This is an aerial view of Point Tupper as it protrudes into the Strait of Canso.

The relatively smooth coastline of the Strait of Canso is interrupted by a thumb-shaped peninsula that juts northwestward into the strait.

It forms the northern end of an oval-shaped body of land that looks as if it could have been an island at one time. With Ship Harbour at one end, Seacoal Bay at the other, and Landrie Lake in its middle, this body of land is almost surrounded by water.

From the inner reaches of Ship Harbour, the Point Tupper peninsula protrudes for almost two kilometres into the strait. From its tip to Mulgrave, the distance across the Strait of Canso is slightly less than one-and-a-half kilometres. The Point Tupper end of the peninsula is relatively flat, while the southern end near Bear Island is a bit higher at over 250 feet above sea level.

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In 1860, the existing town of Ship Harbour became Port Hawkesbury. By 1891, the Intercolonial Railway line was completed through to Sydney linking Cape Breton with the mainland except for the Strait of Canso. The only crossing was by ferries. Scotia I and Scotia II became the workhorses that transported the rail cars from one side to the other.

By 1901, Inverness was linked to Point Tupper with the completion of a new rail line. Many times I stood with my family on the platform waiting for the Inverness train (the Judique Flyer). We were going to visit my grandparents in Margaree for the summer holidays. St. Peter’s also got a rail link. Point Tupper then became the hub of rail and ferry traffic.

With the coming of the Canso Causeway in 1955, Point Tupper and Mulgrave lost their importance as transportation terminals. Tidal movements of winter ice were now blocked, creating an ice-free harbour on the Atlantic Ocean side. Now the causeway and the newly created ice-free port was recognized for potential economic development. Stora Forest Industries became the cornerstone industry in a newly created heavy industrial park. Soon it was followed by an oil refinery, heavy-water plant, and a power station.

With coming of heavy industries to Point Tupper many of the families living there were re-located. Of the 300-400 people living in Point Tupper, very few were left. Most houses that bustled with families are no longer. Clumps of silver popular spread and crowded out the sites where homes and well kept yards once were. They are nature’s rough way of saying, ‘people no longer live here.’ Still the former residents of Point Tupper celebrate and reminisce on special occasions. The little church is now a museum and a historical reminder of the way things once were. In the summer of 2000 over 500 people gathered for a Point Tupper Reunion.

Today the tip of Point Tupper has a gypsum production and loading facility. Crushed gypsum from nearby sources has been trucked over the years to waiting ships at the Point Tupper terminal. The shipping terminal is on the former site of the CNR ferry terminal. Nowadays trains shuttle back and forth through Point Tupper, not with coming and going passengers, but with cargoes of coal, gypsum, wood, and other commodities and equipment that keep the heavy industries going.

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Musician and freelance columnist Wally Ellison lives in Inverness County