The Garden at Port Moody Museum

Some Background

In order to provide information about the gardens at the Port Moody Station Museum, one must review the mission statement for the museum:

The Port Moody Heritage Society is dedicated to preserving the history of Port Moody and the surrounding area. The Society continues to own and operate the Port Moody Station Museum as part of their effort to promote increased awareness and knowledge of Port Moody’s heritage and history. The Port Moody Heritage Society promotes appreciation of community heritage by collecting, showcasing and celebrating area history through exhibits, programs and events at the Port Moody Station Museum.

So a garden at the museum should align with the museum mission statement.  To that end it was determined that the garden at the Museum serve to increase or maintain curbside appeal of the museum.  In addition the garden at the Museum would maintain plants or shrubs or trees that have some connection with the history of Port Moody and the area. 

 

Consideration was also given to the Port Moody Station museum being housed in a former Canadian Pacific Railway train station with a restored railcar – the Venosta - on display.  The station (which was located in Port Moody near Clark Street) was decommissioned in the 1970’s and the Port Moody Historical Society purchased it and renovated it and the museum has been located in it ever since. And that is an important influence on the creation and maintenance of a heritage garden.   

In the 1890’s Canadian Pacific Railway became the leader in establishing and maintaining railway gardens in Canada. Gardens were attached to Canadian Pacific Railway train stations across Canada and it was the station master’s responsibility to maintain them. There were various reasons for this: some railway workers were enthusiastic gardeners and did it for hobby and encouraged others to follow; while railway senior management realized that having a garden at each railway depot would attract more settlers to Canada. The more settlers coming to Canada, then more business would be generated for CPR and that was fine with management. Therefore after a time, it was mandatory for station masters to maintain a garden.

The concept of railway gardens was supported with the company locating greenhouses and nurseries in various parts of the country to supply the station masters with needed plants and trees; and the publication of a gardening magazine that would share gardening tips and practices in the country.  When the other national railway, CNR – Canadian National Railway - was formed, it too maintained gardens at many of its depots.  Railway gardens were maintained into the 1950’s and there were regular competitions to see who had the best garden. One hundred years ago, there were an estimated 1000 railway gardens in Canada.   

During the 1950’s, railway gardens went into a decline and eventually disappeared.  This reflected the shift away from railway traffic to car, truck or air transportation.  With that shift, stations were closed and the land around stations was built over or used for parking lots. When CNR and CPR gave the passenger railway business over to VIA Rail, many more station were closed - among them the station in Port Moody - and railway gardens were gone too.   

Ironically it appears that there was not a garden at the Port Moody railway station.  If one studies the pictures of the station going back through the years, there does not appear to be a formal garden at the station.  There are banks of blackberry bushes and ferns but no formal garden.  The little information that can be found relates to the last station master – Frank Tree (his picture hangs in the station master’s office at the museum) - he grew Mexican mock orange (Choisya ternate) outside the building when located at Clark Street, otherwise he didn’t garden much outdoors. 

Although the Port Moody railway station may not have had a railway garden attached to it, other stations in British Columbia did have such gardens.  Some of those stations are now museums as well.  These include the railway museum at Cranbrook; at Fort Langley; at Revelstoke; and at Squamish.  Many of the railway gardens were attached to railway stations on the Prairies and there are a lot of pictures and articles about the gardens in Manitoba and Alberta.     

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