchill.
’twas on the Labrador me b’ys - Each spring hundreds of men and women from all over the region left to participate in the Labrador Fishery. Many purchased tickets at the Bay Roberts Railway Station for the SS Kyle and later, the SS Bonavista, to transport them to the Labrador.
RAILWAY STATION`S SOCIAL AND COMMUNITY ROLE
The Railway Station was part of the cycle of life in the community. It was a portal where people, products, services, packages and mail passed to and from the outside world. Few people had cars, and roads were frequently in bad condition, especially in winter, so travel between communities and to St. John’s was by train. Visitors from St. John‘s caught the train for an “excursion around the bay.” People also boarded the train to Mahers and Brigus Junction to go trouting, especially on the May 24th Weekend when it was called “The Trouters’ Special.”
From the early 1900's to about the 1960's, many skilled trades people and carpenters, with tickets purchased at the Railway Station, took their proficiency in construction work via train and/or coastal boat, to help build the northeast United States and central Canada.
The train also brought family members home to visit, and frequently, it brought 'Boston barrels' to town. These were barrels of clothing and other items, which had been sent home by family members who lived upalong.
As a member of a family that had emigrated upalong, award winning playwright, David French, is aware of the role of the train. He refers to the Railway Station in a number of his plays, and he set his play “Soldier’s Heart,” at the Bay Roberts Train Station.
Hours Open: Storyboard is on view from May to September
Time Period Represented: 1900-1984