As Aurora GO Station prepares for a facelift – Images combine then-and-now look at importance of rail connection for the community

For more than 160 years, the train station has been an important part of the Aurora community – one that is about to get a facelift. An innovative photo history project shows why there’s been such a strong connection with the rail lines, and the station itself.

Aurora GO Station, which is showing its age, is preparing to draw back the year.

That means it’s time for a bit of refurbishing.

So we wanted to look over the shoulder a bit, and bring things up to date – how we got here, and why it’s important to invest in the future of Aurora GO Station. That includes some pretty compelling photos, that combine – through digital magic – what the stop looked like way back in history with how it looks today.

It sets things up nicely for the future.

Image is a meld of an old photo of the station with a GO train.
The Aurora Train Station, around1900, combined with what it looks like today. (Photo supplied by Aurora Museum & Archives (987.15.2) and On This Spot)

First a bit of background. In 1853, Aurora Station opened as the destination of Ontario’s first steam train travelling between Toronto and Machell’s Corners, as the town of Aurora was then known, on the Ontario, Simcoe and Huron Railway.

The first voyage to Aurora Station on May 16, 1853, was led by Toronto No. 2, the first locomotive built in Canada. You can actually go to the station and see the steam locomotive’s bell that commemorates the event.

In 1900, as train service and popularity grew, the Grand Trunk Railway constructed the station building we know today.

“…when it comes to heritage buildings, ongoing maintenance plays an important role in preserving a piece of history so future generations can continue to enjoy them.”

Phil Pengelly, Metrolinx’s senior manager for facilities, operation and maintenance

It’s a landmark for the Town. The station was designated a provincial heritage building in 1971 and a federal heritage railway station in 1990.

GO Transit introduced service there in 1982. Over the years as GO service increased, Metrolinx made a commitment to preserve the station’s rich history.

That includes supporting a historical photo project from the Aurora Museum and Archives and On This Spot, which is a Canadian app that takes people on guided walking tours through the history of locations across the country.

The collaboration takes photographic moments from Aurora’s history and blends images from then and now. If you download the On This Spot app you can even take yourself on a guided, virtual walking tour of the town’s history – including Aurora GO Station.

“Like many communities throughout the country, the local train station provides an anchor to the past and is a vital conduit for modern day public transit,” says Michelle Johnson, collections and exhibitions coordinator at Aurora Museum and Archives.

Image shows a meld of an historical photo of people on a platform with a GO train pulling up.
The Aurora Train Station, also from1900, combined with a modern GO station. (Photo supplied by Aurora Museum & Archives (992.16) and On This Spot)

To ensure the rail stop remains in good shape for years to come, Metrolinx is in the process of awarding a contract for the rehabilitation of the station building. The transit agency has received bids through a public tendering process and expects the contract to be awarded in the coming weeks.

Work will include, but is not limited to, exterior paint repairs to wood cladding, trim and decorative elements as well as any necessary wood repair to facilitate painting.

Maintenance plays an important role in keeping all GO stations in good shape. But there’s a special duty when it comes to stations of historical significance, like Aurora GO Station.

“It’s important to maintain all of our stations to ensure they are safe and reliable for our customers,” says Phil Pengelly, Metrolinx’s senior manager for facilities, operation and maintenance. “But when it comes to heritage buildings, ongoing maintenance plays an important role in preserving a piece of history so future generations can continue to enjoy them.”

Maintenance work is slated to start as early as the spring.

Because when the work is done, Aurora residents of today and tomorrow will be able to continue to enjoy the station, taking more photos that add to the already long history.

Story by Sam Bugos, Metrolinx Community Relations and Issues Specialist