Tuesday, 29 July 2014



There are some interesting museums in New Brunswick. This post is about some of the museums that I am discovering in the province that deal with the railroad, raising certain question about the museums we open and why.

NB seems to have a number of railway museums. There are two dealing primarily with the railway: the New Brunswick Railway Museum and the Le Musée - Du Réel au Miniature.

Le Musée - Du Réel au Miniature
Le Musée - Du Réel au Miniature
Other museums that deal with the railway and advertise the objects on display with this focus include:
TDC Model
TDC Model
Resurgo Place in Moncton has been renovated to add the Transportation Discovery centre (TDC). The front of the renovated building was designed to look like the front of a locomotive. The Chipman Museum deals with the history of the community and is housed in an old railway caboose. The Agriculture Museum of New Brunswick and the Antique Automobile Museum have a caboose and locomotive on display respectively.

There are a number railway sites that have become visitor information centers (VIC):

Hampton Station
Hampton Station
The Hampton Station was the area’s first railway station and now houses the VIC, a gift shop, and railway artifacts from the Kings County Museum.

 Edmundston C.P.R Railway Station
Personal photo of the exhibition that I discovered at the Edmundston C.P.R Railway Station (a VIC)
The McAdam Station is open for guided tours from June-October and serves as a VIC. Wikipedia seems to think it includes a museum as well. This discrepancy raises the question, at what point does a “site” or VIC become a museum? For instance, why is the Bristol CPR Station only a railway site?

The Bristol CPR Station
The Bristol CPR Station
For those who do not know, the timber trade was huge in the development of NB because the province has a lot of wood and access to rivers. Further, there were wooden shipbuilding sites along the coast and rivers but, with the end of the Crimean War and the rise of steam-driven iron-hulled ships, the shipbuilding industry crashed in the late 19th century. Transportation industries, including shipbuilding and the railroad, are very important to the history and development of the province.

While you can learn about the lumber trade at the Kedgwick Forestry Museum or the Woodmen’s Museum, where is the museum devoted to shipbuilding?

Why are there so many railway museums, “sites,” and museums advertising that they deal with the railway? The shipbuilding industry is at least as important to the province’s development. Do people simply find trains more interesting then ships? Or, as the province is involved in funding and advertising, is this a deliberate decision?

Old Train Station Tourist Centre in Saint-Quentin, which display artifacts related to the CN
Old Train Station Tourist Centre in Saint-Quentin, which display artifacts related to the CN
The simple explanation for more (or better advertised?) railway sites than shipbuilding ones is that ships were built and then floated away. However, the Old Train Station Tourist Centre in Saint-Quentin is a replica of the old train station built in 1920 and destroyed in the fall of 1983. Railway sites that burnt down have been rebuilt and are advertised by the province.

The New Brunswick Railway Heritage Association
For those clicking on my links, you may have noticed this provincially funded site: http://www.nbrailways.ca/index.html, which provides a guide to the museums and sites significant to the railway in the province. No such guide exists for shipbuilding sites (that I’ve found) or other industry in the province. Is this a deliberate cultural policy decision? How is what is funded, preserved, and built influenced by wider policy decisions? Are there large living groups of people with an interest in the railroad who are responsible for the large number of railway heritage sites? In this case, does the province guide decisions regarding heritage or are decisions made at the community level and then supported by government?


  1. Two replies disappeared! One thought though: it could be a coincidence; since ship and boatbuilding in the maritimes began to fade rapidly in the late 19th century, it could be that by the time heritage preservation came into vogue, there was little left, whereas NB and NS enjoyed comprehensive railway service until the 1980's, so the built heritage was there to be saved.

  2. Alex: weird, my posts are erasing too.

    Robin: Good question you pose about the lack of museums representing the role of shipbuilding in NB. My only thought would be: maybe it is because there are no major lasting physical shipyard structures left as there are train stations and trains? Convenience?

    If you haven't already checked out the Boultenhouse in Sackville NB, I remember they had quite the mini shipyard model set up: http://heritage.tantramar.com/BH-Exhibits.html

  3. Alex and Kristen, I've had that happen too - and it's a huge pain! I've found that if I hit "preview" before I post my comment it doesn't disappear!
    Hopefully that'll work for you guys too :)

  4. Excerpts from;
    Gaius Samual Turner of Albert County:
    A New Brunswick Shipbuilder and Entrepreneur.
    1874 - 1892.
    By Bradley Todd Shoebottom. 1999.
    Google the name for the complete document.

    "It was difficult to generaiize about an industry of over 13,000 ships built in New Brunswick alone, at hundreds of sites,".....

    "There were eight shipyards in Albert County employing 105 persons or 7.9% ofthe New Brunswick total; the county ranked fifh in value of ships produced in 1871.~ The Brewster shipyard at Harvey Bank, Harvey Parish, employed eight men paying them $3,000 for 250 tons of vesse output."

    In support of the ship building industries "Albert County's 79 sawmills were second only to Westmorland's 143 and employed 237 persons"....
    I became aware of the shipbuilding industry in my seach for the ever elusive information on the Albert Southern Railway, which, ran from Harvey Bank to Alma.

    Now as far as shipbuilding museum's, the only one I've saw was on PEIsland in the 80s. It wasn't really well done. There was a starting of a ship with keel and a few side posts mounted in it and that was it. There were also a couple of logs laying maybe 100 feet from it and next to them was a pit dug about as deep as an average man's. Finally figured out that that's where timbers and boards were sawn. One man in the pit and another above working those long saws they used back then with the handles at each end. And that was it.

    It would be great to have a ship building museum with a replica of a ship building yard here since shipbuilding played an important roll in NB. And NB built ships were superior in quality then even the ships built in the US.

    The .PDF document above is very informative on the ups and downs and wheeling and dealing in the ship building industry in Albert County. It is really worth reading.