PARRSBORO – For Randy Mosher, nothing beats the sound of a steam engine powering its way along a section of track with its wheels pounding out a rhythmic beat and the whistle announcing its arrival at the station.
“It’s really a remarkable feeling,” said Mosher, a member of the Parrsborough Shore Historical Society and the Ottawa House Museum that’s celebrating the 60th anniversary of the last train to come to community from Springhill. “The sound is just awesome. It’s something from a bygone era.”
Representatives from the Trecothic Creek and Windsor Railway were in Parrsboro during the weekend to operate a ride-on, live-steam model train along a 300-foot section of track near the site of the former train station.
Mosher was familiar with the Trecothic Creek and Windsor Railway from his time in Hantsport. He approached the organization about taking their show on the road – something it hasn’t done in at least a decade.
“We had a crew of Lions, historical association members and volunteers work for about three hours laying the track and the response was tremendous,” Mosher said.
For $2, participants could ride the train as it made its way along the track and again as it backed up to the station.
Mosher said the train played a prominent role in Parrsboro’s history, dating back to 1877 and running until June 14, 1958. The railway was built to transport coal from the mines in Springhill to waiting ships in Parrsboro.
In 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.
“There were years when there was more tonnage shipped out of Parrsboro than any other port in Nova Scotia, including Halifax,” Mosher said.
For more than 80 years, until its last run on June 14, 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.
Mike Myers, from the Trecothic Creek and Windsor Railway, said his organization has operated miniature trains on a kilometre of track in Windsor since 1990.
“It was Windsor’s best secret. The locals didn’t know much about it, but people came from afar to ride it,” Myers said. “The news has spread and it has been very successful.”
Myers said it has been many years since they’ve taken their engines on the road.
“We used to do portable shows in Shearwater, but this is the first time we’ve come up here,” Myers said. “We started working on this in November and December, planning on how we could set up a track and operate a steam engine.”
Myers said the group purchased track specifically for the Parrsboro event, but he’s confident the new track will enable them to attend similar events around the region.
The train rides were the first of a series of events in the area this summer to commemorate the train that carried coal, and later lumber, from Springhill to Parrsboro where products were shipped to other Maritime ports and along the eastern seaboard of the United States.
Mosher said that every year miners and their families would board a special train in Springhill and be taken to Parrsboro for a picnic. This year, on Aug. 19, a bus will carry passengers as close as possible to the former rail line.
Along the way, historians Ed Gilbert, Ken Henwood and Kerwin Davison will bring to life the facts and funnies of the days of rail.
Passengers will be picked up at the Springhill Senior’s Centre at 1 p.m. and returned by about 6 p.m., following a picnic lunch at Ottawa House.
Other features of the season include a Sunday Series Talk on Aug.12 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.
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, or call 902-254-2376.