As with the Bird’s Eye view of the Plaza, the J. Valentine company was so eager to publish a postcard of Ottawa’s new central station in 1908 that it couldn’t wait for the real thing. So it used this drawing of what the station was supposed to look like when it was finished in 1912.
Some of the details are wrong. The Corry Block on the left is looking a tad stubby, for instance. The columns on the front of the station are round, not square, etc.
Nevertheless, the postcard captures the essential features of the building, beginning with the fact that it was designed in a Classical style reminiscent of the public buildings of ancient Rome. It even had a little dome on top (since removed) to remind you of the Pantheon in Rome itself.
The major problem the new building had to solve was one of getting passengers from the level of Rideau Street down to the level of the tracks beside the Rideau Canal below.
This you did by entering the station through a set of fabulous brass doors on Rideau Street, passing down marble stairs to a magnificent waiting hall (in the middle of the building, with the curved arch roof), then the ticketing hall and departure hall at the back (the part with the lower arch and triangular roof to the right). Exiting the building at the back, you found yourself on the platforms, protected from rain and snow by massive train sheds overhead (far right).
The sheds indicate more or less how far J.R. Booth had brought the tracks of his Canada Atlantic Railway up the east side of canal in 1896. To get that far, the canal’s east turning basin had to be filled in. There was no real train station. Instead, Booth took over a Military Stores building located between the end of the tracks and Rideau Street. Passengers reached the platforms by a ramshackle set of tin-covered stairs from the east end of Sappers’ Bridge, or else via Little Sussex Street (an extension of Sussex that disappeared in the 1960s).
I think the interesting point to be made here is, however, that it was J.R. Booth who really got the ball rolling for Ottawa’s new central station some years before he sold his Canada and Atlantic Railway to the Grand Trunk in 1904.
Note: Railway matters are always more complicated than they might seem. For the details on Union Station, you can’t do better than the Ottawa Railway Circle.
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