A Nova Scotia author has chronicled the history of an abandoned railway system which played a significant role in the development of the Land of Evangeline Route from Yarmouth to Halifax, through the heart of the Annapolis Valley.
Mike Parker wrote on the cover of his latest book, END OF THE LINE: The Dominion Atlantic Railway, A Trip Back in Time, that there have been many railways, but none more storied than the Dominion Atlantic Railway (DAR), which he considers, “one of the more important pages out of Nova Scotia’s history.”
“I would like the readers to know about another piece of Nova Scotia history and heritage that has disappeared but should not be forgotten,” Parker said in a recent interview.
“The DAR played an important role in the development of the province and, in particular, the Annapolis Valley. I hate seeing heritage lost and things forgotten. Nova Scotia has such a history compared to the rest of the country.”
Parker said he worked on the book over 10 years and is grateful to all the individuals who contributed information, stories and especially images.
The DAR began operating after the merger of two smaller lines. Its first trip was on Oct. 1, 1894, with a run from Halifax to Yarmouth, covering 349 kms in nine hours.
It continued in operation for just short of 100 years when improvements to highways and long-haul trucking made many railways, which crisscrossed the province, no longer viable.
“It was intended to open up the farm-rich Annapolis Valley as a conduit to move agricultural products and lumber to markets and to promote tourism,” Parker said, noting the DAR also operated ferry services to New England and New Brunswick, as well as within the province.
The DAR was a primary mode of transportation during wartime as well as peacetime. Military personnel were moved between key bases in Greenwood, Cornwallis and Aldershot. They were also transported to Halifax to travel overseas.
“For its size, it was one of the best known and important railways in the country. You would be hard-pressed now to find too many remnants or evidence of where it was. There is an occasional bridge here and there but most of them have been torn down, and the stations are all gone. The tracks have all been torn up other than what’s grown over,” Parker said.
END OF THE LINE is Mike Parker’s eighteenth book. For over three decades, he has written extensively on the history of Nova Scotia, covering a wide range of topics. They include the history of fishing and hunting guides, lumber camps and river drives, historic towns including Dartmouth, Lunenburg and Digby, the development of the Annapolis Valley, the Canadian Merchant Navy, the history of firefighting in Nova Scotia and abandoned settlements and islands.
Nova Scotia author Dave Whitman of Bailey Chase Books, in Paradise, Annapolis County, is a long-time friend and colleague of Parker as well as a passionate Nova Scotia history buff.
He said in an interview, he is impressed with Parker’s presentation of more than 400 high-quality images from archives and private collections.
“Mike has provided readers with a lot of good quality images and context in the book. People like images. Especially train buffs,” Whitman said in an interview.
“Mike is probably the best source of information about the history of Nova Scotia, in the province. He has touched the pulse of history and explains it very well.”
Parker is planning a book signing June 15 at Inside Story in Greenwood. More information is available at firstname.lastname@example.org.