Nova Scotia’s First Railway

Many Nova Scotia mines and quarries in the 1800s used tramways (horse-drawn wagons on rails) to transport rock. They were ancestors to our first railways because they showed the advantage of steel rails (instead of wood) and gave a platform for early locomotive experiments.

Nova Scotia's first railway (meaning it was powered by steam, not horses) was the Albion Mines Railway in Stellarton, built in 1839 to haul coal from the Stellarton mines to docks in Pictou Harbour. It was only the second steam railway in Canada. It operated until 1961.

Samson, the oldest locomotive in Canada, was one of the "iron horses" imported from England in 1839 to haul Albion Mines trains. Retired in 1883, it was displayed at Chicago's World Fair, in Baltimore, Halifax and New Glasgow. Today it's at the Stellarton Museum of Industry.

Stellarton used to be named Albion Mines, the name given to it by the General Mining Association, an English mining company that created the town in the 1820s. GMA brought the industrial revolution to NS with its skill, steam engines, pumping equipment and machinery.