New Brunswick

'It's just devastating': Century-old Miramichi train station severely damaged by fire

A well-known historic building in Miramichi was severely damaged by a fire Monday evening.

No one was inside the building when the fire broke out around 6:30 p.m. on Monday

Firefighters in Miramichi responded to an old train station that caught fire Monday evening. (Photo: Shaun O'Reilly)

A historic building in Miramichi was severely damaged by a fire Monday evening.

The fire happened at the Chatham train station building, most recently known as the Rail House restaurant, around 6:30 p.m.

Nobody was in the building when the fire broke out.

But about 200 people watched as police officers cordoned off the area and firefighters battled the blaze. Streets were backed up in the downtown during the fire.

"I was very saddened to see what was taking place," said Shaun O'Reilly, president of the Miramichi History Museum.

"It's a tremendous loss to the community, it holds significant memories for so many people."

History gone up in flames

The fire broke out around 6:30 p.m. and saw hundreds of people gather in the streets to watch. (Photo: Shaun O'Reilly)

The building on Johnson Street was built in 1912 and hasn't been a working train station in years. At one time, it housed the nightclub, the Whooper, which later became Choo Choo's.

O'Reilly, who grew up in the area, can remember when the building was a CN train station. When it was turned into a nightclub in the 1970s, he often played guitar in various bands performing there. 

We're losing a lot of our old historic buildings. We've lost so much, it's just very sad.- Shaun O'Reilly, president of the Miramichi History Museum

"It's just devastating that that building is gone," he said. 

One of the 54-year-old's earliest memories of the train station was in 1967 —  Centennial Year — and a train filled with artifacts was brought in.

"It was at the very end of its life as a CNR station, when I was younger, and then it was boarded up," said O'Reilly, 54. 

Fire crews still don't know the cause of the blaze that damaged the train bridge. (Photo: Shaun O'Reilly)

O'Reilly said he's relieved the history museum still has some artifacts and photos of the train station, including the old clock. 

Several historic buildings in Miramichi have been lost over the years, including Harkins Middle School and the Miramichi Opera House, which was destroyed by a fire in 2010. 

Firefighters will be on scene Tuesday to assess the cause of the fire. (Photo: Shaun O'Reilly)

"We've lost so much, it's just very sad." 

But O'Reilly's hopeful the old train station building will be restored. 

Miramichi Mayor Adam Lordon said people in the community are feeling the loss of the building.

"It's got a place in people's hearts, it's part of our history." 

Firefighters battle heavy fire 

It took firefighters several hours to contain the fire that broke out at the old train station. (Photo: Shaun O'Reilly)

Chief Tony Lloyd of the Miramichi Fire Department said it took firefighters a long time to contain the fire because it was an older building, with several roofs. They were able to extinguish the fire and leave the scene around 11 p.m.

"It was difficult to contain but we did our best, " said Lloyd.

Significant damage was done to the building's exterior, as well as smoke and water damage inside.

Lloyd said the fire marshal and Miramichi firefighters will be investigating the cause.