The Canada Southern Railway Station is a former railway station in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada. The station was built by the Canada Southern Railway and last had train service in 1979. It is now home to the North America Railway Hall of Fame.
Historically, the station was, at one time, one of the busiest train stations in Canada, headquarters to the Canada Southern Railway and is currently owned by, and home to the North America Railway Hall of Fame. Since the CASO Station was acquired by the North America Railway Hall of Fame in 2005, the goal is to restore the station to its "illustrious state of the 1914-1925 eras"
The Canada Southern Railway line ran from Detroit to Buffalo. It provided an efficient path for travelers who took the short route through southern Ontario. As the line grew, the town of St. Thomas, Ontario offered a $25,000 bonus to the Canada Southern Railway if they built their head offices within the borders of the town. The Canada Southern acquiesced and the CASO station was built. As a direct result, the population of St. Thomas quadrupled in the span of not much more than a decade.
Though it was one of 31 railway station built in Ontario during the 1870s, CASO was unique, in that it was designed in an Italianate style by Canadian architect Edgar Berryman (1839-1905,) and is thought to be the only station of that type in Canada. It is also the largest of them all. More common designs for major railway stations of the times included Romanesque, Beaux-Arts and Second Empire architectural styles.
The building itself is 107.9 metres (354 feet) long and 10.9 metres (36 feet) wide. The station boast two stories – both with ceilings of approximately 5.5-6.1 metres (18–20 feet) featuring 164 arched windows. Its original 400,000 white brick construction was later painted red to suit the style of the day. The original cost of the CASO station was estimated at between $10,000 - $12,000 dollars in 1873.
The Canada Southern Station did double duty. It became a busy “port of call” for numerous lines, while the second floor of the building was home to the Canadian head offices of the Canada Southern Line. Currently, much of the second floor is rented out and generates revenue to maintain the station.
Features of the restored Canada Southern Railway Station include the single men's waiting room, the ladies or family waiting room, ticket office, station master's office and mail room. The CASO station also had a large dining room, now renamed Anderson Hall, with a live-in staff of a cook and several lady servers. They lived in modest quarters upstairs, above the kitchen and dining room. The dining room was quite elegant and travelers could wire their menu orders ahead in time for their arrival.
A fire in 1925 severely damaged the kitchen and, combined with the advent of dining cars on passenger trains, the dining hall was relegated to more of a lunch room. By October 2005, with the restoration efforts at the station underway, the first meal in 80 years was served in the dining room – at a wedding reception.
Since that time, The Canada Southern Railway Station (or the CASO station) is maintained in part by revenue from the rental of both Anderson Hall and the Ladies waiting room for weddings, wedding receptions, ceremonies, luncheons, dinners, teas, conferences and corporate events.
Also located at the CASO Station were the Michigan Central Railroad car manufacturing shops. Also, it was here that master mechanic, Thomas William Cottrell helped establish the MCR shops as a regional repair shops for locomotives, rather than sending them to the United States for repair. (Cottrell was inducted into the North America Railway Hall of Fame in 2006 for his contribution to the railway industry in the category of "Local: Railway Worker & Builder.")
As a non-profit agency of the Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Culture, the Ontario Heritage Trusts' mandate is preserving Ontario's heritage resources. On June 17, 2011, the Ontario Heritage Trust, together with the North America Railway Hall of Fame acknowledged the Canada Southern Railway Stations valuable connection to our past by honouring it with a plaque. The plaque stands just outside the northwest corner of the station.
The plaque readsST. THOMAS CANADA SOUTHERN RAILWAY STATION
The St. Thomas Canada Southern (CASO) Station, financed by American railway promoters, was constructed between 1871 and 1873 to serve as both the passenger station for St. Thomas and CASO’s corporate headquarters. During the 1920s, the station was one of the busiest in Canada. The Canada Southern rail route through southwestern Ontario ultimately linked Chicago and New York City, and was instrumental in the economic development and growth of St. Thomas. Designed in the Italianate style by Canadian architect Edgar Berryman (1839-1905), the impressive building is embellished with classical details such as pilasters, arched windows and passageways, wide eaves and a heavy cornice supported by paired brackets. The building’s design, scale and quality of interior finishes make it unique within Canadian architectural history and it stands as a symbol of the importance of railway development in southern Ontario.February 28, 1868: The Canada Southern Railway (originally known as Erie and Niagara Extension Railway) was founded.
December 24, 1869: Name changed to the Canada Southern Railway with the reporting mark CASO.
1871-1873: Construction begins on the Canada Southern Railway Station in St. Thomas, Ontario.
1874: Financial troubles result in the CSR filing for bankruptcy
1876: Transportation magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, owner of the New York Central Railroad (NYC), purchases the CSR.
1883: As owner of the New York Central Railroad (NYC), he leases it to the Michigan Central Railroad (also under Vanderbilt's control.)
1920s: Under this ownership the line flourished and the Canada Southern Railway Station became one of the busiest in Canada at its peak (circa 1920s.)
Circa 1930: Canada Southern was subleased back to the parent company, NYC.
1968: CSR amalgamated along with the NYC into Penn Central Transportation Company(Penn Central.)
1976: Penn Central declared bankruptcy. Controlling interest purchased by Conrail.
January 31, 1979: Passenger traffic on the line ended with the end of the Amtrak Niagara Rainbow.
1983: The line and station were purchased jointly by both the Canadian Pacific Railway and Canadian National Railway.
1980: All traffic on the line ended and the station was closed.
2005: The Canada Southern Railway Station (CASO) station was purchased the North America Railway Hall of Fame.
October, 2005: Events begin at the station as a revenue generator for the restoration.
2011 Plaque placed at station by the Ontario Heritage Trust.