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Red Deer CPR stationA new face for the old station
reprinted from Red Deer Life (Ryan Cromb) July 14, 1996

If you walked into Red Deer's old CPR train station a year ago, there would have been plaster falling off the ceiling, rotten linoleum and plywood underfoot, and bits of two-by-fours scattered everywhere.

"We had to gut it," says architect John Murray, who along with Altvater and Co. law firm bought the building last year to house their offices.

"We would have liked to have preserved the whole inside, but it was such a mess. For 60 or 70 years modifications were done to the building -- some not very well."

All that remains of the original interior is a radiator and two light fixtures, just inside the front entrance. A staircase along the north end of Murray's office and the upper and lower floors also survived.

"We tore out the plywood and linoleum, and sanded and patched up here and there," he says.

Now the deep brown, immaculately polished wood floor looks brand new. Faint creaks give away its age. The rest of the building resembles a modern office, with thick glass doors, stately boardrooms and ergonomically-designed work stations.

"This would be where baggage and goods were shipped through," says Murray, opening up a side door. The opening is original, but the door is new, he says.

Upstairs, the low, angled ceiling retains the shape of the station's roof, and the warped floor has noticeable hills and valleys, but otherwise it's a typically modern office.

The building's frame hasn't been altered much, except for the odd door converted to a window. And every brick, at one time painted red, has been painstakingly restored to its natural salmon pink.

"It was hard work getting the paint off. We had to use chemicals and water, and a lot of effort. I heard they painted them just to make work during the depression," says Murray, adding that each brick previously had thin black lines painted along its edges.

Murray estimates the masonry restoration cost $40,000, but says it was worth it.

"Very much so. It wouldn't be the same otherwise," he says.

He would not say what the total cost of restoration came to, but previous reports were around $650,000.

"It's been a great change. It's a good thing they didn't just bulldoze it," says former conductor and brakeman Bob Carson, who worked out of the Red Deer station from 1948 to 1984.

The exterior now looks just as it did in the old days, he says.

"But if you blindfolded me and took me in there at night I wouldn't know it was the Red Deer station."

Carson was invited to the official reopening in March and, with retired conductor Lee Scott at the other end, held up the ceremonial ribbon for Mayor Gail Surkan to cut.

"They've really done a job fixing up the inside," says Scott, who worked out of the station from 1949 to 1986.

"It was a pretty crude place by the early '80s. Girls working the night shift would sit on their feet because there were mice running everywhere."

Scott says it's a completely different place now, but it's still got the old look.

"It keeps a little bit of history alive," he says.

       News article: Arches mark influence of railroad on city (Red Deer Advocate Oct.2013)

Calgary and Edmonton Railway (CPR)
Calgary and Edmonton Railway at Red Deer (CPR)

Railway Stations Were Once the Focal Point of Western Canadian Communities
Mackenzie and Mann influenced Central Alberta's first railway stations - C&ER Combination Stations
Red Deer once had four railway stations
Canadian Pacific Railway Stations in Central Alberta
Red Deer 1910 CPR station 'jewel' still dominates Ross Street

Downtown Red Deer Ground Transportation Themes
Railway Icons of City of Red Deer

Rise and Fall of Passenger Rail in the C&E Corridor
Jubilee 4-4-4 3001 'The Chinook'
History of Railway Structures Used in Central Alberta

Michael Dawe articles related to Calgary & Edmonton Railway / CPR heritage:
       An early community landmark - the Michener Fountain
(Red Deer Express June 2011)
       CPR Station Park once shining jewel of Red Deer (Red Deer Express June 2009)
Canadian Pacific Railway Bridge now 100 years old (Red Deer Advocate June 2009) 
       Red Deer's downtown hotels have celebrated history
(Red Deer Express June 2009)
       The history of Red Deer's CPR station
(Red Deer Express April 2007)
       Red Deer becomes a divisional point for CPR
(Red Deer Advocate Special March 2007)
       The Michener Fountain
(Red Deer Express July 2005)


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