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Historic CP Railway station a remains a part of North Bay’s railway heritage

The former Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) station, near the waterfront in North Bay, Ontario, dates back to the golden era of the railways in Canada; a time when railway stations were grand, with architecturally stunning designs.

Built in 1903, in the Richardson Romanesque style, the two-storey building was the third station built on the site. The station features irregularly coursed and rock-faced limestone walls and dark brown sandstone detailing, shallow eaves and deeply recessed windows, that are round headed on the first storey, and rectangular on the second floor divided by stone mullions. It was topped by a pent roof that encircles the building with its heavy timber braces. The masonry work featured an extravagance of rich colour and texture, makes for a striking presence. It’s substantial structure reflected North Bay’s status as an important railway centre.

The interior had a larger than average waiting room, a separate ladies waiting room with fireplace, ticket agent’s office, baggage room and a second storey office space, that also served as the district divisional headquarters housing CPR administrative offices.

Other than an addition in 1943, in which a second storey, three bays in length, with a gable roof was added to the eastern section of the station, which until then had been a single story, the station is relatively unchanged from its glory days.

The CPR rail yards adjacent to the station, complete with a stone roundhouse, an 18-stall engine house, various service shops, storage sheds for freight and railway supplies, played a major role in the growth and development of North Bay. With the arrival of the Grand Trunk Railway line from Toronto in 1889, one that was shared by the CPR, made North Bay a major railway transportation hub for the lucrative transfer of freight and passengers between eastern and western routes.

At the peak of operations, the rail yard would hold around 2000 rail cars, on 25 miles of track.

In the 1950s and 1960s, railways across the country were in decline as a mode of transportation for passengers and goods. Railway lines all across Canada were abandoned, and stations and roundhouses were demolished or left to rot.

The conversion of locomotives from steam to diesel, prompted the relocation of all CPR regional operations to Sudbury in 1960, including their administrative offices, which re-located the previous year. The rail yard was shut down and the station closed. By the end of the 1980s, all the tracks in the yard had been removed and the railway buildings demolished, leaving only the station standing.

The railways are still active in North Bay, with CPR, Canadian National Railway, and the Ottawa Valley Railroad, operating freight trains along the single mail line. Passenger service is maintained by Ontario Northland, who operate a Remanufacturing and Repair Centre, a little to the south of the old station.

The City of North Bay purchased the portion of the unused rail lands occupied by the station from the CPR in 2001. Plans had re-surfaced to develop most of the property as a waterfront park linking the downtown area to the previously landscaped shoreline off Memorial Drive. The CPR Station would remain the focal point of the city at the westerly end of Ferguson Street. After federal designation of Fittingly, this evolution has preserved and conserved the station, which effectively commemorates the birth place of the City of North Bay.

After the City of North Bay bought the abandoned rail land from the CPR in 2001, including the old station, and re-developed it as a waterfront park, which includes a new splash-pad play area for children. The historic CPR station was completely restored, and is now occupied by the North Bay Museum.

Heritage Railway & Carousel Company

To celebrate the city’s railway heritage, a railway heritage park was established in July 1994, between the current rail line and the waterfront. Operated by the Heritage Railway & Carousel Company, the park was the vision of local dentist Rod Johnston, and then-North Bay mayor Stan Lawlor.

The park features a miniature passenger railway, set on a 15-inch gauge track, that takes visitors on a half-mile circuit around the park, and past two recreations of historic carousels. The train was acquired from a seller in Cleveland, and was transported to North Bay and fully restored.

In 1996, the CPR donated a decommissioned caboose that became the train station, and by 1998, when a car barn was erected, the rolling stock included two steam engines, two diesel engines, eight passenger cars and a caboose.

Also read:

Heritage trains and carousels entertain visitors on the North Bay Waterfront – Canadian Military History (militarybruce.com)

Sources: https://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=8183, North Bay CPR Station – Ontario Heritage Trust, Heritage Site | City of North Bay, North Bay Museum.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/historic-cp-railway-station-a-remains-a-part-of-north-bays-railway-heritage/

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