Railway was of vital importance

Published on Tuesday, 21 June 2022 07:40

By Ed Stozek
For the Herald

A network of railway stations once dotted the landscape on the Prairies.

The railway station and its employees played a very significant role in the daily lives of the locals in many communities. Located at approximately 15-to-20-mile intervals, the stations were places where the railway could sell its services.

In the November 18, 1896 edition of The Gladstone Age, a newspaper reporter wrote a feature story based on his observations after boarding the 7 o’clock express and making the trip from Gladstone to Dauphin on the new railway line constructed by McKenzie and Mann.

“It is one of the finest grades in the west having a sixteen-foot top and although the road is not ballast, the train runs smooth over it as any other road.”

It was also interesting to note that on April 2, 1897, a train travelling to Dauphin had some difficulty as 200 feet of roadbed had washed away several miles north from Plumas. Trouble was also found at Grassy River. The track was blocked up to enable the train to pass.

Plumas was located 13 miles northwest from Gladstone and already had a “fine large building built to accommodate an agent and the men who are to be engaged on the section. The next station is about fifteen miles from Plumas and has been named Glencairn. There is a station here of the same size and structure as that of Plumas, but it has no agent here yet.”

The reporter noted that the train proceeded to the next stop located at Hamilton. From Hamilton they travelled another 15 miles to the banks of the Ochre and he mentioned that the station was in the process of being built.

“About fifteen miles from the Ochre the new town of Dauphin is reached.”

He noted that a large station was located there and preparations were being made to build a roundhouse, as well as machine shops.

“Sixteen miles from Dauphin and about six miles from the Valley River will be the end of the road for this season. When the road reaches the end of the grade there will be a station built at this point.”

At some locations box-cars initially served as a station as indicated in the McCreary Milestones and Memories.

“Upon alighting from a slat-seated coach, one walked along two planks which spanned a waterhole to reach the station, a temporary box-car situated there.”

At other locations a two-room shack served as a baggage room and a passenger waiting room. Constructed in the early 1900s a large number of the stations located in rural Manitoba were designated as class three.

The first official class three station used as a standard by Canadian Northern was designed in 1901 by Richard Benjamin Pratt. The buildings were neat, uncomplicated and distinguished by a high pyramidal roof, often visible on the flat prairie from a mile away.

The main floor encompassed a baggage room, living room, office and waiting room. Four bedrooms were located upstairs. There were approximately 75 railway stations in Manitoba that could be grouped according to Canadian Northern's class three designation. The station built at Dauphin in 1896 had all of the features of a class three station.

By 1912 a larger building for staff and offices at Dauphin was necessitated by the increase of business and traffic use.

The new building was designated as a class one station. The ground floor contained a ticket office with three wickets, a large waiting hall, and an ample gentlemen’s and ladies waiting room. There were also spacious rooms provided for the superintendent adjoined with offices for the chief clerk and staff. At the opposite end, offices were available for the train master, road master and bridge-building supervisors. The office of the dispatcher contained two sets of instruments. The top floor was used for records and stationary.

The only other station in Manitoba with a class one designation is Winnipeg's Main Street station.

The Gladstone Age reporter was correct in his assessment after his trip in 1896.

“The railroad is a great boom to the Dauphin country as well as the country through which it passes.”

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