Canadian National Railway Station

Heritage Railway Station of Canada

Orillia, Ontario
Corner view of the Canadian National Railway Station, showing both the front and side façades. (© Heritage Research Associates, M. Carter, 1993.)
Front elevation
(© Heritage Research Associates, M. Carter, 1993.)
Address : 170 Front Street S., Orillia, Ontario

Recognition Statute: Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. 52 (4th Supp.))
Designation Date: 1994-03-10
  • 1917 to 1917 (Construction)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • Grand Trunk Railway  (Organization)
  • Canadian National Railways  (Organization)
Other Name(s):
  • Orillia Gray Coach Terminal  (Other Name)
  • Grand Trunk Railway Station  (Other Name)
Research Report Number: RS-203

Description of Historic Place

The Canadian National Railway Station was built by the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) in 1917. It is a single storey brown brick building with a distinctive roofline situated at 170 Front St. South between the lake and the centre of town. Today it serves the community as an office facility and a multi-faceted transportation centre.

Heritage Value

The Canadian National Railway Station has been designated a heritage railway station because of its historical, architectural, and environmental importance.

The Canadian National Railway Station was a replacement station built in 1917 to serve not only the town but nearby Camp Borden. During both World Wars it provided a vital transportation and communication link bringing men and materiel from all across the country. Orillia was a tourist destination of long standing, and the GTR’s Chief Engineering office, which produced an exceptionally fine design for what was a high profile station. This station encapsulates many features of turn-of-the-century architecture such as the late-Victorian polychromatic and textural handling of materials, the steep and picturesquely massed roof while using fireproof materials. It sits on the site of its predecessor.

The heritage value of the Canadian National Railway Station resides in its integrity. It lies in the station’s overall massing and picturesque roofline, in the quality of its exterior detailing and finish, its surviving original interior features and plan, and in the station’s site and setting.

Heritage Character Statement, former Grand Trunk Railway Station, Orillia Ontario, August 1994. Heritage Assessment Report RSR-203, 1993.

Character-Defining Elements

Character-defining elements of the Orillia Canadian National Railway Station include:
its irregular rectangular footprint, simple single storey massing under a low-pitched hipped roof with balanced projections with lower rooflines of similar pitch on all four facades, the station’s balanced overall proportions, the prominence and complexity of its roof definition from all four perspectives (lower level but similar rooflines of extending porte-cocheres on 3 sides, the telegrapher’s bay on the fourth), the smooth aesthetic integration of special railway features such as a projecting telegrapher’s bay, and porte cocheres to accommodate the movement of crowds, the balance inherent in the station’s vertical definition, the rhythmic longstanding size and placement of its apertures and brackets, the picturesque inspiration of its details: layered roof forms, porte-cocheres, exposed rafter ends, brackets, pillars, carved main entrance pillars, the varying textures and colours of its original materials: the rock-faced masonry base of walls and pillars, smooth red brick with fine red mortar joints on upper walls, wood detailing, shaped roof shingle, multi-paned windows, panelled doors, the craftsmanship evident in their composition, their fireproof nature, the station’s platform frame construction technology, all original fabric and furnishings inside the station, in particular stucco and burlap dado wall surfaces, the surviving portion the waiting room arcade, ticket office and operator's furnishings, period railway objects that form part of the station’s décor, continued legibility of the station’s original functional and spatial configuration through the exterior placement of doors and windows, continued legibility of the station’s early spatial volumes, functional use of spaces, particularly original volume of the waiting room, the former ticket office and operator's room, the continuity of longstanding circulation patterns.