Cumberland Colchester’s history continues to interest people from all over the world. Recently a BBC film crew visited Amherst met with Bill Casey MP, and got a tour of the mostly gone, but not forgotten, Chignecto Ship Railway.
“In January of this year a film crew working on a railroad documentary project for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) contacted me seeking information about the Chignecto Ship Railway and its history. They were so intrigued by the story, that the BBC will include it their TV series Great American Railway Journeys,” explained Casey.
The BBC series explores the impact of railways on North America and its success as a world leader in commercial activity. Casey pointed out, that had the Chignecto Ship Railway been completed it would have provided a unique form of transport which could be used as a model for many other countries. For this reason the BBC has determined that it should be part of the story about North American railways.
On July 27 a film crew from the BBC arrived at the Chignecto Ship Railway site near Amherst to do a preliminary inspection of the site. The complete crew will return later in August to do the actual filming for the segment.
Bill Casey, along with BBC documentary maker Ben Rowland, pointing out the ruins of the Chignecto Ship Railway
The BBC crew examined much of the documentation available including a copy of the original deed plan. This plan is over 20 feet long and outlines each aspect of the roadway and the challenges involved in the construction.
Bill and the BBC crew checking out the long details of the project
The crew visited the Bay of Fundy site and walked part of the railway bed. They climbed on the stone foundations of the machinery used for the hydraulic lifts, and had a close look at many of the remaining barrels of concrete left from the construction; 197 barrels left at one location alone. The wood of the barrels has disintegrated and the steel hoops have almost all disappeared, but the concrete has turned into cement and they are still piled exactly as they were left in 1890.
Large cement blocks mark the site of the abandoned Chignecto Ship Railway
The crew also filmed downtown Amherst including the “Tupper Building”, once owned by Sir Charles Tupper who was instrumental in the development of the Chignecto Ship Railway. At the time, Sir Charles served as the Minister of Railways and Canals. In 1896, he served as Prime Minister. He was instrumental in provincial and federal politics for much of his life.
“The BBC crew were surprised to learn that Sir Charles Tupper was born in Amherst and was one of Canada’s founding fathers,” said Casey. “He served in Britain as Canada’s High Commissioner, and also became a Member of the British Privy Council. He died in Britain at 94 but he was buried in Halifax.”