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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