Given that much of the history of Moose Jaw owes itself to the railways, it seemed only fitting to make the first post about a prominent, surviving reminder of that history: the Moose Jaw CPR Station.
In the late 19th century rail lines were laid to link the country and move people Westward to fill up the great expanse of the prairies. Soon after the Moose Jaw was linked, the very first passenger train rolled into town on December 10, 1882. The town was “but a straggling street of tents and shacks,” and the very first train station and its associated dining hall at the foot of Main Street were no different (Moose Jaw Daily News 1919). As the story goes, sparks from passing trains would sometimes light these wooden structures on fire, destroying them, so the CPR station was eventually replaced in 1898 (Moose Jaw Times-Herald 1978).
Made of locally acquired stone and brick from a nearby plant, the second CPR station was opulent by comparison. The dining hall was located within its walls and outfitted with “solid oak furniture and upholstered patent leather chairs” (Moose Jaw Times-Herald 1978).
By the 1910s, the Moose Jaw freight and passenger switching yard had become “one of the largest and best equipped in the West” (Moose Jaw Daily News 1919). However, the growth of the town and its large influx of passengers to Moose Jaw overwhelmed the second CPR station, and calls for it to be replaced with yet another station were voiced.
In 1923 the third and current CPR station in 41 years was constructed on the same site that the first and second stations were located. The L-shaped building consists almost entirely of Tyndall stone, a certain type of limestone quarried from Manitoba, and features an 85 foot clock tower. The longer, high ceilinged portion of the building accommodated travelling passengers, while the shorter, multi-leveled section served rail administration (Moose Jaw Daily News 1920).
Over the years rail became a less-opted for means of travel, with the very last train carrying passengers on the famous Soo line rolling into Moose Jaw on June 1, 1961 (Moose Jaw Times-Herald 1978). The once bustling station became virtually dormant and had by the 1970s fallen into disrepair.
Fortunately the building became protected under the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act of 1985 (Pauls, Stevens, Wells, 1999). Additionally, public interest in saving the deteriorating building grew, and the building was designated a municipal heritage property on November 29, 1999 (City of Moose Jaw).
The longer section was renovated and the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority moved in runs a liquor store in the building to this day. Other business have made their home in the old CPR station while, interestingly, the shorter, multi-leveled section is still in use by the administration of the CPR (Pauls, Stevens, Wells, 1999).
If you liked the old photographs and you’re in town, come down to the Moose Jaw Public Library Archives and have a look at the extensive photo collection!
City of Moose Jaw. “Heritage Properties.” Moose Jaw. http://moosejaw.ca/city-clerks/heritage-property (accessed October 8, 2017).
Moose Jaw Daily News. “C.P.R Calls for Tenders For New Depot-Building Expected to Start Soon.” April 7, 1920.
Moose Jaw Daily News. “Civic Organizations Are Development of Moose Jaw.” August 14, 1919.
Moose Jaw Times-Herald. “Three Stations Built for Railway Centre.” March 31, 1978.
Pauls, Stevens, Wells. “Moose Jaw’s ‘Station Centre’ Restoration and Reuse: The Process.” Saskatchewan Architectural Heritage Society (December 1999): 7.