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Melville Railway Station, Melville, Saskatchewan
The Melville Railway Station, built in Melville, Saskatchewan in 1908, was a major station on the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTPR) line. The expansion of the railway into the West at the beginning of the 20th century allowed an agricultural economy to flourish. It brought immigrants to newly surveyed regions where they settled on homesteads, broke the land and grew grain, which the railways in turn transported east. Thus, the GTPR and its stations played a key role in the settlement and development of western Canada.
Melville and its station were named after Charles Melville Hays, the president of the GTPR. The station was constructed during a peak period of railway expansion that lasted from the early 1900s to 1914, when the Canadian Pacific Railway’s (CPR) monopoly in the West was being challenged by the creation of two new rail companies: the Canadian Northern (CNR) and the Grand Trunk Pacific (GTPR). The main line of the GTPR ran from Winnipeg through Melville and Edmonton to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, and was completed in 1914. Melville also served as an important junction point on the line connecting to Regina and the United States border to the south, and to Churchill, Manitoba, to the north.
The selection of Melville as a major divisional point on the GTPR’s transcontinental main line gave impetus and shape to the town’s early development and has contributed to its ongoing prosperity. Typical of many prairie towns purchased and laid out by the GTPR, Melville extends north from the railway tracks which form a distinct boundary at its southern edge. Situated at the head of Main Street, just south of First Avenue, the railway station was and remains the focal point of Melville. The station, a rectangular two-storey wooden structure, housed offices for the superintendent, divisional engineer and other railway officials, and communicated the importance of Melville in the expansion of the GTPR in the prairies. The station has twin half-timbered gables on both the town and track side elevations and stucco exterior surfaces. On the track side, there once was a shingled canopy, supported by wooden brackets which overhung the wooden platform. Living quarters were constructed nearby, as were a section house, roundhouse, stockyard, freight house and other railway facilities.
The GTPR relied heavily on a fairly small number of standardized station plans. In the case of Melville, the company chose a large “special” design for the station, reflecting Melville’s status as a divisional point on the railway’s main line through the West and illustrating the quality of the Grand Trunk Railway’s building program. GTPR stations in Rivers, Manitoba, Edson, Alberta, Sioux Lookout, Ontario and Redditt, Ontario, while all built after the Melville Station, are similar in design and are all examples of the rare GTPR, custom-designed, “special stations”.
Today, Melville is a small city (population of about 4,600). It is located in the east-central portion of Saskatchewan, 144 kilometres northeast of the provincial capital of Regina and 43 kilometres southwest of Yorkton. The GTPR, now the Canadian National Railway, continues to be a major employer in Melville, which has remained on the railway’s main line and is still served by Via Rail’s The Canadian three times per week. The Melville Railway Station is owned by The Melville Rail Station Heritage Association Inc. which leases the land on which it sits. Many of the major components of the original setting, including the yards and functionally-related railway buildings – notably a small VIA passenger station to the east and an administrative building to the west – have been retained.
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Title of the Image: Melville Railway Station
Source of the Image: Univ. of Saskatchewan Archives, Keith Ewart Photograph Collection, ca. 1910-19, In the Public Domain.
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