Description of Historic Place
The Orangedale Railway Station is located in the small village of Orangedale, Inverness County, Nova Scotia. It is located along what was once part of the Intercolonial Railway line that ran from Port Hawkesbury through to Sydney. Constructed in 1886, it is the last surviving wooden Intercolonial station in Nova Scotia, and the oldest surviving station in the province. Along with a restored caboose, engine, freight cars and plow, it has been lovingly restored and maintained by the Orangedale Railway Association. The designation includes the railway station only.
The Orangedale Railway Station, which took its name from the surrounding village of Orangedale, provided service to a large area of southern Inverness County. Constructed of stacked, well squared timber, it was built in what was known as “Railway Queen Anne” - a late Victorian adaptation of an earlier English style of architecture. Even in this tiny hamlet, a public building such as this, would have impressed travelers and conveyed the importance of rail travel in the late-nineteenth century. It symbolized the optimism of a growing industrial economy in Cape Breton at this period. This was the main line that provided the most important link between the burgeoning coal mining towns in the Sydney area, the outlying farming districts, the coastal fishing ports and the merchant shipping area of the Strait of Canso. Many thousands of passengers passed through here as well as tons of freight during its century of activity. While currently operated as a museum, it still hosts the occasional excursion train for tourists.
The heritage value of the Orangedale Railway Station lies not only in its stately Victorian architecture, but in the fact that it has remained virtually intact as it was built. A one-and-one-half-storey wood frame building, it has a steep cross-hipped roof with a raised hipped centre section that faces both the front and rear of the building, eight elongated dormer windows (four on each side) and the original awning roof over the train platform. It was likely built from a stock plan because one very similar to it was built at this time at Grand Narrows, Cape Breton. The raised centre section shows hints of the “Chateau” style which was very popular in train station architecture in Canada in the late-nineteenth century. Directly below this projects the ticket agent’s office and telegraph office with windows on three sides. Under the roof fascia, a bracketed soffit with demi-lune indentations runs along the perimeter of the building. Each upper storey inset dormer window has a triangular-shaped pediment and the centre hipped section has a triangular pediment slightly above each window with brackets under the soffit which have raised wooden bosses. The outside shingles are scalloped in alternating rows and there are three string courses in wood around the perimeter of the building with the lowest one below the first floor windows projecting from the wall. The front of the building facing the tracks has an overhang to protect passengers.
The interior of the station has been restored to the first half of the twentieth century. The ticket agent’s office and waiting rooms have tongue and groove wainscoting and the windows have original fluted jambs and squared corner medallions. A large freight and baggage area is on this first level. A curved staircase leads to the station master’s apartment which occupies the entire second level. A living room, dining room, kitchen and two bedrooms are restored to their original interiors with period furnishings and details. The first station master was James MacFarlane and two generations of this family lived here.
The Orangedale Station has seen many well known Canadians pass through, including several Prime Ministers and other prominent politicians. Alexander Graham Bell, his wife Mabel Hubbard Bell, their children and many friends travelled through Orangedale on their many trips back and forth to Baddeck. With rail travel having declined today to the point where it is almost non-existent in Cape Breton, this station still stands as a sentinel of a bygone age. It has become even more well known in recent years in the popular Rankin Family song: “Orangedale Whistle” ---a song of haunting nostalgia for the heyday of trains and railroading in Canada.
Source: Municipality of the County of Inverness, Municipal Heritage Files, Orangedale Railway Station
Exterior character-defining elements of the Orangedale Railway Station relate to its “Railway Queen Anne” style and include:
- steep hipped roof with raised hipped centre section projecting both front and rear giving it the appearance of a modified turret;
- elongated inset dormer windows on roof (four on each side) with triangular pediments;
- centre section dormers on second level have elevated triangular pediments and bracketed soffits with raised wooden bosses underneath;
- bracketed soffits with demi-lune details and three wooden string courses around the perimeter of the building;
- projecting ticket agent’s office with windows on three sides directly below the centre hipped section;
- wooden awning over rail platform;
- scalloped shingles running in alternating rows.
Interior character-defining elements of the Orangedale Railway Station relate to its “Railway Queen Anne” style and include:
- fluted window jambs with corner medallions;
- original tongue and groove wainscoting in waiting rooms and ticket agent’s office;
- original curved wooden staircase to upper level;
- high ceilings with tall double-sash windows with four-over-four panes of glass;
- built in shelves and cupboards in upper apartment kitchen.