A Pile of Coal and Some Railway Axles-The Mystery of the Stony Brook Mill and Tramway.

Somewhere along the line I might have mentioned something about finding some railway axles and trucks and a pile of coal on the South side of the Exploits River near the Salmon Ladder.I Thought it must have been something left over from when they built the dam in 1908 and the coal must have been from the hoisting engines and cranes used in that operation.  Later I heard something from an older gentleman (born in the late 1920’s)  about a sawmill and a rail line being built from the mill to the riverside from Stoney Brook. How he had seen the rails and how they used to row across to pilfer the coal. He also said that the engine by the museum was used there-which I am a still little skeptical of.

Two sets of railway trucks that I stumbled on years ago on the South side of the Exploits River.
Two sets of railway trucks that I stumbled on years ago on the South side of the Exploits River.

The story was, was that his mill operated sometime between the Two World Wars. It seemed weird at the time, why would the AND Company operate a sawmill at an out of the way location across a river with no bridge, Especially when they had a perfectly good large scale sawmill operating at Grand Falls.  The mystery thickens and gets stranger when I stumbled upon the fact that the AND Company did not establish the mill in question, nor did they even own the Timber rights-until later on.

Chico’s Landing near Stony Brook was Abitibi’s sulfur disposal site. It is also close to where the sawmill in question was located. It is also on Reid Lot 59. The AND Co made a deal with the Reid Company in 1905 to buy many of their lots, but interestingly enough, not part of one directly across from Grand Falls.

The timber rights for this section near Stoney Brook were obtained by a man by the name of Ellison Collishaw. Collishaw was from Nova Scotia, was born about 1868 and he was involved in the lumber trade. I thought that this sounded suspiciously like Harry Crowe and that the two must have been in cahoots in some way. This was made certain when a search revealed that the two of them had been in a car accident together in St. John’s(the two of them were burning around and ran into a horse) (Evening Telegram, MUN DAI).

portable sawmill AND co
At some point in the 1920’s there was a sawmill on the banks of Stoney Brook. It was initially powered by kerosene engines that would have looked like the engine that has been rigged up to cut fire wood in this picture-it might even have been the engine in the picture.

Collishaw got into the lumber trade in Newfoundland and also got involved with Coaker and the FPU. Either way he managed to acquire timber limits on the land across the Exploits from Grand Falls in 1919 and set up a sawmill and a mill making lumber and barrel staves over there. It is an odd location and it is not known if he set up the tramway system that I found. I cannot figure out if they did or not from the documents. From the documents I can tell you that the mill likely ran off of kerosene engines. This is because Collishaw sold his interests on Stony to the AND Company after about a month and included in the deal were the two mills and seven barrels of kerosene-a lot more than you would need to fuel a few lamps in a logging camp. The available documents also make it seem as there was a logging camp there as well to house the men cutting wood and operating the mill.

First engine GF
The first steam engine shipped to Grand Falls for mill construction. The fate of this mystery locomotive is unknown-it might be in a bog across the river?

It appears that Collishaw worked the mill long enough to produce half a car  load of barrel staves and was bought out by AND Co. Collihaw did some contracting for AND at various points and from all accounts the A.N.D sometimes found themselves in difficult circumstances with outside contractors and subcontractors. So for $25,000 they bought out Collishaw. Having spent so much money on the property and equipment it can be assumed that they felt obligated to use the equipment near Stoney Brook themselves.

If you look closely you can see an overgrown pile of coal.
If you look closely you can see an overgrown pile of coal.
AND Co engine mystery
This 0-4-0T saddle tank locomotive was owned by the AND Co. It was thought to have been originally owned by an Iron Mine in Conception Bay and was known as the “Workington Engine” and was originally built in 1898. At some point it was acquired by the AND Co-its ultimate fate is unknown. If there was a steam locomotive used on the tramway across the river this one or the one mentioned in a previous picture are likely candidates. (CSTM)

The additional lumber making capacity would have been welcomed because of all of the construction going on at Grand Falls at that time. Hundreds of houses were being built on new the new streets developed in the wake of World War One, in addition to expansions at the mill which included the building of the present day office buildings on the front of the mill.

The area in question where the sawmill was most likely located. I have noted where a dam was located on a 1929 survey map.
The area in question where the sawmill was most likely located. I have noted where a dam was located on a 1929 survey map.

There is a possibility that there was a large stand of birch in the area. Birch does not float well and lumbermen would have preferred to saw it close to where it was cut and haul out the lumber rather than the logs.

Over 90 years later you can faintly see where the tramway was located. This trail is evident on air photos going back to the 1940's.
Over 90 years later you can faintly see where the tramway was located. This trail is evident on air photos going back to the 1940’s.

A dam is evident in the area in a map from 1929 when AND acquired the rest of the holdings in the area, probably put in place as control structure to keep logs from going too far down Stoney. All of this said, portable sawmills were not uncommon, nor were dams. But they were build and operated by the AND Co. The strangest thing in this whole story is the tramway-which if I had never seen the coal and the axles and the old aerial photos that denote some sort of transportation line in the area I would have been skeptical (1).

AND Co engine mystery

The rest of the story remains to be filled in. I have been told there is track in the bog parallel to the road to the Salmon ladder, but is there another steam locomotive up there somewhere and are there pieces of sawmill machinery rusting on the banks of Stoney Brook close to the sulfur dump?

(1) A trail from the area is evident in air photos from 1943 onward.


  1. The0-4-0 locomotive pictured is very likely the “Workington”. The locomotive at the Mary March Museum is an 0-6-0 Hawtorne Leslie locomotive used first on the Nfld railway and referred to as the “Baby”. What a great piece of research you have here. I enjoyed your article.


    • Thanks. The workington was apparently acquired by A.N.D Co as a “work train” fairly early on. But what happened to it isn’t known. I figure it is the most likely candidate to have been used on the Tramway.


    • People not familiar with wheel arrangements might think they were the same locomotive because of the tank layout. I used to hear that the Hawthone Leslie came from “behind the mill” but I think it was recovered from the mill site when it was restored.


    • Fairly standard stationary engine for small mills back before confederation. I think the one in the picture was being used to cut up fire wood because there doesn’t appear to be a carriage in place. There is a possibility it does have something to do with the mill in question because of the time frame. My great grandfather used to operate a small mill with that kind of engine near Lock’s Harbor back in the 30’s and 40’s.


    • I knew there was a place between Badger and Millertown junction called Collishaws. I figured he either moved his sawmill there or had a pulpwood operation there. You learn something everyday. You can try and post it to the AND Co Facebook page.


  2. My great grandfather and a Collishaw had a saw mill set up out past the tickle in glovertown.He is said to have been the cause of my great grandfather losing his fortune.


  3. […] Anecdotal evidence suggests that is was used on the other side of the river. At some point between 1919 and 1939 there was a tramway from somewhere up on Stony Brook to the Exploits River a short way above the present day Salmon Ladder. I came across a pile of coat and at least two sets of railway axles there a number of years ago. The story goes that there was a sawmill located on Stony Brook and the Tramway was used to being the lumber to the Exploits from where it must have been towed across in a scow or brought across in the winter. I later found anecdotal evidence that this same tramway was used for pulpwood in the 1920’s after the sawmill was sold to the AND Company (See related story) […]


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