Chignecto Ship Railway - Keystone Bridge
Posted by: Arvense
N 45° 58.583 W 064° 02.621
20T E 419151 N 5091952
Quick Description: Tidnish Bridge is located off Route 366, Tidnish Bridge, Cumberland Co, NS. This cut stone bridge can be found by following the four kilometre abandoned railway bed trail that runs between the Tidnish Bridge Visitor Centre and Tidnish Dock.
Location: Nova Scotia, Canada
Date Posted: 7/21/2008 4:25:56 PM
Waymark Code: WM48GT
Tidnish Bridge is valued as evidence of one of Nova Scotia's most ambitious engineering projects. The Chignecto Marine Transport Railway was the dream of H.C.G. Ketchum, the project's principle designer and supporter. Born in New Brunswick in 1839, Ketchum was a proven and able engineer. It was Ketchum's belief that "ship-railways" were the way of the future and the only reasonable solution to the problems of nineteenth-century transportation. As a result of his proposals, the Chignecto Marine Transport Railway Company was incorporated in 1882. However, it wasn't until 1888, when the company had found sufficient financial backing that the railroad construction began.
Ketchum's project was, simply put, designed to lift ships out of the water, place them on a specially designed railroad cradle and, by means of two huge locomotives, pull them across the Isthmus of Chignecto, returning them to the water on the opposite shore; thereby avoiding the extra cost and time involved in sailing around the mainland of Nova Scotia or in digging a canal through the isthmus.
The construction of the railway was beset with difficulties and challenges from the outset. The bogs along the line had to be dug out and refilled, the rails used were the heaviest ever used in a railway up to that time and the hydraulic lifts which were used at each terminus presented many new problems. As well, recurrent delays attributable to financier's wariness, inadequate engineering estimates and the constant political pressure brought to bear by shipping companies opposed to the ship-railway, combined to bring construction to an end in 1891.
When the work was stopped approximately three quarters of the railway had been completed. The basin at Fort Lawrence had been completed, approximately twenty kilometers of track had been laid and the specially designed cradles and locomotives were almost ready for delivery.
The Chignecto Marine Transport Railway was undoubtedly the most ambitious engineering project in Nova Scotia's history. While there is still a considerable amount of material remaining at the site of the railway, much of the stone work and rail has been removed. The property at Fort Lawrence Terminus and most of the track bed stretching approximately twenty-three kilometers across the isthmus is privately owned. The remaining property, at Tidnish, has been expropriated by the Department of Natural Resources for use as a picnic park.
Tidnish Bridge is still intact and located along the Henry Ketchum Trail. This four kilometre hiking trail follows the abandoned railway bed between Tidnish Bridge Visitor Centre and Tidnish Dock Provincial Park.
Source: Provincial Heritage Program property file, no. 37, 1747 Summer Street, Halifax, NS.