Saving the Fredericton Train Station

This is the story of the slow, lingering death of a train station in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada… and its miraculous rebirth.

Introduction

The York Street station was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1923 in Fredericton, in the West Platt area outside of the downtown core. The station is made of brick, with sandstone trim. It has a hip roof and is one of the few remaining brick stations in New Brunswick. The York Street side has a covered portico and the rear of the station was attached to a freight shed, added well after the station was built.

The station served Canadian Pacific (CP) trains only at the start. Canadian National (CN) had a station close to the train bridge across the Saint John River for many years, but in the latter years of passenger service, CN also used this station.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a CP passenger train ran between Fredericton and Fredericton Junction, where a passenger could take one of the trains between McAdam and Saint John. On the CN side, a Railiner (Rail Diesel Car, or RDC) ran between Newcastle and the York Street (“Union”) station via McGivney.

The station had two waiting rooms, one for men on the north (York Street) end, and the other for women, closer to the baggage room, with an agent/operator office in between. The washrooms were along the back wall. At the far (south) end of the station was the CP Express office. Read more

Appalachia, 
Thunder Fading

Williamson, West Virginia

In the fall of 2015, the War on Coal claimed its first two major casualties near and dear to the rail enthusiast’s heart—CSX deemed the mighty Clinchfield to no longer be a through-route, and Norfolk Southern mothballed fifty miles of its ex-Virginian Princeton-Deepwater District. Lines revered as the epitome of railroading in the Appalachians suddenly went quiet. The cacophony of loaded coal trains grinding and groaning upgrade, protesting against the forces of gravity, was replaced with stillness and silence.

It seemed then that the end must be in sight for coal in the Appalachians. All good things must end. But we certainly didn’t expect the end like this, so suddenly, and not before our very eyes.

This great misty, mysterious land is increasingly becoming a vast necropolis of closed, decaying and forgotten coal tipples, silos and washers and chutes and loading bins like sad monoliths, monuments to a way of life that is gradually fading away. Read more

The Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad

The historic Colorado & Southern passenger depot is still serving its original purpose.

In the summer of 2017, my family and I were on a big train-cation in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. As part of our trip, we visited Leadville, one of the highest incorporated cities in America, at an elevation of 10,152 feet above sea level. Leadville was founded in 1877, as a mining town. Read more

Editor’s Notebook

A Sense of Place
“We worked like thieves, stealing images as train riders do, from that passing world unmasked by the railroad whose intrusion helped create it. A corridor of random and disordered beauty, the backs of buildings, a space where nothing is posed. You would walk here as a trespasser, stepping over weeds and cracked pavement, past a rusty fence, a chained dog, a string of white laundry, a man fixing his truck, a woman lying in the sun.” – Michael Flanagan, Stations: An Imagined Journey

 

Town of Shenandoah, Virginia – I will see this train again later in the afternoon at Dovel Hollow

Saturday afternoon found me over in the valley again. Here in central Virginia, “the valley” is understood to mean the Shenandoah Valley which is “over” on the other side of the Blue Ridge Mountains from where I live. A year and a half ago, I began working on a project to photograph a few miles of railroad that runs between Elkton and Front Royal on part of what is now Norfolk Southern’s Shenandoah Valley line.

It was a pleasant early spring day. Some snow still lingered on the north facing slopes of the mountains, but in the valley the fields were beginning to turn green, and the trees were just starting to show some spring color. In the Town of Shenandoah, I stopped in the NS yard office and asked if it was OK to take some pictures (it was) and found out that a northbound freight was leaving soon. Read more

Stations and Old Stories

When my parents had to drop off a package at the Railway Express Agency at the now long-gone New Haven Railroad station in Bridgeport, Connecticut, that’s when I got hooked on trains. I was five years old then, but the sight of an express train roaring by toward New York City had me riveted. From that day through my childhood, I would beg my folks to stop by the station so I could stand where so many travelers to up and down the East Coast trod upon those old wooden platforms. The place reeked of cigarette and cigar smoke, diesel fumes from idling locomotives, the noise of baggage carts and porters moving across the platforms, and those great, green REA trucks coming and going from their part of the station.

But as I became an adult, it wasn’t just the old country depots and big city stations that fascinated me. It was and still is the stories and even history that moved through them. Read more

Last Run

The End of Mail Service on the Chesapeake & Ohio

Postal clerks busy sorting mail on the go. The RPO car is on one of the C&O passenger trains that ran between Washington, DC and Cincinnati, Ohio.
F. Douglas Bess, Jr. Collection

The Railway Post Office (RPO) was in existence for over 130 years and was an efficient way to move mail throughout the United States. Mail was sorted in-route for destinations to insure timely delivery. The RPO car was off-limits to passengers, and postal clerks were armed with pistols.

October 28, 1967, however, marked the end of through RPO mail service on Chesapeake & Ohio passenger trains between Washington, D.C. and Cincinnati, Ohio. Although some limited sorting of mail still existed, it was really the beginning of the Post Office Department’s move to handle mail on trucks and planes throughout the U.S. Read more