Originally built by Northern Pacific Junction Railroads around 1885, and eventually taken over by the Grand Trunk Railway (and then CN Rail), the South River Train Station defined this small but bustling village right from its humble beginnings.
A Bustling Train Station (1894)
A local news clipping circa 1907 described South River as “an up-to-date, hustling village with two large manufacturing industries, two of the finest general stores in the District, one of the best country hotels in Canada and many smaller enterprises.”
One of the reasons why South River stood out among the crowd of small villages in the bygone days is because it was turned into a ‘Divisional Point’ in 1907, the same year that the village was incorporated and, not so coincidentally, the same year the Standard Chemical Company began operations.
A Divisional Point
Much larger than your average train station, a divisional point is the place where trains would load up on water (in the days that trains were powered by steam), coal, have their wheels checked, and for many years, to pick up another engine in order to be able to make it up the hills between here and North Bay. This meant that the trains would often stop here for much longer than other stations, which provided an overall boost to the local economy. When passenger trains made their way through, the train would pull over and every one on board would empty out into the local hotel for a meal.
The Wrong Side of the Tracks
The South River Train Station was originally located on the east side of the tracks, but when the Standard Chemical Company came to town, and the Village was selected as a divisional point, they needed a certain amount of flat land to build additional lines which would allow trains to turn around. So, the decision was made to move the station to the west side of the tracks near the hotel which would free up the land on the east side for the additional track needed to allow trains from the north and south to switch direction.
From Then Until Now
Really nearly every piece of South River’s history is tied to the railway. The village grew from the site of a railway survey crew’s base camp, and until recently, its economic and geographic development has been railway oriented.
The station was closed when Canadian National Rail freight service to South River ceased in 1986. It remained a VIA rail stop without a shelter, and was the only stop between North Bay and Huntsville until Ontario Northland passenger rail service ceased operations through the area in 2012.