SUMMERSIDE - Local auctioneer Dennis Lowther encounters various rare items through his line of work, but none quite like what he was offered last week. Book collector Jeff Dixon of Riverview, N.B. contacted Lowther looking to auction off a book he had on the Island's railway.
It turns out Dixon's original item is a ledger belonging to the Prince Edward Island Railway Engineering Department used in the 1870s which documents the initial construction of railway stations across the Island.
Lowther passed on his knowledge of the item to Island historians George Dalton of Summerside and Allan Graham of Alberton who in turn contacted Dixon in an effort to obtain the ledger before it went to auction.
"I told him how valuable it was for this to be here in P.E.I., that this is part of the railway story that's missing at the moment and that it's extremely important that we try and get it here," said Graham, who has spent several years of his life studying the Island's railway history.
The ledger was purchased for $250 on Saturday and delivered to Dalton by Monday. The engineering department lists each Island railway community alphabetically and dissects the construction of each station detailing the specific material, labour, dates, costs, etc.
"We don't have any others like this from the engineering department...it's very important to have it because the entire history of the Island is wrapped around the railway because until people got cars and the roads were fit to drive on, everything went by rail," said Graham. "There are a lot of communities that wouldn't have been opened up otherwise."
Graham added the only other engineering department ledger he has located is one from 1891 that is housed at the Library and Archives Canada. He has studied the book through microfilm sent to P.E.I.
Dalton said he is thrilled to have the piece of Island history return home.
"This ledger is the missing story of our Island railway," said Dalton. "It's amazing that all this information has been sitting out there for all these years."
Dalton plans to host a history circle to give the local community an opportunity to view the ledger. The long-term plan for the ledger is to have it placed on display at the P.E.I. Museum.
"My wish would be that it ends up in a place where it can be preserved and where the public can share in this treasure," said Dalton.