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Painting by Gayle Halliwell of the Winnipeg Beach Water Tower built in 1928, the only CPR structure which remains.

Water Tower

Light House


posted June 4, 2018


[This article is dedicated to Alvin Corne, who recently passed away. Alvin told me about how he and his brother Marty had their first job hauling luggage from the passengers who got off the CPR train at Winnipeg Beach, which made me interested in this story]


Since many readers of the WJR will be spending time this summer season at Winnipeg Beach I thought I'd write a few words about the Beach's history.


The history of Winnipeg Beach is tied to the Railway, and is outlined in a book by Wally Johannson, titled "Those Were the Days "that I picked up at Blue Rooster last year. Winnipeg Beach was in fact created by the Canadian Pacific Railways (CPR)General Manager for Western Canada in 1900 when the CPR purchased 300 acres beachfront land. He did so since he was competing against the Canadian northern Railway that would be building a line to Lake Manitoba, 70 miles away form Winnipeg. The CPR plan would mean that it would only be 40 miles to reach the beach resort at Winnipeg Beach.


By 1902, CPR had built a station, dance pavillion and cleared land for cottages. "In 1903, the CPR developed the first subdivision, consisting of the business section and cottage lots from Ash to Avenue to Park avenue. By 1905, Beachside and Boundary Park developments north of the CPR subdivision had begun selling lots, which they advertised as being exclusive," Johannson writes.


One way CPR made money was by having picknickers come out with their company or church on an excursion train while CPR catered the picnic at the park or Pavillion. And there were many attractions for day trippers such as the midway, dancing in the huge Pavillion, canoes, rowboats and sailboats, and tennis courts. (Travel by car didn't become common until 1920's). Romantic "Moonlight Specials" took young men and women to the resort for evening dances in the Dance Pavillion.


By 1925, Winnipeg Beach had two parks with bowling greens and shale tennis courts, the grand Empress Hotel, and the New Dips Roller Coaster." Johannson writes that "The resort was busy even in the depth of the Great Depression of the 1930's." However, the Beach went downhill as a tourist reason after World War II resulted in restrictions on tourist rail travel and other resort and park areas had been developed. As well, the dance craze of the 1920's, 1930's and 1940's had subsided. Also, of importance was the fact that the demand for cars after the war reduced rail travel substantially.


With rail travel declining, CPR lost its interest in Winnipeg Beach.


In 1952 the CPR sold its holdings to the private company Beach Enterprises Ltd. (owned by Harry Silverberg) including the shoreline along Lake Winnipeg.


But as Bruce Cherney outlines in an article in Real Estate News "What the CPR already knew and Beach Enterprises president Harry Silverberg soon discovered was that public interest in the Beach resort was waning. "


Cherney writes:


"Silverberg blamed the "lack of interest on all three levels of government' for the difficulties facing the amusement park.


"In a prepared statement in October 1964 announcing the closure of the amusement rides and concessions owned by Beach Enterprises, Silverberg said, 'because of the unco-operative and neglectful attitude and actions of the federal, provincial and municipal governments it has become increasingly difficult to maintain the facilities at Winnipeg Beach.


Competition created by subsidies granted to other beaches and parks have deteriorated our position to the point where the Beach’s attractions and park no longer warrant operation.'"


According to Cherney, "Silverberg said his hand was forced by government subsidies for the development of Falcon Beach, Grand Beach and Clear Lake, as well as the province’s use of public funds to create a new park at Birds Hill."


"After Silverberg closed the rides and park, lots on the beachfront were advertised for sale, the boardwalk vanished, the roller coaster ceased operation in 1964 and the pavilion was abandoned in 1966."


 As Johannson writes, in 1966, the province bought the 32 acres of lakefront from the Estate of Harry Silverberg. "The following year, the Pavilion and concessions [which were considered to be fire hazards] were demolished and the province developed a park along the waterfront...The only CPR structure that remains is the 1928 water tower, now a Provincial Heritage Site. 


Winnipeg Beach also had a lighthouse built by the federal government in 1910 which existed until the mid 1960s. A long dock jutted out into Winnipeg Beach bay--at the end of that pier stood the Winnipeg Beach lighthouse. An aid to navigation for boats bringing people to the beach, the beacon guided captains to a safe dock. The lighthouse was removed in 1964 in preparation for a breakwater to be built. Today, a day marker and light stand at the end of the rocks to assist commercial fishers and pleasure boaters alike. On the shore, across from this original site, is a new lighthouse replica of the original. Built entirely by volunteers as a result of resources from fundraising, this to-scale building celebrates the centennial of the Town of Winnipeg Beach. The upcoming Ribbon Cutting of the Lighthouse replica is August 19, 2017.


[This article is dedicated to Alvin Corne and Marty Corne. Alvin told me about how he and his brother Marty had their first job hauling luggage from the passengers who got off the CPR train at Winnipeg Beach, which made me interested in this story]


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