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Belleville CNR/Via Rail Station

 

October 27, 1856 - Opening of the Grand Trunk Railroad station. 

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It’s October 27, 1856 and crowds of people have gathered together to get their first glimpse of Belleville’s newest form of transportation. It’s the fastest way to get between Toronto and Montreal and it can carry more cargo than any other land vehicle.
With this metal beast will come not only convenience, but jobs, access to winter trade for merchants, and a more luxurious way to travel long distances. The Hastings Chronicle of the day called the railway the “great iron artery of Canadian commerce.”


The introduction of this new vehicle put Belleville on the map as part of the highway that connects the country, and became the city’s largest employer.

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One-hundred and fifty years ago, the first Grand Trunk steam engine rolled into the station on Station Street, beginning what Hastings County Historical Society President Orland French calls “a long heritage of railroading.”
The crowd at the Grand Trunk depot cheered the train and its workers, and the current mayor welcomed the Grand Trunk employees to town. The train only stopped long enough to stock up on water and cord wood before continuing on its way.
The October 25, 1856 edition of the Hastings Chronicle advertised a party to celebrate the coming of the train. On Oct 29, the same publication sang the praises of the railway and how it would enhance the value of real estate in the area and increase the prices of agricultural products while lowering the cost of manufactured goods in remote locations. In 1879, the first regular passenger train from Madoc to Belleville opened, bringing with it a direct connection between the iron mines of North Hastings and the Belleville harbour. The train ran right through the centre of town, down Pinnacle Street right up until 1964 when the tracks were lifted. A mural commemorating the historic last ride down Pinnacle Street can be found on the side of the Intelligencer building downtown.

The historical society has won the right to call October Railway Month in Belleville.

One-hundred and fifty years ago, the first Grand Trunk steam engine rolled into the station on Station Street, beginning what Hastings County Historical Society President Orland French calls “a long heritage of railroading.”


The crowd at the Grand Trunk depot cheered the train and its workers, and the current mayor welcomed the Grand Trunk employees to town. The train only stopped long enough to stock up on water and cord wood before continuing on its way.

 

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The October 25, 1856 edition of the Hastings Chronicle advertised a party to celebrate the coming of the train. On Oct 29, the same publication sang the praises of the railway and how it would enhance the value of real estate in the area and increase the prices of agricultural products while lowering the cost of manufactured goods in remote locations. In 1879, the first regular passenger train from Madoc to Belleville opened, bringing with it a direct connection between the iron mines of North Hastings and the Belleville harbour. The train ran right through the centre of town, down Pinnacle Street right up until 1964 when the tracks were lifted. A mural commemorating the historic last ride down Pinnacle Street can be found on the side of the Intelligencer building downtown. The historical society has won the right to call October Railway Month in Belleville.

After 150 years, the city of Belleville is the proud location for the oldest continually used railway station in the country.

 

Built in 1856, it is the oldest continuously operating passenger train station in Canada and designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1973.

The Belleville Railway Station was designated a national historic site because it is representative of the larger stations for the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) and because it is an enduring monument to early Canadian railway enterprise.
The Belleville Railway Station is a good example of the larger stations erected for the newly-formed GTR along the key Toronto to Montreal line during the mid-19th century. Built in 1855-56 by the noted English engineering firm of Peto, Brassey, Jackson and Betts, it is a variation on the standard GTR Second Class Wayside Station design developed by GTR Chief Architect Francis Thompson. The original one-storey, Italianate-style structure was altered in the late 19th-century by the addition of a mansard roof in the Second Empire style.
As a major divisional point on the GTR line between Montreal and Toronto, the Belleville station was a prominent part of a system which radically improved overland transportation and had a profound effect on the economics of the province. The railway was instrumental in the 19th-century growth of the town of Belleville.

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 The key elements that relate to the heritage value of the Belleville Railway Station are:
- the well-proportioned, rectangular composition of its main storey, with six arched bays on the long sides, and two on each end
- its relatively large size, in keeping with its status as a divisional point station
- the picturesque, Italianate style of its main storey, including: the round-arched openings; the symmetrical placement and even sizing of openings; the rusticated stonework; the elaborate door and window surrounds; the corner quoins; and the deep eaves
- its Second-Empire-style additions, including: a bellcast mansard roof; wide eaves; heavily moulded segmental dormers on all sides aligned with the bays of the main storey; and heavily articulated cornice mouldings capping the dormers and the roof
- its roof materials, consisting of metal shingles
- its fine stonework, consisting of: bluish-grey, Trenton limestone laid in narrow courses of small blocks; with lighter-coloured, sawn limestone accents at corners and openings
- the rustication of the stone accents, reminiscent of vermiculation
- the arrangement of stone accents at openings, consisting of alternating large and small voussoirs
- the central jamb shared by the two openings on each end wall, a feature unique to the Belleville station
- its relationship with the adjacent tracks

 

1873, October 3-4 - The Grand Trunk Railway converts the gauge of its line between Stratford and Montreal, 421 miles together with 60 miles of sidings, from 5' 6" to the standard gauge of 4' 8 1/2". The track work was completed in 24 hours and occasioned but 16 hours interruption in the use of the main line.

1887 - The Grand Trunk Railway commences double tracking its main line between Montreal and Toronto.  The work was completed in 1903.

2012 - The station building closes 19 March 2012 after 156 years of service. Next day the newly built Via Rail station unofficially opens to the public. The building remains currently unoccupied.

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