An Act of Parliament of May 1881 authorised the tender for the construction of a railway line from St John’s to Halls Bay, some 340 miles, with a branch line from Whitbourne to Harbour Grace, and an extension to Carbonear, plus a branch line to Clarke’s Beach.
By 1882, the track reached Topsail, and later Holyrood, and a passenger service commenced straight away from St John’s to Holyrood, where passengers transferred to a ship for ports within Conception Bay.
The further construction was regularly halted due to financial problems of the Companies involved, resulting in them going into receivership, and in 1896 the Newfoundland Government decided to purchase the 84 miles of railway throughout the most populated areas. In 1887, a new branch line was constructed from Whitbourne to Placentia. 1889 saw the commencement of the Hall’s Bay Railway, 260 miles of track from Placentia to Hall’s Bay. In 1897, the railway reached Port aux Basques, after 560 miles of track laying.
Various other branch lines were built in the later years, and eventually taken over at Confederation in 1949, by the Canadian National Railway.
The Travelling Post Office by rail and ship was vital in the delivering of post throughout the island, largely due to the lack of roads across the country, full of isolated townships, and over the years the various routes and post offices had their own postal markings to cancel mail that was carried by them.