NEWFOUNDLAND & LABRADOR
Trans Canada Highway, Ferry & Former Railway Services (Passenger & Freight)
1-Newfoundland Railway; 2-Canadian National Railway (CNR);
3-T'Railway Provincial Park; 4-Trans Canada Trail
The Newfoundland Railway got off to a late start. It wasn't for lack of trying. The first survey was completed along the southern interior in 1868. It was followed by a second survey in 1875 across the centre of the island. But what the railway needed was a champion. He arrived in the form of William Whiteway, who became premier in 1878.
By 1880 the recommendations were in. Whiteway then spearheaded the plan to build a narrow-gauge railway running from St. John's to Halls Bay, a distance of some 340 miles (547 km) with a 27 mile (45 km) branch to Harbour Grace. The Newfoundland Railway Company, headed by New York lawyer A.L. Blackman, won the contract with construction beginning in August 1881.
By June of 1882 trains were running as far as Topsail, followed by service to Holyrood in September. But then things went horribly wrong. The company had completed 57 miles (92 km), almost as far as Whitbourne when it fell to receivership in 1883. The branch to Harbour Grace was eventually completed by the bondholders in 1884. Service was extended to Avondale in the spring of that year and then to Harbour Grace in the fall. In 1888 the government, which by then was headed by Robert Thorburn, completed a second branch to Placentia. Both the Harbour Grace and Palcentia branches were owned by the government.
In 1889 Whiteway was returned to power and the mainline project was renewed. This time the contract was awarded to R.G. Reid and G.H. Middleton, although Middleton bowed out of the partnership before completion. In 1893 the government made amendments to divert the route inland over the Gaff Topsails ending at Port aux Basques, a distance of some 285 miles (458 km). This required a new contract with Reid. In exchange for operating the railway for 10 years, Reid who also had substantial lumber interests, was granted 5,000 acres of land for each mile of track that he operated. The new extension was known as the Newfoundland Northern and Western Railway.
Reid made steady progress on the line. By June of 1898 the mainline was complete and trains were running from St. John's to Port aux Basques. In addition, Reid initiated a ferry service from Port aux Basques to North Sydney, Nova Scotia. In 1897, just prior to the general election, Reid was hired to build another three branch lines.
The election of 1897 resulted in a change of government headed by James S. Winter. Reid, along with sons William and Harry, cozied up to the new government and cut themselves a honey of deal, which later became known as the "1898 Railway Contract."
In exchange for operating the entire railway, as well asthe bankrupt Newfoundland Railway, the Harbour Grace Railway and the Placentia branch, Reid received grants of 5,000 acres for each mile. This was followed by outright ownership of the railway after 50 years. In addition the Reids purchased the government drydock for $325,000 along with the telegraph system.
The deal touched off a firestorm of controversy. Islanders were aghast when they discovered how much had been handed over to the Reids. Equally scandalous was the behaviour of government Finance Minister A.B. Morine, who was moonlighting as Reid's legal council during the contract negotiations. The government was booted from office in 1900 and replaced with a new government, headed by Robert Bond, Whiteway's successor. Under Bond, the government was able to make considerable amendments to the contract. Everything was placed under a limited liability corporation, the Reid Newfoundland Company. Reid lost ownership of the telegraph and railway but retained the right to operate the railway for the next 50 years, until 1951. There was an additional cost to the government of $850,000 to buy back 1.5 million acres of land from the Reids.
Due to his vast land holdings, Reid quickly grew to become a major developer in Newfoundland. His efforts attracted further development and investors in both mining and forestry. At one point it was speculated that Reid Newfoundland was the largest employer in the colony. The election of 1909 led to the victory of Edward Morris, a Reid-backed politician who was inclined to be more favourable to the Reids' interests. Under Morris, the Reids were contracted to build five new branch lines, for a total of 282 miles (453 km). Two lines were later cancelled due to the war.
Railway construction was profitable however railway operations were not. According to one report, it cost the Reids 10 times more than the CPR to move one ton of freight. Part of the problem may have been the branch lines which catered primarily to passenger traffic and did not attract any new industries or development.
Like all railways, Reid Newfoundland was hard hit by World War I. Railway operations, which had been bleeding cash for years, had been subsidized by profitable railway construction. The war put an end to all construction projects. Upgrades and much-needed maintenance were also put on hold due to a shortage of labour and materials, coupled with high prices. Financial pressures were now taking their toll and the Reids wanted out.
By 1920, operating losses on the railway had ballooned to over $1.5 million per year. The situation was no longer sustainable. The government took over operations for one year and invested $1.5 million for repairs. Acting on recommendations from Sir George Bury, head of the CPR, the government agreed to cover up to an additional $1.5 million in operating losses. Despite making major cuts to services and wages, nothing changed. To force the government's hand, the Reids shut down the line for one week in May 1922. The government finally agreed to provide operating funds until July 1923 and then take possession of the railway.
Under the terms of the Railway Settlement Act the government paid Reid Newfoundland $2 million in exchange for the coastal boats and dry docks. This was primarily in recognition of improvements the Reid Newfoundland had made over the years. Reid Newfoundland retained ownership the lands granted to them in the earlier agreements as they were instrumental in the opening of a new pulp and paper mill in Corner Brook in 1925.
After nationalization, the railway became known as the Newfoundland Government Railway. In 1926 it was simplified to the Newfoundland Railway. Herbert Russell, a former Reid railway employee, was appointed general manger.
Russell had taken on a major challenge. Besides running a major operating deficit, the main line needed complete re-railing. The Depression brought a new wave of hardships, resulting in wage cuts, layoffs, service reductions and closures. A portion of the Carbonear branch was closed in 1931, followed by the Bay de Verde and Trepassey lines in 1931.
The railway's financial picture finally began to improve in 1936. The turning point was the construction of an airport and air force base in Gander, both of which were dependent on the railway.
World War II saw an increased military presence in Newfoundland followed by the construction of four American military bases. The Newfoundland Railway was a small but important part of the supply chain during wartime operations. Military and passenger traffic both surged. As Newfoundland was considered vital to the war effort, the railway qualified for locomotives, cars, and other equipment under "Land-Lease," a program offered by the Americans.
The Newfoundland Railway enjoyed its best days of profitability from 1936 to 46. By the end of the war, the railway was once again in need of major maintenance. In 1949 Newfoundland became part of Canada and the Newfoundland Railway was taken over by the Canadian National Railway (CN).
During the 1950s, CN made major investments in the railway. This included replacing all the steam locomotives with diesel, new rolling stock and improvements to the ferry service. However with the opening of the Trans-Canada Highway in 1965, the increased usage of trucks and buses began to take a toll on railway traffic. Passenger service was shut down in 1969 and replaced with buses. By the 1970s, the railway also began using more and more trucks to haul freight. The days of CN operations on Newfoundland were clearly numbered.
Part of the CN's problems originated with the narrow gauge track. Freight had to be unloaded from a standard gauge car once it arrived in Port aux Basques. From there it was delivered to a station or freight yard and then had to be reloaded on to trucks for its final destination. It took 20 days on average for rail delivery as opposed to six days by truck.
In 1978, the Sullivan Commission, which had been jointly appointed by the federal and provincial governments, released the Part 1 of its two-part report. The commission determined that rail was not viable in Newfoundland and likely never would be. It put forward a plan using a combination of road, sea and air. It further recommended that the railway be abandoned over a 10-year period.
The report must have warmed CN's heart. In 1976, the railway lost over $23 million in Newfoundland. Deregulation was on the horizon and CN could not compete as long as it was forced to subsidize money-losing operations.
In 1979 CN branched off the Newfoundland section into a new division called Terra Transport. The plan was to segregate Terra Transport from the mainline operations in an attempt to return it to profitability. Freight was transferred from cars to containers which could be easily loaded on to trucks. The plan worked for awhile but due to competition and other factors, customers once again began to move elsewhere.
In 1983 CN closed the Bonavista and Carbonear branch lines. The Argentia branch line followed the next year along with 32 stations on the main line. In 1985 the federal government recommended closing the railway.
In 1987 negotiations began between the province and the federal government. In 1988 the two parties cut a deal that became known as "Roads for Rails." In exchange for shutting down the railway, the federal government provided the province with $800 million to cover road improvements and severance packages for the CN employees. The railway was officially shut down on September 30, 1988.
Newfoundland's rail system was built when the road system itself was in its infancy. The railway helped to bring people and goods closer together. Most importantly it opened the interior of the province for explorations in new industries such as mining and forestry. However without a long-term and cohesive transportation plan, maintaining the railway was tenuous at best. Today Newfoundland and Labrador boasts an excellent highway system which is continually being expanded and improved. The combination of road, sea and air has worked well over the last 25 years and should continue to meet the province's transportation needs for many years to come.
The railway has long been recognized as an important part of the province's history and heritage. In 1997, the railway bed became the T'Railway, a recreational trail that forms the Newfoundland section of the Trans-Canada Trail, used by hikers, snowmobilers and many others. The T'Railway is also a provincial park, ensuring that it is preserved for future users as a reminder of the railway. Likewise, the old Riverhead railway station on Water Street in St. John's now houses the Railway Coastal Museum, which displays artifacts, photos, and documents about railway and coastal boat history. Several other railway stations have been preserved, as well as engines and cars. It is not unusual to see old freight cars used as backyard sheds, and railway ties and rails used as fences.
Retired railroaders have produced photographs, paintings, models, poems, and songs about the railway. Rising Tide Theatre's first production in January 1979 was the play “Daddy, what's a train?”, which dealt with the impending closure of the railway and the potential loss of heritage. The humourist Ray Guy has written several columns on the railway and its closure, and in 1995 Wade Kearley released The People's Road, a book about his trip, by foot, along the entire 547 miles of former railway track.
The time and expense that Newfoundlanders have put into preserving and remembering the railway indicates its cultural importance. Although it may be gone, the railway continues to play a role in Newfoundland's identity and heritage.
The Branch Lines
Although the main line was itself a signal feat of engineering and political optimism, branch lines were also integral to the Newfoundland railway. From 1915-30 there were five branches in operation on the Avalon and Bonavista peninsulas, connecting historic population centres and linking with the coastal boat service. While branch operations were curtailed during the Great Depression, the Placentia, Carbonear, and Bonavista branches continued until the 1980s. Other lines in central Newfoundland, public and private, helped open up the interior. The Reid Newfoundland Company also built a streetcar system in St. John's, which operated from 1900 to 1948.
From 1880 it was recognized that a trunk line across the unpopulated interior required branch lines, particularly to connect populous Conception Bay with St. John's. The Blackman contract of 1881 provided for a branch line to Harbour Grace (in operation 13 years before the main line was complete) and another to Brigus.
The Harbour Grace branch was constructed for the bondholders of the bankrupt Newfoundland Railway Company beginning in 1883, when the company defaulted before reaching Harbour Grace Junction (now Whitbourne). The branch was completed in November 1884 and turned a modest operating profit before being bought by the government in 1896. The Harbour Grace line originally went from Whitbourne to Broad Cove Junction at the bottom of Trinity Bay and then across the barrens to Tilton and Conception Bay. The 13 miles of track between Broad Cove Junction and Tilton, known as the Tilton branch, were taken up in 1915-16.
With construction of the main line halted, the government built a 26-mile branch from Whitbourne to Placentia, opened in October 1888. In 1921 3 ˝ miles of track were laid to Argentia, which provided a more reliable coastal boat terminal. The branch was upgraded in 1941 to serve the U.S. Navy base. It closed in 1984.
In 1897, with completion of the main line, R.G. Reid was contracted to build three small branches. The Lewisporte branch ran 7 miles north from Notre Dame Junction, to connect with the coastal boat service in Notre Dame Bay and provide central Newfoundland with a port. From 1936 this branch was a vital strategic link in the construction and supply of the Gander air base. It also closed in 1984. A "cut off" from Brigus Junction to Tilton via Brigus, and an extension of the line from Harbour Grace to Carbonear in 1898, established the Brigus (or Carbonear) branch.
In 1900, in order to encourage a major sawmill, the government hired Reid to build a 19-mile line from Red Indian Lake to the main line. In 1910 the Millertown railway was sold to the Anglo-Newfoundland Development (A.N.D.) Company, operators of the new pulp and paper mill at Grand Falls. The Company built a 19-mile extension to Lake Ambrose, the Harpoon Logging Railway. Used primarily to carry pulpwood, the two lines were dismantled in 1957. The A.N.D. Co. Railway also included a line from Grand Falls to the port of Botwood (sold to a private operator in 1957). Other private railways at the turn of the century include the 7-mile Workington Railway, from a mine of that name near Lower Island Cove to Old Perlican (1898-1901), and a 6-mile 24in. gauge cable railway at Bell Island mines.
The 1898 Railway Contract provided for Reid to build a street car system for downtown St. John's. The St. John's Electric Street Railway was integrated with the first hydro-electric development in Newfoundland, a plant at Petty Harbour. The system was operated by the Reids from 1900 to 1924, and by the St. John's Light and Power Company -a Reid subsidiary- from 1924 to 1948.
In 1909 the People's Party of Sir Edward Morris was elected, having promised a program of branch line construction. The new branches, although popular in the older areas of settlement which they were to serve, did not open new areas or encourage new industries of note. The first new branch was an 88-mile line to Bonavista, which opened November 1911. The longest, at 104 miles, the Trepassey branch was constructed 1911-13, providing a rail connection to St. John's from the Southern Shore. Along the south side of Trinity Bay, the Heart's Content branch (42 miles, but incorporating parts of the original Harbour Grace line) was completed in 1915. Finally, the Carbonear branch was extended by a 48-mile line to Grates Cove-Bay de Verde in 1915. This extension was closed in 1930, however, the branch continued to operate to Carbonear until 1983.
With the onset of the Great War, the branch line program was halted before the last two lines were complete. The Fortune Bay line, intended to be a 57-mile link to the coastal steamer at Terrenceville, was abandoned in 1915, although 43 miles had been railed. The Bonne Bay branch, projected to run 35 miles north from Deer Lake, was abandoned with the line partly graded.
The new branches proved expensive to operate, carrying only passengers and occasional freight. After the government took over the railway in 1923 an effort was made to serve the less-travelled lines using trolley-like "day coaches" on the Bay de Verde, Trepassey and Heart's Content lines. The Bay de Verde and Trepassey lines were closed in winter, and in 1931 were closed altogether. As Heart's Content was a winter port for the A.N.D. Company that line continued sporadically until 1938. The Bonavista branch remained in operation through the summer of 1983.
In 1928 a 19-mile branch connected the new mining town of Buchans with the Millertown railway at Buchans Junction. It remained in operation (also employing sections of the Millertown line) until the final trainload of ore was shipped in 1977. Another private railway was built for the mill yard at Corner Brook, and Bowater's also had a 20-mile logging railway from Deer Lake to Adie's Pond, on the Upper Humber.
The demands of World War II not only saw increased use of all remaining branches, most particularly Lewisporte and Argentia, but also the last railway line to be built in Newfoundland. In 1941 the United States Army began a 10-mile line from USAF Base Harmon Field (Stephenville) to the main line. The USAF line continued in use until 1963.
© 2001, Robert Cuff
CN - Terra Transport (Rail & Road Passenger & Freight)
Now DRL & Clarke Transport
Canadian National Railways acquired the Newfoundland Railway from the Government of Newfoundland in 1949 under that dominion's Terms of Union of entry into Confederation. The majority of the Newfoundland Railway's operations were not economically self-sustaining, requiring significant subsidization; however, it was only after the construction of the Trans-Canada Highway across the island in the early 1960s that the railway began to see serious declines in traffic.
At the same time, CN took over the Newfoundland Railway's ferry service between North Sydney, Nova Scotia and Port aux Basques, Newfoundland and promptly began to improve the service, bringing in vessels dedicated to carrying automobiles and trucks throughout the 1950s-1970s.
By the early 1970s, CN faced increased scrutiny from federal politicians complaining about the railway's continuous losses. Successive federal governments of the period had frequently forced the company to undertake various endeavours in the national interest, often at the expense of business and economic logic. As a result, CN sought to restructure itself, placing many of these operations into separate subsidiaries to clarify the accounting behind their existence. Restructuring applied to operations which lost money and required subsidization, or which were not part of CN's core freight railway business.
In 1977, all east coast ferries operated by CN were transferred to a new CN Subsidiary, CN Marine. Passenger rail services were transferred to the new Crown corporation, Via Rail, and in 1979, all of CN's freight railway operations on Newfoundland, along with the CN Roadcruiser Bus service and CN's trucking operation, were placed into a new division named Terra Transport.
CN in Newfoundland
CN's operations in Newfoundland revolved around the former Newfoundland Railway, which was the longest 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) narrow gauge railway in North America, stretching approximately 1000 km across the island, from the ferry terminal in Port aux Basques to the provincial capital at St. John's. Many of the island's largest communities developed along the main line, largely because of their location; as a result, the Trans-Canada Highway paralleled its route in many places.
Rail operations in Newfoundland remained economically unfeasible because of slow service times, a side effect of the narrow gauge format. CN invested heavily in track improvements during the 1950s-1960s, but the narrow gauge operation could not compete with the flexibility of trucks. Significant time was lost at Port aux Basques, where standard gauge railway cars from mainland North America were lifted off their bogies and onto narrow gauge bogies for use in Newfoundland. In some cases this was not possible, and the rail car contents were unloaded and reloaded onto narrow gauge cars. CN's operation of dedicated railway car ferries was an additional expense.
CN operated a main line passenger train, the Caribou, from St. John's to Port aux Basques. Nicknamed the Newfie Bullet, the Caribou operated until June 1969, when it was replaced by the CN Roadcruiser bus service started in the Fall of 1968. With the demise of the Caribou, the only passenger services remaining on the island were mixed freight and passenger trains on the Bonavista, Carbonear, and Argentia branch lines, and on the main-line between Bishop's Falls and Corner Brook. Terra Transport would continue to operate mixed passenger/freight service on the branch lines until 1984. The mainline service between Corner Brook and Bishop's Falls made its last run on September 30, 1988. The Roadcruiser bus service ran until March 29, 1996, when it was sold to DRL Coachlines of Triton, Newfoundland.
The most significant change made under the Terra Transport subsidiary was the move to the carriage of less-than-carload (LCL) freight. A large fleet of distinctive green intermodal shipping containers were ordered and used in place of boxcars. These containers could be stacked on flatcars of mainland trains, fitted onto the decks inside the ferries, and then placed on flatcars of trains in Newfoundland or transported entirely by truck. During the mid-1980s, trains composed almost entirely of the distinctive TT containers were common. The handling time for freight dropped considerably, as containers could be easily removed from the trains in each community and the loading/unloading at Port aux Basques was significantly improved over standard freight cars. Another significant change the closure and abandonment all of CN's branch lines in the province by 1984, leaving only the main line operational.
Despite these changes, Terra Transport was unable to turn a profit for CN and the federal government. Specialized ferries were still needed for carrying non-LCL railway cars, and by the mid-1980s were approaching the end of their operational life and required replacement. The election of a Conservative federal government brought about the elimination of subsidies for money-losing operations. In 1986, one of two remaining railcar ferries was sold off as the government converted CN Marine into Marine Atlantic, completely separating the rail and ferry services. Terra Transport operations were largely captive on the island and would specialize in handling import/export LCL and inter-island non-LCL freight.
In 1987, the federal government deregulated the railway industry in Canada and CN promptly applied to abandon its Newfoundland operations under Terra Transport. The political firestorm which followed saw the federal and provincial governments negotiate a one-time payout of $800 million (CAD) from Ottawa to St. John's to fund highway improvements under the Trans-Canada Highway Program and the Regional Trunk Road Agreement.
The agreements were signed in December 1987; however, continuing public outcry and legal challenges kept the railway operational for several months. On June 20, 1988, it was officially announced that the railway would cease operations as of September 1, 1988. Some freight trains still ran until late September, with the last scheduled run on September 29, 1988. The last scheduled passenger train ran on September 30, 1988, from Bishops Falls to Corner Brook. Following official abandonment, the railway operated salvage trains, dismantling track in remote locations; some salvage trains were still operating in the summer of 1990. Most of the track was removed and scrapped by November 1990. CN no longer has any operations in the Province of Newfoundland. In the fall of 1996 CN contracted out its intermodal trucking operation to Clarke Transport. Clarke Transport is now the local agent for CN.
CN Marine (Ferry Passenger & Freight)
Now Marine Atlantic
CN Marine was created by parent Canadian National Railway (CN) in 1977 as a means to group the company's ferry operations in eastern Canada into a separate operating division. The majority of these ferries also required federal subsidies to supplement fares, thus CN was unwilling to have the operating losses appear in the railway's accounts. CN Marine also operated the Newfoundland Dockyard in St. John's, Newfoundland.
CN Marine undertook several major service improvements on the constitutionally mandated services to Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island by commissioning the construction of the new vessels Abegweit and Caribou in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
In 1986 the federal government approved a restructuring at CN which saw the company remove itself completely from the east coast ferry service, which was renamed Marine Atlantic. This move was in advance of CN abandoning railway services on the islands of Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, which had required use of CN/CN Marine rail ferries. At the time of the changeover to Marine Atlantic, the last of the rail ferries to Newfoundland were retired, with that province's railway abandoned in September 1988; Prince Edward Island followed in December 1989.
Marine Atlantic itself made many changes a decade later in 1997, virtually decimating the remnants of CN Marine by removing itself from all routes and vessels except the constitutionally mandated service to Port aux Basques and the seasonal service to Argentia, both originating in North Sydney. Also in 1997 Marine Atlantic sold off the Newfoundland Dockyard in St. John's to a private operator. It was renamed NewDock-The St. John's Dockyard Company.
CN Marine Newfoundland & Labrador Routes:
Marine Atlantic Newfoundland & Labrador Routes, former and current:
Trans Canada Highway (TCH - Route #1)
After Confederation, the federal and provincial
governments devised a series of road-building programs to better connect
communities across Newfoundland and Labrador with each other and the
rest of Canada. Chief among these was the Trans-Canada Highway, which
spanned the island and linked it with Nova Scotia by ferry. Work on the
Newfoundland and Labrador portion of the highway ended in 1965 at a cost
of $92 million to the federal government and $28 million to the
province. Known as Route 1, the 904-kilometre trans-island road ran
northeasterly from Port aux Basques to Corner Brook before heading east
to Gander and southeast to St. John's.
Route 1's official eastern terminus is at the interchange with Logy Bay Road in the northeastern part of the city. The highway proceeds west on the Outer Ring Road, a 4-lane expressway. Route 1 maintains the name Outer Ring Road, intersecting with St. John's roads such as Aberdeen Avenue, Portugal Cove Road, Torbay Road, Allandale Road, Thorburn Road, Topsail Road and Kenmount Road until the interchange with Pitts Memorial Drive, 20 km to the west.
Route 1 proceeds in a generally southeastern direction for another 25 km as it follows the southern shore of Conception Bay (several kilometres inland) until it reaches the interchange with Route 13 where it turns west and then northwest, continuing for another 29 km on a 4-lane expressway to Whitbourne where the divided highway ends at the interchange with Route 80/81.
Route 1 transitions to a 2-lane controlled access highway and continues northwest from Whitbourne along the isthmus of the Avalon Peninsula and 188 km north to Glovertown, bypassing Clarenville, small communities like Arnold's Cove, Goobies and passing through Terra Nova National Park; park admission is not required to use Route 1. The Bonavista Peninsula and Burin Peninsula can be accessed via interchanges near Clarenville and Goobies, respectively.
From Glovertown, the highway proceeds northwest 182 km to Badger, bypassing Gander, Glenwood. Lewisporte (about 11 km north on Route 340), Norris Arm Bishop's Falls and Grand Falls-Windsor; Route 1 has a 6 km 4-lane section through Grand Falls-Windsor. As of August 2008, there are no gas stations along the highway between the towns of Gander and Bishop's Falls. The Isles of Notre Dame region of the province, which includes Fogo, the Twillingate Islands, New World Island and surrounding areas, can be accessed via Route 340 at the Notre Dame Junction interchange near Lewisporte, Newfoundland and Labrador. The Bay d'Espoir region can be accessed via the Bay D'Espoir highway near Botwood. Botwood, Point Leamington and Leading Tickles can be accessed via the Botwood Highway, officially Route 350 at an interchange in the Bishop's Falls-Grand Falls-Windsor area.
From Badger, Route 1 heads due north for 64 km to Springdale where the highway swings southwest for 137 km to Pasadena, passing through Deer Lake.
At Pasadena, the highway transitions to a 4-lane expressway and continues southwest along the south shore of Deer Lake before following the Humber River through the narrow Humber Valley. The 4-lane section proceeds for 29 km in a southwest direction, where it transitions back to a 2-lane controlled access highway west of the interchange with Confederation Drive, southwest of Corner Brook.
From the Confederation Drive interchange, Route 1 proceeds for 213 km in a southwest direction, bypassing Stephenville (accessible via Route 460 and Route 490) and passing through the Codroy Valley (where it is a 2-lane uncontrolled access highway) to Channel-Port aux Basques. It terminates southeast of the town at the Marine Atlantic ferry terminal.
Silent Witness Memorial
On December 11, 1985, Arrow Air flight MF128-5R, a Douglas DC-8-63, US registration N950JW departed Cairo, Egypt on an international charter flight to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, USA, via Cologne, Germany, and Gander, Newfoundland. On board were eight crew members and 248 passengers. The flight was the return portion of the second in a series of three planned troop rotation flights originating at McChord Air Force Base, Washington, USA, and terminating in Multinational Force Observers (MFO) to transport troops, their personal effects and some military equipment to and from peace keeping duties in the Sinai Desert. All 248 passengers who departed Cairo on the 11th December 1985 were members of the 101st Airborne Division (United States Army) based in Fort Campbell.
The flight departed Cairo and arrived at Cologne on December 11th, 1985 for a planned technical stop. A complete crew change took place following which the flight departed Cologne for Gander at 11:20 pm Gander time.
The flight arrived at Gander at 5:34 am where passengers were de-planed and the aircraft was refuelled and serviced. The flight departed Gander on runway 22 from the intersection of runway 13 at 6:45 am. The aircraft gained little altitude after rotation and began to descend crossing the Trans-Canada Highway approximately 900 ft beyond the departure end of runway 22. The aircraft continued to descend until it struck down sloping terrain approximately 3000 ft beyond the departure end of the runway.
The aircraft was destroyed by impact forces and severe fuel-fed fire. All 256 occupants on board sustained fatal injuries.
The accident occurred at 6:46 am during the hours of darkness at an elevation of 279 feet above sea level. The Arrow Air Crash was the worst air disaster ever on Canadian soil.
On June 24th, 1990, a dedication ceremony was held in memory of the 101st Airborne Division . This memorial depicts an unarmed soldier standing atop a massive rock holding the hands of two civilian children. The children, a boy and a girl, each hold an olive branch, indicative of the peace keeping mission of the 101st Airborne Division "Screaming Eagles" on the Sinai Peninsula. Behind them rise three tall staff each bearing a flag, Canadian, American, and Newfoundland. As the trio stands looking into the future, they are surrounded by trees, hills, and rocks of the actual Arrow Air Crash site, overlooking Gander Lake in the direction of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. These natural surroundings are the "Silent Witnesses" of the precise moment when 256 dreams ended and the hearts and imaginations of an entire world were captured.
The memorial was designed by Lorne Rostotski of St. John's, Newfoundland, and sculpted by Stephen Sheilds of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, USA.
In June 1990, the statue was dedicated with several hundred people in attendance, including American family members and friends, local dignitaries as well as representatives of the Canadian and American Governments and Military.
The aircraft came to a final rest in what was once a heavily wooded area - now a peaceful grassy field. On December 12th, 1995 - ten years after the disaster - a memorial service was held with representatives of the Canadian and American military present, as well as local, provincial, and federal officials. At that time, a cross was dedicated to the memory of the lives lost ten years earlier. There is also a memorial in Fort Campbell, Kentucky for the victims of Arrow Air Flight 1285 as well in Hopkinsville, Kentucky just north of Fort Campbell. The Silent Witness Memorial is located on the TCH just 4 km east of Gander before the Gander Bay Road/Cooper Boulevard Junction.
TCH Info (West - East):
Distance: 904 km (9hr 30min)
Port Aux Basques - St. John's
Halfway Point: Badger
(456 km West of St. John's)
(449 km East of Channel-Port Aux Basques)
Towns & Communities alongside the TCH: (West to East Listed)
Divided Highway (4-Lane's):
Trans Canada Interchanges: