Friday, 8 June 2012


THE FOLLOWING IS BILLY MILNE'S NARRATIVE to the Save Our Station Committee's first slide show presentation to the Nipigon Town Council in their 1981-82 battle to keep the C.P.R. Station.

"Ever since the C.P. came to the north in the late eighteen hundreds, the train station has been the landmark in just about every little town along the north shore. Ours has always been the centre of town, and for a while it was the centre of life too."

"It was for me anyway. I was born in the old station on the other side of the can see it there on the left. The "new" building was ready for us in 1929, when this picture was taken by old Mr. Everett... Young Mr. Everett, then."

"And boy was it the pride of the town when it was built!  B.C. fir beams, all hardwood floors, that beautiful gable roof. I figured I was the luckiest kid in town - to be living there. My Dad was the station manager in those days. That's him in the picture, with Bill Wade, and tall Ture Petersen, and Fred Vivone."

"It must have been opening day for the building, 'cause they're all dressed up. It was a busy station, too, with trains coming and going at all times of the day and night. Too bad we can't hear one of those old steam engines when they used to chug through here at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning. Those days are long gone."

"Nipigon really boomed when C.P. finally reached this neck of the woods. It wasn't easy pushing that line through."

"And there are still a few old-timers around who can tell you stories about the early days of the C.P. and that old bridge across the Nipigon River. Those piers and foundations were built to last. I just wonder how many pounds of steel have run across that bridge?"

'This little building on the west side of the bridge was the special CP Depot for the Chalet Bungalow Lodge. Now it's Toivo Laurila's house on Fifth Street."

"It wasn't so long ago that everyone used to line up to wait for the passenger train to come through. That was before television and late night bars. See the old fire hall in the background? Another landmark gone."

And here's another one. All trains used to fill up their water tanks here from our old reservoir. That disappeared in the late sixties."

"We were really the centre of transportation then... there's the bus depot at the far end of the street, and maybe that old cruiser meant our Nipigon policeman was stopping the train looking for dangerous criminals. Sometimes the passengers would get off the train while it was stopped at the station, just long enough to run across the street and get an ice cream cone or a soda pop."

"And during the "dirty thirties", an awful lot of rod-runners were picked up in Nipigon. We had thirty-five railway cops here at one time."

"Mr. Everett swears that this was the only time the flag was ever raised at the station...opening day! Or was it the day the Royal entourage came to visit and stopped for a chat with the town dignitaries?"

"There were some places that the trains just didn't go, and neither did the buses or cars. When the Mounties had to get there man, or the lumber companies had to get supplies to their camps, they used an old favourite method of transportation - dogs."

"Time has made a lot of changes in Nipigon, and a lot of changes at Canadian Pacific. The CN came later, with a spur line from Longlac down to Lake Superior... here it passes under the CP bridge at the Nipigon River."

"The highways came later, Highway 11 first linking up the country's east and west by road, and Highway 17 along the north shore of Lake Superior much later in the sixties."

"But the rail line isn't going to disappear. Traffic is not going to stop on the mainline. The trains will continue to travel through Nipigon and over the Nipigon River."

"They may have  a new name for the train, but it's still doing the same job of transporting people and things."

"Canada bent over backwards to get the railway through, and lots has been written about that superhuman effort."

"Right across the country, you'll find prime pieces of real estate set aside for the railway, and given to them free of charge just to sweeten the pot and get the trans-Canada line in. We did it, and it was worth it, but somehow you feel we should all have a bit of a say in what happens to that land and that history when CP is through with it."

"We don't want to run their business, but you have to admit it was a real community affair from start to finish. CP may be a private kind of company, but it's such a big part of our lives here that maybe it IS our right to make comments."

"They've taken good care of their train station here over the years. New insulbrick siding in 1954 - it was the style then, and later a new roof. But now they'd like to tear it down and put up a pre-fab waiting room, something like a little trailer."

"It's expensive to heat; there's been a lot of vandalism, and the place doesn't look so classy any more... and CP just doesn't see any way to make use of the old structure."

"They didn't feel the same way about this CP station at Banff. Looks good doesn't it? It's a restaurant and bar and it's really been fixed up. And on the other side, it's still a train station, just like it's always been. It was a landmark in Banff, the structure was good, so they compromised."

"Well, I am not the only one who feels strongly about our little station. It was at the centre of town when I was born there...and it's still the centre of town, the town's heart. It sits there waiting for adventurous travellers to get off the train, facing a long main street with food, rest, and provisions."

"It was the centre of activity for lots of people then, and it could be still. This is the window of our dining room, but it could be a photo gallery."

"This was my old bedroom when I was a kid. The Silver Club could be meeting there right now."

It's certainly sturdy enough, with a foundation that won't ever crumble, beams and joists that have never seen a termite. And its even good looking - better with just a little spruce-up."

"We spend so much time building new things, we sometimes forget it's cheaper and better to hang on to a handful of old things, just to help remember where we came from."

"CP says we can keep it, but we have to move it. Moving it means changing the heart of our town, and I'm sure we can come to a reasonable compromise if we want to bad enough. It will take a lot of people working together to convince CP that we mean it, and it'll take a lot of strong leadership."

"We think our history, and our cultural heritage, is worth it, and we are hoping you'll agree with us."

End of First Presentation

MARCH 18, 1982


This narrative now becomes the history of the S.O.S. Committee's efforts and dreams. The station was destroyed  in October 1982. (next post)

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