Canadian National Railway Station

Heritage Railway Station of Canada

Smithers, British Columbia
Corner view of Canadian Pacific Railway Station, showing both the front and side façades. (© Smithers, 1980.)
General view of the place
(© Smithers, 1980.)
Address : Main St. (at Railway Ave.), Smithers, British Columbia

Recognition Statute: Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. 52 (4th Supp.))
Designation Date: 1990-06-21
  • 1919 to 1919 (Construction)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • Grand Trunk Pacific Railway  (Organization)
  • Canadian National Railways  (Organization)
Other Name(s):
  • Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Station  (Other Name)
Research Report Number: RS-007

Description of Historic Place

The Canadian National Railways Station at Smithers B.C. is prominently sited at the head of Main St. in the heart of downtown Smithers. It is a 2 ½ storey building with Picturesque features that can be readily identified by its high hipped roof with bellcast edges.

Heritage Value

The Smithers depot was designated a Heritage Railway Station because it is an important and rare example of the custom-designed "special stations" built by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTP) at several divisional points along its transcontinental line. This small group of specially designed stations represented a departure from the GTP's overall policy of rigid standardization in depot design. The Smithers example was the largest one built in northern British Columbia, and also one of the final depots erected by the GTP before its demise. Smithers station was built by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway in 1919, just before Canadian National Railways (CNR) assumed control of the GTP line. For virtually all of its history, this building has served as a CNR depot and divisional headquarters.

The Smithers station is a conspicuous link to the inception and growth of its community and surrounding region, and as such illustrates the financial impact of railway development in British Columbia. The station has been a social and economic hub for Smithers since it was built – and it is the oldest building in the community. Its prominent site typifies the standard formula employed by the GTP for new towns: the town was surveyed from the station site, giving the station a dominant architectural presence. In 1925 the provincial government erected a court house and provincial office building of similar design and proportion at the opposite end of the street, making the station one of two dominant landmarks book-ending the traditional commercial district.

The heritage character of the Smithers station resides in its representation of custom designed GTP divisional point stations and its identity within its community.

Heritage Character Statement, Smithers Canadian National Railways Station, December 22, 1989. Heritage Assessment Report RSR-007, 1989.

Character-Defining Elements

Character-defining elements of the Smithers Canadian National Railways Station include: its irregular rectangular footprint, 2 ½ storey massing, and medium-pitched, hipped bell-cast roof with projecting dormers and chimney, its substantial scale, its symmetrical proportions, its cottage-like appearance, the layered balance in its vertical definition reinforced by the use of contrasting colours, materials and forms, the rhythmic but irregular placement of its apertures in single and double forms of similar height, the prominence of its roof definition from all four perspectives, the smooth aesthetic integration of special railway features such as a projecting telegrapher’s bay and platform canopy to provide passenger shelter, the picturesque inspiration of its details: dormers and bellcast eaves, multi-paned windows of varying width, the presence of a platform canopy softening its vertical lines, the varying colours and textures of its original materials: concrete foundation, red brick walls, stucco second storey walls and dormers, roof and platform cover shingles, smooth glass windows, wooden doors and trim, the station’s platform frame construction, any original fabric surviving inside the station, continued legibility of its original interior functional and spatial configuration.