The location of the first station to serve the town of St. Mary’s is odd for two reasons. The first is the station’s placement at such a distance from the actual town, the second being that it is now surrounded by a modern subdivision. But today, if you are a fan of craft beer, then the Junction station is certainly one you want to put on your list.
The original charter of the Grand Trunk Railway said that the operator would construct a line from Toronto to Montreal. Grand Trunk, however, quickly realised that such a line would be of no good and sized up Great Western Railway as its primary competitor. Great Western carried their line from Niagara Falls to Windsor, so Grand Trunk purchased an incomplete railway charter from Toronto to Guelph and then extended to Sarnia. After passing through Guelph and quickly making it to Stratford by 1856, the line reached the small village of St. Mary’s in 1858. Grand Trunk managed to secure a large tract of land from David Glass, then Mayor of London. Despite being a kilometre and a half from the centre of St. Mary’s, Grand Trunk established its station outside the town. Grand Trunk also completed a beautiful railway bridge above the town as the line pushed to Sarnia. The station design followed the standard Class “A” wayside station constructed of local limestone by Gzoski & Co. The station used a five-bay Italianate structure with a single general waiting room, station master’s office, and baggage room. In 1860 the placement of the station became clear when Grand Trunk completed a branch line into London and building a second railway bridge through St. Mary’s. While the town residents were happy with having a railway station, they were not as pleased with the placement. But Grand Trunk did whatever they wanted and had the government backing them. With the new line’s opening, Grand Trunk expanded the area building a small yard with a six-bay limestone roundhouse, turntable and additional freight sheds. In 1863 the overnight telegraph operator was a young Thomas Edison. He had been employed at several Grand Trunk stations in the area before his dismissal and returned to the United States.
By 1873 the town convinced Grand Trunk to complete the second station in the city proper and then did, but constructed it where their London Branch line crossed James Street. While not perfect and a simple wooden station, the town felt a little better, although still not happy. Grand Trunk was renamed the older station St. Mary’s Junction. During the modernisation of the line in the early 20th Century, Grand Trunk completed a new station far closer to the downtown in 1907, a far nicer brick station. While Grand Trunk had modified many of their older stations, adding a protruding telegraph operator bay, none was added to the St. Mary’s Junction Station as most passenger traffic flowed through the town station. While Canadian National took over in 1923, they began to wind down operations at the Junction closing it to passenger traffic in 1941. It continued to operate for yard and traffic coordination on the junction. By 1964 the roundhouse fell, and by 1973 the station and yard closed permanently. Canadian National would abandon the Sarnia branch line in 1989.
Both the town and junction stations had been sold to St. Mary’s back in 1988 and in 1989, the former rail bridge that carried the Sarnia branch line. While the town station saw a quick restoration as a gallery and commercial space, VIA rail continued to rent out a section for an uncrewed station. But the biggest problem was the junction station, being located far from the centre of town and having been lightly used it was in good shape. Still, no business could afford restoration and do a viable business that far from any significant traffic. The station received a Federal heritage designation in 1993, and the town erected security fences to ensure the station remained free from vandals. In 1996 Canadian National removed the rails from their old Sarnia branch allowing the town to turn the former rail line into a trail that crosses the old bridge. St. Mary’s pushed in 2019 to have the old Junction station taken over as a new subdivision saw construction around the area. By November, a new tenant had been found, a new craft brewery. Appropriately named Broken Rail Brewing took control of the station. Despite the years of neglect, the station proved in better condition than assumed. Restoration and renovation efforts began immediately with new floors, walls, and many historic details were preserved and artefacts found in the cleanup. The steps took most of 2020 alongside the brewing of their first beers. By March 2021, the brewery opened for business and is well worth the effort to visit. Alongside the station is a restored Grand Trunk West Caboose.