It was not Grand Central but, in its heyday, Union Station on York Street had its fair share of railroad travellers, special trains, and VIPs.
A young Princess, who would soon become Queen of England, stepped onto the railway platform 50 years ago. She greeted Lieutenant-Governor D.L. McLaren, Premier J.B. McNair, and Mayor H.S. Wright, and then inspected the 100-man Guard of Honor, the echoes of a 21-gun Royal Salute in the background.
After a five hour whirlwind tour of the City on that crisp Nov. 6th, Elizabeth and Prince Philip returned to Union Station for another Royal Salute and, prior to their departure, two farewell appearances on the rear platform of the Royal Train, both in response to the thousands who had gathered at the site.
During the 1930s & 40s, vice-regal visits to Fredericton began with the arrival of the official train at Union Station. The Governor General and his wife would spend one or two days, their private railway coach placed on a nearby siding for their overnight sleeping quarters.
Among those from Rideau Hall who stepped onto the Station platform were the Earl & Countess of Bessborough, Lord & Lady Tweedsmuir (better known to the reading public as popular authors John Buchan and Susan Grosvenor), and the Earl of Athlone and his wife, Her Royal Highness Princess Alice (granddaughter of Queen Victoria).
Al.G. Barnes, "the world's greatest animal trainer," and his three-ring circus arrived at Union Station on July 18th, 1930. It was an early hour, but the crowds were waiting to watch the detrainment of the animals and to join the parade to the infield of the Exhibition Race Course. Twenty years later, the circus trains were still pulling into Union Station. On June 28th, 1950, it was The Dailey Brothers and the largest tent on earth (five rings). Transported on 26 double-length railway cars, it was a spectacle for young and old, who had formed up around the Station at 7 a.m.
It was from Union Station that hundreds of young men left for the War and where some returned when it was over. Where Scouts, Guides, Cubs, Brownies, Glee Clubs, and sports teams travelled to and from important activities.
It was where students, who were enrolled in the Provincial Normal School, UNB, Business College, and the Victoria Public Hospital School of Nursing, arrived on Monday mornings and departed for home Friday evenings.
It was where the ashes of two great Canadian poets were brought home for state funerals in Christ Church Cathedral, followed by quiet burials in Forest Hill Cemetery: Bliss Carman died in Connecticut, 1929; Sir Charles G.D. Roberts died in Toronto, 1943.