The museum is housed in the Smiths Falls Canadian Northern (CNoR) / Canadian National Railways (CNR) railway station. RMEO station building, is a National Historic Site.
Construction began on the station in 1912 and was finished in 1914. On January 7, 1914, Canadian Northern officially opened the station to the public. In 1918, the station was rebranded as a Canadian National Railways station as CNR took over the bankrupt CNoR.
The station was built as a first-class rail station to compete with the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) station across town. As a first-class station, it was built with high architectural standards. The building includes a decorative turret, expansive waiting room, smoking lounge, and women’s waiting room.
Unfortunately for CNoR and CNR, the grand design of the station did not attract significant ridership from the small Smiths Falls population. Most passengers continued going to the CPR station and traffic was never very heavy at the CNoR / CNR station.
The traffic that did go through the station was important. As part of the transcontinental expansion, the line going through this station was the shortest route from Montreal to Toronto. As such the line was often used by federal and provincial politicians. This high-class passenger clientele can also be a reason a reason for the high quality and grandeur of the station. The station had four daily passenger trains. Two trains went west to Toronto and another two went east to Ottawa.
The Smiths Falls station was an important part of the local community. In times without radio, TV, phones, and computers, people would come to the station to get the news via the telegraph wire.
During World War II the station also played an important role. It was rented out to the military as a training hall and artillery groups used the breezeway to practice.
The station’s grand design also had problems. The roof of the building was originally all slate roofing tile. The engineer did not calculate the roof’s carrying load capacity correctly. The roof was capable of carrying the weight of the slate but was not able to carry the weight of slate and snow. As a result the roof had to be reinforced and the slate was removed. The only remaining slate tile is seen on the turret. The slate was buried beside the station and the mound of dirt covering it can still be seen between the station and the wetland.
Even without many passengers, the station was used by CN until 1979 when it was closed down. It soon faced demolition but a group of activists joined together and created the museum association to save the building. In 1983 the museum association acquired the station and in 1985 restoration began. The restoration added a few features to the station such as replacing of the platform to original specifications in the 1990s and the library and offices, which were added to the originally open attic.