Edmonton train station(s)
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  Posted August 22nd, 2012 by Zdenko  in Edmonton | One comment

Edmonton life

By: Zdenko Kahlina

Edmonton Via Rail railway station
Let me begin by asking you a question. Do you know where Edmonton rail station is? You probable remember it being by the CN Tower in downtown Edmonton. Well, it’s not any more…

Edmonton Via Rail railway station

The Edmonton train station is located near the Edmonton City Centre Airport, approximately 8–10 km from the city centre (address: 12360-121 Street NW). The current Edmonton rail station is, unusually, located on a spur of the main rail line, meaning that trains must either back into or out of the station. The station opened in 1998 following the closure of the downtown VIA Rail station which was located in the lower level of Edmonton’s CN Tower. These days even the tracks don’t exist any more at the old location.

The Edmonton railway station is on the Canadian National Railway mainline in Edmonton, Alberta. The station is served by Via Rail’s The Canadian three times per week in each direction.

The Edmonton Train Station is kind of out in the middle of nowhere. The station itself is unremarkable and has a temporary feel about it. However, you can see the neat Edmonton skyline at a distance. In the past, I’m sure that the VIA Canadian Train dropped off their Edmonton-bound passengers at an architecturally interesting station and closer to the majestic Hotel MacDonald and the pretty North Saskatchewan River Valley below. In present day, this station is 8-10 km from there, a short and lonely drive off the Yellowhead Highway (Route 16), near the small City airport, and on the way to a predictable Kingsway Garden Mall.

Edmonton Via Rail railway station – not too many passengers

Edmonton Via Rail railway station looks deserted

Although the Via station itself is completely unremarkable and very 1970s-ish, I have to appreciate the wide expanses of land, the adjacent railyards and empty airport space, and the gorgeous view of the downtown skyline in the distance, especially in the rose-coloured light at sunrise while waiting for an early morning westbound departure.

Maybe it’s just my absolute love for train travel, but even this typically Edmontonian structure carries a certain romance when you’re about to board a long silver train. The complimentary Red Rose tea doesn’t hurt, either.

Train stops here only three times a week

This is where my work colleague and I boarded our train to Vancouver on the VIA Canadian on a crisp snowy April day (and just in time for breakfast). And in a few hours we would be out of the Great Plains and wrapped within the majestic Canadian Rockies.

Toronto-Vancouver (the Canadian)
The first transcontinental train reached Edmonton on November 24, 1905. VIA Rail’s transcontinental now serves Edmonton 3 times a week. The ultimate cross-country train trip! The Canadian departs from Toronto three times a week, with stops in Winnipeg, Edmonton and Jasper.

VIA Rail’s transcontinental now serves Edmonton 3 times a week

Linking Toronto and Vancouver, the CanadianR is one of the worlds most legendary and popular longhaul journeys. Whether for its breathtaking landscapes, its attentive and courteous service or its outstanding dining, this train has inspired decades of fond memories for more than 100,000 travellers every year.

The trip from Edmonton to Toronto takes two days on the rails, and covers roughly the middle section of Canada. The scenery, mostly prairie, is certainly nice, but not as breathtaking as that found in the Rocky Mountains. Travelers between these two large cities tend to be business people, but tourists will find it a relaxing way to get across the country.

Between 2010 and 2012, more than $22 million will have been invested in its modernization. Today, VIA Rail is proud to welcome travellers on board a Canadian that is even more beautiful, more comfortable and still just as welcoming.

Historic The Canadian Pacific Railway station

The Canadian Pacific Railway station
The Edmonton railway station in downtown Edmonton is not the only train station in Edmonton. There is also historic The Canadian Pacific Railway station in the historic district of Old Strathcona in south Edmonton.

The Canadian Pacific Railway (C.P.R.) Station, Strathcona consists of primarily a two-storey brick and stone building with an asymmetrically located octagonal tower. The station is located east of 103rd Street and south of 82nd (Whyte) Avenue in the historic district of Old Strathcona, south of the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton (8101 – 103 Street).

The heritage value of the Strathcona Canadian Pacific Railway (C.P.R.) Station lies chiefly in that it reflects the importance of the railway to the basic patterns of rural and urban development in Alberta. It is also architecturally significant as a fine example of C.P.R. station design, and is related to at least three other major Alberta C.P.R. station designs.

Canadian Pacific Railway Station, Strathcona Provincial Historic Resource (September 2004) – Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, 2004

Completed in 1908, the station in Strathcona replaced the original depot at the northern terminus of the Calgary and Edmonton Railway (C and ER) and represents the C.P.R.’s ongoing commitment to developing Strathcona as the dominant terminal point in northern Alberta. The station was built at a time of substantial local growth and optimism and served as one of only four dispatching points for the C.P.R. in the province. Subsequent commitments by the Canadian Northern Railway and the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway to build terminal facilities in Edmonton, across the North Saskatchewan River, led to the eventual amalgamation of Strathcona with its larger rival, however, the Strathcona Station still serves as a visible reminder of the patterns of local development.

Architecturally, the station is a substantial and well-executed example of early twentieth century principles in railway station design. Similar stations were built by the C.P.R. at Lethbridge (1906), Medicine Hat (1906) and Red Deer (1910). It is notable for its broad hip roofs, deep bracketed eaves, prominent octagonal tower, and high quality stone, brick, and timber detailing.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 255)

Canadian Pacific Railway Station, Strathcona Provincial Historic Resource (September 2004) Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, 2004

Other Name(s):

• Edmonton Southside CPR Station
• Edmonton Strathcona CPR Station (1907)
• South Edmonton (Strathcona) Canadian Pacific Railway Station
• Old C and E Station (Strathcona)
• Strathcona Train Station
• Edmonton South CP Rail Station

Exterior photo: B. Potyondi, Great Plains Research Consultants, 1991.

Edmonton’s early railway stations
by Lawrence Herzog

Look around the heart of Edmonton these days and you won’t see much evidence of the historical importance of the railway to the city. But for several generations, the railway was the lifeblood of the community and, without the trains, Edmonton would not have grown the way it did.

Edmonton was supposed to be on the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) mainline but a last minute decision in 1881 shifted the route through Calgary instead. It wasn’t until ten years later that tracks reached the Edmonton area, but even then, they didn’t quite make it.

First train into Edmonton across the Low Level Bridge, 1902. Photo supplied by City of Edmonton Archives, EA 10-1277

The Calgary and Edmonton Railway made its way northward in 1891, but stopped on the south side of the North Saskatchewan River, right where the venture had purchased land. A railway station, a hotel and a commercial area were built and newcomers were encouraged to settle in what was then called South Edmonton. Now it’s called Strathcona.

The aim was to create a new commercial centre that would overtake Edmonton. Property was purchased from landowners, rails were laid and the first train arrived in August 1891. The new link to the outside world brought prosperity, thousands of new settlers and the promise of a great future. The railway put up the first buildings along 103th Street and Whyte Avenue including the railway station, section house, engine house and hotel, called Edmonton House (now the Strathcona Hotel). It was a little railway, with a big name and even bigger ambition, that was actually the first to arrive in Edmonton proper. The first Edmonton Yukon and Pacific Railway train steamed across the Low Level Bridge and onto the flats named for hotelier Donald Ross on October 20th, 1902.

Edmonton’s second railway was the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR), which arrived in November 1905, opening up a gateway to the city from points east. Newcomers no longer had to go through Calgary and subsequently Strathcona.

Edmonton, which had become a city in 1904, gave the land between 101st Street and 116th Street and between 104th and 105th Avenues to the CnoR under the condition that the railway build a divisional point there. Union Station was erected in 1905 on the west side of 101st Street north of 104th Avenue, and was distinguished by an imposing tower and handsome architectural design. The station lasted until 1952, when it was demolished. A number of storage tracks were laid out and, at 112th Street and 105th Avenue, the railway built a ten stall roundhouse with a powerhouse and machine shop. Nearby a coaling plant, water tank and ice house completed the services. On December 20, 1918, the federal government created the Canadian National Railways (CNR), bringing together various rail companies, including Canadian Northern, under one umbrella organization. The volume of passengers and freight travelling by rail surged in the 1920s, including a sixfold grain increase in grain shipments in just five years.

In 1927, CNR began work on a new terminal building along the mainline tracks north of 104th Avenue right at the corner of 100th Street. The location commanded a view all the way down that street to the Hotel Macdonald – the railway’s other Edmonton landmark. The CNR’s chief architect John Schofield oriented the building so it would be exactly at the centre of the intersection. The two-storey structure was framed with steel and concrete and faced with brick, stone and tile, with a front entrance held up by heavy stone columns in the Grecian Doric style. The entire ground floor and balcony were finished in terrazzo marble, in two foot squares laid alternately with light and dark marble chips. A powerhouse situated 200 feet (61 metres) away produced steam to heat the building. The steam from the coal-fired boiler was transported through pipes nearly three metres high, 1.5 metres wide and buried in a tunnel three metres underground.

The grand opening, on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, 1928, was such a local event that it drew more than 10,000 curious citizens – one in seven Edmontonians. Premier John Brownlee proclaimed it, “A day which is the beginning of all things.” Even as the Great Depression and then the Second World War hit, trains continued to come and go, and more of them with each passing year. In 1948, a third storey was added, along with a bigger east wing.

For more than 37 years, the station was a place of tears and laughter, sad goodbyes and happy reunions. It was at the station where thousands of newcomers set foot in Edmonton for the first time. Troops left for war. Some returned to the marble hall; some sadly did not. In its lifetime, Edmonton grew from 70,000 people to more than 320,000.

Edmonton Yukon and Pacific on the Low Level Bridge during the flood of June 28, 1915. Photograph by: City of Edmonton Archives

The 1928 station played host to its final “All aboard!” On the evening of February 12th, 1964, Train 178 left for Saskatoon and the ticket wickets were closed for the last time. The structure was demolished later that year to make way for the 26-storey CN Tower, with a railway station in the basement. It was completed in 1966. That railway terminal – the third on Edmonton’s CNR line – closed in 1998, bringing to an end a 93-year run by passenger trains into downtown Edmonton.

Edmonton Railway Station Museum
The C & E Railway Station Museum is located in the residential heart of Old Strathcona in Edmonton, Alberta. The Museum is a replica of the original building that was built in 1891 by the Calgary and Edmonton Railway Company and served the community until 1907 when a larger station was built. We offer a fascinating history of the very first Railway Station in Edmonton.

Edmonton Railway Station Museum

Train in Alberta

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One comment to “Edmonton train station(s)”

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