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Canadian Northern Railway Station


Other Names:
Athabasca C. N. R. Station
Athabasca C.N.R. Station
C. N. R. Station Building
C.N.R. Station
Canadian National Railway Station
CN Station
CNR Station
CNR Station
Old Athabasca Train Station

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Canadian Northern Railway Station in the Town of Athabasca was built in 1912. It is a rectangular, one and one-half storey building with a side gable roof and gable roofed dormers. The central section of the building features a slightly taller pyramidal roof with large front and rear facing gable ends. Wide hipped roof eaves supported by large, exposed brackets encircle the building. The train station occupies one lot in Athabasca's commercial district. It is prominently situated at the head of 51st Street and alongside 50th Avenue, which is the main road through town.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Canadian Northern Railway Station (CNoR) in Athabasca lies in its association with the development of Alberta's railroad infrastructure in the early 1900s. It is also significant as an example of a standard-plan CNoR station and because of its symbolic and highly-visible position as a community landmark.

In the decades around the turn of the twentieth century, significant attention was paid to the development of the railroad infrastructure of the Canadian west, notably the branch line network in what would become the province of Alberta. Accessing grants and concessions provided by the federal and, after 1905, the provincial government, numerous lines were started leading northward from Edmonton. One of these was the Edmonton & Slave Lake Railway (E&SLR), chartered in 1899 to reach Slave Lake via Athabasca Landing, which was a riverboat transportation hub on the Athabasca River. The E&SLR was acquired by the Canadian Northern Railway in 1902 and construction on the line finally commenced in 1909, reaching Athabasca in early-1912. The town experienced a significant real estate and construction boom, fuelled largely by speculation the railway would continue on to the Peace River District and the CNoR terminus at Port Simpson, British Columbia with Athabasca becoming a major railway hub. Ultimately, these hopes were unfounded; the CNoR elected to bypass Athabasca and accessed the Peace Country via a line through Grande Prairie. This decision, accompanied by the construction of two other railways north (the Edmonton, Dunvegan & British Columbia Railway and the Alberta & Great Waterways Railway), resulted in Athabasca becoming the end of a minor branch line rather than the central hub which it had aspired to be.

The expectations of Athabasca's boosters were assuredly influenced by the construction of the railroad station in 1912. This station was built according the CNoR standard plan No. 100-39. This plan, referred to by the company as a Standard 2nd-Class Station, was intended for use in large towns and branch line terminals. The same plan was used for stations in Stettler, Hanna, Tollerton and Big Valley, all important divisional points. Although plan No. 100-39 was smaller and less elaborate than stations built at important main line centres, the two classes of station were similar in design, being one-and-one half storey buildings with complex roofs, wide overhanging eaves with large supporting brackets, and large track-side bay windows. However, the interior of the Athabasca station was simpler and did not feature any specialized passenger waiting areas or dining rooms and had smaller baggage storage capacity. Regardless of being scaled down, the station in Athabasca was still substantial, befitting a large community on what was originally expected to be an important rail transportation corridor.

Throughout Alberta, town site plans reflected the importance of the railway, with the train station being the community's focal point. Although established prior to the arrival of the CNoR, Athabasca still reflects the urban planning characteristics of many railway influenced towns in Alberta. It is laid out on a variation of a railway linear plan. Avenues run east-west and streets run north-south, with lots fronting onto both the streets and avenues. The Athabasca train station occupies a prominent position on 50th Avenue, the main east-west road through town, which runs parallel to the railroad right-of-way, and at the head of 51st Street where it is highly visible down the entire length of that road.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1808)

Character-Defining Elements
Key elements that define the heritage value of Athabasca's Canadian Northern Railway Station include such elements as:

- narrow, rectangular footprint;
- orientation on an east-west axis, parallel to the former railroad right-of-way;
- gable roof with wide eaves, exposed rafter ends and large wooden brackets;
- taller central section with a pyramidal roof and large front and rear facing gable-roofed dormers flanked by smaller front and rear facing gable-roofed dormers;
- exterior walls clad in wood siding;
- finials on the central roof peak and at the gable ends;
- decorative trim in the central gable ends;
- large, centrally located brick chimney;
- large, central bay window on the track-side (north) elevation.

- extent historic lath and plaster walls;
- extent historic four panel interior doors and associated hardware;
- extent historic wood banisters;
- original furnace in the basement;
- form of the north-facing (trackside) wall of the train station (now enclosed by the shed-roofed addition) showing the polygonal tower base.

- prominent location in the heart of Athabasca's commercial district;
- situation at the head of 51st Street and on 50th Avenue, the main road through town that runs parallel to the former railroad right-of-way;
- location near the Athabasca River.


Street Address: 5101 - 50 Avenue
Community: Athabasca
Boundaries: Lot 9A, Plan 9926518
Contributing Resources: Building: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD

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


Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
54.721440 -113.287355 GPS NAD83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type


Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2011/09/20

Historical Information

Built: 1912 to 1912
Period of Significance: 1912-1980s
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): Commerce / Commercial Services : Office or Office Building

The station chosen for Athabasca's railway siding was constructed by the Canadian Northern Railway, using a variation of the typical "Second Class" plan used throughout the Prairies at a cost of $8,274. This particular style of station was not the most common to the Prairie region, however, stations of this sort were only constructed between 1902 and 1916. The Athabasca station was one of only four of its type ever constructed in Alberta.

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-1364
Designation File: DES 1808
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File:
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
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