Situated at the East End of Main Street in the Town of Antigonish is a building which today functions as the Antigonish Heritage Museum.  In an earlier time, it was used as a railway station depot.  The building was erected during the term William Chisholm served as Minister of Public Works, while representing Antigonish as a Federal MP.  The station was among major infrastructure projects that were undertaken in 1905 within the Town of Antigonish. Tradesmen and carpenters enjoyed the boom in construction that saw a new Royal Bank, Post Office, and Celtic Hall built.

The design of the building is attributed to William B MacKenzie, Chief Engineer with the Intercolonial Railway based in Moncton, New Brunswick. Rhodes & Curry of Amherst were awarded the $12,000.00 contract to construct the station.  Completed in 1908, the building is typical of a Class 2, two storey brick station.  Some of the prominent architectural features include a cross gable roof, semi circular ‘eyebrow’ windows in cross gable facades and small gable dormers on ends.  There are bracketed extended eaves on all four sides of the building.  There are small triangular gable dormers on either side of cross gable.  The walls are red brick with sandstone sills and lintels; granite steps remain at two of the main exits from the building.

Lord Lovet visit 1908Shortly after construction of the station in August 1908, the first of many dignitaries who would visit our town arrived.   Lord Lovat traveled by train to attend the Highland Games and to receive an honourary degree from St F X College.  Special excursion rates were advertised for travelers wishing to participate in activities surrounding his visit.  These half price rates were offered from Sydney, Halifax and Truro on several occasions for visitors wishing to participate in Highland Games festivities.   

Papal delegate 1924In 1924 residents of the town came out in great numbers to welcome the papal delegate, their cars decorated with ribbons in official papal colours.  Politicians of all stripes used whistle stops at the local station to promote their agenda. During early days of the Antigonish Movement, the train was used to bring agricultural expertise to rural communities to educate and conduct soil testing.  Many of the early sports teams traveled to competitions via train.

This railway station provided passenger, freight, mail and express service to Antigonish for over 75 years. Goods of every description were shipped via rail including lumber, pulpwood, fish, cattle, coal and manufactured goods.  Pens surrounded the station property as live cattle waited for shipment to market.  It was a major hub of economic activity and provided employment for station agents, section men, engineers, telegraphers and others.  With the railway, the opportunity to leave Antigonish was also made easier.  During the time period between 1880 and 1930, the population of the Town and County virtually halved.  No other county in Nova Scotia experienced that rate of outmigration.  

Diefenbaker visits Antigonish 1962With the discontinuation of passenger rail service on the Sydney – Truro line in February 1989, the railway depot became surplus infrastructure for CN.  The Town of Antigonish purchased legal title to the building for $1.00 and signed a lease of land and premises agreement that stipulated use of the building would be for community, non profit purposes only.  The Heritage Association of Antigonish established in 1982 collected artifacts, reference and archival materials for the day they would have a permanent Museum to house their collection.  In June 1991, a dream was realized when the Antigonish Heritage Museum opened to the public.  

StFX Hospital Unit off to World War IFor many the Station is the first, or the last memory they have of Antigonish.  It was from the train station that soldiers of World War I left for overseas service.  Young men and women left for employment in Western Canada, the men on the Harvest Trains and lumber camps, women as teachers. Students traveled to Antigonish to take up studies at St F X, Mount St Bernard and St Marthas School of Nursing.  It is most appropriate that the Station now houses the Antigonish Heritage Museum.   The architecture, the history and welcoming atmosphere makes the Museum a great place to visit.