Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada

Railway Station Report


Canadian National Railways Station
Kingston, Ontario


Heritage Research Associates Inc.



Kingston's former Canadian National Railways (CNR) station (Figures 1, 2 ,3) is made up of three attached structures. These are a stone building (1855), a brick building (1895-98) and a closed covered platform area in between (1989). These three structures are linked by physical siting and in the complementary features of their designs. Their character is governed by the early two storey stone structure that is the core building of the complex.

This stone station was the only one and a half storey "Road" or "Way Side" station built by the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) when it constructed the first mainline in Canada (Figure 2). Kingston was the first station constructed on the centre section of the Montréal-Toronto line.

Kingston acted as the headquarters for construction of the Brockville to Oshawa section of the original GTR mainline. In consequence, this building served as co-ordinating centre for construction of most of the single storey stone GTR "Way Side" stations that survive today. It also performed as an administrative centre for the GTR and its successor lines from 1855-1987.

The CNR declared this station surplus in 1987. Since then it has been used briefly as a restaurant, and boarded up. Its location, remote from the centre of Kingston, created difficulty in fostering reuse. This location has historically been a source of local complaint.

The importance of the Kingston station as a heritage resource is recognized by CNR, the City of Kingston, and the Ontario government.

Historical Associations


Kingston's former GTR station is a critical facility in the history of railways in Canada. It is the only surviving original headquarters of the first Canadian mainline built, the GTR. Kingston station was the central base from which the GTR was constructed east towards Brockville and west towards Oshawa. This station is identified on an 1857 map of the completed line of the Kingston Branch of the GTR (Figure 4).

Contracts to build the Toronto to Montréal section of the GTR line were signed between the GTR and the British contractors "William Jackson, of Birkenhead and London, Samuel Morton Peto, Thomas Brassey, and Edward Ladd Betts, all of the City of London, Contractors" on the 14th of December 1852.1 As they are described in Appendix 13 of the Journals of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada in 1856, these contracts designate Kingston as the major midpoint between Toronto and Montréal, stating that the different sections of the said Road may be made at the same time, or in such order as the said parties of the second part [the contractors] may think proper.2

Accordingly, construction was undertaken simultaneously from three points: Montréal, Kingston, and Toronto. The eastern portion of the road between Montréal and Brockville was built from Montréal and completed first in December of 1855.3 The second portion extended from Toronto to Oshawa (then Grafton) and was completed in July 1856. The final sections were those which radiated from Kingston, to Brockville on the east and Oshawa on the west. These were completed in October 1856.4

Designation of Kingston as a separate headquarters was an afterthought, but one vital to speedy construction of the line. Essential stone could be obtained in the Kingston area - crushed stone to level the roadbed and building stone for stations, bridges and permanent embankments. Provision of this material was regulated through Kingston where it was obtained from local quarries or those along the Rideau Canal.5 Stone was critical to completion of the Kingston-Oshawa portion of GTR track which required extensive grading.6 Accordingly, the Kingston headquarters undertook "such works only ... as require most time to complete." Initially "650 men and 50 horses"7 were employed to prepare the Kingston site, then the Kingston station became the working base for the purchase and disbursement of supplies along the entire section.8 As work progressed, a portion of mainline track was built, and then its station.

This modus operandi is confirmed by the surviving portions of the diary of Frederick J. Rowan, the chief engineer in Kingston. Rowan's record suggests that the station in Kingston was constructed no earlier than late 1854 and probably 1855; certainly, Rowan confirms it existed by 25 March 1856. His diary records that between March and August of 1856 the Kingston station served as headquarters for completion of stations to the west at Ernestown, Grafton, Napanee, Trenton, and Belleville.9 Later in 1856, Port Colborne station may also have been constructed. Stations to the east, at Shannonville and Brighton, were probably built in 1855.

The GTR was the first railway line to cross Ontario. While the Ontario, Simcoe and Huron Union Railway, completed in 1853,10 was the first railway built in Ontario, its track was only 115 miles long. The GTR, on the other hand, stretched from the Atlantic Ocean at Portland, Maine to join the rail lines of the American mid West in Detroit. It spanned southern Ontario and the eastern townships of Quebec, providing a convenient year round link between Kingston and the major Canadian commercial centres of Toronto and Montréal.

Kingston was a critical gateway to American rail lines. It provided the GTR with mid-line access to New York as:

the nearest city to it in all Canada. Sackett's Harbour and Oswego are also within a few hours' journey by steamer, and from them, particularly Oswego, communication is safe and rapid to all the most important places in the Union.11

This route became particularly important in the second half of the 19th century when Canadian businessmen, with duty free access to top quality British manufactures, grew prosperous marketing them in the United States. Initially this link was made by ferry, but at the end of the century rail lines were built across the St. Lawrence River outside Kingston. Rail permitted year round travel, an edge that ultimately allowed it to replace water as a transport carrier in Canada where freeze-up and break-up had seasonally prevented travel.

Railways permitted the development of inland areas where there was no water to provide freight access. The viability of this potential was tested early from the railway centre in Kingston. This station served as a base for the local Kingston and Pembroke Railroad (KPR) from the 1870s to 1885, whose purpose was to open up the country between the city of Kingston and Pembroke ... a distance of about 135 miles, a considerable portion of which is unsettled.12 During the railway boom that preceded World War I, the GTR leased a second local railway, the Kingston, Smiths Falls and Ottawa Railway,13 and also managed it from the Kingston station.

Kingston was the original headquarters of the Middle Division of the Toronto to Montréal Section of the GTR. It retained this role after the GTR joined the Canadian Northern Railway to become the CNR in 1922. Subsequently, Kingston was made headquarters of the CNR's St. Lawrence Region, with offices on the second storey of the GTR station. From 1961 to 1987, these offices served as administrative quarters for the Kingston Division of the Great Lakes Region. The original station retained this function even after its track was diverted in 1981-83.14 Kingston's station is an important early facility in the history of the construction and administration of the GTR, an early Canadian railway.

Local Development

In Kingston, this station symbolizes transition. It was built as a harbinger of things to come at a time of major change. During the age of sail, Kingston was both a major military post and the most important immigrant portal and freight transshipment centre in Upper Canada. The city expanded rapidly in the first three decades of the 19th century, although its critical role as a transshipment centre was undercut in the 1830s and 1840s as new St. Lawrence River canals permitted large vessels access to the Great Lakes.

In the mid-19th century age of steam Kingston nevertheless remained a significant water transportation hub:

Ten first-class steamers were daily running to and from it, while about 30 smaller steamers and propellers and two hundred schooners and sailing barges made a respectable fleet to fill its capacious harbour.15

During this period, Kingston served as the capital of the Canadas from 1840 to 1844. Confidence in its future stimulated "a large-sized boom"16 in which the city tripled its size and acquired a host of elegant stone structures. In 1852, when construction of the GTR was approved, Kingston was Canada West's most sophisticated centre. It remained an important focus of British culture in the Canadas, the home of an influential financial and political community. Its legislative member was Sir John A. Macdonald, destined to become Canada's most important politician in the next half century.

In short, Kingston's citizens possessed sufficient influence to ensure their city profited from a large-scale construction project like the GTR. In all likelihood, this is the reason Kingston was included as an afterthought as the GTR1s third construction headquarters. From the GTR's point of view, the bargain was a good one. Kingston was a well of experienced craftsmen and established suppliers who could provide necessary building materials and provisions efficiently. In the first half of the 19th century, Kingston had served as a supply base for large-scale British military construction projects, among them

he Rideau canal. Kingston suppliers had also supported the city's rapid expansion in both private and public construction.

The GTR was the last large scale 19th century project for which Kingston served as a major supply centre. While the GTR was under construction, there was work for every able bodied man who wanted it, while afterwards, there was unemployment, hardship, poverty, destitution and starvation.17 In short, Kingston's influential citizens used the GTR to hold off the inevitable slump, but they could not prevent it from coming. Construction of the St. Lawrence River canals in the 1840s, then designation of Bytown as capital of the Canadas in 1857 ensured that Kingston had no critical role left to play. This situation was further exacerbated when the British Army left a vacuum by abandoning its longstanding military base in the 1860s.

Kingston's newspapers are full of the battles its citizens fought with the GTR as they attempted to mold the railway to fill the gap. One involved the station site, which the GTR located just north of city limits (Figures 2,, 5) because the cost of Kingston real estate was too expensive. Another concerned the cost of building a branch line from the station to Kingston harbour to link the city's extensive water transport facilities to the railway. A third involved a ferry scheme to link Kingston's rail lines to those in bordering New York State. Kingston's expectations were clearly voiced by the British Whig when it described a potential American link to the GTR in 1858 as another spoke in the wheel surrounding Kingston, of which it will be the hub.18

While it may not have lived up to initial aspirations, Kingston's early association with the GTR did permit the city to make the transition from water to rail relatively gracefully. One example of this is the Canadian Locomotive Co. This Kingston company began building railway cars in the 19th century as an extension of its steamship construction business. As rail facilities grew across Canada, company facilities expanded significantly.19 By 1939 it was acknowledged to be among the biggest [locomotive manufacturing shops] in the country.20

Kingston also benefited from direct GTR investment. It remained an important GTR/CNR administrative centre from 1856 until the 1980s, and has been one of the community's significant long-term employers. Kingston was among the first communities to benefit from any improvement in GTR service. When the GTR began to form links with American railroad companies, it built a freight line with sheds on a wharf between Johnson and William Streets in 1860 (Figure 6).21 As the GTR system strengthened its ties with American transport systems in the late 19th century, Kingston emerged as a transit point. According to one 1906 description:

Kingston has rail and water facilities which are unequalled, and grain from the Northwest and coal from Charlotte and Oswego, in the State of New York across the international border, are continually coming into the harbor, while the Grand Trunk Railway System keeps the harbor front busy with traffic.22

Kingston's freight facilities were replaced in 1911 when a new terminal was opened at the north end of Wellington St.23 Kingston also benefited when the GTR promoted tourism in the Thousand Islands at the turn of the century.

To be sure, Kingston's citizens played a direct role in assisting their city's emergence as a rail centre. In the 1880-1914 period of railway development, the City of Kingston partially financed construction of the Kingston and Pembroke Railway which itself operated two depot facilities in town (Figure 7). The city also assisted construction of the Napanee, Tamworth and Quebec Railway. The ensuing competition encouraged the GTR to build a downtown passenger ticket depot in 1885 (Figure 6). Existence of these lines opened the door for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) and the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) to acquire facilities in Kingston. This, in turn, ultimately linked Kingston to all of Canada's major railway systems.

During the late 19th and 20th centuries, Kingston was a government and transportation centre providing service, supply and processing facilities to the townships to the north. In 1939 it had a population of 24,000 and a list of its industries included textiles, steam engines, biscuits, cigars, chemicals and boats.24 By 1939, the city's success in all of these activities was directly related to its well-established rail connections.

The GTR and its successor, the CNR, proposed many times to construct a new depot to keep pace with Kingston's rail requirements. This occurred in 1911, in 1920, and again in 1958. Each time there was a delay, and auxiliary rather than new station facilities were constructed. This changed in the 1980s when a modern bus and train mall was built in downtown Kingston as an initial priority of VIA Rail.


Aesthetic/Visual Qualities

The former CNR station which stands today in Kingston is a composite depot made up of three separate parts. While these parts are attached today, each of them has separate roots, and so each will be individually discussed before the composite structure is treated as a unit.

The first portion of Kingston's station is the two storey mansard roofed stone building on the west end of the composite station (Figures 5 and 8). This was built in 1855 but not with its mansard roof. Its walls are cut limestone, and the ground floor has seven arches front and rear (Figure 9), elaborately quoined and evenly distributed along the balanced principal facades. Today, double arches on the west end have been replaced by a square opening (Figure 10), but the heavy returned eaves of this building still identify its mid-19th century origins.

In form, the ground floor of Kingston's station resembles the Italianate single storey GTR stations which still exist at Ernestown, Brighton, Napanee, Port Hope, Belleville (all 1856), Prescott (1855), Georgetown (1857), and St. Mary's Junction (1858). In total probably 34 such stations were built in 0ntario.25 All of them exhibit the same Italianate proportions, defined by their prominent balanced arches, and shallow gable roofs. All originally had the same woodwork detail (Figure 11), and four balanced capped chimneys.

The major difference between these stations is the number of bays each contains. Some had five bays (Figure 12), some six (Figure 13), and others seven (Figure 14). They were built in a variety of materials, some in wood, others in brick (Figure 12), still others in stone. Those that survive from the Middle Division, and therefore built from Kingston, are in Ernestown, Brighton, Napanee, Port Hope, and Belleville. All are built from grey Kingston limestone.

The design for these original GTR "Way Side" stations has been attributed to Sir Francis Thompson, the GTR's architect in Montréal from 1852 to 1858.26 Thompson was concerned with restricting the complexity of construction requirements in a country devoid of all and every flexible appliance for carrying out large works;27 nevertheless, he created a company image through the standard appearance of his "Way Side" stations. This image is also found in the Kingston station which, unlike the other Way Side stations, was originally a one and a half storey building.

An indication that Kingston held a unique and somewhat ambivalent status in the GTR scheme of things is clear in the General Specifications for Works of Construction issued in 1853.28 These specifications list 24 original Road [also called Way Side] Stations to be Provided, and also two terminal stations which were to be built at Montréal and Toronto. A description of each type of station, its facilities and intended locations is given. Kingston is defined on this list as a road station along with Ernestown, Napanee, and Belleville, although it is also the subject of a note following descriptions of the Montréal and Toronto terminals stating The Station at Kingston, if found requisite, [is] to be similarly provided for, and built of stone and covered as above.

This one and a half storey Kingston building is the sole built example of Thompson's original GTR small (Way Side or Road) station design. Specifications for these stations initially called for a house with two upper and two lower rooms for the use of the Station Master.29 Such a design was printed in The Engineer in an article entitled Railways for the Colonies and New Countries (Figure 15). It was a two storey seven bay station with accommodation for the station master on the second storey that share a resemblance with the Kingston GTR station.

Thompson followed precepts well established for British station design. The Kingston station was the first station built, and GTR documents record that by late 1855, GTR officials had decided that less accommodation at Stations might suffice.30 A more limited single storey plan was considered adequate for the other stations.

The Kingston station was built to a higher standard than the smaller "Way Side" stations. A comparison of the arched lights evident in Figures 12 and 14 shows that those in the single storey stations were simple in form, sub-divided in two by a straight moulding. The same feature on the Kingston station (Figure 16) was much more ornate, composed of two semi-circular curves that trisected the light area. Similarly, the Kingston station had prominent brackets (Figure 17) in the form of a circle surmounting a split arch, the symbol of industrial progress popularized by London's 1851 Imperial Exhibition, while the other stations had none. Its stonework, too, was exceptional. The Kingston depot has cutstone quoins which contrast with its ashlar surface. These are also visible on the Belleville (Figure 18) and Ernestown stations, suggesting that fine stonework may have been a feature of all stations built from the GTR's Kingston headquarters.

Heavy, inset returned eaves (Figure 19) are an unusual feature of the Kingston station. These are integrated into the quoining on the ends of the building. Such eaves are Italianate in character, consistent with the original design of the ground floor facades. While all original GTR Way Side stations have a roofline that extends to form a platform cover, none exhibits the heavy returned eave on the Kingston station. That is because the Kingston station was originally built as a one and a half storey building. As Figure 10 shows, it is possible to extend the eave line of the Kingston station to connect with the slight peak of its roof ridge. The three and a half feet of stone wall that originally supported the peaked roof are still visible on the interior of the second storey. The arched and keyed second storey windows on the end facades of the Kingston station are original. They are finished in the same stonework as the arches on the ground floor. The station's four capped chimneys are also in their original positions. They have the same orientation as those on the smaller stations.

Kingston's station received a mansard roof to accommodate the Kingston-Pembroke Railway, the Bay of Quinte and the Grand Trunk Railway31 between 1876 when railway construction began and 1885 when the latter built its own freight station. The stonework on the mansard (Figure 19) integrates perfectly to the casual eye because it is a minimal addition to the original one and a half storey station building. A much different effect was achieved in Belleville (Figure 18), the only example of a mansard roof added to a single storey six bay Way Side station. Belleville's mansard roof sits on top of the small original building like a cap, extending on all four sides. Six second storey windows sit carefully balanced on the second storey, arguing the project was carefully conceived. By contrast, Kingston's roof was merely extended to provide more space on the upper storey. There are five second storey windows sitting over the seven ground floor arches at Kingston, displaying no aesthetic balance. The project, it would appear, was so minor that it was not necessary to consult a railway architect.

A second building (Figures 20, 21) was added to the Kingston station in the 1895-98 period, when Mr. Folger was general manager of the Kingston and Pembroke railway.32 It sits approximately 100 feet to the east of the main station, and was built to increase the station's functional capability. The design of this single storey building was linked to the original station by an echo of seven rounded arches. Single arched windows on the end facades (Figure 22) continued the theme, which is no longer visible. The second Kingston building also sported brackets that echoed those of the stone station (Figure 22), but these have disappeared.

This visual link was subtle. In materials and general design, the first and second station buildings are quite different. The second station is a simple brick33 building with a high recessed hip roof and has been heavily painted. The body is distinguished by a wainscott, also made of brick. This building retains its shape today although it has lost the wooden telegrapher's bay that once projected from its track side.34 A winter door shelter still remains one of the utility additions that characterize the track side today (Figure 21).

Today these two station buildings are joined by a low wooden single storey structure (Figure 23). This area was sympathetically enclosed in a form reminiscent of the original wooden GTR stations (Figure 24) when Kingston's station became a restaurant in the mid 1980s. Until that time it was an open platform shelter (Figure 1).

The first and second station buildings have been physically joined by a third intermediate shelter since about 1939. Before that the platform between them contained three small sheds which were sited to form the same continuous curve along the line of the track. The group has been massed to underline the dominance of the original station from the road. Indeed, from the road, the rooflines of the buildings form a series of long horizontal lines which curve around the track at different levels.

There are, therefore, three components to Kingston's station, the original stone building with its mansard addition, an intermediate shelter, and a second brick building. These three units have been visually grouped over time to form a complex station unit. Today the station is in sound condition although it is empty. There are signs of vandalism which have not been fully repaired.

Functional/Technological Qualities

The list of functions to be initially accommodated in Kingston's station was left vague in original specifications. The Toronto and Montréal GTR terminal stations were to accommodate:

a Carriage Shed roofed over, for passengers, with platforms, booking offices, porters' offices, waiting rooms, luggage rooms, store rooms, urinals, and water closets, Superintendent's residence complete, Board room, Secretary's office, Clerks' ditto, Telegraph office, Refreshment rooms, and all requisite conveniences covered with tin or slate.35

The Station at Kingston if found requisite, [was] to be similarly provided for.36 Its configuration would have been slightly more limited, similar to that shown in Figure 15 with a store room substituted for the Gentlemen's Waiting Room and a general waiting room in the area marked "Refreshment." As Figure 26 shows, refreshments were housed in a separate building situated to the north of the track.

Provision for "refreshment" reflects the English origins of the station design. Thirty years later when the CPR was constructed in western Canada, such buildings were called "Dining Halls". Before the dining car appeared, separate facilities were required to feed passengers. At Kingston this building probably also contained a pub. In England:

the bar and refreshment counter is a prominent feature of every station of note, and has been wrought to a degree of importance that is wholly unknown under similar conditions in America. It is a great convenience to travellers, and conduces to much drinking, and to eating that is of a character quite as favorable to dyspepsia as anything known in America.37

Sir John A. Macdonald is known to have campaigned at an elegant oyster supper held at the Grand Trunk depot during the ill-fated 1872 election.38

Surviving physical evidence suggests that early configuration of Kingston's station was similar to Figure 15. Its stairwell is in the same corner shown in the drawing, and the solid walls of the station master's office still exist. At Kingston, the upstairs area was devoted to office and administrative rather than residential accommodation. A supplementary building stood at the extreme west end of the original station, holding "W.C." facilities and a tank. Freight was accommodated in another building to the south.

Today the interior walls of the two storey station mirror the exterior stone. According to CNR employees, however, the interior of the ground floor had siding wainscott with plaster walls above until the railway stopped using the station. The plaster was applied on lathe. The lathe was similar to that visible under the ceiling of the second storey.39 This description is similar to the original finish which still remains in the interior of the St. Mary's station.

The two storey station provided all waiting room and office facilities until at least 1892.40 In 1895-98, a new lunch room was built. This was housed in a separate building (Figure 27), roughly connected to the two storey station waiting room by a wooden one storey shed that probably held baggage. In 1939 the original station was converted to a baggage and express room and the station was moved into the restaurant.41 During this conversion covered platforms were built joining the middle shed to the other two buildings (Figure 28). This configuration remained until 1987 after the Kingston station ceased to be used as a freight and administrative centre.

In 1987 CNR made minimum repairs to the stone building:

along the front of the overhang by placing new facings and plywood sheeting underneath to cover up the serious deterioration which has taken place. ... This work to be done on the Montréal side of the building only as the track side is not in view of the travelling public.42

At the same time, the company boarded up the windows to prevent vandalism.

In 1989 the entire complex was reworked for use as a restaurant. The platform area was enclosed as interior space at that time. The interior of the two storey building was stripped of the original plaster and wainscotting to provide a large open room. Today the restaurant is gone, and the station is again covered with boards. Vandalism remains a constant problem, and it is clear that repairs to ensure the building remains water tight are overdue.



Kingston's station is situated on Montréal Street. In 1853 when it was purchased this site was just north of Kingston's city limits. The GTR, its lessees and successors, have been the sole occupants since 1853. All portions of the station remain in their original position on the site today.

Kingston has never been pleased with the remote location of this depot site because it was too far from the central business district43. The GTR, confronted with inflated land prices in urban centres like Kingston, developed an initial strategic policy vis a vis links with existing transport as a basis for property purchase. This was that:

the Railway, by being placed on the land side of the Towns, is in a position to intercept the productions of the Country before arriving at the Towns ... and as the Railway becomes the main channel of traffic, these Towns may be expected ... to grow towards the Railway ....44

As a British commentator later stated, The Contract nowhere stipulated for a connection with the Navigation.45 As a result, the station site in Kingston is three miles away from the city centre.

In the mid 1850s, this GTR depot was the only public facility in this area. Its unique original status is still commemorated today by a geodetic marker embedded in the walls of the station. Throughout the station's history, this marker has been used as a survey reference point to define the boundaries of surrounding land (Figure 25).

Kingston's station site has always contained the facilities of a major depot (or minor terminal). When land was originally purchased by the GTR, the size of depot anticipated at Kingston was much smaller.46 By 1856, however, Kingston had been identified as a centre of heavy traffic,47 and as the land provided ... [was] insufficient, ... the Contractors at once undertook to supply more, at their own cost.48 The vast dimensions of the Kingston depot property were, therefore, established when the original two storey station was built. Although the size of the site is slightly smaller today, its size still remains its most dominant characteristic.

Remote though it was, Kingston's station site contained a broad range of facilities. In 1856, Rowan states he arranged works for pump near station.49 By contract, this and every other GTR station was supplied with Wood and Water in the form of tanks and wells accompanied by steam driven pumps. Station yards were also "metalled", a term which appears to refer to the finish applied to the ground.50

According to an 1859 plan (Figure 26), the station yard at Kingston contained three large wood sheds, two engine houses, a separate freight house, a station and station shed as well as a separate refreshment saloon. Less evident, yet still part of the GTR property was a four door row of cottages, known as Grand Trunk Terrace, situated just to the north of the station site. Other than the station, this is the only part of the early Grand Trunk property site that remains today (Figure 30).

This configuration was revised when the GTR enlarged and improved its mainline track just after the turn of the century. By 1911 (Figure 27) a new storage and stores building had been built in the location of the earlier freight shed, and this still stands today (Figure 31). The station had also acquired a new lunch room to replace the refreshment saloon (whose site was covered by track), and most of the woodsheds and the larger engine house had disappeared.

Other major changes occurred during the wars. A photograph taken in August of 1947 shows the water tower that was once across from the second station building.51 Figure 28 shows that an office building had been built across from the original station (Figure 31). This was converted to telegraph facilities by 1950. By 1950 the GTR Terrace had also been sold. Indeed, residences appear in the neighbourhood of the station for the first time after World War II, indicating that the city had grown out to the site.

In the post war era, the station site was regroomed once again to accommodate greater diversification in rail services. A truck depot had been built to the north of the tracks by 1963,52 but disappeared by 1987 (Figure 29

Despite these changes, the site of the station entrance off Montréal Street has remained consistently in the same location (Figure 29). This entrance has been shared with tenants in the past, and may have to be shared with others in the future. According to CN Real Estate the topography of the Montréal Street frontage northerly of the existing entrance way is such that a new entrance specifically for the station would be unpractical.53

The most disturbing feature of the Kingston station site is the disintegration and imminent disappearance of its tracks (Figure 30). The station buildings, which were designed to curve around the tracks, seem to exist in an open field without them. The result is disorienting and severely damaging to any contextual interpretation of the station's past dependent upon its immediate site.

Community Status

Canadian National (CN) officials recognize that this building has been in existence for in excess of 100 years and is one of the last limestone Rail stations still existing. While the company has stated that it is not our intention to have this building demolished,54 CN realizes it cannot afford to maintain the empty shell, nor is it willing to part with the land. As a result, CN sought a tenant who would continue active use, and found one in a restaurant owner who refurbished the station and operated a business there from 1989 to 1992. CN's definition of "the station" has always included the stone building, the walkway, and the former lunch room.

The City of Kingston, local historical and heritage agencies have long been vocal about the importance of this building. The Kingston LACAC has designated the station under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act. This designation covers only the two storey stone building.55 Kingston has also actively fostered the station's survival for the past 20 years. It continues to work with CN,56 and to seek a new tenant today since the station's remote location did not make the former restaurant viable.57 In the past, the City has represented the station as a heritage resource to both the provincial and the federal governments.

The Ontario government has categorized Kingston's station as a Class B station, historically and architecturally significant as one of 2 1st era, 2 storey station types remaining in province in Planning for Heritage Railway Stations.58 The other two storey station identified is the Belleville station (Figure 19), and that, for reasons already explained, was not originally a two storey building.


  1. ^ Grand Trunk Railway Return, Appendix 13 of the Journals of the Legislative Assembly of Canada, Session 15 February to 1 July 1856 (Toronto: Rollo Campbell, 1856), Vol. 14, n.p.
  2. ^ "Contract for Construction of Railway from Toronto to Montréal" in Grand Trunk Railway Return, Appendix 13, JLAC, 1856.
  3. ^ Opening of the Grand Trunk Railway, British Colonist (Halifax), 4 December 1855, p. 2, col. 3.
  4. ^ The Canada Grand Trunk Railroad, in The Engineer (London, England), 6 January 1860, p. 3.
  5. ^ William Oldfield, Memoranda upon the nature and value of Materials as also on Labour in Canada from information in the Office of the Commanding Royal Engineer, 1841 (handwritten draft available in the Baldwin Collection, Toronto Reference Library). This document lists major sources of material available in 1841, and the prospects did not change significantly until the age of rail had developed. It is worth noting that Oldfield lists no other source of stone between Toronto and Kingston, and sources of gravel only between Kingston and the Quebec border.
  6. ^ Letter John M. Grant, Assistant Secretary, GTR, Montréal, to T.A. Begly, Public Works, Toronto, 30 January in Grand Trunk Railway Return, Appendix 13 JLAC, 1856.
  7. ^ "Montréal and Toronto Section" in Report of the Engineer in Chief, Proceedings of the First Meeting of the Shareholders of the Grand Trunk Railway Company of Canada, Quebec, 27 July 1854 (Montréal: James Potts, l854), p. 11.
  8. ^ Queen's University Archives, Frederick J. Rowan diary, examples are entries 24 March 1856, 28 April 1856, 26 July 1856.
  9. ^ Rowan, entries 22 March 1856 to 18 August 1856.
  10. ^ John Duncan, Early Railroad Days in Canada, Canadian National Railways Magazine, Vol. XI, No. I, January 1925, p. 13.
  11. ^ Illustrated Historical Atlas of the Counties of Frontenac, Lennox and Addinston, Ontario, 1878 (Belleville: Mika Silk Screening Ltd., 1971), p. 11.
  12. ^ Ibid.
  13. ^ GTR Betterments, Construction, Etc., The Railway and Marine World, February 1910, p. 137.
  14. ^ Interview with Steve Glass, CNR Great Lakes Division, Buildings and Bridges, 26 January 1993. He had just started with CN, and was working from the Kingston station when this occurred.
  15. ^ Commercial Prosperity in Kingston and Its Vicinity (Kingston: J. Henderson & Co., ca. 1889), p. 7.
  16. ^ M.O. Hammond, Kingston After 250 Years, Canadian National Railways Magazine, December 1923, Vol. IX, No. 12, p. 53.
  17. ^ James A. Roy, Kingston, The King's Town (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1952), p. 255.
  18. ^ Railroad to Philadelphia, British Whig (Kingston), 11 March 1858, p. 1
  19. ^ Doubling the Output of Locomotives While Rebuilding Plant, The Railway Journal of Canada, January 1914, p. 17-26.
  20. ^ Visit of their Majesties the King and Queen to Canada, May-June 1939 (n.p., 1939), p. 45.
  21. ^ R.A. Preston, The History of the Port of Kingston in Transactions of the Kingston Historical Society, (Belleville: Mika, 1974), p. 15.
  22. ^ Kingston in Tour Through Canada of HRH Prince Arthur of Connaught (n.p., 1906), n.p.
  23. ^ Roy, p. 259-60.
  24. ^ Visit of their Majesties, 1939, p. 45.
  25. ^ Anne M. de Fort Menares, Former Grand Trunk Railway Station Ernestown Ontario, RSR-89, Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC).
  26. ^ Anne M. de Fort Menares, Former Grand Trunk Railway Station Prescott Ontario, RSR-88, (HSMBC).
  27. ^ "Report of the Engineer in Chief", 1854, p. 12.
  28. ^ These are cited in Appendix 13, JLAC, 1856.
  29. ^ Appendix 13, JLAC, 1856.
  30. ^ Report of Mr. Charles Hutton Gregory, C.E. upon the Works of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada (London: Waterlow and Sons, 1857) , p. 12.
  31. ^ CNR, notes entitled "Kingston Station", no date. Interview with Dr. Walker.
  32. ^ CNR, notes entitled "Kingston Station", no date. Interview with Dr. Walker.
  33. ^ There is no evidence visible to suggest the colour of the brick. The building has many coats of paint on it today.
  34. ^ Queen's Archives, PG-K 182-69, photo was taken on 10 August 1947.
  35. ^ Appendix 13, JLAC, 1856.
  36. ^ Ibid.
  37. ^ English and American Railways in Harper's New Monthly, August 1885, p. 388.
  38. ^ Roy, p. 284.
  39. ^ Glass interview.
  40. ^ National Archives Canada, 1892 fire insurance plan, NMC 106732.
  41. ^ CNR, notes entitled "Kingston Station", no date. The date 1939 is confirmed by two sources, the former ticket agent at Kingston and a Dr. Walker.
  42. ^ CNR, Valuation, Real Estate Division Lakes Division, 7 July 1987.
  43. ^ In 1910 "The city council of Kingston Ont. has directed the City Clerk to write the Presidents of the G.T.R., the C.P.R. and the Canadian Northern Ry. asking them to state what inducements they would require to build a line through their city." See "Kingston's Ambition", in The Railway and Marine World, October 1910, p. 835.
  44. ^ Gregory, p. 12.
  45. ^ Gregory, p. 12.
  46. ^ "Report of the Engineer in Chief", 1854, p. 10.
  47. ^ "Report of the General Manager", p.19.
  48. ^ Gregory, p. 12-13.
  49. ^ Rowan, entry 29 July 1856.
  50. ^ Gregory, p. 16.
  51. ^ Queen's University Archives, PG-K 182-71.
  52. ^ NAC, Fire insurance plan, 1963, sheet 96.
  53. ^ CNR, memo dated 10 April 1986, p. 5.
  54. ^ CNR, Valuation, Real Estate Division Lakes Division, 7 July 1987.
  55. ^ "810 Montréal Street (Old Railway Station)", Buildings of Architectural and Historic Significance (City of Kingston Planning Department, n.d.), Vol. 6, p. 167-168.
  56. ^ CNR, Corporation of the City of Kingston to CN Rail, Great Lakes Region, 12 May 1978.
  57. ^ Interview with Carl Baldwin, Secretary-Treasurer of the Kingston LACAC, 26 January 1993.
  58. ^ Ontario Heritage Foundation and Ministry of Citizenship and Culture, Ontario. "Casselman" in Planning for Heritage Railway Stations (Toronto: MCC, 1987).


  1. Former Canadian National Railways (CNR) station, Kingston in better days. This photo shows the two earlier sections built in 1855, 1895-98, but the final portion closed in 1989 is not shown here. (CNR, E-2926-9; also CN Photo Collection / CSTM / Image CN001091.)

  2. Map of the original GTR mainline showing the location of Kingston. (Report of Mr. Charles Hutton Gregory, C.E. Upon the Grand Trunk Railway Company of Canada [London: Waterlow and Sons, 1857], appendix.)

    Image not reproduced.

  3. Map of Kingston, 1908, showing the GTR depot in the right hand corner, still far from the center of town after fifty years of operation. (NAC, NMC 10707.)

    Image not reproduced.

  4. Kingston Branch, Grand Trunk Railway, County of Frontenac, certified by W. Shanly , Toronto 4 December 1857. (National Archives, RG 12 M, #5383.)

    Image not reproduced.

  5. Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) passenger station, Kingston, built by the GTR in 1855. (N. Fairbairn, Heritage Research Associates, 1992.)

  6. GTR passenger station on Ontario Street in downtown Kingston with the earlier 1860 freight shed to the rear. This building served as the GTR's "Inner Station" from the time it was built in 1885 until 1930. It still exists. (Ron Brown, The Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore, [Peterborough, Broadview Press, 1991], p. 31; also Queen's Archives PG-K 97-5.)

  7. Kingston and Pembroke Railway buildings in Kingston as described in a special edition of the Kingston Daily Whig, 1887. (NAC MG 30 E 76 Vol. 5.)

    Image not reproduced.

  8. Track (north) facade of original GTR station, Kingston. (N. Fairbairn, Heritaqe Research Associates, 1992.)

  9. Arch and bracket details, original GTR station, Kingston. (M. Carter, Heritaqe Research Associates, 1993.)

  10. West facade of original GTR station, Kingston showing conjectural original lines. (Drawing on Canadian Inventory of Historic Building (CIHB), Phase 1, 06106000500810.)

  11. Partial plan, original woodwork details, Way Side station, GTR, undated (1855-57). (NAC, NMC 99054.)

    Image not reproduced.

  12. Former original GTR station, Brampton, Ontario. This was a five bay station as were the stone stations at Ernestown, Brighton, Napanee, and Port Hope. (Ron Brown, The Train Doesn't Stop here Any More [Peterborough, Broadview Press, 1991], p. 59.)

  13. Former GTR station, St. Mary's Junction, Ontario. This was a six bay station as was the station at Belleville. (M. Carter, Heritage Research Associates, 1992.)

  14. Former GTR station, Cornwall, Ontario. This station had seven bays as did the Prescott station. (Ron Brown, The Train Doesn't Stop Here Any More [Peterborough, Broadview Press, 1991], p. 31.)

  15. Drawing for a Station House. (Railways for the Colonies New Counties published by The Engineer (London England), 3 April 1857, p. 264.)

    Image not reproduced.

  16. Door and window details, Kingston station, 1973. (CIHB, Phase 1, 06106000500810.)


  17. Original brackets configured in the mid nineteenth century symbol of industrial progress, Kingston. (N. Fairbairn, Heritage Research Associates, 1992.)

  18. Former GTR station, Belleville, Ontario. (CIHB, Phase 1, 0611106200240.)

  19. Close up showing the integration of stonework on the mansard addition. (M. Carter, Heritage Research Associates, 1993.)

  20. South side, second station building, 1895-98, Kingston. (M. Carter, Heritage Research Associates, 1993.)

  21. East end and north side of the second station building constructed in 1895-98, Kingston GTR station. (M. Carter, Heritage Research Associates, 1993.)

  22. End facade of the second station building. This photo was taken on 10 August 1947. (Queen's Archives, PG-K 182-65B.)

  23. The third section of Kingston's CNR station, built in 1989. (M. Carter, Heritage Research Associates, 1993.)

  24. GTR station, Stanfold, Quebec, 1878. (NAC, C 38906.)

    Image not reproduced.

  25. Geodetic base integrated into the walls of the original station. (M. Carter, Heritage Research Associates, 1993.)

  26. Kingston station, 1859. This site map shows the location of various terminal functions on the site. (PAC, MG 30 A 93. Report of Thomas E. Blackwell ... GTR, 1859 [London: Waterlow & Sons, 1860].)

    Image not reproduced

  27. Site plan, 1911. (NAC, NMC 10707.)

    Image not reproduced.

  28. Site plan, 1947. (FIP NMC sheet 19.)

    Image not reproduced.

  29. Site plan 1987. (CNR Toronto, Real Estate File HE 5105-KIN.)

    Image not reprodcued.

  30. Grand Trunk Terrace, built to accompany the station in the 1856-59 period, and identified by the City of Kingston under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act is visible in the background of this photo. In the foreground is the disintegrating track in front of the station. (M. Carter, Heritage Research Associates, 1993.)

  31. The office and telegraph building is situated to the left (south) while the stores and freight building is to the west(centre of picture). (M. Carter. Heritage Research Associates 1993.)