Train of history

Andrew Wagstaff
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Davison builds his ‘last’ locomotive

Kerwin Davison poses next to the No. 4 locomotive he built for display in Parrsboro this summer, and eventual donation to the Parrsborough Shore Historical Society. The train is a replica of the locomotive that once ran between Springhill and Parrsboro.

PARRSBORO – It’s not his first locomotive, but Kerwin Davison assures that it will be his last.

Now at the age of 80, the well-known builder, inventor and volunteer said large projects are now too hard on him physically, but that he was inspired to build this train by the fresh new appearance Parrsboro has taken on this summer, particular the popular iron sculptures by Doris Soley.

He decided to offer his own metal creation to the mix – a replica of a train he built about 10 years ago for a family member, which itself was a replica of the No. 4 steam train that ran between Springhill and Parrsboro decades ago.

The train is now on display across from his home on Eastern Avenue, near the town hall property. He plans to eventually donate it to the Parrsborough Shore Historical Society, for display at the Ottawa House museum property.

“I had built one this size before, and I still had the mold sitting there, which I never expected to use again,” said Davison. “The mold has a rough exterior so I couldn’t use it as finish, so I covered it with sheet metal, and put it together in four sections.”

Unlike his first one, which has a four-cylinder Mercedes diesel engine and is still an operating locomotive on a private railway in Paradise, this train is functional but has no engine.

The No. 4 train went into service in 1877 on what was then the new Springhill-Parrsboro railway, and is believed to be one of the first significant locomotives purchased by a Montreal company owned by the Cowan family. The same family owned Ottawa House for a period.

Davison’s train is authentic, including the puffer belly exhaust stack that included an expanded screen to prevent sparks from the boiler farm from setting grass and forest fires along the track.

“That tells you that the train was used in the wood burning era, but powered by coal,” he explained.

The train was an enormous building project – the train he built 10 years ago would have cost $200,000 to have manufactured commercially – but one that came together in less than 50 days, thanks in large part to spare parts Davison was able to round up from around his shop, scrapyards, yard sales and several donations from friends, many with historical significance.

John Reid of Maccan, for example, donated metal pieces that came from one of the old River Hebert mines. Harvey Lev donated a steel security door from the old post office, which Davison is converting into a cowcatcher, while old music stands being thrown out at the band hall became valve rods.

“There’s a lot of historic stuff, and I think that’s good,” said Davison, also crediting the likes of Ian Black, Ken Snowdon and Mitch White for their contributions.

Davison will display the train on Eastern Avenue for the summer, after which he will store it for the winter before donating it to the historical society.

Twitter: @ADNandrew

Organizations: Ottawa House, Parrsborough Shore Historical Society, Springhill-Parrsboro railway

Geographic location: PARRSBORO, Eastern Avenue, Paradise Montreal Maccan River Hebert

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Recent comments

  • Dilly MacFarlane
    July 30, 2013 - 20:46

    This project is a great example of the kind of spirit that keeps Parrsboro alive and so interesting to visit! I love the idea of seeing this locomotive on the grounds of the Ottawa House, helping us to travel back in time as we learn about our heritage. Thank you, Kerwin. Well done!

  • David A Yorke
    July 29, 2013 - 17:38

    Congratulations to Kerwin. What an undertaking at your age. So glad to see you are still designing and engineering. I have always admired you for your abilities to make something, instead of just purchasing. All the best. David A Yorke Five Islands.