Heritage Walk - Rail Cut

This web page is a supplement to the interpretive panel on South Street. It lists the sources of panel content and provides source materials where available. It also provides additional background resources and covers additional themes where applicable. If you have any corrections or additions, please email: greenway_hfx@yahoo.com.


  • The story of federal government initiative and community reaction surrounding the Halifax Ocean Terminals project is told by Murray B. Hodgins in his Dalhousie Masters’ thesis : “A City Transformed ?: Urban Development and the Role of Canadian Railway Policy in Halifax, Nova Scotia 1900-1920” (KILLAM DAL-MSS HIST. H689 1992 – see “Chapter Three: The Ocean Terminals and South End Railway”).

  • The Canada Science and Technology Museum website's "General Search" page has 158 photos of the construction of the rail cut, along with the associated piers and railyards. Enter "ocean terminal" as the search term - if "Order:" is "By Relevancy", the rail cut excavation photos start on page three.

    Here are some photos that are of particular interest but that didn't make the cut for placement on the interpretive panel:

    • STR27909a - Permanent bridge under construction - probably Mumford Road (copy downloaded from Vintage Halifax Facebook page).
    • STR27946a - Train of flatcars heads towards Young Avenue temporary bridge. Today's 756 Young Avenue is on the right side of cut, before house was moved to west side of street.(copy downloaded from Vintage Halifax Facebook page)
    • STR27949a - Another view of today's 756 Young Avenue. Row of flatcars awaits, while steam shovel digs by side of tracks in the distance.
    • STR27954a closeup - Enlargement of upper right of photo on interpretive panel. This is today's 616 Tower ROad, before Pine Hill Drive and the house on the corner were added alongside the rail cut.
    • STR27958a - Excavation only partially completed, resulting in two tracks at different elevations, leading towards Short, non-suspension temporary bridge across the cut.
    • STR27962a - A lengthy suspension-type temporary bridge.
    • STR27968a - Steam shovel at work.
    • STR27970a - Large tower on temporary suspension bridge.
    • STR27973a - Tower of suspension pedestrian bridge.
    • STR27974a - Semi-detached house dangling over the cliff at the edge of the cut.
    • STR27975a - Narrow cut, short bridge.
    • STR28007a - Steam shovel with crew aboard.
    • STR28020a - An early stage of excavation, with pile drivers in background. Temporary track at high level at left.
    • STR28025a - Crew laying track.
    • STR28041a - Appears to be approach to Bedford Basin, with train in distance coming into the city.

These two photos downloaded from the "Vintage Halifax" Facebook page bring us back to the era of the steam locomotives:


  • Development of the Halifax Railway Cut (1912-18) - Extracted from "South End Railway Cutting: Report No. 2 of the Area Studies Groups", Pierre Taschereau, Halifax Field Naturalists News, No. 27, Spring 1982.

  • Development of the Halifax Railway Cut (1912-18) - Short Version

  • "Halifax’s South End Railway Cut", by Barry Copp - extracted from March 2013 Griffin - houses demolished or relocated in the excavation of the rail cut

  • Peter McGuigan has included a chapter on the construction of the rail cut and ocean terminals in his "Historic South End Halifax", available on the Amazon.ca and Chapters/Indigo websites. See Chapter 5: "The Industrial South End".

  • The following two documents from 1945 complain in no uncertain terms about the smoke and noise from the steam locomotives suffered by the neighbourhoods surrounding the rail cut. They even go so far as to claim that the trains brought urban blight to an area in the south end. Reading these makes one wonder whether the trains were a significant deterrent to subdivision development along the Arm in the era prior to the introduction of less-intrusive diesel-electric locomotives.

  • In the summer of 1964, the neighbourhoods along the South End rail cut were terrorized by a mentally-ill youth from Jollimore who emerged from the rail tracks between Pine Hilll Drive and Jubilee Road to shoot three young boys, two of them fatally. Frank Fillmore of the 4th Estate newspaper did extensive research on the tragedy and its aftermath. His “The Boy on a Bicycle” feature extends through six issues of the paper, starting with the 10 July 1969 Vol. 1 No. 7 edition

Natural History & Before the Rail Cut

Thanks to all who contributed to the Halifax Urban Greenway Heritage Walk project:

  • Leonard Preyra for his initial suggestion and ongoing encouragement thereafter
  • The Northwest Arm Heritage Association for its letter of support for HUGA’s funding application to government
  • Garry Shutlak at Nova Scotia Archives for his assistance in locating resource materials and for his review of panels content
  • Rob, Peter and Leonard of Terra Marine Environmental Ltd. for the retrieval and placement of the stones forming the bases for the panel installations
  • Claudia Mannion for the Halifax Urban Greenway Heritage Walk logo.
  • Adam and Jenna at Eyecandy Signs for the design and production of the interpretive panels
  • Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage for its funding of 75 percent of project costs
  • The Halifax Regional Trails Association for the awarding of the remaining 25 percent of project costs from its HRM capital allocation

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