By an Almonte ‘Native’
To stimulate discussion and relive memories……
Louis Peterson stepped off the train. Having arrived from Greece into Canada, he had used whatever money was in his pocket to purchase a ticket as far as it would take him and that ticket was to Almonte, a place he knew nothing about. He found work in Almonte, eventually establishing the Superior Restaurant, selling that and establishing one of the best ice cream businesses in Eastern Ontario. He was just one of many who disembarked at the Almonte Train Station to stay and establish their lives here.
Almonte’s Town Library sits on the site where once stood a beautiful stone Train Station. The Station consisted of 2 large waiting rooms divided by a short hall with a washroom on one side and the office/telegraph on the other side facing the tracks. The office extended into the platform so that the operator could look up and down the tracks without going outside. On the south end of the station a freight storage area was located. A sign with ALMONTE in large letters hung at each end and over the office above the platform.
Most passenger trains would stop and any messages were passed by hand to the train personnel. But, if it was a freight going through the telegraph operator had a device that looked like giant P with the message attached. One of the men in the engine compartment would lean out with his arm crooked to receive the P, take the message off and drop the P to be picked up by the operator to be used again.
The platform ran along the tracks, starting across the road from the present day Don’s Meat Market, well past the Station. It was about eight feet wide and the pavement was the smoothest place in town to roller skate. Do you remember strapping the skates to your shoes and tightening with a key? The wheels were steel, nothing like today’s skates. Knee pads, elbow pads, helmet – no such things! You took your bumps and bruises and enjoyed.
In the early morning and evening the platform was a hub of activity, as were most communities with train stations, but if you lived in Almonte you believed it to be the biggest and best. People commuted to Ottawa and back to work or visit. The Ottawa papers (the Journal and the Citizen) were dropped off and picked up for store or door to door delivery. You saw who was going away on a trip or coming back from a trip, and if you listened closely you would hear of their adventures.
In front of the Station were a series of three rail lines. On the second track, trains would slide over and wait for other trains to pass by.
On the third track, freight cars filled with items were dropped along the Red Freight shed (demolished many years ago), about 100 yards long and 10 yards wide. This long, large, red building had a platform at the level of the floor of the freight cars making emptying and filling easier. As freight was rolled off the car into the shed it was later transferred to wagons and trucks on the opposite side along Reserve St. to be delivered. At the south end was located a ramp having a large holding platform to be used for equipment too large to fit into the shed. The kids in the neighbourhood all knew the man in charge …. Mr. O’Neill. He had a small office located at the north end. Kids in the area used to play for hours beneath this shed. It was dark and extremely cool on a hot day.
Excess grain falling out of the cars as they sat on this siding and destined for the Flour Mill was collected in paper bags and sold to Mr. Richards, who lived at the corner of Monk and Water St. and raised chickens. He would give 5 cents per full bag.
Chunks of coal that fell to the ground were gathered by those who had coal burning stoves at home. It was amazing how much coal fell as it was being unloaded into trucks and wagons.
Further up this side track at the end of Wesley St. were located holding pens for cattle or sheep awaiting shipment to or from local farmers or butchers. Many an animal travelled out or into Almonte by these pens.
The Train Station was the hub of Almonte