Friday, July 29, 2016

The N.A.R. Station celebrates 100 years!

The Edmonton, Dunvegan and British Columbia Railway was incorporated by Dominion Statutes 1907. Its purpose was to run north from Edmonton “by the most feasible route, to a point at or near the town of Dunvegan.” Of course those were the days when it was believed Dunvegan would amount to a great centre instead of the iconic crossing we know it as today.

In the early 1900s, railways were the veins of the country. Across them, from coast to coast, steam engines carried the nation’s manufactured, agricultural, and raw materials. Such an efficient system contributed millions to the nation’s economy. It allowed people to travel more frequently and with greater ease, and also opened the way for better national communication systems with the telegraph lines which often ran parallel to the tracks. It was a time when if you were ‘an-up-and-coming town’, a place with a good future and not just ‘any old town’ you were on the railway – it was your link to the outside world, to investors, to product markets, to labour forces. No better example could be found than Peace River and Grouard. Both were small communities that started as service points. Both were of a comparable size, and offered the same sorts of services. However, when Grouard was by-passed by the railway in 1914, and Peace River received its own station, Peace River prospered, while Grouard gradually declined.

The railway made it to Judah Hill in 1915, and passengers and goods could disembark and embark there for trains to Edmonton and Grande Prairie. Railway workers were busy erecting the Heart River Trestle (completed May of 1916) and others the railbed from the Heart River, across Pat’s Creek to where the station is. A spur line was also in the works for the warehouse district near the river. Trains were anticipated to be running to the site of the station as early as the end of July – right around this time of month. The station that was to be erected was meant to “be the largest and best building of the kind erected on the lines of the company.” And was it! It was on par with Grande Prairie’s, McLennan’s and later Fahler and Spirit River. It was expected to be in use by the end of the summer.

The N.A.R. railway station shortly after Northern Alberta Railways
was formed in 1929, awaiting the arrival of Lord and Lady Tweedsmuir,
the Governor General of Canada and his wife. From the Cruickshank
Family fonds, F044.002.103.

The E.D. & B.C. was optimistic in 1916. Surveying crews worked on establishing future routes from Peace River to Fort Vermilion via Battle River (Manning). Can you imagine how different Fort Vermilion might be had they been successful?  

The railway continued west with the completion of the Million Dollar Bridge in 1918, reaching Berwyn in 1921, Whitelaw in 1924, Fairview in 1928, and Hines Creek in 1930 when the railway movement had run out of steam and the Great Depression began. 

The station building was enlarged in the late 1930s, and passenger service ceased in May of 1960. It was designated as a Provincial Historic Resource 29 Apr 1988. Rescued in 1992 and restored to its former glory (and thankfully repainted from the N.A.R. colours) the building is a lasting reminder of our proud railway heritage.  Thankfully Peace River is lucky, and the lovely simple Edwardian building is still with us today to celebrate 100 years. 

Join us for a BBQ, pie and ice cream Saturday Jul 30th from 11 to 2pm at the NAR station in Peace River to celebrate its 100th birthday. Details can be found on the Peace River Museum Facebook page or on the town’s website: . The museum has also issued a series of archival postcards commemorating the community's milestones including the NAR Station, Heart River trestle and the D.A. Thomas – these are available for sale in our giftshop.

The postcard available for sale in the Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre commemorating the NAR station's 100th birthday. Drop by and browse our selection of other anniversary postcards.

No comments: