Maggie Wilson Author

Historical Non-Fiction in Northern Ontario

The Cobalt Train Station

I have a thing for trains.

Trains are connectors and symbols of community. When you hear the whistle blowing, you feel a surge of anticipation, of arrival. Trains mean prosperity, commerce; the rumbling, powerful engines command respect, and in my opinion, reverence.

It’s difficult to explain it to those who don’t share the same sentiment. Take, for example, our real estate agent. He didn’t know what to make of my squeal of delight when I realized that we could see the Cobalt train station from the kitchen window. In hindsight, it’s even difficult for ME to explain it. The station was mostly obscured by bare winter branches and it is completely screened in the summer months.

As I say, this love of trains is a very personal feeling. I take comfort in knowing that several readers feel the same and will appreciate the following bit of history.

In 1903 the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway started work to connect Southern Ontario with the newly settled agricultural region near New Liskeard.  While searching for trees to use as rail ties, two sharp-eyed gents, Messieurs McKinnley and Darragh stumbled upon a silver deposit. In 1904 Willet Miller, the Provincial geologist erected a sign to mark the location for the future terminal, naming it Cobalt Station.

In 1910, to replace a burned out building, “the one-and-a-half storey brick railway station designed in the Edwardian Classical style by architect John Lyle and was opened. The exterior, certain elements of the interior, and the scenic character of the property are protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement (1983). The property is also designated by the Town of Cobalt under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act. In 2002, 12.25 square kilometres called the Historic Cobalt Mining District, which includes the former station, was designated a National Historic Site.”

Historic Places website lists the “character-defining elements” of the building. That is, those features that contribute to the heritage value of the Cobalt Station. Partway down the list you will find the entry “numerous doors.”

Thursday Doors bloggers, rejoice!

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Thursday Doors is a weekly photo feature hosted by the Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0 

Categories: Canadiana

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54 replies

  1. I love trains, and (maybe even more) train stations with history. Love your pictures of the wooden doors.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. LOVE the building! Is it preserved intact, or did some enterprising individual turn it into a railway-themed something or other?

    In Wisconsin, we’ve several original train terminal buildings that have been converted into restaurants…some actually have antique train cars parked permanently on the decommissioned tracks and have converted them to seating space.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was owned by the town until a few years ago when, due to those good ol’ financial constraints, they had to put it up for sale. Fortunately, it was purchased by a local woman who restored it and used it as a higher end second-hand shop. She had plans to add a coffee shop this year, and there were rumours of ice cream! But. Unfortunately, due to health reasons, she has had to change her focus. Now the building will be made available for small functions. You can read the story, here.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Anyone who has grown up in a railway town – like me – loves trains. The Cobalt station reminds me a lot of Cochrane’s … although I’m pretty sure Cochrane’s station didn’t – and doesn’t – have a separate men’s and women’s waiting area.

    The demise of the train was a huge blow to the North. I have great memories of travelling the Northlander back-and-forth when I was at university. I’ve heard some rumblings that some train service might be restored. I hope that’s not just an idle rumour.

    Love your all the photos … including the “obligatory artsy” one 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you liked the artsy shot. Thanks. 😉

      Interesting that Cochrane didn’t feel compelled to separate waiting women from waiting men. I wonder if that was due to the larger population in Cobalt at the time.

      There have been rumblings about reinstating passenger service and I most certainly do support a return. I took the train from Toronto to Swastika in 2012, a year before the service was cancelled. A long journey, but quite enjoyable.

      If, for example, I wish to make a trip down south today, the bus from Cobalt to Toronto costs $112.50 – one way. That particular bus arrives at 9:45 PM. So, obviously, an overnight in Toronto is required so that I could make a connection to Kitchener, the next day to visit my family. Well over $300.00 just to get my sorry keister from here to there, and back again.


  4. I like train stations and depots. Childhood memories come flooding back, of riding with my Mother and brother when we were 6. Depots were special in the old days, people gathered there on weekends for news and gossip. I love the pictures you have.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Fab post, Maggie 🙂 I love how because of the period in which railroads were king, depots here, there and most everywhere looked so similar in building materials and style. That wagon is tops! 🙂
    When I lived in Georgia, there was a notable absence of trains that bothered me. Indianapolis is full of trains. Just another reason to be happy I’m home!
    I share your delight in living near enough to see it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautiful photos and I really enjoyed the history, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m not one for trains as I have some bad memories of them from childhood, but I am fascinated by small stations – particularly their architecture.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wonderful building and I love that mural too. Interesting to see three different styles of wooden doors all in the same building.
    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh Maggie – I love trains and train stations! In addition to that (I think you know) I love history. The photos are terrific 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. We still have trains that go through downtown. I do enjoy the chance to stop, turn off the car and watch the train speed on by. Some of those cars have the coolest graffiti, too!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Went several years to school by train (in Holland), but so did so many others, or to work. But the train stations didn’t look as nice as the cobalt station, and I can imagine it brings pleasant memories for you! Great post, Maggie:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Welcome! Thank you for reading and commenting.
      Commuter trains run only in the larger centers here in Ontario – Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, so I’ve never experienced using this mode of transportation on a daily basis. In a way, I’m glad, because when I do travel by train, it feels very special.


  12. Fascinating, well illustrated, post. Some time in the 1990s I took my Mum on a train ride from Newark to York and back. She had not been on a train for 50 years.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Great story to go with your photos, which are wonderful, too. I like trains and the history associated with them. The phrase “character-defining elements” is a good one. I like that these doors are considered that.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I love looking out at the Minnesota State Mosquito Refuge but I would also be overjoyed to have a view of that train station. There is something about a well designed station that both welcomes and bids farewell – and the Cobalt stations does both beautifully.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. A very interesting read! Our downtown Charlottesville Union train station built in1885 now shares space with a Wild Wings Cafe. It services Amtrak passengers but on the smaller end of the building. We always are treated to a passing train when eating/drinking at Wild Wings!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Afraid I’m with your real estate guy — I don’t really get the excitement. But then again, I’ve been taking​ trains to and from work for more than a decade now (am riding a regional rail line right now, in fact!), so perhaps my ho-hum response is not surprising.

    I’m happy they make you happy, tho! The fact that people all have unique and idiosyncratic interests is one of my favorite things about our species. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. A lovely gallery, Maggie. No matter what I am doing, I always stop to watch a train. It is hard to explain that thrill one gets while watching them pass in and out of our day. Several times, when my children were small, we would take the Overlander to Adelaide to visit my mum. I’d get on about halfway (it ran from Melbourne to Adelaide overnight). I loved staying awake all night looking out the windows.

    Our government is also upgrading or reinstating passenger trains in various areas. They can see the benefit of easing car congestion in Melbourne. I hate it when I look forward to a train ride and discover the track is undergoing maintenance and we are put on a bus. Still, it’s nice to have the driving done by someone else.

    A lot of our rural stations have been turned into museums. Unfortunately, my local no longer exists but the route has been turned into a cycling/walking trail from here to Bendigo.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. This is wonderful! And it looks so much like the preserved station in Lincoln, Nebraska!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I love trains. They were our first real long distance facilitators that didn’t involve a horse and saddle sores. Just love the sound of the trestles vibrating when I am falling asleep. We have an occasional train near here but nothing regular.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I love trains and they were a big part of growing up in Paris, ON. My grandmother used to perch me up on the window ledge of the sitting room so i could see them go by. The windows would vigorously rattle, especially in the winter. Kim lived right below the bridge and can recite the exact train times to this day. We went to Toronto many a time via Brantford’s glorious train station (oddly similar to Cobalt’s and featuring great tile work on the interior). My mom and grandma went to Brantford train station to greet Queen Elizabeth and there were many other occasions of friends and relatives coming or going via the train station. Sadly, Paris’ station was torn down – it could have been a great cafe/tourism spot today. Three cheers for trains!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Thanks for the tour of a station with character. I like trains too, as well as train history and the variety of station architecture. From a European perspective it seems sad that to most of the people commenting on your post trains are part of the past,not part of the future. It’s great that these historic stations are being preserved but (as a regular train traveler) I cant help thinking ‘t would be even better if some of them one day had a decent rail service again. (P.S there are still a large number of busy stations in the other Paris!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Judith – thanks for your comments. It’s sad for me and for many of us here in Northern Ontario – passenger service was cancelled in 2012 in part to low ridership. Commuting distances are considerably longer here in Canada. The vast majority of the province’s population resides in the larger urban centers. That is the tax base and to appease the voters, money spent on things like infrastructure stays south. As I say, it’s a sore subject.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s sad to hear that passenger services have been cancelled so recently, when trains are staging a comeback in many parts of the world. That said, the low population densities and distances in your region must make planning public services of any kind difficult, especially when the money and the votes are in the city.

        Liked by 1 person

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