A view from the bridge – great book

I just finished reading Finley Martin’s A View From The Bridge history of Montague, PEI. It’s a great little book published in 1984. The copy I read was came from the Confederation Centre Library here in Charlottetown and it’s one that I’ll be keeping an eye out for in book stores. I know I’d really like to have a copy for my own library. The book really concentrates on the history of Montague leading up to the mid-1930’s. It’s by no means the most detailed book but it’s well written and entertaining and includes some more great details about the PEIR.

I wasn’t aware of the very mixed emotions about the railway on the Island. There’s no doubt that Islanders were swept up in railway fever along with the rest of the country. I knew about how fast the railway plunged the Island deep into some very serious debt. I was also aware of the strong division between Islanders in support of joining Canada and those that weren’t but I wasn’t aware of how Islanders would come to associate one with the other with a sort of “We wouldn’t be in this mess if it wasn’t for you” regard. Beyond the politics thought the author shares some interesting notes on the railway and it’s earliest operations. The author describes how people from Charlottetown would take the morning train out to Montague and spend the day in the town and still be able to return home on the evening train.

Some highlights from the book that I want to read more about:

One of the first cargoes to arrive in Montague by rail was teh huge timber beams for the rink being constructed on Main Street. A few years later the railroad even brought a steel bridge to Montague.

That would make for some interesting operations and a neat change from simply switching cars in and out of the freight shed and public siding.

There was one oddity about the Montague train: it usually entered the station backward in order to pick up or leave boxcars on the siding. The train reversed direction at a wye in the track near Cardigan…

I knew that trains backed into Montague during the later years but, I’ll be honest, I’d always attributed this to CNR “efficiency” and hadn’t realised this practice had been in place almost from the beginning. The author mentions that the turntable in Montague wasn’t a part of the original track layout and was added later on to allow winter trains to enter the station engine first (and then to allow that engine to turn for the next leg of the journey). I’ve always thought that Montague really lent itself well to a small switching-style layout based on the popular Inglenook track plan. Not just in track layout but it’s operations would be prototypically based too. Neat eh?!

I’d always been looking for fuel and water facilities in photos and plans of Montague. The author mentions that these functions were performed in Georgetown. As all Montague trains terminated in Georgetown no extra faciilities were required in Montague. I guess that’s why I’ve never found any reference to them.

The author also mentions a cattle dock:

In addition, live shipments of swine, cattle and sheep arrived at the marketplace healthier after a railway trip than after a coastal voyage; for that purpose the CNR built cattle pens between the freight shed and the section house in the Montague yard.

It drives me nuts that the author keeps referring to the PEIR as “the CNR”. It just wasn’t during this period. Back to the cattle pens though, I assume this is the same siding as the freight shed?

Great book. Highly recommended next time you’re at the library.

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