Members of the 11th Canadian Mounted Rifles (CMR) regiment lined up at the Vernon CPR train station circa 1915. Behind them are crowds of well-wishers lining the station platform.

S & O Spur Line

The former CPR station in Vernon, located on 29th Street, is a testament to an era when trains ruled the transportation landscape.

Between 1890 and 1892, a spur line off the main C.P.R railway was built between Sicamous and Okanagan Landing. During construction, a station emerged in Vernon, sparking rapid urban expansion and solidifying the City’s role as a commercial hub of the Okanagan Valley. The station welcomed its inaugural passenger train in October 1891, with Lord and Lady Aberdeen on board.

A new Station is built

In 1911, the original station, then two decades old, was replaced by a new brick building with a fieldstone foundation and granite embellishments, a strategic move by the C.P.R to counter the burgeoning competition from other railways like Canadian Northern. Designed to be cutting-edge, the new station boasted separate offices, a central waiting area, an upstairs telegraph room, and a baggage room.

With its distinctive towers and dormers, the station exuded a landmark presence. Its architectural style, often described as “alpine” or “Swiss,” aimed to evoke a sense of the picturesque and inspire wanderlust. Operating as both a passenger and freight terminal, the station also served as the departure point for troops during both World Wars. However, by the 1960s, passenger services ceased, and the station transitioned into a freight office. By 1973, it was leased to commercial ventures following a fire in 1981 that inflicted damage to its roof and interior.

Commercial interests

After 1981, when the building was damaged by a fire, the CPR sold it to a private investor who undertook its restoration, returning it to its former grandeur. Designated as a heritage site since 2000, the building presently accommodates several private businesses, including the Station BBQ Smokehouse, Impressions Salon, and Ratio Coffee & Restaurant.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts!

Gwyneth Evans, Archives Manager

 

A black-and-white image of a table covered with a white table cloth and laden with a variety of vegetables including carrots, potatoes, and turnips. Large cabbages are placed on the ground beside the table.
A vegetable display at Vernon’s first agricultural fair in 1891.

132 Years ago

Today marks 132 years since Vernon hosted its first fall fair, an event which was organized by the Okanagan and Spallumcheen Agricultural Society and described as “a thorough success.”

On October 15, 1891, locals and visitors alike poured into the City to take in the bounty of the season. Surprisingly, the exact building in which the fair was hosted is unknown, but it was described as “prettily decorated with corn, hops and evergreens, the whole forming a pleasing effect, while great taste was displayed in arranging the exhibits in the most attractive manner.”

A variety of exhibits

On entering the building, the first display that caught the eye was that of the Columbia Flouring Mill from Enderby. This display consisted of sacks of their three well-known flour brands and small bottles containing samples of fall and spring wheat grown in the district. Beyond this was an exhibit of stoves and hardware by William Joseph Armstrong.

Two more mercantile exhibits followed, a harness and saddlery collection by W. R. Megaw, and a furniture display by J. C. Campbell. A “wonderful display” of produce featured cabbages and beets, grain, fruit and other vegetables, and, according to the Vernon News, “a more magnificent display has not been shown in the Province.” The samples of grain were described as particularly “astonishing and delightful” for even the most critical of onlookers.

There were also a variety of judged livestock displays; J. T. Steele dominated the Durham division, while Forbes Vernon took the top spots in the Hereford division. Meanwhile, Price Ellison received first prize for “best stallion.” Judges also viewed sheep, chickens, and cows, as well as awarded prizes for “best bush potatoes,” “best 5lbs of butter” and “best sample of two bread loaves.”

Celebrate guests 

Guests came as far away as the coast to visit the fair, thanks to the arrival of the first passenger train in Vernon, which coincided with the event and marked the near-completion of the S & O Railway. Many of the region’s most-well known settlers were also in attendance, including the Lord and Lady Aberdeen, Moses Lumby, E. J. Tronson, and Luc Girouard.  

For some time, the Okanagan and Spallumcheen Agricultural Society fair was considered the largest exhibition of its kind in the B.C. Interior, a title which was later surrendered to Armstrong’s Interior Provincial Exhibition. Vernon continued to host agricultural fairs into the 1960s, with a particularly popular one at the Civic Arena in 1964, and featuring horse demonstrations, flower shows, and other agricultural exhibits.

Eventually, as the popularity of the IPE continued to grow, Vernon exhibitors and fairgoers decided to journey a little ways north to take in this bigger event, and the city stop hosting its own fall fair.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts!

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives