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York Street Station's Cross

After a few years' fruitless searching, we have at last been told of a railway station with a cross.

From what we can ascertain, it is not specifically a Christian cross, so why is it there?



York Street Railway Station, Fredericton, New Brunswick

The station

(Click any photo to enlarge)

Fredericton station in 1935. Provincial Archives New Brunswick Harvey Studio Photograph

August 1935. From the Provincial Archives New Brunswick Harvey Studio Photograph

Fredericton station in 1978. Photo by Art Clowes

June 1978. Photo by Art Clowes

Fredericton station in 2002. Photo by Steve Boyko

December 2002. Photo by Steve Boyko

Final photo of the cross in situ, 2009. Photo by Tim Scammell

December 2009. Final photo of the cross in situ, 2 December 2009. Photo by Tim Scammell

Awaiting refit, 2009. Photo by Tim Scammell

December 2009. Awaiting refit. Photo by Tim Scammell

Refit, 2010. Photo by Tim Scammell

January 2010. The gable end and right 'leg' are the only survivors of the original porch. This says something about the immortality of the cross. (And right legs, of course!) Photo by Tim Scammell

Fredericton station 2014

March 2014. Google's Streetview shows the immortality of the cross.

(Click any photo to enlarge)

The York Street Railway Station was a Canadian Pacific Railway station located in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Originally it was a wooden structure, built in 1896, and known as Union Station. This was replaced by a brick building in 1923.

When the train service stopped, the station closed down and was finally abandoned in 1993.

The federal Heritage Railway Station Protection Act (1985) prevented its demolition1, but with no financial incentive for the owners to take remedial action, the derelict building soon became an eyesore. It would have completely fallen down if it were not for the interest taken by Fredericton Friends of the Railway Inc. These photos have been copied from the website2 used by this lobby group.

In 2009 Alcool NB Liquor announced plans to capitalise on the station's heritage and convert the building into a retail liquor outlet under a 20-year lease, scheduled to open in August 2010.

The cross

Of particular interest to this website is the arrangement of five red clay tiles forming a cross on the gable end of the station porch.

There is no evidence that the station was ever used for religious purposes. Even so, its shape is unmistakable and it is not unreasonable to assume that way back in 1937, as soldiers of the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion passed under the portico on their way to support the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, one of the last sights of their home town would have been this cross.

More artillery and infantrymen (90th Field Battery, R.C.A.) passed under the same red cross in 1939 to join other Commonwealth troops in Europe as World War II developed, long before the United States joined in. We will never know how many hearts might have been touched by the sight of this red cross but we do know that at least seventy of these Frederictonians (37 Army, 3 Navy, 30 Air Force) would never see it again.

Red Cross Society?

The arrangement of these five red tiles has clear similarity with the symbol of the Red Cross Society. But what is the connection?

The Canadian Red Cross in Fredericton have not confirmed whether there might have been a medical or training centre at the station. Neither have they said it was ever a Red Cross blood collection centre and/or an emergency operations centre run by them in times of flooding from the St. John River, just 1 km to the north-east of the station3. Such use of the station building does seem unlikely.

Decoration?

If it was not placed there in a religious context and if it has no connection with the Red Cross Society, was it simply fixed as a decoration?

In writing for the Fredericton Heritage Trust4, Ted Jones describes '...a small "decorative" red tile cross in the lower gable...', and we are happy to concede that the York Street Railway Station's cross was never intended to be anything more than decoration.

But we are left with a niggling doubt...

If you know the background to the cross on that wall, please tell us: info@seiyaku.com


1 :The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Parks Canada designated the station building as a Heritage Railway Station in 1991 (http://www.pc.gc.ca/clmhc-hsmbc/gfp-hrs/nb_e.asp) and the Heritage Canada Foundation named it one of the Top 10 Most Endangered Places in Canada.
2 :People with expert knowledge of the station formed the Fredericton Friends of the Railway and added photos and write-ups to Steve Boyko's blog: http://www.traingeek.ca/. Their endeavours had the support of the Fredericton Heritage Trust, Fredericton Trails Coalition and Fredericton Chamber of Commerce.
3 :The emergency operations function is now operated by York Street Fire Station, opened in the early 1970's, 500 metres to the south-west of the old railway station. See http://www.fredericton.ca/en/communityculture/2007May7EmergTeam.asp
4 :Fredericton Heritage Trust article: http://www.heritagefredericton.org/node/221