Dec 142015
 
Train Station Lethbridge

The subject of this then and now is the former Canadian Pacific Railway Lethbridge Alberta Train Station. A fine old structure at the north end of downtown it’s well over a century old and stands where built, but is now no where near the tracks. They moved them out of the core in the 1980s. For the last couple decades it’s been a medical clinic. We’ll look at the picturesque structure just after it was built and again today.

On display here is an old stream locomotive which we’ll touch on briefly as well.

Lethbridge was founded in the 1890s. Originally it was served by some narrow gauge railways, collectively known as the “Galt Lines”, which later came under CPR control. With the tracks standard gauged and business on the rise (especially growth in coal mining), a new station was built, in 1906, replacing an earlier depot. Details about that earlier structure are sketchy but presumably it was not far away, or maybe even on the same spot, and might have dated back to the Galt Line days (update: scroll down to comments to get the full backstory).

↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ Scroll down for photos and to comment ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓

Business was so good that by 1910 the station was expanded upon, more than doubling in size. For the next many decades, it was witness to the comings and goings of countless passenger trains, both locals and long distance runs heading here, there, and everywhere; to all points on the compass and all dots on the map. Or nearly so.

The passenger trade fell off over the years, especially so, post 1960. The last runs that made use the building were in the early 1970s. Afterwards, it was converted to office space for the railway.

By 1984 the CPR had moved their tracks out of downtown Lethbridge. The former yard, now a shopping centre, was relocated to Kipp (just west of Coalhurst) and the main through track moved a few blocks to to the north next to Highway #3. The station was stranded and vacant.

In 1987 it was converted to a clinic belonging to the Lethbridge Community Health Centre. The building has been historically recognized (same year, 1987) and is similar to other stations in the province, in Red Deer, Strathcona (Edmonton) and Medicine Hat.

The structure has a sandstone foundation and is wood framed with brick cladding mostly on the lower level. A large conical tower just offset from the building’s centre, is the most prominent architectural element.

The steam locomotive seen at the station, hard to photograph due to tight quarters, has been on display here since the 1960s. I think in the early days it was beside the building and not hidden away as it is today behind it. Built in 1910 (and rebuilt in the late 1920s), it’s a fine example of a type of locomotive that would have operated in the area, well into the 1950s. It appears in pretty good shape, at least visually so.

The then photo was supplied to us by a reader and is an old postcard in the public domain (no messy copyright issues). Thanks to Eric Lombard, formerly of Lethbridge, and now Calgary for supplying it. If you have or know of an old photo like this you think would make a good subject for a BIGDoer.com then and now, we encourage you send send it to us. We’ll revisit the location seen to shoot a similar image and then write about the whole experience here on this very website. You’ll get credit too – wanna be famous?

While the old photo is undated, we know it’s from the period 1906-1910, just after the station was built, but before it was made larger. That addition was well done and blends in well with the original.

Notice the good number of people milling about in the old photo. Lots of kids too! I suspect they all gathered on seeing the photographer. Film back then required sloooow shutter speeds and many people are blurred from movement. Look at those railway cars in back of the old photo. Wow! A century ago, I guess the streets of Lethbridge were dirt.

From a technical standpoint shooting a “now” photo so it’s near identical to a “then”, can be quite challenging. When doing it square on however, as was the case here, it’s rather easy in comparison, since we’re only dealing with a single dimension and not many. Still, it helps that we do this a lot. This one lined up quite well. Recall, we do it in camera.

More Lethbridge area then and nows…
Lethbridge then and now – Berte, George’s, William’s Grocery.
Canadian Pacific Railway then and now – Lethbridge Alberta Viaduct.
Canadian Pacific Railway then and now – Lethbridge Alberta.

If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!

Date: November, 2015.
Location: Lethbridge, AB.
Article references: The Canadian Register of Historic Places, Lethbridge Historical Society, Canadian Trackside Guides.
The station and locomotive can be viewed from public property.

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Lethbridge Train Station

The Lethbridge Allberta Train Station, circa 1906-1910, and 2015.

 

CPR N2A Locomotive

Out behind the station, an old steam locomotive…

Steam Locomotive Lethbridge

…but it’s in tight quarters making photography difficult.

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16 Comments on "Lethbridge then and now – Train Station"

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Jason Sailer
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Jason Sailer
Actually there was two train stations in the beginning; a station for the Galt lines and one for CPR (which was built around 1893 when CPR entered Lethbridge officially). The Galt station was in the area of the existing CPR station, and the CPR station was located on the outskirts of Lethbridge near the present day Alberta Terminals Grain Elevator. When CPR became more involved in Lethbridge, the City said one of the land / tax deals they’d give CPR is that they would move the divisional point from Fort Macleod to Lethbridge. So in 1905 CPR did such a thing, and one of the results of the move was a new ‘Union Station’. Local contractors Smith & Wilson began construction in the fall of 1905 utilizing local brick (from Medicine Hat) & sandstone (from Cardston), and was completed in 1906. Why Union? Because it shared space with some other… Read more »
Irene Tees
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Irene Tees

Nice pics. My dad worked at the station for many years.

Andrew Keeney
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Andrew Keeney

Way back in the early 50s, I spent several months in Nanton, AB (just down the road from Lethbridge) with my mom and sister visiting with my aunt and uncle, who was both the town doctor and the mayor. It was a wonderful time in my life. Best, Andy.

Chinook Hobby West
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Chinook Hobby West

Oh, need to check this one out. I was at the one in Saskatoon a couple months back. So neat when the keep the original look.

Paul Pettypiece
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Paul Pettypiece

Virtually identical to the 1910 Red Deer station.

Jim Tustian
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Jim Tustian

In the 50s, we’d come into Lethbridge from Foremost, where Dad was the CPR Agent. We lived in the station. Dad would drop me off here, in the dispatcher’s office where that dispatcher would look after me. He would strap the phone mic collar on me and teach me how to send orders and instructions to trains out in the sub. Yes, he let me read out the orders, sending them to the station’s who would “hoop” the trains. I think of those memories every time I get close to that building. I live in Edmonton now.

Alan
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Alan

The locomotive used to be located across the street in Galt Gardens. It was in poor repair until the Lethbridge Health Unit arranged for it to be moved across the street and placed by the station which was already in use for their offices by that time. It used to be easier to see the loco from the street and mall but then the Chapters store was built in the late 90s next door, hiding the locomotive.

Until recently there was a caboose on the east side of the building but for some reason Alberta Health Services sold it last year and it was removed. No one knew about the sale until the crew showed up to remove it.

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