CANNING, NS - It represents an important part of Canning’s railway history that will be preserved in the community’s new fire hall.
Canning Fire Department veteran firefighter and former chief Terry Porter said he suspects that a railway bench that the department recently had restored came into the department’s possession when Bruce Spicer was chief. When the railway station was closed, it was probably Spicer who salvaged it and took it to the old fire hall.
Porter said the bench used to be against the west wall in the old fire hall but it was moved into the attic after the department acquired a van and more space was needed.
It sat there for a number of years and when the new fire hall in the Canning multi-complex was built last year, Porter asked about getting the bench refurbished and installed in the new hall. After he was given the go-ahead, Porter enlisted the help of former firefighter Carl Bennett of Canning to refinish the antique bench. Porter said firefighters have been making good use of it in the new hall.
Both Porter and Bennett remember the old train station well. Porter said the railway was important to Canning and this is why he wanted to see the bench restored.
“It’s part of our village history and the more of that we can keep, the better,” Porter said.
Bennett said it took a considerable amount of time and effort to restore the bench. He picked away at the project, working on it for an hour or so at a time. Bennett said he tried cleaning it up at first but he wasn’t satisfied with the result, so he stripped it down to the bare wood and refinished it.
He said it was the biggest job of its type he’s ever undertaken. Perhaps the most time consuming and challenging aspect was getting in between the narrow slats of wood.
“It took me quite a little while but I kind of enjoyed doing it and it wasn’t bad,” Bennett said.
He said he appreciates the bench being relocated to the new hall. He wanted to do the best job he could on the restoration project, knowing that the bench would be showcased in the new building.
Bennett said there were people who saw the refurbished bench on Facebook who commented that they could recall sitting on it as students while waiting for a train to take them to school in Kentville.
Bennett used to work for Kent Foods in Canning. He said the company used to ship a lot of canned goods via rail. A couple of years after the rail line to Kentville closed, Kent Foods built a new plant in Wolfville to take advantage of the proximity to the train tracks.
The plaque on the newly restored bench states, “This bench is from Canning Railway Station. The Cornwallis Valley Railway was formed in 1889 by the merchants of Canning in support of the apple industry. The track ran 13.6 miles from Kentville to Kingsport. The line was abandoned in 1961. Bench refurbished by Carl Bennett in 2017.”
Did you know?
The following information on the Cornwallis Valley Railway is from the book “History of the Dominion Atlantic Railway”, 1936, by Marguerite Woodworth:
- A public meeting was held in Canning on Jan. 8, 1887, attended by J.W. King, assistant traffic manager of the Windsor and Annapolis Railway, and chaired by Leander Rand, who represented Kings County in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly.
- Rand pointed out the necessity of a rail line from Kingsport to join with the railway to the west.
- It was unanimously resolved at the conclusion of the meeting to petition the government for an immediate survey.
- On May 3, 1887, a Provincial Act of Parliament incorporated the Cornwallis Valley Railway Company Ltd., granting a subsidy of $3,200 per mile and right of way.
- Work on the Cornwallis Valley Railway began in 1889, with the location of the terminus yet to be decided. The two alternatives under consideration were to run the line from Sheffield Mills to Kentville or to Middleton.
- The decision rested upon whether the Windsor and Annapolis Railway or the Nova Scotia Central would agree to eventually take over the Cornwallis Valley Railway.
- No official announcement was made but a tentative understanding was reached with King, who by then had been appointed the resident manager of the Windsor and Annapolis Railway at Kentville, and construction proceeded toward Kentville.