At least seventy years separate the two images seen in this then and now report. We’ll be looking at the Moose Jaw Saskatchewan CPR train station, first as seen in an old postcard and then how it appears today. This fine old structure looks as good now as it did back in the 1930s when the original image was captured. No longer used by the railway, it’s now home to a number of businesses.
The structure was built in the early 1920s and replaced an earlier station located roughly on the same lot. In fact there were two earlier stations, one from the late 1880s and the other from the late 1890s. The first burned down, while the second, a rather picturesque structure in its own right, soon proved to be too small. Moose Jaw back then was an important and growing divisional point, passenger stop over and transfer station and as such they needed a suitably large structure to serve that need. And so this station was built.
Passenger services passing through Moose Jaw included several transcontinental runs per day along with an endless number of local trains coming and going (there were a lot of branch lines in the area). The station was a busy place, with a large waiting room, a restaurant, railway offices and the like. Well into the 1950s, it was a place of hustle and bustle.
By the 1970s, the CPR’s passenger service was on the decline. The station was still used, but was not the busy place it once was. The only (people) trains visiting were the east and west bound “Canadian” transcontinental runs, one train each way per day. In the late 1970s, Via Rail, a government sponsored organization, took over. They inherited both the CPR’s and CNR’s money losing passenger runs. The last Via trains to visit Moose Jaw were in 1990.
At one time, the railway station was singly the most important building in any town and as such was almost always located at a very predominate spot. Often at the head of downtown, like this one.
The building is constructed of stone and brick. There are three wings (one unseen from our angle), each of varying height. The clock tower is a defining element and is probably the most stand-out feature of the entire complex.
There is some debate as to which architectural style was used in its design. Some experts say Beaux-Arts, others Italianate. My area of expertise is somewhat limited in this field, and so I can’t really comment much. It seems however that these two styles were in many ways similar and shared many common design elements, which I guess has lead to the divide in what one expert believes verses another. Regardless of which side you are on, prominent features include an overall massive presence – no doubt reminding one just how powerful the CPR was and is. Also of note are the terracotta roof tiles and numerous stone elements.
It’s not known how much of the original station was kept when the building was re-purposed. It was early on a Sunday morning, and so of course, we could not go inside to see. You’ll notice that the station, even with it no longer being used as such, has changed little since the first image was captured. I like that, it looks good.
Based on the autos seen in the postcard, we can guess it’s from around the late 1930s. The cars are too small to identify accurately, but it’s easy to see, based on their lines, that some are from that era. A couple 1920s models can be seen too.
Today the building, know as Station Centre, has been converted to retail space and offices. Exactly when that happened is not known but we can assume after the last passenger run ended. Experts are asked to chime in. The CPR still has a large presence, a busy yard and mainline, in behind the old station. Tracks came through Moose Jaw in the 1880s.
The building has been a recognized historic site since 1999.
This postcard seen is hand tinted. Essentially it’s a process where a black and white image is painted with a thin wash making it appear as though shot in colour. Before full colour printing became economical, this was how many postcards of the era were made. Hand tinting was used from the early 1900s if not earlier and was phased out by the 1940s (give or take a bit). The clouds seen in the postcard seem airbrushed in, or in today’s vernacular, photo-shopped.
The person who sent us the scan of this card did not include any other information about it. It does looks similar in style however to other cards we’ve seen from a Vancouver based firm called Camera Products. They were big in the industry at one time and a Google image search turns up hundreds of examples of their work. They were active from the mid-1920s until perhaps the 1950s or later. Most of their postcards, it seems, were printed in England. This card is part of a series and is number #36. We have seen others too.
Moose Jaw has a second railway station of historical interest, a former CNR structure built in the late 1910s. It’s located at the east end of downtown, a few blocks away.
The “then” postcard was sent to us by a reader of this blog (thanks Mike – his second then and now submission, BTW). If you have an old postcard that you’d like us to use in this fashion, by all means send it to us. Scans or the actual card are both fine. We’ll visit that spot to see what it looks like today and then posts the results here in this blog.
To see some of our favourite then and now posts, follow any of these links…
Empress Alberta – then and now.
Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge – then and now.
Calgary then and now – Scarboro United Church.
Then and now overlooking Wayne Alberta.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: May, 2014.
Location: Moose Jaw, SK.