Former Canadian National Railway Station

Heritage Railway Station of Canada

Markham, Ontario
Corner view of Canadian National Railway Station, showing both the back and side façades, 1992. (© A. M. de Fort-Menares, 1992.)
General view of the place
(© A. M. de Fort-Menares, 1992.)
Address : 214 Main Street North, Markham, Ontario

Recognition Statute: Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. 52 (4th Supp.))
Designation Date: 1992-11-06
  • 1871 to 1871 (Construction)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • Canadian National Railways  (Organization)
  • Toronto and Nipissing Railway Company  (Organization)
Other Name(s):
  • Toronto and Nipissing Railway Company Station  (Other Name)
Research Report Number: RS-137

Description of Historic Place

The Former Canadian National Railways (CNR) Station at 214 Main St. N. in Markham was built by the Toronto and Nipissing Railway Company (T&N) in 1871. It is a one-storey building of which the long and regular mass is broken only by the shallow operator's bay. Today half of this picturesque station is a GO Transit depot while the other half is a store.

Heritage Value

The Former CNR Station at Markham has been designated a heritage railway station for its historical, architectural and environmental importance.

Erected by the Toronto and Nipissing Railway Company (T&N) in 1871, this station is a rare survivor of the brief era of narrow-gauge railway construction. The T&N Railway began operations in 1871 as the first publicly operating narrow-gauge railway in North America (although it converted to standard gauge in 1883). In style and size, the Markham station is a good representative of the T&N’s modest stations -a wood frame building, whose picturesque appeal was originally supported by attractive but modest wooden ornamentation and polychromatic paintwork.

Markham was already a well-established community by the mid-19th century when the railway arrived, although it expanded as a shipping point for local agricultural produce and small industries with the arrival of the railway. Evidence of this development is still visible in the area around the station. As a feeder line into Toronto, the T&N drew agricultural products and lumber into the port of Toronto that had previously been sent to smaller centers, thereby helping to consolidate Toronto's position as the principal shipping port for western Ontario. T&N lines were incorporated into the CNR when it formed in 1919-1923.

The heritage value of the Markham station resides in its overall form, wood detailing, clear division of functions, and by its profile in the landscape.

Sources: Heritage Character Statement, former Markham Canadian National Railways Station, March 1993;. Heritage Assessment Report RSR-137, 1992.

Character-Defining Elements

Character-defining elements of the Former Canadian National Railway Station include:
the rectangular footprint of the station broken only by the telegrapher’s bay, its elongated single-storey massing under a gabled roof with a 19th-century chimney projection, its clean, regular proportions, the size and placement of its original apertures, the simplicity of its design elements which rely upon a modest amplification of the station’s architectural features: lights above the window, diagonally-set boards on freight doors and on the base of the telegrapher’s bay, the delicate, ribboned cornice of the bay, the use of shapely brackets, exposed rafters, broad platform eaves, an extended platform with simple struts, asymmetrical integration of an elevated freight platform, the historic use of paint contrasts to highlight these features, the lightness of the features themselves, the continued presence of details describing the nature of early railway operations, semaphore apparatus above the operator's bay, wooden signage, the use of simple original materials: wood siding (clapboard on the passenger end and board and batten on the freight side), a cedar shingle roof, domestic-scale doorways with transoms and sidelights, any and all surviving original materials on the interior, including beaded tongue-and-groove walls and ceiling paneling with fine ceiling and chair-rail mouldings in public spaces; tongue-and-groove board finishes, paneled doors and door mechanisms in the baggage area, the integrity and continued legibility of early spatial volumes and functional layouts.