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Friends of Beaubears Island Inc offers services year-round. During the summer months, we offer ferry service, guided tours, museum access along with many other activities. During the off-season and winter months, our full-time Executive Director offers online programming, presentations, information sessions and collaborates with other organizations in meaningful partnerships. If you would like to connect, please do not hesitate to reach out with questions or ideas.

Welcome to Beaubears Island

Visit our Interpretive Centre at 35 St. Patrick's Drive, Nelson-Miramichi

Meet our characters, from early French fur traders, to the Marquis Charles Deschamps de Boishebert, to the various shipbuilders who inhabited the island for over 100 years

Experience the multicultural history of the Miramichi

For more information on our tours and ferry services:

Discover a place where fortunes were made... and lives were lost.

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May 20th, 6:31 pm

Information re-published and shared by Friends of Beaubears Island Inc., Senior Historical Correspondent, John English.

The first part of a 2 part series.

New Brunswick's Rail Sector

Before Confederation, railroading in New Brunswick consisted merely of two disconnected short lines that didn‘t change the trade and transportation patterns of the colony. These patterns had been shaped largely by coastal and ocean shipping, and wagon roads. Trade was largely resource based and focused on exporting raw goods such as lumber and fish to Great Britain and the northeastern U.S.

The first two New Brunswick Railways fit into this pattern. The European & North American opened in 1860 between Saint John and Shediac, acting as a portage railway to link the Bay of Fundy with Moncton and the Northumberland Strait. The St. Andrews & Quebec Railway (later renamed the New Brunswick & Canada Railway) built a line north from the Bay of Fundy to the Saint John River town of Woodstock, serving as a means of tapping northwestern New Brunswick‘s timber wealth and bringing it down to an ice-free port for export.

The Intercolonial Railway of Canada (commonly known as the ICR in Atlantic Canada) – of which today‘s Newcastle Subdivision was a key component – changed this pattern, bringing the true benefits of main line railroading to New Brunswick. The ICR was built by the Government of Canada as a condition of Confederation in 1867. Under Clause 154 of the British North America Act, Canada committed to begin construction of a railway connecting Halifax with the eastern end of the established Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) at Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec, within two years.

Coupled with this main trunk line railway was the Macdonald government‘s National Policy, which irrevocably changed the trading patterns of Atlantic Canada. Macdonald envisioned an integrated, east-west economy independent of the considerable influence of the U.S. The ICR to the east and the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) to the west, in combination with the well-established Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) in central Canada, were cornerstones of this policy.

The ICR‘s planning, construction and early operation were classic Canadian tales of political and parochial intervention. Despite these early handicaps, the railway eventually became one of the federal government‘s most valuable assets and a true economic lifeline for the Maritimes.

The ICR was completed in June 1876, and in July a through train from Halifax to Quebec officially marked completion of the railroad uniting the provinces.

As part of this policy, certain Maritime members of Macdonald‘s government armtwisted CP into a commitment to build a Montreal-Saint John route in 1885 in exchange for a loan guarantee to complete its western transcontinental main line. CP purchased a number of disjointed short lines and stitched them together with new line segments to create a through route that cut from southeastern Quebec at Mégantic across northern Maine and into New Brunswick near McAdam. Completed in 1889, this was (and still is) the shortest route between Montreal and New Brunswick.

With both the CPR and the ICR established as healthy east-west main line systems, expansion of their route networks through the acquisition of various New Brunswick short lines followed. Between them, the two systems then provided freight and passenger service to every corner of the province, with the ICR providing the most extensive coverage. The result was New Brunswick then possessed more miles of railway per square mile, and per capita, than any other jurisdiction in North America (see Fig1).

Fig 1. Phillips, Fred H. “Railways of New Brunswick Article No. 3”. The Maritime Advocate and Busy East 30, 11 (June 1940).

Fig 2. Intercolonial Railway surveying group, 1869(source:

The above, unless otherwise noted, is from Revitalizing New Brunswick’s Rail Sector by Greg Gormick for the cites of Moncton, Dieppe, Bathurst, and Miramichi, the town of Riverview, and Enterprise Greater Moncton

The bridges across the Northwest and Southwest Miramichi rivers were no small undertaking. And as we will see the piers do degrade, likely from the forces of water, ice jams, and even huge log jams during the time when logs for sawmills were floated to sawmills in Miramichi from higher elevations by the flow of water towards Miramichi Bay.

Let’s look at the building of the one on the Southwest as a case study(I saw it or heard a train on it almost every day, as I grew up nearby). The following, unless otherwise noted, is from a study done by GEMTEC Consulting Engineers and Scientists Limited, Fredericton, NB:

The bridge was constructed as a six-span through-truss structure approximately 380 m long, with an
approach embankment approximately 100 m long extending out from the south bank of the river. The bridge foundations are wooden caissons(see Fig 3-4), which were sunk down to foundation level by excavating from the inside through the open bottoms, and then were filled with concrete. The actual piers, which are about 11 m high, were constructed of stone masonry on top of the concrete-filled caissons. Local sandstone was used for the majority of the masonry, but imported granite was used to face the upstream ice breakers installed on the piers.

Fig. 3. Details of the original pier and caisson construction (Fleming 1876).

Fig. 4. Timber caisson constructed on land prior to being floated into place and sunk, circa 1872 (Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, P119 Frank Sayer collection, P119-MS2I-109).

Fig 5. Construction of bridge, circa 1874 (Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, P119 Frank Sayer
collection, P119-MS2I-093).

Fig. 6. Construction of the Miramichi bridges on the Intercolonial Railway, southwest branch. Dredging machinery for pier F. Photo taken 24 September 1872(source:

In 1901 the original through-trusses were replaced by new steel trusses of the same spans supported on
the original piers.

In 2011, 2015, and 2016 underwater inspections indicated that a considerable amount of the lower concrete encasement had deteriorated and fallen off along with some of the concrete infill between the steel sheeting and masonry. Mortar joints in the masonry were significantly deteriorated, especially on the upstream noses, and the lower portion of the steel sheeting was extensively perforated by corrosion

Fig 7. A high resolution scanning sonar image of one of the piers in 2015 (Amec Foster Wheeler 2015). Remnants of the concrete encapsulation are visible along with the steel sheeting above it.

Supplemental for Miramichi’s connection to confederation, which was the impetus for the ICR:

The Miramichi is one of the few areas in Canada of comparable size and population which can boast of two Fathers of Confederation (source:

John Mercer Johnson (October 1818 – November 8, 1868, see Fig 8) was a Canadian lawyer and politician from the Province of New Brunswick, and a Father of Confederation. He represented Northumberland in the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick from 1850 to 1865, and again from 1866 to 1867, each time elected as a candidate aligned with the liberal movement.

St. Paul’s Anglican Church(see Fig 9)
750 Water Street
The earliest (1822-1823) example of a known building constructed by a noted Miramichi builder, William Murray.
Records of burials and baptisms dating back to 1822 and marriages to 1833. John M. Johnson, Father of Confederation, two children of Joseph Cunard (Cunard Shipping Lines) and Dr. John Vondy are buried in the cemetery.

Peter Mitchell, premier of New Brunswick (1866–67, see Fig 10), lawyer, shipbuilder (born 4 January 1824 in Newcastle, New Brunswick; died 25 October 1899 in Montréal, QC). Premier of New Brunswick in 1867, Peter Mitchell was instrumental in bringing the colony into Confederation.

St. James and St. John United Church(see Fig 11)
555 King George Highway, Miramichi
The graveyard surrounds the church on three sides and consists of tablets, obelisks, pilaster columns and pedestal monuments constructed of marble, sandstone, granite and slate. It serves as the resting place of many of Miramichi's founders and pioneers, including Father of Confederation Hon. Peter Mitchell.

Chris Matheson and Dr. Shawn McCarthy and explore Peter Michell:

A guest records a theatrical presentation on Beaubears Island regarding Peter Michell:
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May 20th, 6:00 am
#beaubears #beaubearsisland❤️ #explorenature #explorenb #islandlife #wellness #wellness #Wednesday #wellnesswe #wellnesswednesday #nelson #chatham #Newcastle #neguac #blackville #remmondville #napan #lower #Newcastle #lowernewcas #loggieville #miramichiriver #historicplaces #parkscanadanb #walkingtrails #picnic #beach #familyactivity #bushville #nordin

#beaubears #beaubearsisland❤️ #explorenature #explorenb #islandlife #wellness #wellness #wednesday #wellnesswe #WellnessWednesday #nelson #chatham #newcastle #neguac #Blackville #remmondville #Napan #lower #newcastle #lowernewcas #loggieville #miramichiriver #historicplaces #parkscanadanb #walkingtrails #picnic #beach #familyactivity #bushville #nordin ... See MoreSee Less

May 18th, 8:30 am