If you’ve ever driven by the old Grand Trunk Pacific Railway station at 3815 Railway Avenue and seen the lights on in the now-empty top floor, you aren’t alone.
The building itself is one of Smithers oldest landmarks, finished in early 1919 by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTP) just before Canadian National Railways (CNR) assumed control of the GTP line.
For almost all of its subsequent history the building has served as a CNR depot and divisional headquarters for the region.
Due to its immense historical value (the building is often used along with the Central Park Building to help date early photographs of the Town) the site was designated as a Heritage Railway Station in 1989.
But beyond its historical accolades, the building is also well known for another reason in Smithers: it is supposedly haunted.
Trackside Cantina is a Mexican restaurant that makes up part of the building’s main floor.
Owner Fawn Engen opened the restaurant in 2007, however, she worked out of the building even before then.
She said she has always felt in tune with the paranormal and working at the building all these years has acquainted her with a number of entities she said she senses from time to time.
“I don’t think of ghosts as a lot of people [who say] they see spirits, you know what I mean? Or they can see people’s guides or something like that. That isn’t what I see.
“I feel like buildings hold memories like energy vibrations of things that happened before, whether it was a habitual [or] something that frequently happened or maybe something that had emotions attached to it.”
Engen began by showing off the top floor of the building, which was historically used to lodge railway employees but is now unused.
The dark, winding hallways and peeling paint add to the eerie stories she told about the numerous people who pass by from the street and say they’ve seen the lights on in one or more of the rooms despite them all having been unused for quite some time.
But while it certainly possesses a creepy vibe, Engen said it’s in the restaurant where she has experienced the most supernatural activity.
One of the entities Engen discussed was a former Trackside employee named Kevin who passed away.
Engen characterized him as always having an extremely positive attitude.
“When Kevin worked here he always said that this job is a blessing and he always had a really positive attitude and whenever somebody was having a not positive attitude he would get them back into their positive attitude,” she said.
And while Kevin might not be around in the flesh any more, Engen said he still has his fun with the kitchen and will do things such as chuck a paper towel at people or make the kitchen clock fall off the wall.
“We actually took the clock out of the kitchen because it was falling off the wall so much and all the kitchen staff was like, ‘Kevin!’”
Engen said the occurrences serve as a reminder to staff.
“When that kind of thing happens … somebody knows they were being [ungrateful].”
And so the restaurant staff have learned to work with Kevin.
“He’s our kitchen/dishwasher area ghost for sure. His energy is still there. I don’t know why in the world he would want to be here washing dishes still in the afterlife or whatever that means, but he’s here.”
Engen said some people seemed to have worse luck with some of the entities than others, describing a girl who used to work at the restaurant who would have frequent encounters with another poltergeist in the building.
“I actually saw with my own eyes glasses [fly] up off those racks and even off the shelves would come out at her while she was working,” Engen said.
“She’d come into work and she’d be like, ‘OK you guys, let’s be friends and get along today’ and glasses would literally fly out at her.”
But while some of the entities were regular guests in the restaurant, Engen also described a number of one-off occurrences, such as the clock whose chime didn’t work but that randomly went off one night she was finishing up a shift.
Another anecdote was a bit of a spooky occurrence that happened to Engen one day when she was taking the garbage out and decided to pop by the office of a friend who also worked in the building.
“I turned my head to look in the window and I saw a man, not in the office but in the reflection of the glass. He was wearing a grey uniform and a little grey hat kind of like [an] old-school train [uniform] so I turned my head towards the tracks to see if he was there and he was not.”
Spooky stuff, but Engen said she doesn’t feel afraid, aside from the occasional startling experience.
Instead she said all the energies she has felt in her time at the building have seemed friendly.
“All of the energies that I have felt feel like friends so nothing is scary … sometimes you might feel startled but other than that no.”
But while she isn’t phased by phantasms, that hasn’t stopped some of the entities from giving some of her employees a bit of a scare.
“We’ve had staff work here who were like, ‘no, no, there’s no such thing as ghosts’ and then come running back from the bathroom being, like, ‘oh God something hugged me while I was on the toilet’.”
And while Engen ‘ain’t afraid of no ghost’ (at least none of the ones at Trackside) you won’t find her pulling out the sleeping bag and doing an all-nighter at the restaurant any time soon.
“I wouldn’t stay overnight here,” she said with a laugh.