The Depot of 1909 to 1928

The newly established…

… western divisional point for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway saw the erection of a handsome Station House in 1908/09. The official opening coincided with the completion of the Battle River Bridge trestle, roughly nine miles west of Wainwright. Two months later, the first passenger train to take to the new rails bound for Edmonton, departed here on November 22, 1909.


 Changing Hands

Roughly a decade later,…

… around 1921, the station became the possession of Canadian National Railways with whom GTPR had recently been forced to merge due to insolvency. The years during World War One had not been good ones for the once robust and optimistic company. Their efforts to reach Prince Rupert, on the Pacific coast, ahead of their competitors had been fraught with runaway expenditures and material shortages, further exascerbated by the Great War. Diminishing revenues and weak investor confidence brought about the eventual demise of the company, forcing the Canadian Government to step in.

The GTPR building continued in operation as a major stopping off point along the main CNR line for roughly eight years. As befell so many of the early structures of the prairies the original station, barely twenty years old was destroyed by fire on November 28, 1928.

 Saved In the Nick of Time

Station Clock
Station Clock

Thanks to the quick wit…

… of two employees on duty at the time, the telegraph operator and a car inspector, one valuable artefact remains hanging in the station today: its official clock, made by Porte & Markle Ltd. Jewellers, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and first erected in the station in 1911. Having become aware of a fire, which was well on its way in the baggage room before being discovered, and being wise to the extreme importance of this timepiece to normal railway operation, these two gents quickly spirited it out of the blazing building and stowed it in a nearby freight car, safely out of harms way.

As a means of maintaining day-to-day operations, railway coaches were brought in, and placed on a siding to act as a temporary depot. One coach was used for a station office; one for a waiting room, one for freight and baggage storage, and a dining car was obtained to operate as a restaurant.

Under the watchful eye of construction foreman, Charlie Tredger, construction of a new station house began in the summer 1929, only to bear witness to an even larger disaster which beset the business district of the bustling tourist town: the Great Fire of July 21, 1929. In just a few short hours, roughly sunrise to suppertime, virtually every major building that the station had looked out upon was wiped out. Now instead of replacing one lost landmark, Wainwrightonians were faced with rebuilding an entire business district.

The showpiece we see today is of a design very similar to its predecessor, and was officially opened on February 3, 1930. It continued to serve the CNR as a passenger and freight depot until the 28th of February 1989, when it was officially de-commissioned. Under the care of the Battle River Historical Society, the building was painstakingly restored to its original form. On May 5, 1990, it became the new home of the Wainwright District Museum, which purpose it serves to this day, in addition to housing the Greyhound Lines passenger and freight service, as well as the Galleria Restaurant.


 Elsewhere On the Line

By Michael Kluckner © 2001- Used by permission
GTPR Station at Mcbride, British Columbia
by Michael Kluckner

The Vanishing History of Early Railroad Development

Artist and historian, Michael Kluckner, of Langley, British Columbia has written in more detail on the GTPR line and its push to Prince Rupert. On his ‘Vanishing British Columbia’ web site Mr. Kluckner presents us with additional insights into the changing landscape of the times, and the many structures that are rapidly disappearing. Along with them goes their history, and another link to the past is broken. Preserving those links is our common goal. We hope you will include a visit to his site as part of your reading on this interesting subject.