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Canadian Pacific Railway Station

High River

Other Names:
C. P. R. Station
C.P.R. Station
CPR Station
High River Railway Station
High River Railway Station (Museum)
High River Train Station
Museum of the Highwood
Railway Station (Museum)

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Canadian Pacific Railway Station is a one and one-half storey building situated on four lots directly east of the Town of High River's commercial core. Built between 1911 and 1912, the station features a rough-faced sandstone exterior, bellcast hip roof, wide bracketed eaves, and gable dormers.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Canadian Pacific Railway Station in High River lies in its fine and rare representation of early sandstone railway station architecture. It also possesses heritage value for its historic role as the main facilitator of transportation for the district and as a symbol of the centrality of the railways in opening Alberta to settlement.

High River's Canadian Pacific Railway Station is an architectural rarity in the Prairies - a rural sandstone railway station not constructed according to a standardized plan. Most other stations in the rural communities of western Canada were made of wood and built on the basis of architectural templates. The High River station was originally constructed in Calgary in 1893 and consisted of two buildings joined by a continuous canopy. The desire for a new station in Calgary and the growing need for improved railway facilities in the promising settlements of High River and Claresholm convinced the Canadian Pacific Railway to dismantle the Calgary station stone by stone between 1910 and 1911 and to reconstruct - with modifications - the west half of it in High River and the east half in Claresholm. Built between 1911 and 1912, the High River station featured a rough-faced sandstone exterior, bellcast hip roof, and wide bracketed eaves. Unlike its predecessor in Calgary, the High River station possessed no second floor and included decorative dormers on only two elevations - the front and track-side - rather than on all four. This impressive sandstone structure, built according to a modification of the original Calgary plan, remains a significant local landmark in High River and an elegant model of railway design.

The Canadian Pacific Railway Station in High River was intimately related to the economic and social development of the surrounding district. In 1891, construction on a southern extension of the Calgary and Edmonton Railway line was initiated. High River initially emerged along the track as a siding and was later integrated into a newly subdivided townsite. The community expanded rapidly. In 1901 it was incorporated as a village; by 1911, it boasted five banks, four hotels, and had become a stock- and grain-shipping centre for southern Alberta. High River's growing importance and future promise suggested the need for an upgrade of the simple wood frame station erected in the community in 1893. The new sandstone station was completed in 1912 and became the main transportation facilitator in the district between 1912 and 1965. Improvements in highway infrastructure led to the closure of the station in 1965, though the Dayliner continued to stop at High River until 1971. It remains a powerful symbol of the historic significance of the railway in fostering economic and social development in Alberta.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 474)

Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the Canadian Pacific Railway Station in High River include such features as:
- mass, form, and style;
- wood-shingled, bellcast hip roof;
- decorative dormers and rough-faced sandstone chimney;
- rough-faced sandstone exterior;
- wide bracketed eaves;
- fenestration pattern and style, including stippled office windows;
- pattern and style of doors;
- box beams in roof;
- original interior features, including wood panelling, mouldings, flooring, doors, windows, fixtures, and fittings.


Street Address: 406 - 1 Street SW
Community: High River
Boundaries: Lot 4, Block 4, Plan 1510265
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD

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

Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
50.579052 -113.871989 GPS NAD83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type


Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2007/09/13

Historical Information

Built: 1893 to 1893
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
Transport - Rail : Station or Other Rail Facility
Current Function(s): Leisure : Museum
Architect: Edward Calonna (Calgary design)

When the Calgary & Edmonton Railway was extended south from Calgary in 1891, a number of sidings were erected along the rail line. Several of these were transformed into stations, around which townsites were subdivided. One of these was at High River, where a small wood frame station soon replaced the siding. High River itself quickly grew into a lively mixed farming community, and was incorporated as a village in 1901. Five years later, it became a town with over 400 people, and was the biggest community between Calgary and Fort Macleod. Growth continued, and, by 1911, it was evident that the small wood frame station was no longer large enough to handle the increasing rail traffic, the bulk of which consisted of exported farm produce. Passenger traffic was also extensive during the first part of the twentieth century, and most of the food, goods, and supplies sold in the local stores were imported via the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), which was the parent body of the C & E.

Also outgrowing their earlier constructed stations by 1911 were the City of Calgary and the Town of Claresholm. As a result, and choosing not to be wasteful, the CPR decided to make use of the old Calgary station by dividing this 1893 sandstone structure in two and relocating the larger portion in High River and the smaller portion in Claresholm. This was accordingly done, with much internal restructuring, during 1911-12. At High River, the overall cost was $19,118. For the next 53 years, this sandstone station would serve this Town and the district as a regular country station, providing freight and passenger service, and facilitating the telegraph. Every dignitary of note, including prime ministers, and Edward, Prince of Wales (Later also as the Duke of Windsor) arrived and departed via the CPR station in High River.

By the early 1960's, rail transport was in decline in High River, as it was in other communities in the West. The paving of Alberta Highway #2 between Calgary and Fort Macleod in particular made truck and bus transport more cost effective for businesses and passengers. Accordingly, it was announced that the CPR passenger dayliner would operate only three times per week. It was also announced that most of the freighting operation would be centralized in Lethbridge. As a result, and to the objection of Town Council, the station in High River was declared redundant, and was closed in 1965, even though the CPR dayliner continued to make stops in High River until 1971.

In 1972, the Museum of the Highwood in High River approached the CPR with regard to leasing the old station and turning it into a museum. The CPR was agreeable, and the lease was set at $120 per year plus utilities and maintenance. The CPR station thus began its new life as a museum in 1973, following the example of its counterpart in Claresholm. Then, in 1977, the station was acquired by the Town of High River, and a park was landscaped around it, while the museum continued to be developed. In 1983, the station-museum was designated a registered historic resource.


The historical significance of the CPR station in High River lies in its service as the main facilitator of transportation for the Town and district, for both freight and passengers, from 1911 to 1965. It is also important as a community landmark, both in its service as a station and, later, as a museum.

(D. Leonard, December 2005)



By 1930, the Canadian Pacific Railway had built over 330 stations in Alberta. For 9 of these, the type is no longer known. Of the remaining stations, about 290 followed 18 standard plans. Only about 30 stations are known to have been built according to unique plans; the High River CPR station was one of the latter.

By 1976, 27 stations are known to have been demolished or burned. Of these, 5 were unique designs. There were 58 stations that were unaccounted for. A further 121 had been "retired"; 18 had been abandoned; 86 had been sold. Only 3 CPR stations were listed as being in use.

The railway first came through the future site of High River in 1891and within a year a station had been built. As time rolled on and the community grew, this wood frame structure became inadequate. By 1908 a new station seemed to be in the offing, but it did not materialize until 1911. In that year, High River and the rival community of Claresholm were each the lucky recipients of about half of the 1893 CPRX-16 sandstone station that Calgary had outgrown - the larger portion went to High River.

Rather than simply demolish and discard the Calgary station, the CPR decided to re-use the materials. The eastern portion of the Calgary station was shipped to High River, where the pieces were re-assembled in a different configuration. The result did not exactly replicate the old Calgary station. Rather, the High River station most closely resembled its neighbour in Claresholm. However, the stations were clearly of the CPR mould. In particular, the large hipped roof with wide, flaring overhangs supported by large brackets and a central gable dormer recalls such stations as Lacombe and Coronation, though others are similar.

(D. Field, February 2006)

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-1337
Designation File: DES 0474
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 29361
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. 474)
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