A Stations Storied History

Posted: 26th September 2012 by ToadHollowPhoto in Photography
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Fire is a great equalizer.  It can destroy things in a manner of moments, and it can also be responsible for rebirth and regrowth as evidenced by forests years after fire rages through it.  In some stories we find a place or facility that is so meaningful to the community that those who live there would literally move mountains and earth to do the impossible; that is to resurrect something that at first look appeared lost.

Nanaimo E&N Railway Station - Nanaimo, BC, Canada

Nanaimo E&N Railway Station – Nanaimo, BC, Canada

The morning of August 26th, 2007 was like many other mornings in the budding metropolis of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.  That is except for the harbinger of change that was settling into the historical train station in the heart of the city.  By 4:50AM a local resident looked out his window at the train station to see signs of smoke billowing from the facility.  In moments the damage had been done and a significant piece of local history appeared to be lost.

The first few days after the fire found mass confusion.  The Island Corridor Foundation had just recently taken over the premises from VIA Rail and there was a high level of uncertainty whether or not there was even fire insurance on the building.  And if there was, would it be enough to rebuild.  Many local experts who surveyed the property after the fire had serious doubts.  The damage was significant and extensive and there was little money in the cities coffers to deal with such a thing.

Once again we find ourselves amidst a story of hope and perseverance.  This wonderful old station was not only one of six remaining buildings in the city that hold federal and municipal heritage status, it was an actively used train station that served the island’s rail corridor.  No one wanted to see it disappear even though the political will and appetite to do something seemed less than exuberant.

Nanaimo E&N Railway Station - Nanaimo, BC, Canada

Nanaimo E&N Railway Station – Nanaimo, BC, Canada

As it turned out there was indeed an insurance plan in effect.  This was a nice start, but the funds required to fully refurbish the facility were well outside the scope of the funds received from the policy.  Local groups were formed and a coalition of sorts was created.  They then set about the massive undertaking of raising millions upon millions of dollars to get the job done.

And do the job they did.

Darren Moss, a director of Tectonica Management and the construction manager, called it a challenging project, but rewarding to work on.

“We ended up lifting the building, blasting underneath, reconstructing a new foundation and then giving it structural upgrades and seismic improvements,” he said. “Then we had to conceal all the modern-day mechanical systems within the fabric of a 100-year-old building.”

And the results truly speak for themselves.  According to several experts, the job was done well beyond expectations and the contractor involved in the project went over-and-beyond the call of duty to truly achieve the goals set out.  Today it’s open again, a lovely little restaurant the first tenant just waiting for rail service to begin again on the corridor.  Given the work that was undertaken to rebuild what was once was thought lost, and the impeccable quality of the work, all Islanders have a future to look forward to that includes this truly important building.

We couldn’t be more thrilled.

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit us today, we surely appreciate it.  We always love to hear from all our visitors, so please feel free to leave us any comments you may have!


Fire guts historic Nanaimo train station

Nanaimo train station back on track

Restored E&N Railway Station retains its strong connection to city’s history

  1. avatar ABarlow says:

    Always nice to see historic places like this saved, especially given its local significance. Nice photos as well sir. Love the color against that wonderful blue sky!

  2. Wonderful shot. As the fire was indeed the great equalizer, even more important is the hopes, dreams, and commitment of the local groups to see this historic site rebuilt. A very heart-warming story. Thanks Toad for sharing.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Your visit and comments here mean so much to us, Robert, thank you from the bottom of our hearts! Being able to share these stories with our audience is the fuel that keeps us running here, and when we get comments back like this it really makes our day. Thank you, kind sir!

  3. avatar LensScaper says:

    Great story, Toad. Extraordinary what communities can achieve when everyone pulls together. That’s a proud-looking building.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      I totally, totally agree there, Andy! Isn’t this inspiring? Thank you so much for taking the time to pop by today, we sure do appreciate it!

  4. avatar Erin Duke says:

    I love the stories that surround your images. I also love that you choose to include why you love where you live in your posts. Great shots and even better write-up. 🙂

  5. avatar Len Saltiel says:

    It is always sad to hear that a staple of the community has been destroyed. Too often, all that is left is an empty plot of land. Kudos to the community to rebuild it with such an attractive structure. Great post that documents the rebirth Toad. The first image is outstanding with its angle of view and color.

  6. Great story, I really like the first shot, especially the clouds!

  7. avatar ehpem says:

    Nice to hear the ending of this story. Well told as usual, not to mention well illustrated. Now if only someone would breath real life into the rail line itself, we would be all set.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Hear, hear! Rumors abound, that’s for sure! I really do hope they manage to revitalize the corridor, it’s adds a lot of character to the island, not to mention it’s a great way to get around!!

  8. avatar Edith Levy says:

    So glad they saved this building as its beautiful. Awesome images Toad. The first one is spectacular. Your composition and processing are perfect.

  9. So nice when tragedy turns into triumph. Looks like they did a wonderful job, and nice work capturing the new structure.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thanks Steven, they are pleased as punch as to the outcome here, and I feel likewise with your fabulous comments! Thank you so much my friend!

  10. avatar Jimi Jones says:

    Wonderful story. It is always nice to see things that mean so much to a community saved or restored. Sometimes a tragedy is only part of the journey to a better day.

    Great shots, Toad.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Well said, Jimi, thank you for leaving these wonderful comments! We really appreciate all your support here, my friend!

  11. avatar Sherry Galey says:

    You write the most interesting posts, Mr. Toad! And illustrate them with the most stunning photos. It’s encouraging and inspiring to read a story with such a happy ending. Thanks for this.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thank you so, so much Sherry, that really means an awful lot to us! We really appreciate all your friendship & support!

  12. avatar Rick Louie says:

    So nice to hear that the community came together to rebuild the place. It’s beautiful! We had quite a fire season here in Colorado. So devastating to ones involved and sad to see landmarks go down in flames. That first image is awesome. What a great sky!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thank you so very much, Rick, all your support really means an awful lot to us! We followed your fire season in the news up here and know it was a particularly bad one. Really sorry for all the losses that everyone experienced there this year. Thank you for popping by today and for leaving us your awesome comments, my friend!

  13. I love a story with a happy ending! It’s wonderful when a community can pull together to really show how much they care. Great photos and writeup my friend!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      With everything going on around here lately in terms of our heritage buildings, this is one of those stories that we love to share with everyone. Perhaps if someone out there sees this as an example of hope they might get involved in their community, too! Thanks a ton for popping by and leaving us your awesome comments!