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Cumberland Railway & Coal Company Reporting mark: CD&C

The Cumberland Railway and Coal Company (CD&C) was an industrial railway and coal company, first incorporated in 1872. Originally known as the Spring Hill and Parrsborough Coal and Railway Company, the CD&C was established with the twofold purpose of building a coal mine and then transporting the coal to the Bay of Fundy for shipment to various destinations in eastern Canada.

In 1874 the company obtained generous subsidies from the provincial government amounting to 10,000 acres of land and costs of $5,000 per mile. Construction began in 1875 and was completed in 1877. The company received further assistance from local politicians who were able to persuade the Intercolonial Railway (IRC), to divert their main line (then under construction) to a new location called Springhill Junction. Not only did this cut the CD&C's construction costs but it provided a vital link to the IRC, extending the company's reach into the province.

Unfortunately the company's optimism was not matched by its financial resources. The expansion of the colliery and construction of the railway had exhausted the corporation's capital. Following bankruptcy in 1883, its assets were picked up by the newly-minted Cumberland Railway and Coal Company. Mining operations resumed in 1884, followed by a period of rapid expansion. In 1891 the company was devastated by a horrific tragedy where 125 workers were killed in a fire in both collieries. The cause of the fire was never determined. It was the first of three catastrophic accidents to hit this ill-fated mine over the course of its existence.

In 1910 the CD&C was taken over by the Dominion Coal Company Limited (DOMCO) which had extensive operations in Cape Breton. In 1920 DOMCO merged with its arch rival, the Nova Scotia Steel and Coal Company (SCOTIA) to form the British Steel Corporation (BESCO). Further reorganization in 1930 led to the creation of the Dominion Steel and Coal Corporation (DOSCO). Throughout the corporate shuffling, the CD&C operated as a subsidiary of the Sydney & Louisburg Railway Company (S&L), a wholly owned subsidiary of whoever the parent company happened to be at the time.

Although the CD&C was built primarily to service the coal industry, limited passenger service was offered to a number of communities along the route. There was one train per day each way between Parrsboro and Springhill Junction. There were two trains daily between Springhill and Springhill Junction, where passengers could connect with the IRC (later CN). Other stops along the route included Lakeland, Newville, West Brook, Southampton and East Southampton. The yard and repair shop was located in Springhill and the terminal facilities and pier in Parrsboro.

Tragedy struck again in 1956 when 39 miners were killed in an explosion caused by a runaway tram hitting a power line. That was followed by an even greater catastrophe in 1958 when 74 miners lost their lives following a "bump" or mini-earthquake. The disaster, followed by the search and rescue, was the first to be broadcast live on television and garnered worldwide attention.

A few months before the accident, the CD&C cancelled service to Parrsboro, largely due to reduced demand for coal. After the Springhill disaster, the mine was closed for good, followed by all other DOSCO mining properties in Springhill. Passenger service, also on the decline, was reduced to one train a day between Springhill and Springhill.

In 1957 DOSCO was acquired by A.V. Roe Canada Company Ltd. whose assets were later taken over by Hawker Siddeley Canada in 1962. With mining in Springhill now at a standstill, DOSCO applied for permission to abandon the railway in 1962. The request was granted the following year however DOSCO wasn't quite finished with the CD&C yet.

Under its federal charter, which dated back to 1872 under the Spring Hill and Parrsborough Railway, it turned out the CD&C was eligible for federal railway subsidies. DOSCO, which by then was struggling financially, relocated the CD&C to Cape Breton Island to assume operation of the other DOSCO railway subsidiary, the Sydney and Louisburg Railway (S&L). S&L was provincially charted and not eligible for subsidies.

The name CD&C remained in use until 1968 when DOSCO's assets were expropriated by the federal government and placed under a crown corporation known as the Cape Breton Development Corporation (DEVCO). Bits and pieces of the railway, now renamed the DEVCO Railway, were used until 2001 when the mines were fully exploited and shut down.