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).
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.