The Railroad in Peel: Part Two
Brampton’s original train station was made of wood and built with the arrival of the Credit Valley Railroad in 1879. The Canadian Pacific station was built in 1902 and was made of red brick. The original C.V.R station was moved to one side and turned into a freight shed for the storage of mail, farm goods, and roses from Dale’s Greenhouses. Dale was a major Canadian Pacific client. In addition to shipping roses all over North America, via Canadian Pacific railway, Dale purchased coal from C.P. to fuel the boilers that heated the greenhouses in winter.
The Canadian Pacific train station at Queen and Park Streets became the center of life in Brampton. People went there to buy train and steamship tickets, coal for their homes, as well as to obtain marriage licenses. The station also had a meeting hall and a wireless where people would gather to hear the latest news. The train station was also the place to send and receive telegrams. Brampton’s C.P. station also saw its share of history as well, as the station was the departure point of soldiers and supplies going to Europe.
Brampton’s C.P station saw its greatest use in the 1940s and 50s when the use of passenger trains was at their height. Unfortunately, as the automobile became more popular in the early 60s, C.P. saw its ridership begin to drop. Around the same time Canadian Pacific retired its steam trains from service and replaced them with self-powered Rail Diesel Cars. These had the advantage of reducing the travel time between Toronto and Brampton from 3 hours to 90 minutes each way. However, this did nothing to stop the continuing decline in the use of the railway. Therefore, C.P. began to cut the number of trains that ran along the Brampton line from two trains twice a day to one train twice a day, eventually ending the service all together in 1970. The station was then used by C.P. as storage space for its communications equipment. However, by 1977 the railway was no longer interested in paying taxes and insurance on the station and approached the City of Brampton seeking permission to tear it down. Knowing the importance of the railway in local history and well aware of the prominence of the railway on the city’s coat of arms, the Brampton city councilors refused to allow Canadian Pacific to demolish the station, even going so far as to obtain a court injunction in 1980, preventing Canadian Pacific from carrying out its plans.
The station was relocated in 1981 when it became part of Hutton Nurseries. The owner paid $1.00 to secure the rights to the building from Canadian Pacific. The building was moved 2.5 miles to Huttonville with the help of a $22,000 grant from the Ontario government. After the move, the station’s future and continuing use seemed to be assured. However, the station and the land that it sat on were sold to the Lionhead Golf and Country Club. Lionhead had no use for the building, but was prohibited from demolishing it due to its defined status as an historic building. The result was that the building began to fall into disrepair and was repeatedly vandalized. It was at this point that the Brampton Historical Society stepped in and dismantled the old train station brick by brick. The Brampton Historical Society currently stores the station in pieces and has produced a feasibility study in order to assist those who would bring the station back to life.
According to Michael Avis, Vice President of the Brampton Historical Society, the CP was dismantled in 1998 after the land that it sat on was sold to Lionhead Golf and Country Club. It has since sat in pieces on the property of Bob Crawford with the brick and stone elements outside on skids and the doorframes and roof beams inside under cover. Avis and others at the Brampton Historical Society have been continually trying to generate interest in the station since it was moved, however, their efforts have not yet borne fruit. Avis told me that there have been a few attempts over the years to find a home for the station. The station was offered to GO Transit, when they announced that they were planning to build a train station that would replicate the style of those built at the turn of the 19th Century. It was also offered to the Orangeville Brampton Railway which runs a tourist train during the summer, however, neither was able to come up with enough money to move the station.
The problem, according to Avis is a lack of money. When I met with him on August 26 he told me that it wouldn’t surprise him if the station cost upwards of $1 million to rebuild. He also cited the city government’s unwillingness to become involved as being another significant problem. Avis spoke at length about the importance of preserving Brampton’s Canadian Pacific railway station, not only because of the role that the railway played in opening and settling of Canada, but also because of the role that the station played in the economic development of the city of Brampton, as it was through this station that Dale’s shipped roses all over North America. In addition, Avis contends that the C.P. station should be preserved because it was the departure point for thousands of young men from the Region of Peel going overseas to fight in the two World Wars and for many it was their last sight of home.
All that is needed to rebuild and restore the 1902 Queen and Park Street train station is greater public interest, government commitment, and money, flavoured with some ingenuity and creativity. One might conclude that unless action is taken an important piece of Brampton’s heritage and railway history will be lost to us and future generations.