Facebook Page
NBC History

New Brunswick Central Railway History

Home Coal Company was started in 1920 in Minto, New Brunswick, and bought their first locomotive secondhand the following year, a Baldwin 0-6-0T. After a decade of minimal success because of the poor quality of coal in the area, they found a very good seam in 1931. A few years after this they bought their first 'large' locomotive, an S-2 from ALCO. Also around this time, they started to number the locomotives.

In 1950 production started to increase as demand for coal rose, and a second mine was opened near Plaster Rock and #2 was purchased, an RS-2 built by MLW, one of the last RS-2's to be built before the model was discontinued. In 1954, a 'modern' coal loader was installed near Minto to speed up the loading process as well as 2 new locomotives from GMD, an SW1200 with #2 applied (the RS-2 was renumbered at this time to 4) and a lowered cab roof to clear the loader, #1 also received this feature. The other locomotive was a GP7 numbered 3.

In 1958, a military base was built just outside of Fredericton in a community called Oromocto. Home Coal got the contract to provide fuel for the generating station there and provided their own locomotive to switch the facility. Therefore, another locomotive was purchased from GMD, a GP9 with a low short hood numbered 5. Also around this time, Home Coal wanted to experiment in bigger power at the mines, so they took delivery of the MLW RSD-17 demonstrator from PGE. It proved to be too much for the rails in the mines and was returned and subsequently sold to CP as 8921.

In 1963, Home Coal had its first major incident when #2 and some ore cars fell though a bridge that crossed Newcastle Stream. Subsequently, the locomotive and two cars were retired. Now slightly short on power, another GP9 was bought from GMD with a low short hood and numbered 6, this would be the last new locomotive the company will ever purchase. CP would also abandon the popular eastern end of the Minto Sub. this same year.

Over the next couple of decades, not much changes were made other than the decline in traffic on the CP Minto Sub, so in 1982, Home Coal made arrangements to operate the rest of the Minto Sub with the possibility of purchase of the line in 5 years. To fullfill the obligation, Home Coal bought an RS-1 from Cape Breton Development Corp numbered 210, and a SW1500 from CRI&P renumbering it to 2.

The following year, the New Brunswick Central was born as a subsiduary of Home Coal, and CP sold the Minto Sub to them (total of 34 miles from South Devon to Minto). That year GP9 #3 was painted for the new railway and three GE 70-tonners were bought from CN (numbers 35, 40, and 41) and two wooden cabooses (numbers 78524 and 78773). And the year after that, they got the Fredericton Sub (22 miles from Fredericton to Fredericton Junction) from CP, and running rights on the CN Oromocto Sub.

1987 is when NB Central aquired its third and fourth rail lines, these ones being the CN Centreville Sub (28 miles from Valley to Centreville), as well as the running rights on the CP Gibson Sub, and the CN Miramichi Sub (75 miles from Derby Junction to McGivney). Along with this they aquired 5 RSC-14's (numbered 1756, 1763, 1767, 1776, and 1781) and three cabooses (numbers 79253, 79289, 79614). All were repainted later that year.

1989 is when things really took off for NB Central. That year, CP (at this time controlled by subsiduary Canadian Atlantic Railway) decided to liquidate most of its NB trackage. So NB Central aquired the Aroostook Sub (34 miles from Aroostook, NB, to Presque Isle, ME), Houlton Sub (8 miles from Debec, NB, to Houlton, ME), portions of the Shogomoc Sub (19 miles from Woodstock to Newburg and from Upper Kent to just south of Aroostook), and the Tobique Sub (28 miles from Tobique Narrows to Plaster Rock). They would also aquire two worn out S-2's (numbers 7011 and 7034) from CP along with the purchase. With the increased trackage, more motive power was required and the railway purchased five recently reitred MLW F units (FPA-2u numbered 6759, FPA-4's numbered 6769 and 6782, and FPB-2u's numbered 6858 and 6859) from VIA, as well as 4 SW1200RS's (numbered 1209, 1290, 1351, and 1380) from CN.

In 1991, CP decided to pull out of Atlantic Canada. The rest of the Shogomoc Sub (87 mile from McAdam to Aroostook), the Edmunston Sub (19 miles from Aroostook to Edmundston), the Gibson Sub (59 miles from Newburg to South Devon), and the Southampton Spur (13 miles from Southampton Junction to Nakawic), and the rest went to a new railway started by JD Irving, NB Southern. Also head office for NB Central was moved into the York Street station in Fredericton along with the aquistion of three cabooses (numbers 434106, 434211, 434517). At this point the roster started to become a variety of equipment from both CN and CP, both railways providing helper equipment when available. The following year NB Central filed for an infrastructure grant from the federal government. After recieving the grant, a number of crossings, bridges and culverts were upgraded. Also this same year, NB Central would buy 5 passenger cars from VIA for excursion trains with the possibility of passenger service in the future as well as .

As traffic increased over the next few years, the railway sought for more locomotives as the aging VIA units (by this time the FPB-2u's were out-of-service indefinitely) were becoming more and more unreliable. In 1996 a deal was reached with CN to aquire 15 M-420 locomotives that they were about to retire, trading the worn out ex-VIA MLW F-units, the ex-CN GE 70-tonners, and the ex-CP S-2's, all of the trade-in's were subsequently scrapped in South Devon that same year. The M-420's were moved to Minto for maintenance and painting, and all but 2 were put into service. That same year CN transferred ownership and operations of the Oromocto (15 miles from South Devon to Camp Gagetown) and Naashwaak (34 miles from South Devon to McGivney) Subs to NB Central.

Over the next few years, the railway began to move its main maintenance facility to the South Devon Yard to be more centralized, with small facilities in Woodstock and Minto. At this same time, ML1 was removed from mine service and moved to South Devon to be used as shop switcher. After the move was made, upgrades to locomotives and track became the priority to be able to move more freight. During the summer of 1998, the second major incident to ocurr on the railway happened: SW1500 #2, while MU'd with GP9 #6, was run into one of the low clearance coal loaders in the Minto mines. No crew members were injured as they were in #6 at the time. #2 went to the South Devon facility and had the cab removed and repainted into NB Central paint.

As the years went on CN locomotives were shuffled in and out and it was getting hard to keep them, so NB Central reached out to DEVCO (formerly Cape Breton Development Corp) to lease two of their locomotives. GP38-2's numbered 222 and 223 arrived later that year and were assigned to coal trains originating in Minto. Later on, talks were started with OmniTRAX (owners of the Carlton Trail Railway, Okanagan Valley Railway, and the Hudson Bay Railway) to aquire some of their locomotives that they would be retiring in the coming years. In 2002 a contract was made that over the next 6 years, starting January 1 of 2003, that all retired locomotives would be sold to NB Central. This is when the roster would increase exponentially, over the course of the contract, OmniTRAX would sell NB Central 16 locomotives. Some were inoperable and were only used for parts with only two being scrapped without leaving OmniTRAX property.

Over the next couple of years, the Windsor & Hantsport Railway were falling on hard times and were looking to liquidate their roster of RS-23's. NB Central were still looking for power, so they bought the whole batch. After servicing, most of them were back on the road within a year. After that, NB Central heard that Lake State Railway were going to retire all of their ALCO/MLW products, so they bought 6 more M-420's (2 parts locomotives in 2008 and the rest in operating condition in 2011). With all of that, their power issues were solved, but there still would be the occasional CN locomotive that would appear now and then. The following year, one more locomotive would be purchased from OmniTRAX, an MLW M-420B, that would end their dealings with the company.

Finally 2006, NB Central wanted to start up passenger service but felt that the equipment they had wasn't right for the job. They had heard that Train du Haut-Saint-Francois was selling, so they bought their 4 railiners which would be perfect for the job. So 2010, NB Central would operate trains from Edmundston to McAdam and from Woodstock to Miramichi where passengers would connect with VIA Rail's "Ocean" passenger service. That same year, the railway started to lease 4 full-length dome cars from Holland American Line - Westours Inc for use in the summer tourist season and for fall foliage runs on the Shogomoc, Gibson, and Miramichi Subdivisions.

Main Page