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Casey, Rankin visit Fort Lawrence site of ship railway

Lands and Forests Minister Iain Rankin (left) and Cumberland-Colchester MP Bill Casey look over stonework left over from the 19th century Chignecto Marine Ship Railway project near Fort Lawrence.
Lands and Forests Minister Iain Rankin (left) and Cumberland-Colchester MP Bill Casey look over stonework left over from the 19th century Chignecto Marine Ship Railway project near Fort Lawrence. - Contributed

Cumberland-Colchester MP hoping for provincial-federal work to develop area as tourist site

FORT LAWRENCE, N.S. – Despite bitter cold, Cumberland-Colchester MP Bill Casey took Nova Scotia’s minister of lands and forestry on a tour of the Chignecto Marine Ship Railway workings at the Bay of Fundy terminus near Fort Lawrence.

The minister, Iain Rankin, was accompanied by Deputy Minister Julie Towers on the visit from which Casey hopes the minister develops a strong appreciation of the project that was an engineering marvel of the 19th century and a significant piece of local history.

“The minister and his deputy didn’t make any commitments but they were certainly impressed with the site and the fact it’s one of the only national historic civic engineering sites in Nova Scotia,” Casey said.

Casey is hoping to see the ship railway site and the national historic site Beaubassin developed into a tourist attraction at the Nova Scotia border. In concert with Fort Beausejour/Fort Cumberland across the border in Aulac, N.B. and the Fort Gaspereaux near Port Elgin, N.B. the MP things the development possibilities are endless.

The province owns the entire Chignecto Ship Railway property which includes the Nova Scotia provincial park in Tidnish.

The rail bed is 17 miles long and is perfectly straight, and goes from one side of Nova Scotia’s Isthmus of Chignecto; from the Bay of Fundy side right through to the Northumberland Strait side of the isthmus.

Casey said the wind was blowing hard and it was cold, but that did not keep the group from hiking all over the Bay of Fundy terminus after seeing a slide show about the history of the railway.

The MP said they examined the piles of cut stone and the remaining foundations on site and walked the roadbed.

“We talked about possible ways to promote the historic site with signage and a possible linkage with the National Historic Site of Beaubassin,” Casey said in a news release. “I will be connecting the provincial minister of lands and forestry with Parks Canada officials that are working on enhancing the Beaubassin site, in order to discuss cooperation on the potential for a trail expansion.”

Casey said some of the valuable cut stones are falling victim to rising sea levels and are now below the high water line. As the water level keeps rising the stones will need to be moved. “We’ll be discussing the need to move them to protect them for future generations to view,” he said.

He said the ship railway and Beaubassin represent economic activity in the area from the 1600s through to the early 1900s.

“Although the railway project halted in 1890 there were still efforts to resurrect the project into the 1900s,” Casey said.

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