Rushy Pond-Red Cliff-Railway Re-Route

I guess you can call this a little bit of macro amateur archaeology. Maybe macro-aerial archeology. Not as exciting as the time when they thought they had found another Viking settlement from satellite imagery-but interesting nonetheless.

I don’t know how obvious I have made it but I spend a lot of time looking at satellite imagery of central Newfoundland. Depending on if an area has recently been harvested, you can get a general idea of when an area was slogged over, and how the wood was hauled. You can also find long forgotten roads, trails, and even railroads.

Time will obliterate a lot of man’s handywork from above, but there are some amazing examples of features or disturbances that are still apparent after many decades of abandonment.

Just past the Grand Falls Golf Club the Trans Canada Highway crosses a fairly substantial body of water. This is actually an armlike meander of the the Exploits River. On the upper reaches of this arm there is a long built up area, which in places crosses the water. You can’t see if from the road. I had seen it before, but figured it might be a power line or something like that. But if you look closer there are no lines, and it is far too grown in. Then I accidentally found out what it is in  newspaper from 1903.

Rushy Pond Exploits
The Newfoundland Railway once crossed this branch of the Exploits at a point near

There are numerous instances of pig headed engineering in the building of the Newfoundland Railway, parts built though ponds and wetlands in an attempt to have some straight-a-ways. Back in 1892-94 one of these was pushed though this arm of the Exploits near Red Cliff. Then for years I don’t think very much was thought of it, since only work trains were using it, and they were mostly running during the summer season. This changed in 1898 when regular cross island service started, and it was found that this area was ridiculously prone to flooding. By 1901 lumber shipments were coming out from Millertown and Badger, bringing more traffic to the line than the express to Port Aux Basque. So only five years after the lined opened, during the construction season of 1903, the railroad was rerouted at Rushy Pond.

Red Cliff Re route
In 1903 the Railway was rerouted at Rushy Pond (Red Cliff). The remnants of the old line, abandoned for 120, can be seen at left. I firmly believe that both this area of the Exploits River and actual Rushy Pond were referred to as Rushy Pond. 

This work was undertaken under the supervision of David Steele, who about 5 years later, would oversee construction of the Botwood Railway. The work consisted of shifting about 2 kilometers of rail-line a maximum of 750 feet north onto a dryer area. It must have worked, at least worked better than the previous layout. The original newspaper piece from the time noted that the “route of the track between Bishop’s Falls and Badger Brook is being altered”, it would be interesting to see if there were any other areas where the track bed was abandoned, as of yet I haven’t been able to find any, and there wasn’t much wiggle room between the Railway and the Exploits for much of the area. Realistically, it might be nearly impossible to find any such other areas because so much growth and change can occur over the course of 120 years.

waterchuteat rushypond
Waterchute near Grand Falls. The earliest permanent settlers in the area were railway employees at Rushy Pond Siding where a watering chute for locomotives was also located. There were a few permanent residents recorded at Rushy Pond in 1901. I still haven’t been able to figure out exactly where the section crew that took care of this area lived. For some strange reason I think the house was near Rushy Pond Bridge. 

There is a story about Hugh Wilding Cole. Cole was one of the first employees of the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company. When he arrived at Grand Falls the area was little more than an idea. But the story says that there was a crew at the station (I think there was a liberty taken there) working for the Reid Railway. Cole asked them how much they were being paid, upon their answer of a dollar a day  he offered them $1.10 to work for the new concern. I’m not sure how much truth there is to this, but in all likelihood these guys were still working on the alterations that had been stated just two years before. The poaching of workers from the railway might have been a great expedient, but might have been to the detriment of the Harmsworths, because the section of track between Bishop’s Falls and Rushy Pond was about to get much, much busier.


One comment

  1. Fascinating stuff, Bryan. I was born in Grand Falls but my mother and her family originated from Bishop’s Falls. I spent a great deal of time there in summer while I grew up on the West NL Coast. My Grand-Dad was “Skipper” on the Jackladder in Bishop’s Falls. I love the history and you do a great job of uncovering it. I appreciate your work.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s