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LETTER: Reactivating dormant rail line could boost Nova Scotia tourism

The old rail line. There it is right under our noses — a tourist attraction that would be unique not only to Nova Scotia but to all of Atlantic Canada.

We are always wondering how to attract tourists, aren’t we? And, so far in the last few years, tourism has been in decline in this province. No wonder the Yarmouth to Portland ferry isn’t doing well. What’s really exciting for a family to do here, bar visiting Halifax?

Visiting museums, which all look the same, going to quaint little fishing villages, lounging on an albeit beautiful beach but unable to swim because the water is too cold and “doing the Cabot Trail’ just doesn’t cut it any longer. Even music festivals have mostly local audiences and last only a few days.

Does anyone in Tourism Nova Scotia realize the potential of the dormant rail line that we have here at the eastern end of the Annapolis Valley? The Windsor and Hantsport rail line spans from Windsor Junction on the outskirts of Metro Halifax to as far as New Minas.

Like I said at the beginning, we have in front of our eyes what could be the answer to our ailing tourism industry.

We need to step on our so-called “Canadian pride” and copy, yes copy, the United States, who seem so much more astute at entertaining the entire family in a fun way.

In the United States, groups operate excursion trains in almost all of the states and numerous ones in certain states such as Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Some are powered by colourful diesels, others by genuine steam locomotives.

An excursion train through the “lake country” between Windsor Junction and Ellershouse transitioning to the “hills and tides country” in the Windsor area and finally reaching “wine country” —the area around Grand Pre — would, in my opinion, be a great attraction for the entire family.

It would be especially so if the train(s) were pulled by a good size steam locomotive with all the sights, sounds and smells adding to the experience of an era gone by.

Locomotives of all sizes are being preserved in many places all over North America and just looking for a buyer to restore them to active duty.

Furthermore, in late afternoon, a second departure from downtown Halifax or Dartmouth could accommodate a different class of clientele who would enjoy a leisurely meal or typical Maritime cuisine accompanied by local wines (not worrying about drinking and driving) which are now being produced by an ever increasing number of wineries, especially in the Valley.

Now imagine yourself in a beautifully decorated railcar, being served drinks and amuse-gueles while listening to live music on the way to Grand Pre where your dinner train would stop. You’d then go to a wine tasting session at one of the nearby wineries (there are five locally), returning to your train after your palate had been teased. Then you would finally enjoy a superb meal on the way back to Halifax. I don’t know about you but my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

So come on politicians, wake up, think boldly, let go of the old ideas which don’t work anymore and keep in mind the saying: “You’ve got to spend money to make money.”


Paul Du Mesnil,



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