When the railway was constructed in the late 1800’s, Benton became a sawmill town. The railroad also made it possible for a handful of mines and quarries (though less well known) able to operate in Central Newfoundland. This included a granite quarry at Benton called Hall’s Quarry.
The Newfoundland Railway was constructed between 1881 and 1897. The track arrived in Benton at the end of the 1892 construction season. The first inhabitants of Benton were Railway Section crews. Closely followed by shop keepers, quarry men, loggers and sawmill operators. Issac Penny arrived in Benton in the 1920’s and was a section foreman for the railway. Jim Wicks brought his family to Benton in 1939 and was a cook in the logging camps and later ran a general store.
Hall’s Quarry was the source of the rock used to build the runways in 1937 for the soon to be urgently needed Newfoundland Airport. The quarry operation stretched out along a section of the Newfoundland Railway close to Benton. The rock was manually dug from the hillside, and then loaded unto metal carts that were pushed along lengths of metal rails and up a ramp to the crusher. The six concrete blocks that supported the crusher structure still exist and can be examined. In the middle of these base blocks some fairly large trees have grown attesting to the many years that have past.
Once processed by the crusher the now smaller rocks were loaded onto eleven railway cars for the trip to the airport construction site. The railcars were dumped such that the large mounds of rock existed on either side of their spur line off the main track. The next train heading east joined up the cars and returned them to the quarry for the next load of rock.
In an attempt to diversify Newfoundland and Labrador’s economy into areas other than the cod fishery, government officials promoted various land-based industries during the first half of the 20th century. Most successful among these were the forestry and mining sectors, although agriculture also grew in importance. The construction of the railway in the late 1800s and of branch lines in the early 1900s facilitated the development of land-based industries by making the island’s interior more accessible than ever before.
Although sawmills existed in Newfoundland and Labrador since the 1600s, railway construction gave the industry renewed importance by increasing demand for lumber and by making inland forests accessible. Throughout the 1890s, operators built mills or established logging communities at Botwood, Norris Arm, Glenwood, Millertown, Terra Nova, Benton, and various other locations along the railway.