November '06 Newsletter

Athabasca Train Station a significant local landmark and a survivor of the Great Fire of 1913
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Identified recently as one of the 25 most significant historic resources in the Town of Athabasca, the Athabasca Train Station stands as a well-known landmark on 50 St. (originally known as Strathcona Street).

Built in 1912, the Train Station, Canadian Northern Railway prototype P100-39, was designed by architect Ralph Benjamin Pratt (1878-1950). In addition to a variety of other character-defining elements, the building has a wood frame structure with a distinctive three-gable combination on both the front and back and living quarters upstairs originally intended for the stationmaster.

Although threatened by the Great Fire of 1913 that destroyed 32 downtown buildings at a total estimated value of $500,000, the Athabasca Train Station survived and remains as a rare example of a railway station built in rural Alberta prior to WWI.

Train station to be restored

In recent years, studies and meetings have revolved around the possible restoration of the old train station to its former glory. Town Councillor Mike Gismondi has been involved in the process and sees greater value in restoration than simply the reconditioning of an historical resource.

“The station was built in 1912 at a time when the town was poised to become the gateway to the north – but we were passed by,” notes Councillor Gismondi. “Perhaps now we have a second chance – everyone wants a second chance in life – we now have ours.”

He believes that refurbishing and recovering the Athabasca Train Station will help boost the self confidence of the community “moving us confidently into the future to build a better, more sustainable community in which we value both the past, and the challenges of hypermodernity.”

Athabasca Train Station

Draft statement of significance from the May 2006 Athabasca Heritage Inventory Report

The Athabasca Train Station is a rectangular one-and-one-half story gabled roof structure with bracketed hip roof extensions extending over the train platform area. The wood frame structure has a distinctive three-gable combination on both the front and the back. The station is located on a town lot between the banks of the Athabasca River and historic Strathcona Street (50th Street) in the Town of Athabasca.

Heritage Value

The Athabasca Train Station is valuable for its association with the history of the development of the Town of Athabasca, as a rare surviving example of a CNoR/CNR prototype station and for its association with CNR architect Ralph Benjamin Pratt.

Built in 1912, the Athabasca Train Station is significant because of its association with the history and brief economic boom period of the town. The arrival of the railway in Athabasca continued the momentum of the commercial and residential boom that occurred from 1909-1914. The construction of an impressive train station represented a time of progress and development as Athabasca had hoped to become an integral part of the trade and transportation network of Alberta. Athabasca expected to become the main depot leading northwest to the Peace River Country and northeast to Fort McMurray. However, a combination of a number of negative factors almost irreparably damaged the small town’s economy. Among these factors were: the railroad companies going bankrupt, being by-passed by the new railway, World War One (WWI), and a series of large central business district fires.

The Athabasca Train Station, identified as CNR prototype P100-39, is valuable as a rare surviving example of a railway station built in rural Alberta prior to WWI. It is also important for its association with architect Ralph Benjamin Pratt (1878-1950) who was named the principal architect for the Canadian Northern Railway in 1901 and was president of the Manitoba Association of Architects from 1917-1919. Pratt designed the P100-39 prototype. The Train Station was designed with full living quarters in the upstairs of the building, which was occupied by the Stationmaster.

The Train Station is significant as a well-known landmark in the town. Located on Litchfield Avenue at the bank of the Athabasca River, the Train Station survived the Great Fire of 1913, making it one of the most important businesses during the years of recovery following the fire. The building continues to maintain its connection with the central business area of Athabasca and it remains a reminder to the townspeople of the early days of development and pioneer activity in the community.

Character Defining Elements

The character defining elements as expressed in the form, massing and materials of the 1912 one-and-one-half story wood frame structure such as:

§ The rectangular plan

§ The gabled roof structure with bracketed hip roof extensions

§ The exposed rafters and decorative truss eave elements

§ The central raised pyramid roof with central gable and flanking gabled dormers on front and rear façades

§ The covered waiting platform of the front façade

§ The style, pattern and construction of all wood windows

§ The central rectangular brick chimney with corbelled top

County residents to benefit from Athabasca water supply

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Athabasca water will begin flowing through Colinton taps early in 2007. Construction is well under way on a new system to pipe water from Athabasca to the Hamlet of Colinton where construction of a new water reservoir has also commenced.

“The existing water treatment plant in Colinton has exceeded its life expectancy,” explains Brian Brost, supervisor of safety and utility services for the County of Athabasca. “Replacement wouldn’t be feasible.”

Economics and environmental factors were considered before determining the best way to address the water supply needs of Colinton. In the long run, a water pipeline is more cost-effective than building and maintaining a new treatment plant.

“To accommodate the need, the Town and the County developed a regional water distribution plan and presented it to Alberta Environment and

Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation for review and approval,” notes Brian, adding that while plans are being considered to extend the supply line beyond Colinton to Boyle and then Grassland, those plans are tentative and subject to further review then government approval.

Water for Life

The Athabasca Town and County water distribution plan is designed to meet the criteria of the Alberta Government Water for Life strategy, a province-wide initiative focusing on sustainability.

Water for Life: Alberta’s Strategy for Sustainability has three primary goals: a safe, secure drinking water supply; healthy aquatic ecosystems; and reliable, quality water supplies for a sustainable economy. Complete details are available at the website:

Positive partnership

Rob Balay, outside services superintendent for the Town of Athabasca, sees the Town and County water distribution plan as a positive and mutually beneficial partnership, especially considering the guidelines and benefits of the Water for Life strategy and the immediate needs in Colinton.

“It is an opportunity to help the County fill this need for Colinton,” he says. “It’s a need Colinton has had for a while.”

And the project is progressing well.

“It’s going very well,” Rob confirms. “The pipeline portion is close to 90 per cent done and they are currently building the reservoir.”

Multiplex project on schedule

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Not counting the blanket of snow on Oct. 16, agreeable weather conditions have helped the Athabasca Regional Multiplex project stay on schedule.

“We’re right on schedule,” says Garry Bunnah, Jen-Col Construction Ltd. site superintendent for the Multiplex project. “We will not stop for the weather unless it gets really severe.”

The Oct. 16 snow didn’t keep the work crews away for long as they soon returned to continue site preparation and drilling for the pilings.

“We will work through the freeze and the weather and go full speed ahead,” Bunnah assures.

Town OSS pleased with Multiplex progress

Rob Balay, outside services superintendent for the Town of Athabasca, is pleased with the progress of the project to date, stating that site services have gone tremendously well so far.

“The Multiplex project construction schedule is right on target with it's projected construction timelines,” he notes. “The clay and gravel site services are approximately 90 per cent completed (and) the underground drainage system for the refrigerated slabs have been installed.”

Additionally, the water and sewer installation has been completed.

“With the in-kind donation of work by Athabasca Pipelines Ltd., the water and sewer is done,” Rob confirms.

And construction for the grade beams started on October 30.

“All in all, I would say that the project is going along as smoothly and as timely as we could possibly expect,” adds Rob.

Fundraising progressing as well

Rob is also active on the Multiplex fundraising committee and he acknowledges the community for great support.

“The community has really stepped up with fundraising. There have been significant increases from various community groups.”

Rob’s efforts in support of the project have not gone unnoticed as Town Councillor George Hawryluk calls Rob the “marble pillar of Multiplex fundraising.”

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