On a March trip to see family in Southwestern Ontario, my brother and my nephew were nice enough to take me on a road trip to some of their favourite haunts, including some great spots trackside. You see, my nephew is a railfan for sure. His interests are quite varied, but he does love sitting trackside watching trains, which makes me proud to be his uncle.
So with that in mind, the three of us set off down county roads toward a small town in Middlesex County called Glencoe. This town in situated in the middle of some prime farm land and boasts of a beautiful old Grand Trunk station, which still sits trackside on the Canadian National Chatham Subdivision. Like many other small rural towns, the passenger trains no longer call at the large old stations. Glencoe is no exception as the Via Rail trains between Toronto and Windsor make use of a tiny trackside depot.
We waited for the expected 10:05 a.m. arrival of Train 72, which was bookended by a pair of P42s on either end. P42 905 was the engine on point leading the train east toward Toronto. The Via station here is quite spacious when compared to Wyoming's station, which is even smaller. The shot below, from 2017, gives you an idea, for comparison's sake.
It was fun to watch the Via pull up to the Glencoe station, especially since my nephew rarely sees Via Rail trains, as the Sarnia Via service leaves early in the morning and its return trip arrives late. So he never gets to see them. In this case, Glencoe is a conditional stop for Train 72 and only pulls in to the station when there are passengers to pick up. On this day, there were.
The previous day's snow squalls left a faint trace as we watched the engineer eyeball the train's positioning at the station, to ensure the passengers had access to the right car. I've never seen that happen before. After a few minutes, the train was moving again, complete with horn, which my nephew found incredibly loud so close. P42 914 was on the tail end as the train passed by the old depot and the preserved CNR caboose.
When the train had made its way east and out of site, we decided to check out the old train station and caboose, which were remarkably well preserved and cared for, which was encouraging to see. The station itself was built in 1904 in the Queen Anne Revival style. The station, which served Grand Trunk, was actually just the latest version of a station for the rural town, as the Great Western Railway built its first log cabin depot in 1854. The next station was built in 1856 and another was built in 1900. The town, which sits on a once busy main line into Windsor, has relied on railways for much of its history.
Given that the station is so well preserved, the first thing you might find curious is that it is not sitting parallel to the CN Chatham Subdivision track. Judging by the new foundation that my brother noticed, the building seems to have been shifted from its trackside location to a spot more suited to its community function, on the corner of the town's main street and McRae Street.
Looking inside the structure, you can clearly see the original features have been maintained. The men's and women's waiting rooms are still intact while the stationmaster's office is still in place. The tin ceiling and hardwood floors are still in place, as they were for much of the station's history. It's a remarkably intact station and has been recognized for its preservation.
The caboose outside the station is in great shape too, although you could see a bit of wood rot among the slats near the cupula, which is to be expected when an old wood-framed car is left in the elements. Still, it's clear that the car has been recently repainted and cared for by dedicated volunteers. I was a bit disappointed that there were no markings, logos or any other identifying information on the car.
I couldn't find much on this old car, although some older photos show that it was once covered over with plywood sheets before those sheets were pried away and the original slats repainted. If only they would put an old CNR maple left logo on that car and some markings, it would be just about perfect.
All in all, it was a fun stopover to see the old train station and learn a little about this small town of 2,000 people in southern Middlesex County. It's clear that history matters here, symbolized by the old train station.