Sunday, April 02, 2017

The Piney Train Station

The decrepit train station in Piney, Manitoba
Our family likes to do something every weekend. Sometimes it's just going out to Costco, sometimes visiting relatives; it's better than sitting on the couch, especially now that the weather is getting nicer.


Last weekend I proposed a road trip - to Piney, Manitoba, to see the old train station. This sad old station has been abandoned for a long time. I wanted to see it before it completely collapsed.

My family was... less than enthused. I promised them a late lunch / early supper at the Trail's End Tavern in Woodridge, Manitoba on the way back, and since they had no better idea, off we went!

The Journey

We drove down the Trans-Canada to Ste. Anne, then took highway 12 through Steinbach and into the wilds. It's very remote through there with long stretches of absolutely nothing but trees. I was glad we had left Winnipeg with almost a full tank of gas.

After an hour and a half, we arrived in Piney. It's not a ghost town but it's not far from it.

The Station

The train station was easy to find. It's on the former right-of-way of the CN Ridgeville subdivision, on the only side street in Piney. It's a pretty lonely street.
Side street in Piney, Manitoba
Across the street from the station is a collection of small old wooden buildings.

It was a warm day so it was nice to walk around and photograph the station from various angles. I was using a monopod to capture three images for making HDR photos. I wanted to shoot HDR because the sky was fairly bright and I felt I wouldn't be able to capture enough detail without recording multiple frames.

Here's the back of the station, photographed from the former right-of-way, which is now just a trail.
Back of the Piney train station
Notice the stuff lying around - pails, chairs, and what's that.. an old fridge, maybe?

I looked in a couple of windows and it appears the station was last used to store appliances.
Stoves in the old train station
It looks pretty dry in there, which is a bit surprising.
Another stove in the train station
The windows have some glass in them but they are open. I didn't enter the train station at all.

One more view of the Piney train station, and then we'll move on to the nearby CN section house and a few other buildings in the town.
Lonely old train station
There's a photo of the station from August 1979 on Flickr - I wish I could embed it but it's not permitted. However, there is a photo by A.L. Szalanski, I believe the same person who posted to Flickr, from the Wikimedia Commons that I can embed. I did a bit of editing to it - permitted by the license - to try to reduce the backlighting.
Piney train station, 1979, photo by A.L. Szalanski - see

The Section House

The former section house is just down the road. It's in worse shape than the station - believe it or not - with a partially collapsed roof.
CN sectionman's house in Piney, Manitoba
You can see it's in the same style as the station, and the same colour too.
Another view of the sectionman's house in Piney, MB
Note the missing chimney as well. You can look right through the front to the staircase to the second floor. I didn't enter this one either, and I didn't walk around it as my family was starting to get antsy.

Here's a link to a Flickr photo from 1979.

Other Piney Buildings

I saw three other interesting buildings in Piney and photographed two of them. First was the old Piney municipal office building.
Piney municipal office building
This looks very much like the old false storefronts of Prairie businesses. I like how the arched portion has wood shingles.

Clearly this building isn't in use any more but its roof appears to be in decent shape.

The second building I photographed was the Thompson garage, located right in the middle of town and very prominently located.
Thompson's Garage in Piney, Manitoba
Piney also has an old school - two, I think, actually - but I didn't photograph them. There is a community centre that appears to be active, no doubt serving the community and those around it. It also has a government garage.

Rail Abandonment

A mixed freight/passenger train was in the 1950/04/30 CN employee timetable. Train #207 would leave South Junction (junction with the CN Sprague subdivision) Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at 08:15, passing through Piney at 08:50 before arriving at Emerson Junction (junction with the CN Letellier subdivision) at 12:10 PM. The corresponding eastbound train, #208, would leave Emerson Junction at 10:50 AM on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and pass through Piney at 15:40 before arriving at South Junction at 16:30. Clearly it wasn't a fast transit, taking 4 hours westward and 5.5 hours eastward to travel the 72.7 miles between the two junctions.

The mixed train was gone from the timetables by 1967 but I expect it was cancelled much earlier than that.

Sometime between the 1970/04/26 and the 1973/04/29 timetable, the subdivision was basically abandoned. The April 29, 1973 employee timetable states no movement could take place east of Ridgeville except with the superintendent's authorization. The portion between Emerson Junction and Ridgeville was kept open to service the two grain elevators in Ridgeville.

I believe the subdivision was officially abandoned in 1977. The portion from Emerson Junction to Ridgeville was kept as the Emerson Extension. Today only about a mile of that still exists, and it was used for switching purposes in Emerson but it hasn't been used for a few years.

Moving On

As I mentioned above, my family was getting antsy so it was time to leave Piney. A bathroom was required, and none were available in Piney... nor had we seen any since we left Steinbach. I felt it was best to continue on to Sprague, where I was certain there would be facilities.

So, back to highway 12 we went, and continued... to some Sprague division railfanning through South Junction, Woodridge, Giroux and Lorette!

See Also


shnorth123 said...

It's a shame to let these old buildings fall down. Sort of reminds me of some of the communities on Newfoundlands coast that were re-settled back in the late 50's and into the 60's. Any building that could not be moved was left behind and left to the elements.

Train Station Fan said...

Thanks for sharing. Makes me feel glad that we were able to save our station from St. Brieux in Saskatchewan and move it out to Fishing Lake. Still working on restoring it!

Steve Boyko said...

hey shnorth123 I agree that it is a shame, but when 90 percent of the community disappears, there's hardly anyone left to look after what's left. It's a darn shame but it's reality. :(

Steve Boyko said...

Thanks Train Station Fan it's great you saved the station. Often moving it is the only way to keep a station or other building from neglect and abandonment. I'm sure it's a ton of work and expense to restore it.

Anonymous said...

I remember taking the train to Winnipeg from the Woodridge Station

craigpei said...

GREAT article and pics on Piney Steve.

Steve Boyko said...

That must have been interesting, Anon! Was it a mixed train (passenger cars on the rear of a freight train)? What year(s) would this have been?

Steve Boyko said...

Thanks craigpei!

Anonymous said...

Piney's old train station was purchased by Carl & Joe Oalivson (not sure of spelling) & they bought & sold appliances & furniture & stored them in this building. The Thompson Garage was owned by my second cousin, Doug & Don Thompson, they were several buildings beside the garage, which are obviously tore down, which stored parts & old tires. My Family are buried there in the cemetary & I still have a few relatives living in Piney, I left Piney seeking work in 1979. Great photos & good memories, thank-you. Myron Krainyk.

Anonymous said...

Hi uncle Myron. Thank you for the reply. I grew up in Piney. I love this town and it was a great town to grow up in, never a dull moment. At one time this used to be quite a thriving Community with small businesses but as the years passed, of course like any other small town, the elders pass on and the young people move away to find work. But now, Piney is starting to rebuild as the Baby Boomers are retiring on their family's farmsteads and making Piney their home once again as well as making wonderful memories for their growing families...... Melanie Thompson

Derail21 said...

Thank you Steve for the info on the ridgeville sub, I have been trying for a few years now to get the info from the older guys. As well we still use the Emerson extension on a normal bases too. We used the extension more for holding out empty Bnsf grain cars.

Steve Boyko said...

Thanks for the information on the station and Thompson garage, Myron!

Another source confirmed that Joe and Carl Olefson were permitted by CN to use the station for storage, and said that the station is owned by the RM of Piney now. Ownership of older buildings like this is difficult to determine sometimes!

Steve Boyko said...

You're welcome, Derail21, and thanks for the information on the Emerson extension still being used for storage. I'll have to get back to Emerson sometime soon to have a look. I understand CP's yard isn't used any more.

Roger Nelson said...

Part of this discussion is not complete without a reference to the Y that formerly existed at Sprague, where they turned the trains around that ran on the Piney subdivision, if you check google maps you can see the imprint on the land of this, which is also now gone.

Roger Nelson said...

The other thought would be to find out who built it. Are there records in the RR archives that might have this information?

Steve Boyko said...

Hi Roger, I plan on another post about the Ridgeville subdivision and its connections at both ends. There is a bit of track left at each end (South Junction and Emerson Junction).

This station was built to the Canadian Northern "3rd class" station standard. See this PDF for reference.

Roger Nelson said...

Thanks, for the link, I remember when I was young, and growing up at Sprague and South Junction seeing this line in use, The Y was a part of the whole configuration and that the the Emerson trains ended their run at Sprague as after this point the rail line ran into the US. (There was not room to build a Y at Middlebro nor was there at South Junction) The Y was just to the east of the town of Sprague (and former location of the train station) on the North side of the Rail Line.

Edward Hovorka said...

Hi, dose the train still go true Vasser.

Steve Boyko said...

Thanks Roger I think I saw the wye's outline on Google's satellite view. More research required!

Roger Nelson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Boyko said...

Hi Edward, yes the CN Sprague subdivision runs through Vasser and several freight trains per day roll through there.

Roger Nelson said...

You can walk out to the wye if you follow the tracks from town, use to play on it when I was young. Not that is was a really safe thing to do.

Edward Hovorka said...

Thanks Steve, I grew up in Vasser/ white mouth lake. live in ON. now but found your pictures and reading very interesting.T.Y.

Maureen Hadley said...

Very interesting article and photos. So sad these depots were allowed to fall into disrepair. My husband and I are rail geeks, too. We have visited the Maplewood Depot in Bethlehem, NH many times. Such a sorry sight! From photos we have seen, it was a beautiful Depot back in the day.

Steve Boyko said...

Thanks, Maureen, I didn't know about the Maplewood Depot but did some Googling after reading your comment... I see it's in a similar state. Magnificent decay...

Mel Parent said...

Hi, I'm pretty positive that the RM does not own this.

Would I be able to share this on our Facebook page?

The museum located in Sprague has a great display regarding the railway.

Steve Boyko said...

Hi Mel, thanks for your comment. I guess the ownership is still up in the air..

Yes, please feel free to share on your page, just link here, please.

Thanks for the information on the Sprague museum. I will have to get there sometime soon!

Patrice Carriere said...

Hi Steve. I just came across your blog. Great pictures of the Piney station and great overall blog. I too am a Winnipeg train geek. The problem is that I now live in Ottawa... :-( Whenever I'm back in town, my brother and I try and track down whatever we can.

Were you aware that Central Grain on Archibald Street in St. Boniface is currently being demolished? There will soon be great views of the Emerson sub from there. A few picks of the demolition might be interesting too. Too bad they demolished the old CPR station that used to be right at the end of Provencher some years ago. Cheers,


Steve Boyko said...

Hi Patrice, thanks for your comment! It's pretty hard to see Winnipeg from Ottawa :)

I've seen the fence going up at Central Grain to protect the street against debris. It'll be coming down soon. I hope to get out there tomorrow afternoon to shoot a few photos, and I'll have to get out in the morning to get a trackside view too.

Chris BIGDoer Doering said...

Great post! You inspired me to do a streetview tour of the town. It's small but I could spend some time there. Looks like the old hotel in "downtown". Nice. Looked on Google Earth for the old rail line but darn if I can see any signs of it. Like it was never there. Or am I missing it?

Steve Boyko said...

Hi Chris, a lot of the rail line has been obliterated in the last 40 years. You can see a bit of it in town forming a triangle with highway 89 and the east-west road that the station is on. The line paralleled the station road for a bit then crossed in an arc to the south about a mile east of the station. You might be able to pick up the line if you go to South Junction and work west.

Anonymous said...

Hi. Thanks for the info. My partner and I just moved to Piney and we're wondering about the history of the town. One question answered more to research!!!

BW Bandy said...

This is not good at all. After seeing these I am getting incrementally obessive about driving out to see this. Definitely not good since I live in Alberta.

Terry Viddal - Winnipeg said...

Hi Steve. At one time there was double track which I think went from Hickey west thru Sprague to South Junction. At the west end of the double track there was a switch that had to be turned to allow trains to get on to or off of the Ridgeville Sub. At some point there could have been a passenger train that took the Ridgeville Sub to Emerson and then the Letellier Sub into Winnipeg and to the CN Station. Probably less train traffic on the Ridgeville Sub. was the reason parts of the south track were torn up. The result was a passing track(siding)at Hickey, Sprague, and South Junction with a switch to access the Ridgeville Sub at the west end of S.J. Sprague was a small yard. It had a pump house and water tower west of the station and a coal dock beside the west leg of wye.The Canada Customs was housed in the station.Then came the diesel era.I grew up in Sprague 1950-. My Dad worked on the track, starting in Sprague in 1926. I started working on the track in Sprague in 1968. Railroading has changed quite a bit since 1926. Terry Viddal.

Steve Boyko said...

Hi Anon, welcome to Piney! I think there is a local history book on Piney but I haven't found a copy yet.

Steve Boyko said...

BW Bandy plenty of back roads to explore between Alberta and Piney! :)

Steve Boyko said...

Terry thanks for that detail on the double track.. hard to imagine the line being busy enough for double track but I guess it was a lot more common then. I imagine a LOT has changed since then.

CdnBlueRose said...

I love this! Both the pictures and the info. Thank you!

Jenn said... this!! Great photos, great old station. I have family in Manitoba and may have to visit that train station, and the family. But mainly that train station.

Anonymous said...

I spent many, many hours visiting in the Piney Station House back in the 1950's and 60's. Mr. Foster was the Retired Station Master at the time and our families were very close friends. He had a beautiful orchard out in the yard of the station house that he took a lot of pride in, and every fall he always had a bumper crop of fruit. It was a great old house to play in and to see it now brings tears to my eyes when I think of what a wonderful place it used to be. How sad that nobody seems to care about preserving the past anymore.

Anonymous said...

In answer to Steve Boyko -on April 4th - there is indeed a History book on Piney and all surrounding areas. I have a copy of it myself - and read it often -

Steve Boyko said...

Thanks CdnBlueRose, I'm glad you liked the photos and the information. Thanks for commenting!

Steve Boyko said...

Hi Jenn, definitely visit your family.. and the station.. but especially the station. We have a few nice grain elevators too! ;)

Steve Boyko said...

Hi Anonymous I imagine that was a great place to play. I wonder if any of those fruit trees still exist and bear fruit? Was there a station garden?

Thanks for the confirmation about the Piney book. I will have to check out some used book stores to see if I can find it.

Michael said...

This is a fascinating post. I'm amazed that a structure like that old station is still standing, given that it appears to be a wooden building. I guess we can't save them all, but at least we have images. Nice find.

Steve Boyko said...

Thanks, Michael! It is surprising that it is still standing.. let's hope it has a few more years left.

SLD said...

Steve - just to let you know - the book is called Pine Valley Echoes and it is a history of Badger, Menisino and Piney - It was published in June, 1988 by The Piney Area History Book Committee, in Piney
It was printed by Derksen Printed Ltd.. in Steinbach - if that helps you in your search at all. the book is blue in color and has an etching of the old Piney train station on the cover.
I know there was a garden, but I cannot for the life of me remember where it was and as for the fruit trees, the odds of any of them still being there are slim, but who know - one or two may have survived. Worth a look to see anyway.