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Canadian Northern Railway Station

Camrose

Other Names:
C. N. R. Station
C. No. R. Station
C.N.R. Station
C.No.R. Station
Camrose Railway Station
Camrose Train Station
Canadian National Railway Station
CNoR Station
CNR Station Building

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Canadian Northern Railway Station site includes a 1911, one and one-half storey train station, a 1919 section tool shed, and a 1918 watchman's shed, all situated on approximately 10 hectares of land in the east end of Camrose. The main building is a "Third Class" station constructed according to Canadian Northern Railway Plan 100-29 and features a hip roof, gable dormers, stucco exterior, a substantial baggage area extension, and wide eaves with large brackets extending along the trackside elevation. The two sheds are simple wood frame structures with red exterior walls and yellow trim.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Canadian Northern Railway Station lies in its architectural significance as one of the oldest and finest examples in Alberta of a standard plan, third class railway station and in its symbolic value as an emblem of the central role of railways in opening the province to settlement and agriculture.

In 1911, the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) constructed a "Third Class" station in Camrose according to the company's Plan 100-29. Plan 100-29 was the third of four "Third Class" station designs developed for the CNoR by influential architect Ralph Benjamin Pratt. Each of the "Third Class" stations designed by Pratt was distinguished by its hip roof - a unique feature that immediately branded the stations as CNoR constructions. The main floor of the building accommodated a waiting room and office, while the upper level contained living quarters for the stationmaster. The station also possessed a sizable, single storey wing that served as a baggage area. Initially, the building featured a shingled exterior as per CNoR architectural plans. In 1918, the Canadian Northern Railway was amalgamated into the Canadian National Railway (CNR); in 1937, the CNR stuccoed the exterior - a common practice by the company to standardize the appearance of its stations, some of which it had absorbed from the defunct Canadian Northern Railway and Grand Trunk Pacific Railway companies. Two separate ancillary buildings - a tool shed and a workingman's shed - were moved to the site in the early 1920s; they are consistent with the types of outbuildings constructed by the CNR during this period.

With the gradual disappearance of early train stations from Alberta's communities, buildings like the Canadian Northern Railway Station at Camrose have gained increased historic significance as structural reminders of the essential role that the railways played in establishing settlement and agricultural economy in the province.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1857)


Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the Canadian Northern Railway Station include such features as:
- mass, form, scale, and style;
- steeply-pitched cedar-shingled hipped roof over main station area;
- decorative roof ridge wood cresting;
- low-pitched, cedar-shingled gable roof over baggage area with very wide, open bracketed eaves;
- corbelled chimney;
- forest green and gold colouring of trim;
- gabled wall dormers on the front and back elevations;
- fenestration pattern and style, including nine-over-one double-hung sash units;
- original door pattern and style, including standard five panel interior doors;
- floor plan;
- open layout, wall and ceiling finishes of freight room;
- original mouldings, staircases, flooring, and fixtures;
- original artifacts associated with the site.

Section Tool Shed
- mass, form, and scale;
- red exterior with yellow trim;
- door and fenestration pattern.

Watchman's Shed
- mass, form, and scale;
- red exterior with yellow trim;
- door and fenestration pattern.


Location



Street Address: 4407 - 47 Avenue
Community: Camrose
Boundaries: Lot 4, Block X, Plan 0624021
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 3

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
4
20
46
34
16 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
0624021
X
4


Latitude/Longitude:
Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
53.015505 -112.815531 GPS NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type

Recognition

Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2007/06/01

Historical Information

Built: 1911 to 1911
Significant Date(s) N/A
Theme(s) Developing Economies : Communications and Transportation
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life : Architecture and Design
Historic Function(s): Transport - Rail : Station or Other Rail Facility
Current Function(s): Education : Museum
Architect: Ralph Benjamin Pratt
Builder:
Context: HERITAGE SIGNIFICANCE

This station is a good example of a standard station - in this case, a Canadian Northern Railway Third Class Station. It dates from a period when Camrose was served by three different railways: the Canadian Pacific, Grand Trunk Pacific, and CNR. The latter ran trains through Camrose to Alliance and Drumheller on two local lines. Following the amalgamation of the GTP and CnoR as the Canadian National Railway in 1909, Camrose developed as a regional rail centre with freight, express and passenger services centred in this building. The growth of Camrose and its local importance is reflected in the fact that the CNR expanded this station as late as 1952. In the 1970s and early 1980s, passenger service declined and CNR limited its operations to a dayliner running between Edmonton and Drumheller. Even this modest service was dropped in the mid 1980s.

The significance of this station lies in its association with railway history in central Alberta - both the initial boom period when competing lines crisscrossed the province; and the long decline in rural freight and passenger service. It also marks Camrose as a significant rail junction and service community; and reflects the town's status as the centre of an important agricultural district.

(AHRF)

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HISTORICAL CONTEXT

In the spring of 1909, Premier Alexander Rutherford committed his government to a program of vast bond guarantees to assist railways to develop branch lines throughout Alberta. Hitherto, assistance to the major transcontinental railway companies had come from the federal government in order that they might reach the Pacific coast. Prime Minister Laurier however had made it known that, within the regions of the country, public assistance would have to be provided by the provincial governments. Taking the challenge, Rutherford ran his election campaign that spring on the theme of "Rutherford, Reliability and Railways". With his overwhelming victory at the polls, Alberta entered an era of unprecedented railway development.

One of the principal players in this was the Canadian Northern Railway (CNor) which had arrived in Edmonton via Lloydminster and Vegreville in December 1905. Among the districts the CNor now sought to tap was that area southwest from Riley to Camrose, and from Camrose southwest to Forestburg. Work on the line was begun that summer, and, by the summer of 1911, it was completed. This gave Camrose three major rail lines, for the Canadian Pacific (CP) and Grand Trunk Pacific (GTP) also had lines extending there from other directions. This gave a great boost to Camrose and assured the community its eventual status as a district metropolis. Before long, no less than twelve trains were making stops there daily.

To facilitate its passenger and freight service, the CNor erected one of their standard 'Third Class' railway station along its track in Camrose at 44 Street and 47 Avenue. It was a wood frame structure, designed to pre-conceived CNor standards, and completed in the fall of 1911. Beside it stood a freight shed and other supplementary buildings. For the next few years, this station saw considerable traffic. Most of this was farm produce which was taken to the main CNor line near Vegreville, and, from there shipped east. In the meantime, the population of Camrose and the surrounding district continued to expand. Incorporated as a Town in 1906 with over 500 people, Camrose saw its population rise to over 1,500 by 1914.

Though the crop yields in western Canada were high during the war years, rail traffic did not increase, and both the CNor and GTP came to incur heavy debts due to over-extension. During 1918-19, both lines were taken over by the federal government, and soon many of the smaller branch lines were closed down. Such was the rate of business from Alliance, Forestburg and Rosalind northwest to Camrose, and from Camrose through Riley to Vegreville however, that this line remained intact. In 1918, the CNor freight shed at Camrose was extended, and, in 1937, the station itself was stuccoed and provided with electricity. Gas heating was installed in 1953, and, four years later, water and sewer lines added.

The mid 1950's however began to see a decline in rail service across western Canada. Improved highway systems would gradually make trucking services more economical for shipping farm produce, while buses would transport people and light cargo more economically as well. Canada Post also chose to ship mail to rural centres in its own vans. Many small town railway stations were closed during the 1960's and 1970's, while, in larger centres, services became much reduced. In the 1980's, the rail line between Alliance to Camrose was diverted to a new station. The original CNor station was then closed down, only to be resurrected in the early 1990's by the Canadian Northern Society and identified as a restoration project to promote the greater understanding and appreciation of the role railways played in the development of the province during the first half of the last century.

The historical significance of the Canadian Northern Railway Station at Camrose lies in its association with the development of railways in north-central Alberta during the period just prior to World War One. At the time, major lines traversed most of the countryside, Camrose itself being intersected by three main lines with twelve arrivals and departures per day. The station is also important for its role in the economic development of Camrose and its hinterland, though less so for its passenger service which was usually sparse.

(D. Leonard, June 2000)

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ARCHITECTURAL CONTEXT

By 1930, the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) had built over 184 stations in Alberta. CNoR stations followed standard plans. Camrose was among 37 stations that are known to have been built according to Plan 100-29. Of these, 5 are known to have been demolished and, by 1976, 11 had been sold, 10 had been abandoned, 5 had been retired and one had been moved to a sports field. This leaves two stations - Eckville and Prentiss - unaccounted for. The last two 100-29 stations - those at Camrose and Alix - were moved short distances from their original locations in the late 1920s, but remained in service. The earliest examples of Plan 100-29 were constructed in 1910. It is possible that the Camrose CNoR Station is the oldest remaining example of this type.

Plan 100-29 was the third out of four variations in a series of standard plans developed by the CNoR which were commonly known as third class stations. The first of these was Plan 100-3, which appeared in 1902. Next came Plan 100-19 in 1904, then Plan 100-29 in 1907 and finally Plan 100-72 in 1913. A total of 73 stations - or about 40% of all CNoR stations - were built in this plan group. Of these, about 9 may have been in a good state of preservation on their original site in 1976. Because it was so widespread, this type became synonymous with the CNoR.

The Camrose CNoR Station was added to in 1912 and 1918. It is composed of a one-and-one-half storey hip-roofed building with a centred through-the-eaves gable-roofed dormer trackside and street side. A waiting room and stationmaster's office were on the main floor with living accommodations above; a large one-storey baggage room extended the building to one side. Trackside a wide eave with large brackets provided shelter; the stationmaster's office projected from the building to allow views along the tracks in both directions; a semaphore was located at the level of the eaves above the office. Originally shingled, the Camrose station was stuccoed in 1937 - a standard CN practice that aimed to homogenize the appearance of the stations along lines absorbed by the CN. A final move took place in 1992, when the station was relocated near its original site.

(D. Field, March 2006)

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-1074
Designation File: DES 1857
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 20200
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. 1857)
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