Historic station steps into the future

Nanaimo's historic E&N Railway Station restoration celebrates grand opening Wednesday.

Ambrose Knobel tries his hand at running an antique railway handcar in front of the E&N Railway Station. The station was a popular spot for families and railroad enthusiasts Wednesday when grand opening celebrations were hosted for the station

Nanaimo’s historic E&N Railway Station has a new lease on life as the centre of a community and a chance at becoming the focal point for passenger rail on Vancouver Island.

After a major fire in 2007 and years of reconstruction, the station celebrated its grand reopening Wednesday with vintage train equipment displays, music and miniature train rides.

The reconstruction was a joint effort between VIA Rail, the Island Corridor Foundation and the Young Professionals of Nanaimo.

The station is now home to Fibber Magees Irish pub as the primary tenant.

With the pub in place, the building will be a social and cultural focal point for Nanaimo’s Old City Quarter.

But Graham Bruce, Island Corridor Foundation executive director, also envisions a not-too-distant future when the station will become the central node for Island commuter rail service, plus weekend railway tourism excursions through which travellers discover unique qualities of the stations and communities at each stop on the E&N line.

“For us it has set a new bar for what we can achieve in regard to the redevelopment of stations – and keeping it within the heritage characteristics,” Bruce said.

Andre Sullivan, Young Professionals of Nanaimo past-president, said the organization became involved in the project help make Nanaimo a centre for Island rail.

“There’s hasn’t been major capital infrastructure put into rail for decades,” Sullivan said. “So we wanted to be the turning point, the first guys to make a stand and say, ‘Now it’s to improve rail instead of letting it deteriorate.'”

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