The subject of this report is a fine reproduction building based on the circa 1893-1911 CPR train station that once stood in downtown Calgary. Located at the entrance to Heritage Park, this picturesque replica depot is made from local sandstone and greets those entering the facility. Interestingly, the old structure on which this one is based still stands, although not in Calgary.
The original was built in 1893 this was the city’s third railway station. Earlier examples were simple wooden structures, the first a converted boxcar and the second a more permanent (but still short lived) typical small town railway station (Calgary was small…once). The CPR came though here by the way in the early 1880s.
The city soon outgrew this the facility however and yet another larger station was constructed in 1911 to replace it. More on this below.
The depot, both the original and the modern look-a-like seen here, are imposing structures and represent a very typical CPR station of the era. Save for one thing, they are not wooden as most were. Sandstone is a common and easily obtained building material in the Calgary area and so that it was used in the construction of the original building should come as no surprise. Many heritage buildings in town are made of this same material, the blocks coming from any number of local quarries.
It’d be interesting to know where the new supply was sourced for this replica building, since no sandstone quarries, that I know of anyway, have operated in the region since the 1910s.
Interesting architectural features include a modest pitch hip style roof with large overhanging eaves with heavy wood support brackets, dormer windows and number of prominent bay extensions. In the original the upstairs would have been offices or storage.
It’s a very photogenic building.
As built the original facility was comprised of two very similar looking structures built side by side and connected by a covered walkway. One was the station proper and the other, a restaurant next door. Each looked much the same as the other.
Once replaced, each building was dismantled with the intention to reuse them elsewhere. The CPR was always frugal. A new branch line was being built directly south of Calgary around that same time and it was decided to put both buildings to use there. One station was rebuilt in High River not far from Calgary and the other half relocated further south in Claresholm. It’s not known which side of the two part structure went where.
Amazingly these two stations still exist, and it’s our hope to document them in the future. The line which they sit on had passenger service into the early 1970s and this at least in some way accounts for their longevity – records show the stations were officially closed in 1966 (Claresholm) and 1971 (High River) respectively. The rail line past them was fully abandoned in the late 1990s, although even today track remains in place into High River.
Both stations serve as museums in their respective communities and each building has retained its original as-built look. The High River station has suffered some damage from spring 2013 flooding.
And on to the the station we see here. It’s a faithful reproduction of the original. It was built only a few years back, during a major expansion of Heritage Park. It has a small cafe inside along some multi-use rooms (Heritage Park calls them the orientation centre). It sits right at the entrance to the park and is passed by those heading in. There is also a trolley stop right behind it making it a busy place on summer weekends.
The nearby park admission’s building was built in a similar style using the same materials as the station.
As mentioned, this structure stands in for Calgary’s third station. The fourth depot, a much larger building was closed in the mid 1960s and replaced with a fifth station, incorporated into the the nondescript Palliser Square complex. The last regular passenger trains to use that final station was in the early 1990s, although I understand the tourist oriented Rocky Mountain Railtours company still loads their passenger cars at the old platforms.
Heritage Park, a living history museum, has been in operation since the mid 1960s and in addition to this train station there are a number of others inside the park. These include the CPR’s Laggan (Lake Louise), Midnapore and Bowell Alberta stations. These are located in various places in the park and are served by frequent running steam powered trains.
If you’d like to know more about what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: November, 2013.
Location: Heritage Park, Calgary, AB.