The O'Leary Railway Station is a single storey, wood clad, hipped-roof railway station located off Main Street in O'Leary, Prince Edward Island, next to the former railway tracks which are now part of the Confederation Trail.
Why is this place important?
The heritage value of the O'Leary Railway Station lies in its connection with the history of the railway in the province of Prince Edward Island, and its role in the development of the rural community of O'Leary. The station is also valued as an example of standard Intercolonial Railway station design.
The O'Leary Railway Station is the third station structure at this site and was constructed in 1913-1914 to an Intercolonial Railway standard design, a design used in several Maritime communities. Construction of the Prince Edward Island Railway began in 1871, and it ran from Souris to Alberton. The railway crossed the O'Leary Road three miles west of what is now the Western Road or Highway 2. The O'Leary Road was named for Irish immigrant Michael O'Leary who settled near West Cape in 1837. O'Leary cleared a trail from his home to the nearest store which was located in Cascumpec, on the opposite shore. The trail became known as O'Leary Road. When the PEI Railway constructed its first station at the intersection of the O'Leary Road and the railway, in approximately 1873, there was no settlement at the site. By 1881 however, O'Leary was becoming a business centre with a post office, cooperage, and several stores servicing the outlying rural communities and fishing ports of Brae, West Point, Cape Wolfe and Cascumpec.
The first station at O'Leary Road was a "way" or "crossing" station. Because of the tremendous growth of the area, a second larger railway station was constructed. A second storey addition was later added to provide living quarters for the station agent and his family. In 1913 the third and current station building was under construction.
Beginning in 1875, railway officials and politicians debated a proposed branch line between O'Leary station and the wharf at West Point, to meet a proposed new ferry service to Richibucto, New Brunswick. While a rail line was surveyed in 1911, plans were shelved when the federal government declared in 1928 that no further branch lines would be constructed in PEI.
With better roads and increased availability and use of cars, railway passenger service was declining and eventually ended in 1969. The rails continued to be used for freight service until 1989. In 1994, the Province of PEI purchased the CNR rail corridor and a project to develop walking and cycling trails began and was completed in 2000. Today the 434 km main railway and branch lines form the Confederation Trail and is part of the Trans Canada Trail system.
The O'Leary Station was purchased in 1983 by the O'Leary municipality with the assistance of the O'Leary Museum and Library Association. The station was rehabilitated to house a cafe, shops and office space. A cement foundation was added and the platforms were rebuilt. The Association was presented with a PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation architectural preservation award for its efforts. In 2013, renovations were carried out including the replacement of windows, replacement of some of the wooden doors with steel doors, interior renovation, and the installation of heat pumps.
Also located on the property of the O'Leary Railway Station is a WWI memorial monument dedicated in 1919.
The O'Leary Railway Station continues to be an important landmark and is a reminder of the important role the railway played in the establishment of the town.
Source: Heritage Places files, Department of Education, Early Learning and Culture, Charlottetown, PE
File #: 4320-20/O4
The heritage value of the O'Leary Railway Station is shown in the following heritage character-defining elements:
- the overall size and massing of the structure
- the hipped roof which provides a large overhang over the platform of the main structure
- the wood clapboard siding
- the size and placement of the windows and doors
- the bracketing supporting the eaves or roof overhang
- the wood panelled doors - the double freight doors on the west elevation
- the square bay projection under the eave on the east elevation to accommodate the station agent's office
- the square projection under the eave on the north elevation
- the platform on the west, south and part of the east elevations
Other character-defining elements include:
- the location of the station beside the former railway tracks, now the Confederation Trail
- the WWI monument which contributes to the landscape of the site