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Canadian Northern Railway Station

Smoky Lake

Other Names:
C.N.R. Station
C.No.R. Station
Canadian National Railway Station
CNoR Station
Smoky Lake Railway Station
C. N. R. Station
C. No. R. Station
CNR Station
Smoky Lake Train Station

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Canadian Northern Railway Station is a one and one-half storey building situated on one lot on Railway Drive in the Town of Smoky Lake. The site is adjacent to the abandoned railway right-of-way that now serves as a portion of the Iron Horse Trail, a regional recreational corridor. The building is a Standard Third Class station constructed in 1919 according to Plan 100-72. It features a white stucco exterior with green trim, a hipped roof over the main station area, two gabled wall dormers on the front and back elevations, and a low-pitched gable roof over the baggage area. A wide eave with large brackets extends along the platform.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Canadian Northern Railway Station at Smoky Lake lies in its architectural significance as a fine example of a Standard Third Class, Plan 100-72 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 1918, as World War One neared its conclusion, the federal government established the Soldiers' Settlement Board, an agency designed to help returning veterans acquire land and reintegrate into civilian life. In response to this initiative, the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) extended its line northeast of Edmonton to Smoky Lake, a community perceived to be an ideal venue for the repatriated soldiers. In 1919, the CNoR built a Standard Third Class, Plan 100-72 station at Smoky Lake to serve the community. The station was typical of small rural stations constructed by the CNoR at the time. Designed by influential Winnipeg architect, Ralph Benjamin Pratt, the station featured a high hipped roof with gabled dormers - an architectural element that Pratt effectively developed into an instantly recognizable trademark for CNoR stations. The main floor included a waiting area and office while the second storey provided living quarters for the station agent. A baggage room to the west offered space for freight storage. When it was initially built, the station's exterior was clad in wood shingling. In 1920, the CNoR was amalgamated into the Canadian National Railway (CNR); in 1936, the CNR covered the shingle siding in stucco and added the company's corporate colours of forest green and gold to the building's trim - a standard CNR practice that homogenized the appearance of stations along lines absorbed by the company. The station was closed in the 1980s. The Smoky Lake Canadian Northern Railway Station is one of the oldest surviving examples of this particular type of building in Alberta.

With the gradual disappearance of early train stations from Alberta's communities, buildings like the Smoky Lake Canadian Northern Railway Station have gained increased historic significance as symbols 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. 1871)

Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the Canadian Northern Railway Station include such features as:
- mass, form, scale, and style;
- stucco exterior;
- cedar-shingled hipped roof over main station area;
- low-pitched, cedar-shingled gable roof over baggage area with very wide, open bracketed eaves;
- corbelled brick chimney;
- forest green and gold colouring of trim;
- square, centrally-located bay on the east side of building;
- 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 and two freight doors in the baggage room;
- tongue-and-groove wood flooring in main station area;
- rough lumber flooring in baggage area;
- original mouldings, staircases, and fixtures;
- original artifacts associated with the site.


Street Address: Railway Drive
Community: Smoky Lake
Boundaries: Plan 90233985 Railway Right of Way within Township 59
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
8 (ptn.)

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

Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
54.112543 -112.471369 GPS NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type


Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2007/01/19

Historical Information

Built: 1919 to 1919
Significant Date(s) N/A
Theme(s) 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

In 1918, with World War One coming to a close, the Canadian government announced its plans for a Soldiers Settlement Board to help relocate returned veterans on lands in the more remote areas of the province. As a result, the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) was moved to extend a branch line to the northeast of Edmonton which, the following year, would pass near the small hamlet of Smoky Lake. Here a store and post office had existed since 1909. A townsite was soon subdivided near the store and a railway station erected next to the track. The station was designed to a standard "third class" Canadian Northern pattern, and built to a plan identified as 100-72, which was typical for smaller communities. Included were a waiting room, two bathrooms and a ticket room/office. A telegraph was installed in the office. A coal bin was attached to the exterior, while the second floor contained living quarters for the station agent and his family.

By the time the station was completed, the Canadian Northern Railway had been taken over by the Canadian government, which also took over the Grand Trunk Pacific (GTP) Railway. In 1920, these lines were consolidated into the Canadian National (CN) Railway. Though a number of lines were soon abandoned as a result of the merger, and a number of stations closed down, the station a Smoky Lake proceeded to do a good business as so much farm land had been opened up to the north and east of Smoky Lake following the war. The area was largely an extension of the Ukranian Block, earlier settled to the south.

The Canadian National station at Smoky Lake continued to serve the community and district throughout the prosperous times of the late 1920's, the difficult times of the 1930's, the busy times of the 1940's, and the continuing prosperity of the 1950's. In the late 1930's, along with other CN stations, its siding was replaced with stucco, to give it a more modern appearance. In the 1960's however, despite the more efficient replacement of coal with diesel for fuel, rail transport in the district began to decline, as it did elsewhere in Canada. Improved roads were making motor transport more cost effective. Finally, in the late 1980's, long after passenger traffic had been curtailed, Smoky Lake ceased to be a shipment center for CN altogether. The station therefore became redundant and was scheduled for demolition. A group of local residents however quickly formed the Friends of the Smoky Lake Railway Station, and purchased the structure from CN. It was then located in a block closer to the center of town and restored during the early 1990's. It has since been used as a visitor information booth, with space set aside for museum and art gallery purposes.


The historical significance of the Canadian Northern Railway Station at Smoky Lake lies in its provision of structural evidence of the village, and later town, of Smoky Lake since it was subdivided in 1919. It was the focus of all rail transport, both passenger and freight, in and out of the community until the 1980's. The station is also important as a good example of a standard 3rd class Canadian Northern railway station, which was common throughout western Canada during most of the twentieth century.

(D. Leonard, June 2003)



By 1930, the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) had built over 184 stations in Alberta. Of these, 24 are known to have been demolished or destroyed by fire. CNoR stations followed standard plans. Only about 22 stations are known to have been built according to Plan 100-72; 4 are known to have been demolished or burned, 2 have been moved (one to UCHV), and by 1976, 5 had been abandoned and a further 4 had been sold. The earliest example of Plan 100-72 was constructed in 1916. If the stations at Sibbald (1917), Rosebud (1919) and Warden (1919) no longer exist, the Smoky Lake station, built in 1919, may now be the oldest surviving example.

Plan 100-72 was the last 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. Because it was so widespread, this type became synonymous with the CNoR.

The station was 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 one-storey baggage room extended the building to the west. 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 Smoky Lake station was stuccoed in 1936 - a standard CN practice that aimed to homogenize the appearance of the stations along lines absorbed by the CN.

(D. Field, March 2006)



The railway station at Smoky Lake was built in 1919 for the Canadian Northern Railway Company using a variation of the typical "Third Class Freight and Accommodation" plan #100-72. It is apparently the only example of this plan of station left standing in Alberta. The most significant alterations to the structure occurred in 1936, when the building was insulted and re-finished on the exterior in stucco. The waiting room was also enlarged at some point. The construction of this station was significant in local terms, for it signaled a "re-commencement" of construction of the line after initial construction was discontinued prior to World War I. (Until 1918 the unfinished railroad bed was used by automobiles as the best "road" to Edmonton).

Were it nor for that fact that this structure was still in use in 1978, it would have been relocated to the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village. Instead, one of a similar plan from Bellis was acquired.

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-1075
Designation File: DES 1871
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 38626
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. 1871)
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