The subject of this report is the massive CPR Bassano train station, moved from its namesake town to Beiseker for eventual display at the Alberta 2005 Centennial Railway Museum. It currently sits, boarded up and in rough shape, not far from the foundation which it is to eventually to be placed upon. Work on the project seems to have stalled however, for some unknown reason, but we’ll do our best to find out why.
Built to the CPR’s #10 standard plan, the original building was constructed in 1911 and comprises the main two story section along with most of the single story extension on the shorter side (originally the west end) and about half the single story section on the opposite end. At some unknown date, but probably fairly early on, it was expanded upon with most of the additions happening on the longer east end.
Given that Bassano was an important junction and crew base, the station was a bit larger than would typically be built for a town of this population – station size was directly proportional to the amount of traffic it was to see.
Passengers would of course come to town, which in the early days was booming, or they often transferred to other trains travelling a number of branch lines in the region. There was one line that headed north west to Standard Alberta and beyond, once travelling all the way to Irricana, not far from Beiseker. A second branch heading east, the Bassano Subdivision, which eventually made its way to Empress Alberta before heading into Saskatchewan. In addition, these were a number of other branches nearby off the mainline which may have been served from here – the Cassils Subdivision to Scandia for example.
The building was one of the larger wooden stations on the CPR system. It’s huge! In its original layout there would have been waiting rooms, baggage rooms, an express area, along with offices. The second story is where the station agent and his family would live. In later years as passenger service declined, the structure was converted to other uses, the last being a maintenance of way crew base and storage building. There were lockers and change rooms, a lunch room, stores and offices. This is its current configuration.
In 2009 the Beiseker Railway Museum (aka Alberta 2005 Centennial Railway Museum) received a grant allowing it to purchase the building, which was unwanted by the CPR and slated for demolition. Throughout 2011 preparations were made to the move the structure and a year later it made the 150km journey. It must have been quite a sight seeing it travelling along the highway. The trip took two days and according to reports, was for the most part uneventful.
A foundation was built in preparation of its arrival and prior to placement on it, the station was put on some temporary supports. Plans were to move the building to its final resting place in the latter part of 2012, according to the museum’s website, but as you can see that did not take place. There was a problem with the foundation, again, noted on their website, and it started bowing in on one side. Attempts were made to fix it and that’s pretty much the last thing know.
For some reason nothing has happened since.
Attempts to email the museum have been unsuccessful and the last ones were returned undelivered – not a good sign. Have they closed? Are there funding problems? What happened? The town office was contacted but they have no real information to share, although Beiseker’s mayor has certainly expressed concerns on the subject in his own personal blog. We’ll keep searching out answers and of course we’re always are glad to hear from our readers should they know more.
One may ask why the historical structure was not kept in Bassano, perhaps being converted to a local history museum, a social or visitor’s centre, or something like that? From what I understand an unsuccessful attempt was made to save it and keep it in Bassano. While it’s nice it was not demolished, and nothing against the Beiseker Museum, it would have been better to see remain in its hometown, even if it had to be moved away from the tracks (the CPR wanted it gone from their property).
The station today sits roughly where the sidings and grain elevators were located along the CPR tracks in Beiseker – it was served by both the CP and CN by the way. In 1992 I was visiting the town and took some pictures of the grain elevators from almost the same spot where the station sits, and there is a link to that post below. The line was pulled up in the late 1990s. The CN track still sees trains.
I’d love to see the inside of the building before it’s renovated.
Next to the station is a fenced in display housing a collection of rail cars and the like and these will hopefully be the subject of a report in the future. Outside the fence, one rail car can be seen on a short section of track not far from the station, CPR #360409, a former coal hopper converted to ballast car. This old timer was built in 1952 by the Eastern Car Company of Trenton Nova Scotia.
Just down from the Bassano station is another, the former CPR Beiseker station used as a municipal office. We hope to visit in the future and do a report on it.
It’ll be interesting to see what will happen to the building, given the uncertainties it appears to be facing. All of us would love to see it put in place and stabilized. Clearly, a lot of work is needed though. We’ll do our best to stay in touch with people who can keep us updated, plus we’ll make occasional visits to personally check on its status. I can’t help but think the people who tried to keep it in Bassano must be royally miffed at the lack of progress.
The station was recently moved onto its (ahem) foundation…
Bassano Railway Station.
In the early 1990s, I took a photo of the grain elevators in Beiseker along the CPR line and to view that report, click the link below…
Prairie sentinels – Beiseker Alberta.
To see the old CPR station in Empress Alberta, click this link…
If you’d like to know more about what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: June, 2013.
Location: Beiseker, AB.