Alumnus Mark Walma: selling out books to save the Mcadam station

Alumnus Mark Walma: selling out books to save the McAdam station

By Lucianna Ciccocioppo / Photography by Ahmed Dassouki

From the Fall/Winter 2014 issue of Nexus.

In the southwest corner of New Brunswick near the Maine border, surrounded by thick emerald swaths of forest and lake-speckled countryside, lies a village of about 1,200 people, where churches are plenty and the old cemetery is divided into Protestant and Catholic. It’s a peaceful Maritime town, about 45 minutes from Fredericton, that welcomes, indeed beckons, locals and not-so-locals to come visit its little-known source of pride: the McAdam railway station.

A stunningly enormous and châteauesque landmark for 115 years, the former Canadian Pacific Rail station is linked to a World War 1 German spy story, Winston Churchill, and skater Barbara Ann Scott (find out how). It played a starring role in the rise and fall of the railway era, when it transported munitions and lumber to the eastern seaboard and the wealthy fedora-and-gloves-set to the nearby resort of St. Andrew’s.

Today, the train station, no longer on an active rail line, is falling apart, and New Brunswickers like Mark Walma, LLB 1994, are trying to help out.

He’s written a series of children’s books, based on the character Abigail Massey and set in the 1940s, to raise funds to restore and preserve the station, now a designated national and provincial heritage site.

“When we launched the first book, we didn’t know what would happen. We were so new at this,” says Walma, who practiced law and journalism in and around Hamilton, Ontario before heading east to Fredericton with his spouse six years ago.

“We scheduled a launch with no books, just seven demos, and 40 people showed up. Then CTV came with a camera and we were on the Sunday night local news. The next day, the Fredericton Telegraph emailed me and the Gleaner called, and we had full stories in the papers. CBC Radio invited me for an interview in the morning time slot. After three days, I had people contacting me for books,” says Walma. When the first print run of 500 copies finally arrived, “We sold out at the farmer’s market in Fredericton that Saturday.” A signed coffee table book of historical photos also sold out during printing, 150 of them.

With three books published, and a Christmas special edition, the tales of Abigail Massey are read as far away as Australia, England and Holland. “It was the place to work as a young girl to support Canada during the war,” says Walma. “It had a stern housekeeper, Miss Quinn,” he says, and quite the hierarchy of hotel staff—fodder for his books, which to date have raised more than $20,000.

The McAdam Historical Restoration Commission owns the station, now a museum offering tours, catered meals, conference facilities—and in the summer, Railway Pie Sunday. The spectacularly retro lunch counter fills up, as families and tourists tour the station, eat the homemade pies—and spend money.

“The commission learned fundraising from the ground up,” says Walma, “starting with bake sales.” With the help of a grant, the entire first floor, the dining, lunch, baggage, and “ladies waiting” rooms, among others, was refurbished. So too was the jail cell.

Walma says the hope is to refurbish the second-floor hotel to attract weekenders and longer conferences.

“Since we’ve released the books, they’ve sold 50 percent more railway pies.”

Find out more about the McAdam railway station:,