Kitimat’s historic railway station earns heritage designation

Kitimat Heritage Group’s efforts lead to federal protection, future plans for community use
The Kitimat station, pictured circa 1957, has now been officially designated under the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act. (Photo courtesy the Kitimat Museum & Archives)

Kitimat’s historic railway station, once a bustling hub on the Canadian National Railway line, has now been officially designated under the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act. This significant milestone for the Kitimat Heritage Group (KHG) marks the culmination of its long-standing goal to preserve the station and repurpose it as a community asset.

Constructed in 1955 by the Canadian National Railway (CNR) at the behest of Alcan, the station was essential for exporting aluminium ingots, importing materials, and transporting workers and their families. Many newcomers to Canada accessed jobs and their new lives in Kitimat via this railway line. Passenger services ceased in 1958, and the building later served as a telegraph office until the 1970s before it fell into disuse.

The historical designation now allows KHG to pursue its vision of renting the space to businesses like restaurants or coffee shops, contributing to the town’s beautification and generating the necessary income for building maintenance.

Unfortunately, the station’s owner, CN Rail, has expressed zero interest in the project.

Gillian Mullins, a KHG member who for 10 years has been at the forefront of the campaign to revive the station, said that CN Rail cited concerns over the platform’s proximity to the tracks. The heritage group proposed installing high fencing to mitigate any risks, but CN Rail was unmoved.

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“They just weren’t interested. We either had to walk away or try something else. We didn’t want to walk away. This is the only heritage building in Kitimat,” Mullins stated.

So, with key support from the Kitimat Museum and the District of Kitimat, five years ago the society approached the federal government to secure the heritage designation without CN Rail’s participation. This status protects the station from unauthorized alterations, sales, transfers, or disposals—even by its owners.

With the new designation in place, Mullins hopes CN Rail will reconsider and join as a partner in restoring the building to its 1950s glory.

This summer, KHG plans to meet with the district to develop a comprehensive plan to present to CN Rail. “We’re hoping that with the district backing us and this designation, it will give more impetus for CN to work with us,” Mullins said.

Steven Guilbeault, the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, announced the designation on April 29. He emphasized that heritage railway stations are more than physical structures; they symbolize the connections between people, communities, and opportunities. He also recognized the darker aspects of their history, particularly the impacts of colonial expansion and infrastructure development on Indigenous communities.

“The construction of the site, and associated infrastructure development, had resounding impacts on the Haisla and Cheslatta T’en First Nations. It is only through sharing the whole story that we recognize and appreciate the truth of our shared history with Indigenous peoples,” Guilbeault said.

About the Author: Quinn Bender

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