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New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island Railway Reporting mark: NBPI

The Cape Tormentine Branch Railway Company was first incorporated in 1874. The plan was to build a line from the newly opened Intercolonial Railway line (IRC) at Sackville to Cape Tormentine, which was the shortest distance from the mainland to Prince Edward Island.

The project languished for almost 10 years until 1882 when the federal government came through with a subsidy. Construction from Sackville to Baie Verte began in 1883. In 1884 the line was reincorporated as the New Brunswick and Prince Edward Railway Company. The last leg from Baie Verte to Cape Tormentine was completed at the end of 1886.

Derelict engine house, 2016
Photo: © Jeri Danyleyko

The railway was built on a shoestring budget. The ground was level and was not ballasted. Most of the rolling stock was purchased second hand from the IRC. Total cost of construction was $550,000 or about $7000 per mile. Subsidies totalled $3,200 per mile to a maximum of $118,400.

The purpose of the line was to provide service to the nearest point of connection between Prince Edward Island and the mainland. It was here where passengers and goods could be transferred between rail and boat. In 1889 the railway was reincorporated once again as the New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island Railway (NB&PEIR).

The NB&PEIR was one of those rare railways that was immediately profitable. Year after year for the next 25 years, the railway never failed to show a small but steady surplus. Over the course of its lifespan, it yielded a net profit over operating expenses of $173,997.

The success of the NB&PEIR did not escape the notice of the federal government, owners of the IRC. In 1914, with the start of World War I, the government purchased the railway for $270,000. By then train ferry quays were under construction at Cape Tormentine, which fit in well with the government's plans for building a more integrated system. The railway was absorbed by Canadian Government Railways, the forerunner of the Canadian National Rail.

Railcar ferry service from Cape Tormentine to Prince Edward Island was launched in 1917. By 1919 there was year-round service from Cape Tormentine to the Prince Edward Island Ferry Terminal. The service remained pretty much intact until the 1970s when CN was reorganized.

In the 1980s, CN made the decision to abandon railway service in Prince Edward Island. CN was no longer able to compete iwith the trucking industry in PEI which was able to transport goods far less expensively on the small island. CN was able to present a case showing that the service was no longer profitable and there was little reason to expect that to change. Following legislative changes, railway service to Cape Tormentine was finally abandoned 1989. The rails were fully removed by 1993.

The attractive railway station at Cape Tormentine, built in the late 1930s, continued to be used as a information centre for ferry and marine traffic. With the opening of the Confederation Bridge in 1997, the station was closed, the building vacated and shut down. The derelict station, engine house, power building and water tower managed to survive until the November 2016, when they were finally demolished.