His­toric build­ing once rail­way sta­tion

Land­mark now an apart­ment build­ing

Cape Breton Post - - NORTHSIDE/VICTORIA - Gor­don Samp­son Gor­don Samp­son is a re­tired teacher who lives in his home­town of North Syd­ney. His col­umn ap­pears weekly in the Cape Bre­ton Post. He writes a sep­a­rate col­umn in the Cape Bre­ton Com­mu­nity Post. Any­one with com­mu­nity news can con­tact him at g

The North Syd­ney Rail­way Sta­tion is presently owned by Nor­man and Linda Mac Mil­lan. Ac­cord­ing to the book, “Still Stand­ing” by Terry Sun­der­land, from 1870 to 1920, the CNR built hun­dreds of rail­way sta­tions. This one was built in 1892, and the sta­tion master lived on the sec­ond floor. In 1929 when the CNR de­cided to de­mol­ish it, John C. MacMil­lan, Nor­man’s grand­fa­ther bought it; he had it moved on rollers and pulled by draft horses to its present lo­ca­tion on Sta­tion Street. It be­came the John C. MacMil­lan Lum­ber Com­pany, and it had a 16-foot lathe in­stalled; it could build 15-foot pil­lars or posts. Its de­sign and struc­ture are unique: it is built in the Queen Anne Style, and ac­cord­ing to “A Nova Sco­tian’s Guide to Built Her­itage: Ar­chi­tec­tural Styles 16041930,” “it has the qual­i­ties of the Queen Ann Re­vival pe­riod, 1880 - 1930, and some of the qual­i­ties of the Four Square 1890-1930.” This means it has a steep, pitched roof with a prom­i­nent cor­nice and a large columned ve­randa or gallery; it has very large dorm­ers with pitched roofs, and it is two storeys with tall win­dows topped with tri­an­gu­lar ped­i­ments, and an off cen­tre, large door­way “It’s one sturdy build­ing,” says Nor­man. “It was built with rough hewn 4’x 8’ pieces of lum­ber laid down on top of each other in a square fash­ion.” Where the sun porch is now, it had an over­hang where the pas­sen­gers could stand out of the rain. Nor­man said the sta­tion master stood in his of­fice which part of the build­ing jut­ted out three to four feet so that he could see up and down the tracks. He also gave the hand sig­nal with col­ored plates in the of­fice to the con­duc­tor to pro­ceed, or stop and wait for another train to come in or go by. Kilmer Dunn was sta­tion master and he was si­t­u­ated in the cur­rent sta­tion (now the North Syd­ney Food Bank); his of­fice jut­ted out so that he could see up and down the tracks. He sold train tick­ets, and he’d make sure that the cor­rect box cars were shunted down to the CN, sent to Syd­ney Mines to pick up the coal, hauled coal to the coal piers, and sorted for freight cars to Syd­ney. My fa­ther, Michael, pur­chase large or­ders of wood, gyprock, etc. and did over ev­ery room in our three-storey house on Purves Street ex­cept the kitchen which our fam­ily wanted to keep in the old style with wain­scot­ting around the four walls, a blocked ceil­ing, and the Alaska B stove from An­gel’s Foundry. Fish­er­men built boats in the mill build­ing: they cut out keels for the boats and knees for the side braces on the wooden boats. “Knees” were the part of the wood be­tween the hull and where the hull meets the deck of the ship or boat, known as the “brake.” “You got your knee from the root of a tree with a nice bend in it,” said Nor­man. The mill used to get train loads of Dou­glas fir from Bri­tish Columbia. Another strik­ing ex­am­ple was the com­plete mod­ern house (one with a toi­let in it) which was shipped to New­found­land: the boards, the roof­ing shin­gles, win­dows and doors, the ce­ment for the foun­da­tion and bricks for the chim­ney, all for the price of $4,000 to $5,600, around 1937. Pur­chasers went to the of­fice in the main build­ing and opened an ac­count and ar­ranged pay­ments. Three gen­er­a­tions ran the com­pany: John C. MacMil­lan, his son Nor­man M., and lastly Nor­man, John C. and Char­lie MacMil­lan un­til it closed around 1994. In 2006, the fam­ily do­nated the old 25-horse­power Leonard steam en­gine to the North Syd­ney Her­itage Mu­seum. Re­cently Nor­man and Linda com­pletely ren­o­vated the build­ing in­side and out. Presently, the main build­ing, the for­mer North Syd­ney Rail­road Sta­tion, has been made into apart­ments.


Pic­tured above is the orig­i­nal rail­road sta­tion in North Syd­ney built in 1892 and lo­cated on Sta­tion Street.

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