A Canadian Regional Railroad - 1930's - 1940's
Dominion Atlantic Railway


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The Dominion Atlantic Railway (DA)(DAR) was a historic Canadian railway which operated in the western part of Nova Scotia, primarily through an agricultural district known as the Annapolis Valley. The DARs main line ran from Yarmouth through Digby, Kentville, and Windsor to Halifax, 217 miles. It had a branch line from Windsor to Truro, 59 miles, where it connected with the Canadian National. It also had other branches including; Kentville to Kingsport, 14 miles. The DARs corporate headquarters were in London, United Kingdom and after 1912 Montreal, Quebec, but was operationally headquartered in Kentville, Nova Scotia where it retained a unique identity and a high degree of independence until the end of steam. The company was leased by the Canadian Pacific in 1911 but maintained its separate identity. The DAR was unusually diverse for a regional railway, operating its own hotel chain, steamship line and named luxury trains such as the Flying Bluenose, the Bluenose Limited and the New Yorker. It is credited with playing a major role in developing Nova Scotia's tourism and agriculture industries. The DAR named trains connected with Boston and New York steamships in the summer. The DAR developed an identity as "The Land of Evangeline Route" exploiting interest in Henry Longfellow's poem about the Acadians. This promotion grew to include a whole series of posters, postcards, books, named locomotives and a prominent herald depicting Evangeline which was seen on all DAR publications and most locomotives.
In addition to its passenger business the DAR was a major player in the apple business during its early years, and later in hauled gypsum products as the post war housing boom developed. The increase in automobiles and trucks as well as the all weather highways built in Nova Scotia finally took effect and the DAR sold off its hotel chain and steamship interests. Passenger business had a slight resurgence under VIA management and the increase in tourism, however VIA's budget was slashed in 1990 and passenger service ended. DAR cut back the line to its eastern end, and was sold in 1994. Its successor line still serves the gypsum trade.


Dominion Atlanticl

Dominion Atlantic
June 1, 1949

Short history of the Dominion Atlantic Railway
The Windsor and Annapolis Railway
1864 - The W&AR was formed by British railway investors and Nova Scotian railway promoters. The W&A negotiated running rights over the government-owned "Windsor Branch" of the Nova Scotia Railway to connect Windsor to the city and harbour of Halifax.
1866 - . Construction began in 1866.
1869 - W&AR completed between namesake cities when river bridges were finished.
1875 - W&AR changed to standard gauge.
1890 - W&AR bought the Kentville to Kingsport tracks of the Cornwallis Railway, which ran through the apple district.
The Western Counties Railway
c 1872 - The WCR connected Yarmouth to Digby,
The Dominion Atlantic Railway.
1893 - W&AR bought the WCR to create the Dominion Atlantic Railway.
c 1894 - With the help of the provincial government the DAR was able to close the gap between Digby and Annapolis Royaal thus providing a through line from Halifax to Yarmouth, 217 miles.
c 1900-30 - DAR increases apple trafficm which levels off during WW1 but peaks in 1930.
1901 - The DAR has a fleet of 9 steamships and offers service to nearby Canadian ports and rail connections.
1904 - Steamship service Yarmouth to Boston and New York.
c 1904 - The DAR built a resort hotel at Digby, the Digby Pines Resort and the Cornwallis Inn in Kentville.
1905-14 - The DAR also had a branch north of Kentville to Kingsport, the former Cornwallis Valley Railway completed in 1889. A westward extension of this branch was started in 1905 on a line formally chartered as the North Mountain Railway from a junction on the Kingsport line at Centreville west to Weston. It was completed in 1914.
1905 - The DAR purchased the Midland Railway, giving a more direct connection between Windsor and the Intercolonial Railway (later CN) at Truro where lines headed east to Pictou and Cape Breton Island, and west to New Brunswick.
1911 - DAR and subsidiaries leased to Canadian Pacific, but DAR retains identity and operating independence.
c 1911 - The DAR sold some of its steamship connections, such as the Yarmouth steamships, but expanded others, such as the Digby-Saint John route, which received large new steamships such as the SS Princess Helene.
1917 - DAR purchased land at Grand Pre in 1917 and built a large garden and replica church dedicated to the memory of the Acadians. It became not only a popular tourism destination but also evolved into a shrine to Acadian people. Passenger traffic soars.
1926 - Passenger steamships being replaced by automobile ferry boats.
1931 - In June, DAR running 5 passenger trains a day between Yarmouth and Halifax, including the Bluenose limited and New Yorker. Trains include sleepers and parlor cars.
1940's - Apple traffic curtailed during WW2 and never recovers completely, and levels off at a lower plane.
1949 - IN June the DAR is down to one passenger train on a local schedule between Yarmouth and Halifax, plus one mixed train. Name trains, sleepers and parlor cars are history.
1956 - The DAR, slow to dieselize, installs first diesels, Alco s3 switchers, also Budd RDC passenger units.
1957 - With declining passenger business and collapsing apple industry the DAR sells its hotel chain and reduces steamship operations to a ferry between St. Johns and Digby. Gypsum traffic helps freight operations as post war housing boom is in progress.
1959 - EMD SW1200s replace S3s as DAR approaches full dieselization.
1960 - New car ferry to Digby terminus is away from DAR so traffic to DAR is discouraged.
1961 - The Cornwallis Valley Railway branch lines north of Kentville to Kingsport and Weston were abandoned on January 31,
1970's - The DAR operations west of Kentville reduced to branch line status. CPR began reducing its passenger service to minimal levels between Halifax-Yarmouth and Windsor-Truro upon construction of the parallel taxpayer-funded all-weather Highway 101 between Halifax and Kentville after 1970.
1978 - Financial responsibility for the Halifax-Yarmouth passenger services was transferred to the federally owned Crown Corporation VIA Rail from the DAR/CPR. The Windsor-Truro mixed train passenger service was abandoned, and the line is freight only.
1981 - Canadian National Railway, successor to the Halifax and Southwestern Railway, abandoned its trackage which connected to the DAR at Yarmouth and Middleton.
1983 - Passenger service on the DAR/VIA began to rise, particularly after a schedule change which provided a daily return trip to Halifax from all points on the line, as well as improved connections to other VIA trains at Halifax. VIA also introduced refurbished Budd RDCs, and began a modest promotional campaign which included naming the train after its DAR roots, the Evangeline.
1984 - VIA reported that traffic in its Halifax-Yarmouth service had quadrupled to an average of more than 100 passengers per trip, eclipsing most of the decline experienced in previous decades.
1986 - The DAR abandoned its tracks between Truro and Mantua, just east of Windsor where it continued to serve a gypsum quarry.
1988 - CPR announced that all of its money-losing services east of Montreal would be grouped under a new internal marketing division called Canadian Atlantic Railway (of which the DAR was one component),
1990 - On January 15 the Evangeline operation ended following a massive cut in funding to VIA's branch line services ordered in the 1989 federal budget.
1993 - East end cut back to New Minas where the gypsum industry thrived.
1994, the DAR was sold to Iron Road Railways, owner of the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad. The DAR operated its last four trains on Friday, August 26, 1994, just 36 days short of one hundred years.
The Windsor and Hantsport Railway began operations on October 26, 1993, 100 years to the day from the beginning of the DAR. It is the successor of the DAR and has successfully maintained service on the remnants of the DAR between Windsor and New Minas, including the "Windsor Branch" to Windsor Junction and a connection with CN's mainline between Halifax and Montreal. The Windsor Branch remains under a long-term lease to the new owner.



DA49
Dominion Atlantic - June 1, 1949 - Main Line Yarmouth to Halifax

DA map
Dominion Atlantic - 1949

Our Sources
Private Collection of Richard R. Parks(rp)
Wikipedia the free Encyclopedia [web](wik)
Official Guide- various editions
Dominion Atlantic Railway (DAR: 1900 - 1990 by Jim Simmons

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Web Page Written and Maintained by Richard Parks
Copyright Richard Parks, April 27, 2009, revised May 19, 2011