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Heritage Site

Former Canadian National Railway Station

Site 1:
Former Canadian National Railway Station
198 Second Avenue West
Date Originally Built:
Present Use:
Crisis Centre North Bay
Evaluation Score:
Priority One

The eventual origin of the CNR Station began when the Timiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway (T&NO) extended their line from North Bay to New Liskeard, thus serving the forestry, mining and agricultural resources of the northeastern area of the province. This project was completed in 1905. In 1911, the Grand Trunk Railway (GT) extended from Callander to North Bay with running rights negotiated over the T&NO all the way to Cochrane.

Several new lines by then had expressed their intention to establish continental lines in competition with the CPR.  Among these was the Canadian Northern System (CNO), which decided in 1914 to erect the existing station on their line through North Bay, then serving the CNO, GT, and the T&NO. With the ultimate extension of the T&NO to Moosonee, this completed the crossroads of North-South and East-West rail services from “coast to coast to coast”, geographically centred in North Bay.

George Briggs, CNO eastern architect, designed the structure which still stands on its original site. The building has key stoned round-headed arches over the windows and doors with a slightly bell-hipped low roof line. The westerly façade featured a triangular pediment carrying the CNO logo, and an adjacent large portico offered protection from the elements to passengers arriving and departing by automobile. Separate entrances once accessed male and female waiting rooms, as was the practice of the day. Construction is of red brick on a concrete foundation finished in a simulated stone pattern, with a pedestrian tunnel linking Second and Third Avenues for the convenience of residents on the trackside of the station to access the downtown area of the city.

In 1920, the federal government decreed that all government owned lines, except the T&NO, were to be incorporated into one line, thereby creating the Canadian National Railway (CNR). Thereafter, the North Bay building became the CNR Station. In 1946, the provincially owned T&NO became the Ontario Northland Railway, then also being serviced by this building through a shunt on the CN Line from “the diamond” at the crossing of the two lines southeast of the city.

Via Rail assumed control of the building in 1986. Shortly thereafter, in 1990, the federal government cancelled all passenger services through North Bay, except for the ONR. In 1994, the ONR built the relocated new rail and bus terminal on Station Road. Since then, the original station has been unused, and subject to vandalism resulting in significant damage to the structure.

A local community group acquired the surrounding lands from the CNR in 1998. In 2003, this group also bought the station from the CNR. Meanwhile, the city designated the property as a heritage site, with the accompanying requirement that the building be restored to its original form. The completed restoration has ensured the preservation and conservation of this commendable component of the North Bay’s heritage. The station stands at the easterly end of Fraser Street, establishing a commanding view of the structure from the downtown area.  The restoration has maintained the station’s status as a monument celebrating the history of North Bay as truly the “Gateway of the North.”