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Museum to recreate Springhill-to-Parrsboro trail, miners picnic

The trail and tales of the Springhill-to-Parrsboro train route will be brought back to life this summer with a train display, picnic and history tour.
The trail and tales of the Springhill-to-Parrsboro train route will be brought back to life this summer with a train display, picnic and history tour. - Contributed

After a 60-year absence, a train returns to Parrsboro this summer.

A ride-on, live-steam model train will be running two days in Parrsboro during the weekend of July 14th. Children and adults alike are promised a thrilling experience as they are transported back in history down a 300-ft straight track at the site of the former railway station.  

The Ottawa House Museum is focusing on the history of the Springhill and Parrsboro Railway as it marks the 60th anniversary of the last train to run between the two communities. The model train ride is the first of several special events celebrating the hey-day of the railway and will operate between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. both days.  

The Springhill Miners’ picnic, which many remember or have heard about, is also being resurrected as part of the 60-year commemoration.

Once a year for decades, all the miners and their families would board a passenger train in Springhill and spend the day in Parrsboro.  This year, it will be an historic bus tour, on August 19th, carrying passengers as close as possible to the former rail line. Along the way, volunteer historians Ed Gilbert, Ken Henwood and Kerwin Davison, who collectively have about 240 years of story-telling expertise, will bring to life the facts and the funnies of the days of rail.

Passengers will be picked up at the Springhill Seniors Centre at 1 p.m. and returned at 6 p.m. after a delicious picnic lunch at Ottawa House By-The-Sea.

Other features of the season include a Sunday Series Talk on August 12th by Ken Henwood of the Springhill Miners Museum and displays of model trains at Ottawa House. Authentic-sounding train whistles, engineers’ caps, and other items will be available for purchase throughout the summer.

Springhill coal and the railway that carried it to Parrsboro were of great economic benefit to the area and forged a strong social link between the towns.

The railway was built to transport the coal and in 1877, the first year of operation, 900 ships left Parrsboro with Springhill coal bound for ports in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and along the Eastern Seaboard, fueling industry and heating homes.

For more than 80 years, until its last run on June 14th, 1958, the coal trains of the Springhill and Parrsboro Railway whistled and rattled and roared past forest, fields and farms to the vessels waiting at the Parrsboro Wharf. They also carried lumber, freight, mail, passengers and limestone.

The cost of the model train ride is just $2, and tickets for the Miners’ Bus Tour and Picnic are $20 (picnic alone is $10), and must be purchased in advance – available at the Isabel Simpson Heritage Centre in Springhill or call 902-597-8044 or 902-254-2376. 

For further information on any of the season's events, find the Ottawa House By-The-Sea Museum on Facebook, check the website at www.ottawahousemuseum.com, call 902-254-2376.

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