The following is an excerpt from a Free Press
Building on the past
Small communities rising to the challenge of saving historically
Christian Cassidy By: Christian Cassidy
Posted: 08/13/2017 3:00 AM
when many Manitobans take to the highways on vacation or to visit loved
ones. If you go off the beaten track into some of our smaller
communities, you can still find a rich, though dwindling, collection of
buildings that make up our province’s built history.
Maintaining and renovating these structures would be difficult in any
setting, but in a community with small — in some cases, shrinking — tax
base and limited pool of volunteers, the challenge is all the greater.
Thankfully, small, but dedicated, groups of people in many communities
have taken on the often decades-long commitment to preserve and restore
some of these structures for future generations.
Three buildings that are in different stages of renovation are the
Rivers Train Station, Rapid City Consolidated School and the Ninette
Sanatorium. If you find yourself near one of these communities, be sure
to stop in and check them out.
Rivers Train Station
The Rivers Train Station is the only passenger stop between Portage la
Prairie and Melville, Sask., and Dauphin and the U.S. border.
Christian Cassidy -
Winnipeg Free Press
Architect: Grand Trunk Pacific Railway
Rivers, located 250 kilometres west of Winnipeg, was once one of the
province’s most important railway hubs.
In 1907, the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTP) chose the town to be a
divisional point on its trek west to the Pacific coast. This meant a
huge investment in the community in the form of a roundhouse, (a
semi-circular building used to service locomotives), repair sheds, a
coal storage yard, and bunk houses for some of the 300 or so men
employed at the facilities.
This two-storey station was built in the summer of 1917 to replace the
original circa 1909 station, which was razed by fire.
The Rivers Train Station's roof was replaced in 2016 at a cost of
The GTP was absorbed by the CNR in 1920, but the town continued to be
an important railway hub for decades to come. The station was likely at
its busiest during the Second World War, shuttling personnel and
equipment to and from Canadian Forces Base Rivers.
The CNR began to reorganize its facilities in the 1950s and, soon
after, most of the town’s railway buildings were demolished or sold
off. Today, the train station is the only significant structure
remaining from Rivers’ storied railway past.
In 1989, the station, which by then was owned by VIA Rail, was closed.
The company was asked to hold off on any demolition plans until the
town could decide whether or not they wanted it to have a role in
Rivers’ future. The company agreed, and in 1992 the building was
designated a municipal heritage site and received federal recognition
under the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act.
In 2006, a formal Rivers Train Station Restoration Project Committee
was created to bring the building back to life.
When completed, the Rivers Train Station will house offices, a museum,
an arts and culture space and a VIA Rail waiting room.
Donna Morken is the chairwoman of the committee and has been involved
with saving the station for nearly 20 years. She is driven by the fact
that, "Prairie railway stations were the heart of the community, they
were the beginning of many communities as the railway pushed west and
united the country from sea to sea, adding, "Prairie railway stations
are not unlike the grain elevators, if we do not restore them they will
be gone forever."
In 2014, the restoration committee signed a 40-year lease agreement
with VIA Rail for the station, which means all its fundraising efforts
go toward the renovation itself, not a mortgage payment. In 2016, the
largest project to date was undertaken with the replacement of the
roof, at a cost of about $70,000.
Morken notes the station is not just an important part of the town’s
past, but also of its future. Plans for the renovated space — the
completion date is still unknown — include a tourism office, a museum,
offices of the Rivers and Area Community Foundation, and an arts and
There will also be a VIA Rail waiting room as, starting in 2008, Rivers
became the only on-off passenger point between Portage la Prairie and
Melville, Sask., and between Dauphin and the U.S. border.
See complete article
recognizes train station's centennial
Lt.-Gov. Janice Filmon on hand for plaque reveal
By: Ian Froese
Posted: 06/10/2017 3:00 AM
The News Archive