Description of Historic Place
The Inverness Railway Station is located just below Central Avenue in the village of Inverness, Nova Scotia. It was the terminal for the Inverness Railway and Coal Company line which ran from the Port Hawkesbury junction along the western side of Cape Breton to Inverness. A one-storey, wood frame building, it opened in 1901 and became a busy passenger and freight depot during the first decades of the twentieth century. Today it serves as the Inverness Miners Museum. The municipal designation includes the station, freight shed and property.
This building is valued as one of the only two surviving railway stations along the Inverness Railway line (the only other station on the line in Port Hood has been used as a funeral home). Its exterior restoration increases its significance as an excellent example of an early twentieth century railway station in Cape Breton. Although the railway line in Inverness County no longer exists (it has been transformed into a portion of the Trans Canada Trail system) this small station is a reminder of what was once an important communication and commercial link in the economy of Inverness County.
Constructed between 1899 and 1900 at Broad Cove (renamed Inverness in 1903), it opened in June 1901. At this time Broad Cove was evolving from a rural farming community to an industrial coal mining town. In the later part of the nineteenth century several American entrepreneurs began to develop the area’s abundant coal fields. By the late 1890’s streets had begun to be laid out and houses built to accommodate the rapid influx of coal miners and their families.
The first American to arrive in the area was William Penn Hussey who recognized the potential of the seams of coal and used his considerable capital to develop the mines, build shipping piers and lay out several kilometres of narrow gauge railway from the mines to the piers. Hussey established the Broad Cove Coal Company, which was incorporated in 1894; however Hussey left the area in the mid 1890’s.
Two new entrepreneurs, William MacKenzie and Donald Mann, arrived and incorporated as the Inverness Railway and Coal Company. As railway developers, they secured money from the Canadian government to build a railway from Broad Cove to the Strait of Canso in 1898. Once the railroad work was finished, they concentrated on developing the coal mines. The railway station opened in 1901 and hundreds of passengers and business people began to pass through it. With increased traffic during World War I, an addition was built on the original building in 1917 to accommodate a larger office and waiting room. The remainder of the building was used for baggage and freight. This addition was later removed.
The Inverness Railway and Coal Company (ICR) included seven locomotives, three passenger cars, one mail and baggage car, two-hundred 30-ton boxcars, two-hundred 30-ton gondolas, and one-hundred 30-ton flat cars. Early in the twenty-first century fourteen cars of coal per day were shipped from Inverness (formerly Broad Cove) to piers at Port Hastings. The ICR served all of Inverness County from Inverness south to Port Hawkesbury. Smaller railway stations, similar to the Inverness Station, were built at Mabou, Port Hood and Judique along the line. Passenger service for this line ended in 1959.
The Inverness Railway station was built using a stock plan and consists of a rectangular wood frame building with a predominant roof overhang which was once supported by large wooden brackets above the rail platform. A projecting bay window at the front indicates where the telegraph and ticket agent’s office was located. A comfortable waiting room with benches was located at one end and at the other end was a storage room for passenger luggage and goods. In its heyday, it was painted grey with green trim around the doors and windows, although now, it is red with white trim, a more traditional colour for historic railway stations. Adjoining the station is a separate building which was a freight shed and is now a gallery for special exhibitions.
Source: Municipality of the County of Inverness, Municipal Heritage Files, Inverness Railway Station
Character-defining elements of the Inverness Railway Station include:
- rectangular wood frame building based on a stock plan;
- wood shingle exterior;
- projecting overhang above train platform;
- hipped roof in two sections;
- three-sided bay window on front elevation;
- double sash windows with plain trim;
- double doors, once used for freight;
- lower course of tongue and groove wainscoting along front elevation;
- wooden freight shed beside station.