The old limestone train station here near the entrance of town is the last of its kind in the upper Ottawa Valley. But many years of neglect and bouts of vandalism have taken their toll on the former Canadian Pacific Railway station. Its roof is sagging and the rows of long, rectangular windows are boarded up. Even the tracks that once stretched past the back of the building are gone. Yet local heritage enthusiasts are hopeful the 70-year-old building may soon reopen. Along with 21 other stations across Canada, it was recently designated heritage under the federal Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act. Heather Lebeau thinks it’s a godsend. “It means (the station) is saved from demolition,” says Lebeau, a member of the Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee. “It’s quite an achievement,” she says.
About 18 months ago, the heritage group submitted a report to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada asking that the building be considered for heritage designation. Lebeau says the condition of the abandoned depot was getting worse. If it was going to be saved, the designation was needed as soon as possible, she says. “Our main concern is that the history of the building remains intact. Our concerns (were) about its bad repair.” Tim Campbell, chairman of the committee, says under the heritage act, the building can’t be destroyed or altered” in any way without approval from the federal cabinet. “I’m very pleased about it,” says Campbell, who plans to make heritage an issue in this year’s municipal election. He’s running for council. “I would like to see it preserved.”
The station is among three heritage landmarks in town that risked being torn down. The historic Mississippi Hotel in the downtown core and the century-old auditorium on the second floor of the town hall are also in need of great repair. Between the 1920s and 1950s, about 30 freight trains and a dozen passenger cars pulled into the Carleton Place station daily. Saturday mornings were especially hectic when as many as 150 people traipsed through the station. But by the early 1960s, freight trains were losing a lot of business to transport trucks. And Carleton Place felt the squeeze. Cargo service dropped significantly and fewer passengers came through town. By the 1970s, passenger service to Carleton Place was discontinued altogether. It returned briefly in the late 1980s, but finally stopped in December 1989. The tracks were lifted a month later. Lebeau believes the building, still owned by CP, has a lot of potential. It’s sturdy and large and could have many uses, she says. There’s been talk of converting it into a restaurant, a local museum or community centre.
Clippings from the Train Stations in Carleton Place
Train Station and Bank of Nova Scotia-Old and New
The Mystery Streets of Carleton Place– Where was the First Train Station?