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The town was founded in 1784 by United Empire Loyalists, and is named for Glasgow in Scotland. The settlement grew quickly after the arrival of the Nova Scotia Railway in 1858. New Glasgow's economy has traditionally been based on natural resources: first timber, then coal mining and shipbuilding. Today it is a commercial centre with modern service industries that include retailing, education (both public and private), health care (including nursing home facilities), transportation services including trucking companies serving Atlantic Canada; financial institutions such as credit unions; insurance agencies; legal firms specializing in personal injury claims from motor vehicle accidents or workers' compensation cases arising out of employment at one of several industrial plants located within New Glasgow's urban area or nearby Pictou County communities such as Westville/Trenton/Stellarton which are part of this census agglomeration).