I had the idea of researching train stations and the industry last year after I came across so many train stations during a short period of time during the summer.
My curiosity brought me to read more on the subject. Now, I better recognize the impact of the railway industry in our lives and the reality since back in early 1900s. This reflection also brought some memories of many nice places that I had the chance to visit over the years around the world but that will be another post.
Of course, this is not a study of all the train stations and I will cover only the ones that I had the chance to see since there are so many more.
I certainly will have another perception of this symbolic emblem the next time I come across a train station and I hope you will also see it differently and be curious to learn more.
I was born in and I still live in the nice Province of Quebec, Canada and, like many, our yearly vacation was different last year. During our day trips here and mostly in the Laurentians region (Laurentides), I was surprised by so many references to the train industry (old stations, museums, P’tit Train du Nord,…) and why people are so attached to this reference. I read up on the subject and this post will give you a simple overview of the situation.
Keeping Quebec history alive
When it got connected
We live in a constant growing society and not so long ago, in North America, we were still using horse and carriage to go from point A to point B while traveling on land.
Of course, the exploration of new places then was commonly by boat and, for a long time, this was the main and only way to discover new regions. It is logical that places that are accessible (by means of transport) are subject to new developments.
Ironically, between 1535-1850, it seems that it was easier to get to Europe than to Mont-Tremblant (235km) from Montreal.
The idea of the introduction of the railway system came from Europe where it all started up in 1840. Not long after, the railway implementation became promises by the government for accessibility, development and growth not only for the major cities but to new territories. It played a role in the federal, provincial and regional development. It helped to expand the population of the Prairies and improved the accessibility for immigrants to begin a new life inland. Some say it impacted in defining the borders of Canada.
The construction required strong hands and employed underpaid workers under difficult and risky conditions: meteorological and landscape. The Montreal to Vancouver line was inaugurated in 1886. It is considered a very picturesque journey.
Fortunately, not that long after the Montreal to Vancouver line was opened, the Quebec rail cars, tracks and stations were built. We first developed longer distances and focused on connecting the major cities before developing regionally. Proof of concept, feasibility and economically, it was not a bad idea. Indeed, the train was a revolution for the economy of a city/village, the accessibility of new places and the development of new regions. The railway system was built to transport merchandise and people. Companies settled in near ports and near train stations to facilitate the transportation of their merchandise to new regions.
The tourism industry also benefits from this opportunity. New commodities next to or near the train stations kept travelers for a night or more in hotels and restaurants. The ski industry in the Laurentians became a new trend.
For the locals, the train stations had a role of communication, distribution, a place to gather and obtain the latest news and mail. It is also now easier to reach the city when needed.
The train station size and style varies according to the location and the traffic expected in volume and type. Smaller and simpler versions are in the rural regions but in the cities, it is another game. The contrast is impressive. Montreal still has very beautiful castle-like train stations and buildings, each one better than than the other as if it was a contest for the best and bigger station. For the notoriety, glamour, to attract people or for political reasons, all energy towards the rail industry is interesting. A few stations have survived. Some are still in function; some have found new purpose and the ones still standing have a special place in the resident’s heart. The stations are symbolic. They have architectural, patrimonial and historical value in Quebec and this applies also to other countries (Amsterdam and Melbourne train stations as well as the Orsay museum comes to mind).
The constructions of rural stations contributed to the creation of villages from one end of the country to the other and for which villagers remain grateful.
The train industry has spread out the population in our large territory, encourages immigration and development of new regions, stimulates industries and helps them implement outside of the city center. It unifies the country by a common means of transportation and, consequently, helps to develop the country. It builds a link between the large city and the rural regions and, consequently, settlement of temporary, seasonal or permanent housing is promising.
Construction of all the infrastructure helped the economy and the prosperity of habitants wherever the train stopped. In addition, Montreal was the home of railway companies and locomotive manufacturers.
However, today it is not the same. With the growth of the car industry (1920) and the construction of new roads, the large territory to explore, despite that the train is greener, the transportation of passengers has drastically decreased over the years and many stations now have new purpose or are gone.
Read more on some stations: