Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Union Station at 123 Main Street - Home of the Winnipeg Railway Museum

Article by Laura McKay, on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg Corp.
To follow up on this or any other articles on the blog, contact Heritage Winnipeg's Executive Director.
Thank you to Greg Agnew for his assistance with photos for this piece.

VIA Rail Station (aka Winnipeg's Union Station)
Union Station will host Heritage Winnipeg's Annual Preservation Awards for 2015! For more information about the event, click here or find out more about the awards click here

Union Station at 123 Main Street

VIA Rail commissioned the production of this video for the 100th anniversary of Union Station on the significance of the railway to the development of the city of Winnipeg. Take a peek!

Designed by New York architectural firm Warren and Wetmore, Winnipeg's Union Station was built from 1908-11 (opened to the public in 1911). It originally provided terminal facilities for the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR), the National Transcontinental Railway (NTR), and the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTPR).

Photo of station interior from September of 2014
The station was taken over by the Canadian National Railways (CNR) in 1977, after the formation of VIA Rail Canada Inc., becoming Winnipeg's only rail passenger terminal. It is now the city's sole functioning railway station. Winnipeg is also the only major prairie city to be located on the main lines of both Canadian transcontinental railways.

Union Station when it opened in 1911, photo courtesy of Manitoba Archives.

Reason for Designation
(as listed in the 1989 report by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada)
"Winnipeg Union Station was designated a Heritage Railway Station because of its historical associations with the expansion of Winnipeg and the West during the pre-World War I boom, and because of its outstanding architectural expression and prominent siting.

Union Station in the 1960s, photo courtesy of the Manitoba Archives.

As a union station and the second major rail terminal building to be constructed in the city (the first being the CPR station, built a few years earlier at 181 Higgins Avenue), this structure symbolized the breaking of the rail monopoly by the CPR. As a joint venture between three rail companies (the CNoR, the NTR, and the GTPR) and the Dominion government, it signified a new era of co-operation in the rail industry and the apex of the period of enthusiastic railway development during the early twentieth century. 
CPR Station, photo circa 1885, courtesy of the Manitoba Archives.

The building is a fine example of the Beaux-Arts style - one of the finest examples of a railway station of this design in Canada. The symmetry of arrangement and axiality of plan, the use of classical elements on a heroic scale, and the articulation of the building in relation to its site are all clear expressions of Beaux-Arts design principles.

Its siting at the foot of Broadway Avenue reflects the principles of Beaux-Arts urban design and a consciousness of the physical environment typical of the City Beautiful movement."

Winnipeg Railway Museum

Housed within the Via Rail Union Station on Tracks 1 & 2 is every train lover's dream - the Winnipeg Railway Museum. Detailing Manitoba's railroading history, the museum has a little bit of everything.

The entrance to the museum, as seen from the staircase.
The Museum's pride and joy is The Countess of Dufferin, the first steam locomotive on the prairies. Named after the wife of the the first Governor General of Canada, she was built in 1872. 

Archival photo of the Countess of Dufferin, courtesy of Manitoba Archives.

She was purchased by a contractor for the CPR and then brought to Winnipeg by barge up the Red River from Minnesota, arriving on October 9, 1877 accompanied by six flatcars, a caboose, and track materials. She came to her current resting place on October 7, 1992 (125 years from the date of her arrival in Winnipeg).

The Countess of Dufferin today

The Winnipeg Railway Museum is a non-profit organization operated by volunteers from the Midwestern Railway Association Inc. The mandate of the Midwestern Railway Association is to promote and preserve the rail heritage in the region between the Lakehead and the Rockies, and between St. Paul, Minnesota and the Hudson Bay.  

Summer student Roshanie Balkaran enjoying an exhibit.

Display on Women in Railroading

Summer Student Laura McKay- visitors can get up close and personal with many of the items on display!

Sources & Links

Union Station on Canada's Historic Places
Union Station on Virtual Heritage Winnipeg 
VIA Rail - Winnipeg Station
Winnipeg Railway Museum on Facebook
Winnipeg Railway Museum Website

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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

James Avenue Pumping Station at 109 James Avenue

Article by Laura McKay, on behalf of the Heritage Winnipeg Corp.
To follow up on this or any other articles on the blog, contact Heritage Winnipeg's Executive Director.

The James Avenue Pumping Station - photographed on the Exchange District BIZ Walking Tour
Designed by City Engineer Lt. Col. Henry Norlande Ruttan, the James Avenue Pumping Station is a good example of early industrial architecture. Originally, it was made up of three main structures: a gas producing plant, a large gas storage tank (gasometer), and the powerhouse. The powerhouse is all that remains. The machinery was manufactured in Scotland and England before being shipped to Winnipeg.


1880-1900 - The Winnipeg Water Works (a private company) supplies for all of Winnipeg's water needs through pumps in the Assiniboine River, including both domestic water supply and the city's fire hydrants. 

1904 - The water supply to the city is inadequate to support its growing population. During the summer or a large fire, when additional pressure is needed, water is pumped from the Assiniboine as well. Unfortunately the river has become badly polluted and an outbreak of typhoid is linked to the an incident when a serious fire forced the river pumps into action.

City Engineer Lt. Col. H.N. Ruttan, 1914. Photo credit City of Winnipeg Historical Report.

1905 - City Council decides to create a system to protect the large and costly buildings of the downtown and relieve some of the pressure on the current system. Surveys and plans are drawn up under the supervision of City Engineer, Lt. Col. H.N. Ruttan.

1906 - James Avenue Pumping Station is built. Completely separate from the domestic water supply, the high pressure pumping station serving downtown was lauded as one of the most sophisticated in the world. Most of the $1 000 000 price tag is raised through taxation of the downtown businesses, who benefit from the security and reduced fire insurance premiums. 

Construction of James Avenue Pumping Station, 1906. Photo credit City of Winnipeg Historical Report.

Drawn from the Red River, the water is pumped at 9000 gallons per minute at 300 psi through eight miles of mains to supply over seventy hydrants throughout the downtown area. The pumps could be started and working to capacity within 3.5 minutes of receiving a call.

1911 - The new system is so successful that by 1911, no fire progresses past the building where it began.

1914 - H.N. Ruttan officially retires from his position as City Engineer.

Interior of the station during construction, 1906. Photo credit City of Winnipeg Historical Report.

1919 - Winnipeg finally provides all of its citizens with an abundant supply of pure water through the creation of the Shoal Lake Aqueduct.

1962 - The engines are converted to natural gas and electricity and thus the gas producer plant and storage tank are demolished. The station continues to operate, responding to fire calls in the downtown. 

Image from the interpretive centre proposal

1983 - A proposal is put together (while it is still in use) to turn the pumping station into an interpretive centre "... to increase public awareness and understanding of the historic powerhouse and its operation", but nothing comes of it.

1986 - The station is decommissioned by the City of Winnipeg and has been vacant ever since.

Interior of James Avenue Pumping Station, 1980. Photo credit City of Winnipeg Historical Report.

More Recently

July 9, 2012 - Pumping-station conundrum (Winnipeg Free Press) 
July 13, 2012 - What might have been at pumping station (Winnipeg Free Press)

March 16, 2013 - Exchange brew pub might make Irish eyes smile (Winnipeg Free Press) 
May 14, 2013 - Pumping station eyed for development (Winnipeg Sun)
May 15, 2013 - Driving downtown development (Winnipeg Free Press)
August 7, 2013 - Bold new plan for pumphouse (Winnipeg Free Press) 
August 8, 2013 - Big plans for James Avenue Pumping Station (Winnipeg Sun)
August 11, 2013 - The pressure is on Blog of the Week: West End Dumplings (Winnipeg Free Press)
December 16, 2013 - Bold concept for pumphouse may enhance strong appeal of Exchange (Winnipeg Free Press)

January 6, 2014 - 'Victory for Downtown': pumping station developer (Winnipeg Sun) 
January 6, 2014 - 24-storey tower OK'd for old Winnipeg pumphouse (CBC News) 
January 6, 2014 - Exchange tower plan bashed (Winnipeg Free Press)
January 6, 2014 - Exchange District tower approved (Winnipeg Free Press)
January 7, 2014 - Tower shows vision (Winnipeg Free Press) 
January 7, 2014 - Civic committee OK's 'monstrosity' (Winnipeg Free Press)
January 8, 2014 - City has a penchant for bending the rules (Winnipeg Free Press)
January 10, 2014 - Tower designer not licensed (Winnipeg Free Press)
January 10, 2014 - Leaps of faith no way to run a city (Winnipeg Free Press) 
January 10, 2014 - Pumping station backer never claimed to be an architect (Winnipeg Sun)
January 11, 2014 - Tower's opponents can relax (Winnipeg Free Press)

Sources & Links

City of Winnipeg Historical Report (Short) - James Avenue Pumping Station
City of Winnipeg Historical Report (Long) - James Avenue Pumping Station 
Heritage Winnipeg Website Updates on James Avenue Pumping Station
Manitoba Historical Society - James Avenue Pumping Station
Virtual Heritage Winnipeg - James Avenue Pumping Station
Winnipeg Downtown Places - 109 James Avenue: High Pressure Pumping Station 

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Monday, 12 January 2015

Coming Soon: Annual Preservation Awards and Doors Open Winnipeg 2015

Article by Laura McKay, on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg Corp.
To follow up on this or any other articles on the blog, contact Heritage Winnipeg's Executive Director.
Heritage Winnipeg's 30th Annual Preservation Awards!
This is a FREE community event - consider this your personal invitation!
Monday, February 16, 2015 at Via Rail Station

Doors Open: What Is It?

  • Completely FREE event, open to the public - that means you!
  • An event that takes place not only in Winnipeg, but in many cities across Canada and the world
  • Features historically and architecturally significant buildings, many of which are not normally open to the public
  • Originated in Glasgow, Scotland in 1990 as "Doors Open Days" and quickly expanded both across Scotland and the world
  • Doors Open arrived in Canada with Doors Open Toronto in 2000
  • Winnipeg was the first city to include the People's Choice Awards to allow visitors to vote on their favourite sites

Commercial from the 2013 event!


Doors Open Winnipeg: What You Need to Know

  •  2004 was the first year Doors Open took place in Winnipeg
  • MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Doors Open Winnipeg 2015 will take place on May 30 & 31, 2015- totally FREE
  • Each year Winnipeg has 70-80 participants for visitors to explore
  • Tours, exhibits, or special events may be available depending on the building and the year

  • An insert will be published in the Winnipeg Free Press before the weekend event detailing the buildings that are participating and what they will be offering this year - this information can also be found at (not yet updated for this year's event)
  • The People's Choice Awards help us reward the buildings that put in a little extra effort - grab a ballot at any participating venue and vote to help us decide! You can find the winners from previous winners on the Doors Open website at
  • Like the Facebook page at to support the event and stay up to date on what's happening this year


We Need YOU!

A walking tour in the Exchange during Doors Open Winnipeg
We need volunteers! Every year this event relies heavily on the work of its many wonderful volunteers. Can you help us? We need enthusiastic, reliable, and energetic people like you to greet visitors and even give tours - don't worry though. We'll tell you everything you need to know before the event! You can request areas of the city and volunteer for one or both days, or even half a day, depending on your schedule.

Interested? Fill out this form and send it to us at to register!


Doors Open Winnipeg Website
Doors Open in other cities across Canada 
Heritage Canada: The National Trust - Doors Open Page

What are you looking forward to seeing in Doors Open this year? 
Let us know in the comments!

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Wednesday, 7 January 2015

A Look Back at 2014

Article by Laura McKay, on behalf of the Heritage Winnipeg Corp.
To follow up on this or any other articles on the blog, contact Heritage Winnipeg's Executive Director.

Happy New Year from Heritage Winnipeg!

We hope you enjoyed your winter holidays as much as we did and are looking forward to a new year of possibilities. This was the first year that Heritage Winnipeg has had a blog, and as such, we thought we would look back at our first year of blogging - click the title for a link to the original articles! As well, a complete archive of our previous blog posts can be found in the sidebar on the left, sorted by the date posted.


Our First Post...

Introductory Remarks from the Minions

Cindy Tugwell (Executive Director), Roshanie Balkaran (SIP Summer Student), and Laura McKay (YCW Summer Student & Yours Truly)

Our first post was published July 16, 2014 and introduced you to everyone who works in the office. We were so excited to see all of the people that were interested in what we had to say!


Your Top 5 Favourites: 

1.  UPDATED: The Unveiling of Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park 

Historic photo of the gate that remains at Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park
With over 1900 views and counting, this is our most popular post yet! Stay tuned for more updates as the project reaches completion.

2. 529 Wellington (formerly J.H. Ashdown House & the Shriners' Khartum Temple)

529 Wellington Restuarant
This historic home turned restaurant is an excellent example of the re-purposing potential of heritage buildings.

3.  100 Years Young: The Marlborough Hotel at 331 Smith Street

Photo of the pamphlet celebrating the hotel's centennial.
100 years of history in one of Winnipeg's oldest luxury hotels - including time spent as barracks for soldiers in WWII.

4. Streetcar 356: Winnipeg's Last Remaining Wooden Streetcar

Streetcar 356 - now housed in the Winnipeg Railway Museum.
 A piece of Winnipeg's streetcar heritage in the process of being restored.

5. William E. Milner House at 51 Balmoral Street 

Photo of the house at 51 Balmoral Street
A controversial old home whose heritage status currently prevents it from being demolished.

Candidates for Doors Open Winnipeg 2015:

(based on participation in 2014)

East & West Exchange District BIZ Tours


The Marlborough Hotel at 331 Smith Street


McBeth House Centre at 31 McBeth Street 



Millennium Centre at 389 Main Street


Ralph Connor House at 54 West Gate


Vaughan Street Jail at 444 York Avenue Part One Part Two

Events to Look Forward to in 2015:

February 16 - Heritage Winnipeg's Annual Preservation Awards 2015 - Celebrating 30 Years!

February 16 - Heritage Day 2015 - "Main Street: At the Heart of the Community" (Canada-wide)

May 30 & 31 - Doors Open Winnipeg 2015

Know of an upcoming heritage-related event in 2015? Be sure to let us know by emailing us at so we can add it to the Heritage Calendar!

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