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Clipping from Daily News
St. John's, June 1944

 

 

Editor, Daily News

Dear Sir

On seeing the obituary of my old friend JAMES MCDONALD in your issue of the 22inst., my mind reverted to the 23rd of April, 1898, when we left Whitbourne on a history making trip toward Port Aux Basques, drawn by old No. 5 four-wheeled engine in charge of the late JAMES MCDONALD. But few of the members of the crew of that great adventure remain, and those who have survived are all showing signs of the "seal and yellow leaf".

In light of modern railroad equipment, it was a great adventure. When we compare the little 25-ton engine to the monsters of to-day; the 50-lb. rails to the 40 lb.; modern snow fighting apparatus to the little sheet iron pilot plow; is it any wonder that it took us eleven days to negotiate the Gaff Topsails and thirty-nine days to get to Port Aux Basques. There were no steel bridges beyond Bishops Falls, all wooden trestles either out of line downstream or gone altogether from the spring freshets; the rails burried in clay and muck, in the cuts that had not been sloped; the telegraph line down in places necessitating a vigilant look out to see that our line of communication with headquarters was not broken; no agents or operators west of Bishops Falls; were a few of the obstacles with which we had to contend.

The expedition was in command of ALEXANDER COBB with DANIEL FERGUSON as second in command, G. W. GAMMON, pile driving engineer; JOHN HEALY, labour foreman; JOHN DAY, conductor; JAMES MCDONALD, engineer; BART MURPHY, foreman; ALEX FRASER, brakesman; GEORGE MILLER, woods foreman; BAXTER WEBBER, cook; AMBROSE NICHOLAS, cleaner, and about 20 or 25 woodsmen and labourers, whose names I cannot now recall, and the writer timekeeper and operator.

The little engine under the skilful manipulation of JIM MCDONALD did Herculean work on that memorable trip, but survived all the hard usage to which it was subjected and brought us safely through. Thus did JAMES MCDONALD's hand hold the throttle of the first locomotive that ever pulled a train to Port Aux Basques and my fervent prayer is that when he made his final crossing his welcome on the further shore was as enthusiastic as that recorded him, and us, on that, the first cross country trip by rail.

T.G.F.

 

 

Page Transcribed by Betty Wiley (May 2000)
Page Revised August 2002 (Terry Piercey)

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