Former Canadian National Railway Station
Heritage Railway Station of Canada
(© Parks Canada / Parcs Canada, 2009 (Murray Peterson))
Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. 52 (4th Supp.))
1910 to 1910
National Transcontinental Railway Station
Research Report Number:
Description of Historic Place
The former Canadian National Railways (CNR) station at Minaki, Ontario, was built by the National Transcontinental Railway (NTR) in 1910, and was the community’s first and only railway depot. For many decades, guests of the Minaki Lodge, one of the CNR’s flagship seasonal resorts, used the station. The station, which is still owned by the CNR, is now used on a seasonal basis as a gift shop. Refer to Railway Station Report 307.
The former CNR/NTR station at Minaki, Ontario, has been designated a Heritage Railway Station for its historical importance, and also for its architectural and environmental significance.
The construction of this station in a remote area of northern Ontario illustrates the Laurier government’s view that increased rail service was the only method of efficiently fostering settlement and long-term economic growth in the West and in northern Ontario and Quebec, thereby benefiting all of Canada. The Minaki station was built from a National Transcontinental Railway standard plan, identified as NTR #2, 100-180, which was used in the construction of seven stations along the line between Sioux Lookout, Ontario and Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Minaki station is notable as the only one that remains from that group of stations. Construction of the Minaki station gave rise to the development of this area as a significant resort destination, and the station was an integral part of the ongoing success of the Minaki Lodge.
Elongated in plan and simply massed, with a partial second storey and modest ornamentation, the wood-clad station at Minaki is a good example of the size and design of stations typically built along the NTR system in northern Quebec and Ontario. Both the one-storey and two-storey sections are covered by medium-pitched hipped roofs. Prominent wooden brackets support oversized eaves. Also included in the design is an unusual freestanding outdoor covered waiting area, built at the station’s east end.
The immediate physical setting of the station within Minaki has changed somewhat over the years. The wooden water tower, an original part of the railway yards, has been removed, as has switching track located in front of the station. What has changed significantly in the setting is the loss of the intimate connection between the station and the nearby Lodge, which was reduced to ruins by fire in 2003. Although the station’s role in the day-to-day life of the community has been severely reduced, it maintains its visual presence and stands as one of the last reminders of Minaki’s heyday, when the station and the Lodge were part of a successful national resort chain, described in the company’s own literature as part of a “perfect North Woods vacation.”
The heritage value of the former CNR/NTR station at Minaki, Ontario resides in its balance between functionality and style. It was built from a standardized plan with simple, sturdy materials. The structure is distinguished by its hipped roofs and prominent wooden brackets, and by its freestanding outdoor covered waiting area. These features should be retained.
The oversized eaves and the trackside bay window are important features of the station’s character and should also be retained. Windows along the south elevation are plain and set in unadorned wooden frames, and the original wooden doors are designed both in pairs and as singles. The north façade of the station, facing away from the Winnipeg River, includes window and door openings similar in design to those of the trackside elevation. The character of these features should be respected. The historic exterior wooden cladding has survived and should be preserved.
The ground floor of the station has seen extensive alteration over time, as its use has changed. Partitioning has been removed and original materials and finishes have been covered or replaced. The west end of the station originally held the baggage area, which was separated from the rest of the building by an interior wall with a sliding metal fire door. Two double doors on the front (south) façade and one on the rear suggest heavy usage of this area by the public and railway employees. Some of the original concrete floor is still visible in the west end of this space. Next to the baggage area is a space with a raised wooden floor that appears to be original material. The large office area includes the bay window for the stationmaster’s work area and, at the east end, stairs up to the second floor and down to the basement. A small kitchen/bathroom is located at the north end of this staircase. The east end of the building holds the large waiting room that had a ticket counter in its interior wall. Newer washroom facilities have been added to the rear of this space. The second floor of the station is divided internally into four roughly equal-sized rooms previously used for living quarters. The original layout has not changed, although this space shows signs of neglect that should be corrected.
Any development should retain surviving early partition arrangements and surviving historic finishes, including window trim, wall panelling and baseboards. Early paint finishes located in areas untouched by previous renovations merit recording and retention as a basis for future restoration work.
Sitting high on the bank overlooking the Winnipeg River, the station’s locale includes a rocky outcropping just to the north, a common feature of the area’s landscape. Historic site relationships, such as the elevated height of the station and the track, and remnants of early landscaping, should be protected and enhanced in any site development.