Union Station

Heritage Railway Station of Canada

Winnipeg, Manitoba
Aerial photo (© Manitoba Archives, 1920.)
Aerial view
(© Manitoba Archives, 1920.)
Address : 123 Main Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Recognition Statute: Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. 52 (4th Supp.))
Designation Date: 1989-06-01
  • 1908 to 1911 (Construction)

Research Report Number: RS-004

Description of Historic Place

Union Station is a large, stone, Beaux-Arts-style railway terminal, constructed in 1908-11. It is prominently located at the intersection of Main Street and Broadway Avenue in downtown Winnipeg. The formal recognition is confined to the railway station building and the adjoining passenger tunnel, platforms and train shed.

Heritage Value

As the terminal for three rail companies and the second major rail terminal building constructed in Winnipeg, Union Station symbolizes the breaking of the Canadian Pacific Railway monopoly in the West. A joint venture between three rail companies (the Canadian Northern Railway, the National Transcontinental Railway, and the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway) and the Dominion government, it signalled the beginning of a new era of co-operation in the rail industry, and the apex of the pre-World War I period of railway development. The construction of Union Station expressed the confidence of both the railway industry and the city in the continued rapid growth of the West.

Union Station is one of the finest examples of a Beaux-Arts-style railway station in Canada. Beaux-Arts design principles are evident in its symmetrical arrangement and axial plan, its use of classical elements on a heroic scale, and the articulation of the building in relation to its site.

The prominent location of the station on Main Street, and its formal, symmetrical placement at the foot of Broadway, reflect the principles of Beaux-Arts urban design and a consciousness of the physical environment typical of the City Beautiful movement.

Sources: Heritage Character Statement, Union Station, Main Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba, August 25, 1989; Kate MacFarlane, Railway Station Report 004, Winnipeg Union Station, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Character-Defining Elements

Character-defining elements of Union Station which relate to its Beaux-Arts design and to its functional character as a union station include: the axial symmetry of its plan and the use of classical elements on a heroic scale; the spatial relationship between its main components, the domed central rotunda, the north and south wings, and the subgrade passenger tunnel; the classicism expressed in the combination of a monumental entrance with plainer, set-back wings; the monumentality of the main entrance, achieved by, a large, classically detailed arch, flanking columns, and dome above, the large ornate metal entrance canopy with the large arched window plus clock located behind; the form and detailing of the north and south wings, including: the arrangement of paired windows of decreasing height under a broad cornice, richly detailed ground-floor windows, and ornate, metal-framed canopies over secondary entrances the use of Tyndall limestone on the building's exterior the interior sequencing of spaces around a central atrium, with the route to the passenger tunnel and platforms behind; the passenger tunnel, a significant functional feature of a multi-track, through station; the platforms and train shed; interior views from the gallery over the rotunda; the Beaux-Arts decorative treatment of the principal interior public spaces, including railings, fixtures wainscoting, grilles, mouldings and finishes.