CAPE BRETON’S RAIL LINES are perhaps best known for their substantial roles in the coal and steel industries. Shaped by factors such as physical geography, the availability of both capital and customers, and the distribution of population and industries, railways have played many important roles in the life of the island.
For more than a century-and-a-half after 1829 – when the railway age first came to Cape Breton – railways played a central role in supporting change as some areas of the island evolved from a rural and agricultural society into an urban and industrial one. Expertly researched and richly illustrated with photographs, drawings, maps and documents, many of them rarely seen, railroad historian Herb MacDonald paints an interesting and colourful picture of Cape Breton’s railways in the contexts of the economic, cultural and political events on the island and beyond.
"The late HERB MACDONALD researched and published on Canadian railway history since completing an MBA thesis at Saint Mary’s University that looked at Nova Scotia’s first locomotive-powered railroad. Herb continued his association with the University as a research associate at the Gorsebrook Research Institute for Atlantic Canada Studies. A frequent contributor to Canadian Rail, the journal of the Canadian Railroad Historical Association, Herb was a three-time recipient of the CRHA annual award for best article in that journal, and was recognized posthumously with their book of the year award, for Cape Breton Railways. His work has also been published in England by the Railway and Canal Historical Society, the Stephenson Locomotive Society and the Institution of Civil Engineers.
Since 2001, his papers on Canadian topics have been appearing in collections from a series of British conferences on early railways sponsored by organizations including the U.K. National Railway Museum and the Newcomen Society for the History of Engineering and Technology."