Historic building once railway station
Landmark now an apartment building
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.