Smiths Falls rail station gets 2nd act

The community theatre group of Smiths Falls, Ont., is opening its first show Friday night in a venue that's been 10 years in the making.

New theatre a 10-year labour of love for community group

The community theatre group of Smiths Falls, Ont., is opening its first show Friday night in a venue that's been 10 years in the making.

The Station Theatre is a renovation of an old CP Rail station built in 1887 at a time when CP used to run passenger service through the town.

The crumbling station was going to be demolished in 1999 when the Smiths Falls Community Theatre put forth the idea to rebuild the site as a theatre.

Pat Smith, the theatre group's treasurer, said members saw it as a way to get out of performing in high-school gymnasiums.

"So really, it was a desire for the community theatre to have a venue of their own," Smith said. "And really, a couple of silly people took on the challenge."

Smith was one of those people, and over the last 10 years he has watched over every detail of the train station's transformation, as the structure was reinforced and the floor of the old restaurant, which had caved in, was replaced by a state-of-the-art theatre that holds 140 seats.

He said the project cost $750,000 and a decade of volunteer labour. He said it took so long because when they ran out of money for a particular job, the work stopped too.

"It's been a long haul and each time you start, you have to build up that enthusiasm again to continue," Smith said.

The building is still used by rail passengers, since Via Rail has a small waiting area that leads to its platform.

Friday night's night performance is the Norman Foster musical Jasper Station, in which a group of people meets at an empty train station.

With files from the CBC's Kate Porter