European and North American Railway

Last updated
European and North American Railway
Locale southern New Brunswick, southeastern Maine
Dates of operation 18571872
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Previous gauge built to 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm)
but converted in 1870s

The European and North American Railway (E&NA) is the name for three historic Canadian and American railways which were built in New Brunswick and Maine.

Canada Country in North America

Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering 9.98 million square kilometres, making it the world's second-largest country by total area. Canada's southern border with the United States is the world's longest bi-national land border. Its capital is Ottawa, and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. As a whole, Canada is sparsely populated, the majority of its land area being dominated by forest and tundra. Consequently, its population is highly urbanized, with over 80 percent of its inhabitants concentrated in large and medium-sized cities, many near the southern border. Canada's climate varies widely across its vast area, ranging from arctic weather in the north, to hot summers in the southern regions, with four distinct seasons.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Rail transport Conveyance of passengers and goods by way of wheeled vehicles running on rail tracks

Rail transport is a means of transferring of passengers and goods on wheeled vehicles running on rails, also known as tracks. It is also commonly referred to as train transport. In contrast to road transport, where vehicles run on a prepared flat surface, rail vehicles are directionally guided by the tracks on which they run. Tracks usually consist of steel rails, installed on ties (sleepers) and ballast, on which the rolling stock, usually fitted with metal wheels, moves. Other variations are also possible, such as slab track, where the rails are fastened to a concrete foundation resting on a prepared subsurface.


The idea of the E&NA as a single system was conceived at a railway conference in Portland, Maine in 1850 by railroad entrepreneur John A. Poor. The line was intended to link Portland (the eastern terminus of the US rail network) with an ice-free Atlantic port in Nova Scotia to connect with fast trans-Atlantic ships from Europe; the port at Halifax was discussed as a possible eastern terminus for the line, as was Canso.

Portland, Maine largest city in Maine

Portland is the most populous city in the U.S. state of Maine, with a population of 67,067 as of 2017. The Greater Portland metropolitan area is home to over half a million people, more than one-third of Maine's total population, making it the most populous metro in northern New England. Portland is Maine's economic center, with an economy that relies on the service sector and tourism. The Old Port district is a popular destination known for its 19th-century architecture and nightlife. Marine industry still plays an important role in the city's economy, with an active waterfront that supports fishing and commercial shipping. The Port of Portland is the largest tonnage seaport in New England.

John Alfred Poor was an American lawyer, editor, and entrepreneur best remembered for his association with the Grand Trunk Railway and his role in developing the railroad system in Maine. He was the older brother of Henry Varnum Poor of Standard & Poor's, who was his partner in some business ventures. John Poor was an articulate man standing 6 feet, two inches tall and weighing over 250 pounds (110 kg). He learned the geography and commerce of northern New England during travels as a young man; and developed an early appreciation for the potential of railroads. His commanding presence was enhanced by early speaking experience as a teacher and attorney. He had a unique ability to assemble the necessary resources to build early railroads, although he left the routine work of operations to others.

Nova Scotia Province of Canada

Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime Provinces, and one of the four provinces that form Atlantic Canada. Its provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the second-smallest of Canada's ten provinces, with an area of 55,284 square kilometres (21,300 sq mi), including Cape Breton and another 3,800 coastal islands. As of 2016, the population was 923,598. Nova Scotia is Canada's second-most-densely populated province, after Prince Edward Island, with 17.4 inhabitants per square kilometre (45/sq mi).

The concept was also discussed throughout the early 1850s in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Maine as a means to connect the British colonies with the railway network of the United Province of Canada. Poor himself was also promoting a connection from Portland to Richmond and built the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad (SL&A), opening in 1853, the same year it was purchased by Grand Trunk. Poor stood to benefit from a dual flow of traffic from the Maritimes to New England and the Maritimes to the Canadas.

Richmond, Quebec City in Quebec, Canada

Richmond, population 3,232 (2016), is a town nestled amidst rolling farmlands on the Saint-François River between Sherbrooke and Drummondville, in the heart of Estrie in Quebec, Canada.

St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad transport company

The St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad, known as St-Laurent et Atlantique Quebec in Canada, is a short-line railway operating between Portland, Maine, on the Atlantic Ocean, and Montreal, Quebec, on the St. Lawrence River. It crosses the Canada–US border at Norton, Vermont and Stanhope, Quebec, and is owned by short-line operator Genesee & Wyoming.

Grand Trunk Railway British-owned railway in Canada and New England

The Grand Trunk Railway was a railway system that operated in the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario and in the American states of Connecticut, Maine, Michigan, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The railway was operated from headquarters in Montreal, Quebec, with corporate headquarters in London, England. It cost an estimated $160 million to build. The Grand Trunk, its subsidiaries, and the Canadian Government Railways were precursors of today's Canadian National Railways.

E&NA "Eastern Extension" (Saint John to Shediac)

The railway most commonly referred to as the E&NA in Canada was built between Saint John and Shediac, New Brunswick as a segment of Poor’s vision of a Portland-Nova Scotia line.

Saint John, New Brunswick City in New Brunswick, Canada

Saint John is the coastal port city of the Bay of Fundy in the Canadian province of New Brunswick. The port is Canada’s third largest port by tonnage with a cargo base that includes dry and liquid bulk, break bulk, containers, and cruise. In 2016, after more than 40 years of population decline, the city became the second most populous city in the province for the first time, with a population of 67,575 over an area of 315.82 square kilometres (121.94 sq mi). The Saint John metropolitan area covers a land area of 3,362.95 square kilometres (1,298.44 sq mi) across the Caledonia Highlands, with a population of 126,202. After the partitioning of the colony of Nova Scotia in 1784, the new colony of New Brunswick was thought to be named 'New Ireland' with the capital to be in Saint John before being vetoed by Britain's King George III. Saint John is the oldest incorporated city in Canada. During the reign of George III, the municipality was created by royal charter in 1785.

The initial ownership of the line is unclear, however the European and North American Railway was incorporated in New Brunswick on March 15, 1851, following the Portland conference, with the intention being to start construction east toward Nova Scotia. Both Saint John, and St. Andrews, New Brunswick were vying for the E&NA to begin in their respective communities; however Saint John managed to convince the company to begin on the east side of the Saint John River.

St. Andrews, New Brunswick Town in New Brunswick, Canada

Saint Andrews is a town in Charlotte County, New Brunswick, Canada. It is sometimes referred to in tourism marketing by its unofficial nickname "St. Andrews By-the-Sea". It is also known as "Qonasqamkuk" by the Peskotomuhkati (Passamaquoddy) Nation.

Saint John also convinced the company to forego plans to build into Nova Scotia by concentrating on reaching the Northumberland Strait first. This would give the city a steamship connection through the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Canada East, as well as allowing coal and other goods to avoid the circuitous and hazardous transit around Nova Scotia.

Northumberland Strait strait

The Northumberland Strait is a strait in the southern part of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence in eastern Canada. The strait is formed by Prince Edward Island and the gulf's eastern, southern and western shores.

Canada East eastern portion of the Province of Canada

Canada East was the northeastern portion of the United Province of Canada. Lord Durham's Report investigating the causes of the Upper and Lower Canada Rebellions recommended merging those two colonies. The new colony, known as the Province of Canada was created by the Act of Union 1840 passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, having effect in 1841. For administrative purposes, the new Province was subdivided into Canada West and Canada East. The former name of "Lower Canada" came back into official use in 1849, and as of the Canadian Confederation of 1867, it formed the newly created province of Quebec.

Construction started in 1853, heading northeast from Saint John up the Kennebecasis River valley. Unfortunately construction did not proceed very far and the company went bankrupt in 1856 with the colonial government of New Brunswick taking over the company’s line in 1857.

The Rothesay railway station was originally known as Kennebecasis Station when completed on the E&NA line at Rothesay in 1860. It is one of the oldest stations still in existence in Canada. Rothesay Station 2007.jpg
The Rothesay railway station was originally known as Kennebecasis Station when completed on the E&NA line at Rothesay in 1860. It is one of the oldest stations still in existence in Canada.

That year (1857) saw construction proceed apace under a newly reincorporated government-owned European and North American Railway Co. Canada’s first civil engineering graduate, H.G.C. Ketchum, of the University of New Brunswick, was employed in the surveying and construction of the line. Ketchum surveyed a high-capacity railway with long tangent sections and minimal grades between Saint John and Moncton.

The first section of the E&NA opened between Shediac and Moncton on August 20, 1857, a distance of 16.8 miles (27.0 km). Although the Shediac-Moncton section was the first part opened, the line was soon extended 2 miles east to the better wharf facilities at Point du Chene. The line had been surveyed to extend from Cape Brule 2 miles further east of Point du Chene, however the sheltered harbour at Point du Chene won out over the more exposed Cape Brule location.

1860 New Brunswick stamp showing an E&NA engine, the first ever depicted in a postage stamp NBOneCentTrain 1860 ScottNo6.jpg
1860 New Brunswick stamp showing an E&NA engine, the first ever depicted in a postage stamp

Meanwhile, the line between Hampton, New Brunswick and Saint John opened in 1859 and the remaining section between Moncton and Hampton was opened in 1860. In 1860, the colony of New Brunswick issued a postage stamp which illustrated an E&NA engine. The stamp was commissioned by the postmaster and one of the railway's directors, Charles Connell. [1]

Unfortunately, the E&NA never progressed east from Moncton to its stated goal of Nova Scotia. By the late 1850s, the Nova Scotia Railway had already built a line from Halifax to Truro, Nova Scotia, with a stated ambition of building westward to link with the E&NA in New Brunswick; thus the E&NA stood with its Saint John-Shediac line for several years. The missing link between Truro and Moncton was finally built by the Intercolonial Railway, completed in 1872.

The E&NA’s "Eastern Extension" locomotive shops and headquarters were located in Shediac until it was taken over by the Intercolonial Railway, which then moved them to Moncton.

E&NA "Western Extension" (South Bay to St. Croix, New Brunswick)

Less well-known was the railway most commonly referred to as the E&NA Western Extension which was built between South Bay, New Brunswick (immediately west of Saint John) and St. Croix on the International Boundary with Maine.

On April 13, 1864, the colonial government in New Brunswick incorporated a company called the European and North American Railway for extension from Saint John westward to build the "Western Extension" of the E&NA system. The 90-mile railway was surveyed later that year and a contract for construction was awarded to E.R. Burpee. On November 9, 1865, the first sod was turned at South Bay by the mayor of Saint John. By August 14, 1869 the line was opened between South Bay and Hartts Mills (later renamed Fredericton Junction). On November 17, 1869 the line was completely opened from the Maine border at St. Croix east to Saint John.

E&NA "Maine" (Bangor to Vanceboro)

The E&NA incorporated in the State of Maine as the European and North American Railway on August 20, 1850. Subsequent delays over the next 15 years saw its charter revised to run from Bangor to Vanceboro, Maine on the International Boundary opposite St. Croix, New Brunswick.

Construction finally began with the section from Bangor to Olamon, Maine, opening in 1868 and Olamon to Mattawamkeag, Maine, opening in 1869. The 114 mile line was finally completed to Vanceboro in October 1871, linking the E&NA (Maine) to the E&NA (Western Extension) at Vanceboro-St. Croix. A ceremony celebrating completion of the line was attended by U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant and Canadian Governor General Lord Lisgar at the boundary bridge crossing the St. Croix River.


On November 9, 1872, the Eastern Division was consolidated, along with the Nova Scotia Railway, into the Intercolonial Railway. On the other hand, the Maine and Western companies were merged on December 1, 1872 as the Consolidated European and North American Railway, which defaulted on its bonds in 1875. The Western Extension bondholders organized the St. John and Maine Railway on March 29, 1878, and acquired the property in New Brunswick on August 31. The New Brunswick Railway leased this line on July 1, 1883. The Maine property was similarly reorganized under its original name - European and North American Railway - in October 1880. The Maine Central Railroad leased this line on April 1, 1882.

Synopsis of Portland-Halifax railway line

Although the entire Portland to Halifax line that was envisioned at the Portland conference in 1850 was not built by the E&NA per se, several portions of this system were completed by other companies as follows:

An express passenger train known as the Gull was jointly operated over this route by the various owners from 1930 to 1960. [2] [3]

Subsequent disposition of Portland-Halifax railway line

Although the Portland to Halifax railway line remains in operation, various sections of the line have undergone several corporate changes over the years:

Halifax-Saint John

The Intercolonial Railway (ICR) took over the Nova Scotia Railway and E&NA "Eastern Extension" on November 9, 1872, following completion of its connection between Truro and Moncton. The E&NA "Eastern Extension" was standard gauged on November 11, 1872.

The Intercolonial Railway came under the control of the Canadian Government Railways (CGR) in 1915. CGR was merged into the Canadian National Railways (CNR) in 1918. CN continues to operate these lines, although the Shediac spur has been cut back to Scoudouc, New Brunswick.

Saint John-St. Croix

The E&NA "Western Extension" was operated by the New Brunswick government separately from the E&NA "Eastern Extension" and thus did not get included in the takeover by the Intercolonial Railway, which was focused exclusively on building and operating a railway from Halifax to Quebec. The E&NA "Western Extension" was standard gauged by 1877.

The E&NA "Western Extension" became part of the New Brunswick Railway (NBR) in 1883. On July 1, 1890, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) secured a lease for 999[ citation needed ] years for the NBR. CPR applied to abandon the line effective January 1, 1995, however it was subsequently taken over by New Brunswick Southern Railway which continues to operate the line today.


The E&NA "Maine" was operated separately from its completion in 1871 until it was leased to the Maine Central Railroad (MEC) in 1882. In 1889 the International Railway of Maine was built by Canadian Pacific Railway from Megantic, Quebec to the MEC at Mattawamkeag, Maine The MEC granted trackage rights to the CPR over the 56 mile section from Mattawamkeag to Vanceboro at that time.

In November 1955, MEC purchased the entire 114 mile E&NA "Maine" for US$125 per share or US$3,114,500 payable in cash or bonds. On December 17, 1974, the CPR purchased the 56 mile Mattawamkeag to Vanceboro section from MEC for US$5.4 million, although MEC maintained trackage rights. MEC maintained ownership of the 58 mile Bangor to Mattawamkeag section. In 1981, MEC was purchased by Guilford Rail System, which continues to operate the Bangor to Mattawamkeag section.

CPR applied to abandon the Mattawamkeag-Vanceboro section effective January 1, 1995, however it was subsequently taken over by Eastern Maine Railway which continues to operate the line.


The Maine Central was created in 1862 and was sold to Guilford Rail System (GRS) in 1981. GRS continues to operate the line as of 2005.

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<i>Maritime Express</i>

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  1. J.J. MacDonald, Charles Connell and His Stamp - The Stamp's Survival, The Canadian Philatelist, September–October 2000
  2. Lowe, J. Norman Canadian National in the East volume 3 (1985) Calgary Group of the British Railway Modellers of North America ISBN   0-919487-14-9
  3. "Way Down East - The Gull to St. John and Halifax". James VanBokkelen.