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C.N.R. Station and Water Tower

Heinsburg, Near

Other Names:
C.N.R. Station
Canadian National Railway Station
CN Railway Station
CN Water Tower
CNR Station
CNR Water Tower
Heinsburg Heritage Park
Heinsburg Rail Site
Heinsburg Railway Theme Park
Heinsburg Railway Water Tower
Heinsburg Water Tower

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The C.N.R. Station and Water Tower site includes 5.89 hectares of land situated in the Hamlet of Heinsburg, on the north bank of the North Saskatchewan River. Significant structures on the site include a late 1920s octagonal water tower and a one-storey, railway station built in 1950 according to an irregular compound plan and featuring asbestos shingle siding and panelled doors.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Canadian National Railway (C.N.R.) Station and Water Tower in Heinsburg lies in its connection to the development of settlement and railway infrastructure in east-central Alberta and in its example of typical railway constructions in the province.

The extension of the Grand Trunk Pacific (G.T.P.) Railway lines from Lloydminster west through Mundare and Marwayne in 1909 opened the area north of the tracks to settlement during the 1910s. A small community emerged at present-day Heinsburg, with a post office and store and a ferry for crossing to the south side of the North Saskatchewan River. Settlement grew rapidly in the late 1920s, following the establishment of Canadian National Railway train service at St. Paul and, later, Elk Point. The railway reached Heinsburg in 1928, sparking a sudden boom in the community. A railway station, water tower, and two grain elevators were built the year the railway arrived and Heinsburg became an end-of-rail service centre for vast areas of Euro-Canadian, Native, and Metis settlement to the north, west, and south. Between the 1930s and the 1950s, Heinsburg developed into a robust community, boasting numerous businesses and facilitating transport of passengers and cargo within a large region of east-central Alberta and Edmonton. With the replacement of steam locomotives by diesel trains in the 1960s, the water tower fell into disuse. During the succeeding decades, improved road infrastructure led to a sharp decline in passenger and freight transport by rail and by the early 1980s, the Heinsburg line was abandoned. The track was torn up in 1983.

The C.N.R. Station and Water Tower in Heinsburg illustrate two typical railway constructions in Alberta. The water tower, constructed in the late 1920s, represents a variation of a standard design commonly employed to construct these structures. Water towers were situated every 30-50 kilometres along early railway tracks in western Canada to service steam locomotives. The location of the tower on its original site, the presence of the original tank and piping system, and its high degree of integrity marks this structure as unique in the province. The station was built in 1950 to replace an earlier station that had served Heinsburg. It embodies the C.N.R.'s Fourth Class Depot 4A design, used by the company after World War Two.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1694)

Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the C.N.R. Station and Water Tower at Heinsburg include such features as:

- mass, form, and style;
- basic gable end roof with centre gable over ticket agent's office, medium hipped roof over kitchen, and gablet on freight room roof;
- bellcast eaves on trackside elevation;
- asbestos shingle siding and use of horizontal whaling timbers;
- panelled doors and special freight shed doors of solid rails and stiles with laminated tongue-in-groove panelling;
- fenestration pattern and style;
- interior layout;
- rafter system of freight room roof;
- original interior elements, including flooring.

Water Tower:
- mass, form, and style;
- slight tapering of outside walls;
- octagonal pyramidal cedar shingled roof;
- large galvanized ball on central mast to indicate water level;
- smoke stack;
- fenestration style and pattern;
- wooden tank;
- original elements, including ladder and parts of pulley system and spout mechanism.

- unobstructed sight lines between station and water tower.


Street Address:
Community: Heinsburg, Near
Boundaries: Plan 1700 EO, Railway Station Grounds within Township 55, Range 4, West of the Fourth Meridian
Contributing Resources: Building: 1
Structure: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
11 (ptn.)
12 (ptn.)
6 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
1700 EO

Railway Station Grounds

Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
53.766841 -110.520483 GPS NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type


Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 1999/10/27

Historical Information

Built: 1928 to 1928
Period of Significance:
Theme(s): Developing Economies : Communications and Transportation
Historic Function(s): Transport - Rail : Station or Other Rail Facility
Current Function(s): Leisure : Historic or Interpretive Site
When the Grand Pacific Railway was extended from Lloydminster through Marwayne and Mundare towards Edmonton in 1908, lands north of the rail line were gradually opened up for homestead. By 1912, settlers were carving out farms north of the North Saskatchewan River near Frog Lake. The following year, a post office and store were established just across the river at a spot to be known as Heinsburg, named after a family of early settlers called Heins. In 1914, a ferry was installed.

Settlement north of the river remained sparse, until the early 1920s when the C.N.R. extended a branch line to St. Paul. In 1926, the track was extended to Elk Point, and two years later, to Heinsburg. Here, a station and two grain elevators were quickly erected while the post office was moved in to be adjacent to the station. During the early 1930s, the developing community boasted several stores: a livery barn, a blacksmith shop, a theatre/hall, a poolroom, and other facilities to serve the agricultural hinterland. Being located at the end of the steel, Heinsburg came to serve a relatively wide area including the Puskiakiwenin Indian Reserve and the Elizabeth and Fish Lake Settlements.

At the end of the steel at Heinsburg, about a quarter mile beyond the railway station, stood the C.N.R. water tower. During the middle part of the century, both facilities received heavy use, as supplies and equipment were brought in from Edmonton and agricultural produce shipped out. The railway also featured daily passenger service. With the demise of the steam locomotive during the 1960s, however, the water tower fell into disuse. Passenger travel also declined with the paving of Highway 41 and the completion of a bridge across the North Saskatchewan in 1963. During the late 1960s, passenger traffic was curtailed altogether. Improved travel also meant a decline in rail cargo, a phenomenon that was occurring throughout the West. By federal legislation, the Heinsburg line was guaranteed to operate until January 1, 1976. However, prognosis was that it would not survive long afterwards. On September 14, 1980, the last train departed Heinsburg, signaling the eventual desire of the community. However, a post office and several other buildings still remain. In 1983, the track was torn up.

The historical significance of the railway station and water tower in Heinsburg relate to the role of the community as a service center at the end of the Coronado Branch Line of the C.N.R. during the middle part of the century. It served a vast area of agricultural, reserve and Metis settlement land to the north, west and south. Such railway stations were standard features of small town Alberta, of which many examples have survived. In its original location, structure and retention of the original tank and piping system, however, the water tower is unique to the province.

(Station Plan 100-310)

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0525
Designation File: DES 1694
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 74418
HS 74423
Website Link:
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 1694)
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