Old Railway Station a Significant City Landmark - Page 4

York Street Station by George Strunz

York Street Station by George Strunz

The baggage and express rooms were to be located in the east end, the west end, fronting on York Street, displaying a small "decorative" red tile cross in the lower gable and an arched window in the upper. The main roof and overhanging eaves were to be green asbestos slate, complimenting a cream-colored trim. 

When completed, the new station would be 28 feet wide and 150 feet long, including a 24-foot canopy at each end (west & east), providing covered space for passengers as they stepped from vehicles. Well hidden from view would be a 30-ton basement coal bin, secured by a chute from the public platform. 

By June, the Rhodes & Curry Company of Amherst, Nova Scotia, had been selected as the building contractors with the lowest bid -- $50,000 (final cost $40,000). On Dec. 17th, after a smooth transfer of equipment and the necessary changes in the telegraph and telephone systems, the imposing new station was ready for Christmas and the New Year (1924). 

It was also time to move the old wooden structure, which had served for 55 years. It was sold to a Mr. E.B. Yerxa, who had it relocated to the corner of Northumberland & Victoria Streets, where it would be converted into a duplex and where it still stands today (ironically, in much better shape than its successor). A crew of men under the direction of William Gough removed the building. It was the second largest moving operation ever attempted in the City at that time, the largest being that of the Old Kirk, which was moved from George to Charlotte Street and which is also still standing as a well-preserved apartment building. 

On Saturday, Dec. 22, 1923, the new Union Station was ready to receive the unprecedented crowds of Christmas shoppers and people coming home for the holidays. Special trains were added and each carried more than 300 passengers into the City. The CPR train over the Gibson Branch and all trains from Chipman, Newcastle, Centreville, Fredericton Junction, Harvey Station, and MacAdam were extremelly full. The country market in front of City Hall was the biggest in years! 

The first formal inspection of the new Station took place on Jan. 3rd, 1924, when CPR Vice-President A.D. McTier arrived in his private railway coach. He met with Premier P.J. Veniot and, before returning to Montreal the next day, he announce plans for the beautification of the Station grounds in the Spring. This would include a proposed 250-foot concrete platform and a courtyard. 

It was the Golden Age of railway and Union Station played host in the Capital City. Unfortunately, it did not last. Following the War, there were various structural changes to improve the building, regardless of the fact that it was at the end of a branch line and that automobiles were rapidly replacing train travel. It has also been suggested that weak administration on the part of railway bureaucracy probably let to the lack of use and the final abandonment. 

In 1992, the Station was declared a Heritage Railway Site but there is still much left to do to bring it back to its original prominence. As a result, local organizations have joined together to support "The Fredericton Community Train Station Project." 

Hopefully, politicians and business people will soon become involved so that Union Station will be ushered into the 21st Century with a complete restoration and perpetual preservation. 

(Copyright 2008 Ted Jones)

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