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Forth Junction Project

Preservation and Historic Designation for

ACR Mintlaw steel trestle

Forth Junction Project Vision Sharing Historical Perspective Ground Transportation
Heritage Preservation
Forth Junction
Heritage Society

Mintlaw trestle under construction 1911 - Red Deer Archives P2631 the former Alberta Central Railway (CPR)
Mintlaw Bridge
Central Alberta's longest railway structure

north east view of the ACR steel trestle - Pettypiece

2,112 feet (644 m) long,
110 feet (33.5 m) high

Construction began in 1911 by the ACR and was completed in 1912 by the CPR.

Last train across the bridge was in 1981

    aerial view of Mintlaw bridge near Red Deer - Pettypiece
aerial view of Mintlaw trestle - PettypieceThe Forth Junction Heritage Society is advocating that the Mintlaw steel railway bridge, located in Red Deer County, be preserved, designated a historic resource with safe access restored as a pedestrian and bicycle pathway and eventually within walking distance of a major rail and transit interpretive centre. The Society also intends to create a scale model of the bridge.

Historic significance of the Mintlaw bridge

The background of the trestle begins at the start of the twentieth century when a group of Red Deer and Ontario investors and entrepreneurs had a vision of an east-west railway running from Red Deer west to Vancouver through the Yellowhead Pass and east to Moose Jaw and Fort Churchill with Red Deer as its headquarters. In May 1901, the Alberta Central Railway was incorporated by an Act of Parliament.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier drives the ACR 1st spike 1910 - Glenbow Archives NA-404-1The initial charter of the fledgling railway was for a 75-mile line running 25 miles east of Red Deer to the coal banks of the Red Deer River (near Nevis/Content Bridge/Tail Creek) and 50 miles west across the Red Deer River to Rocky Mountain House with the expectation that it would ultimately extend to the coal fields near Nordegg and northwest to Yellowhead Pass.

However there were several delays before construction actually began and many started to wonder if the railway would actually get built.

Construction did begin west of Red Deer in 1910 upon an official visit by Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Prime Minister of Canada, who drove the 'first spike' east of the bridge pier along Taylor Drive where the ACR crossed the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Mintlaw ACR trestle shortly after completion - Fleming - Red Deer Archives P4559In 1911, the railway started construction of a grand steel trestle across the Red Deer River southwest of Red Deer, just east of Mintlaw siding that later developed into a very small community which is long gone, but with a station and grain elevator.

The bridge, the second longest CPR bridge of its kind in Alberta at 644 m (2,112 ft.) long and 33.5 m (110 ft.) high, was completed in the fall of 1912. (The longest of its kind was built in Lethbridge.) It was primarily built as a steel trestle but has truss and girder components with wood trestle piers at each end. The structure includes fifteen 75 ft. spans, fifteen 45 ft. spans and two 150 ft. truss spans across the river itself.

It became a major landmark for people travelling along the river, the Calgary and Edmonton Trail and later for aircraft.

Unfortunately, in its quest to build a high quality rail line, the Alberta Central Railway went bankrupt and the line was leased for 999 years to the Canadian Pacific Railway. Ultimately the ACR was dissolved and its assets transferred to the CPR.
ACR Mintlaw trestle looking west 2011 - Pettypiece
The CPR finished construction west to Sylvan Lake and Benalto in 1912 and to Rocky Mountain House by 1914. During construction, much of Cygnet (Burnt) Lake, west of the trestle, was drained by deepening the outlet south of Sylvan Lake. Regular passenger service to Sylvan Lake is believed to have started in 1913 although the line wasn't officially open until 1914.

The Alberta Central Railway (later becoming the Alberta Central subdivision of the CPR) connected with the Calgary & Edmonton Railway (CPR) at Forth junction, south of present day 32 St. along Taylor Drive near Molly Bannister Drive. In 1962, the connection was relocated further south to Tuttle siding, at the time fairly isolated, to accommodate the construction of the Highway 2 expressway. Highway 2A didn't parallel the CPR line until 1985.
ACR Mintlaw bridge looking west showing space from girder removal - Pettypiece
The last train to go over the bridge was in 1981. Rails were removed a few years later after the line was officially abandoned as were each end of the bridge to discourage people from walking across the potentially dangerous structure.

For 30 years, no maintenance was done on the bridge and there was a probability that the structure would eventually be torn down. However, in December of 2009, Red Deer County agreed to purchase the trestle from CPR for $1 as an important heritage landmark and as part of a possible future regional pedestrian and bicycle trail.

In late 2010, Red Deer County authorized $350,000 for some emergency repair work on the west end of the bridge where the wooden piers had deteriorated to the point of threatening the integrity of the entire structure. That work was undertaken in March 2011. Further work was done on the east side in 2014.

river view of ACR trestle looking south 2012 - PettypieceIn September 2013, Red Deer County received a Red Deer Heritage Award for its efforts to preserve the Mintlaw bridge. The county was nominated by the Forth Junction Heritage Society.

Although there is currently no direct public access to the bridge, the structure can be viewed from Mackenzie Road (Twp. Rd. 374) west of the Calgary and Edmonton Trail southwest of the city from 32 Street.

    view of Mintlaw bridge from McKenzie Road - Pettypiece
Note: The Mintlaw trestle is the longest railway bridge in Central Alberta,
         the longest abandoned railway bridge still intact in Alberta,
         the 2nd longest Canadian Pacific Railway bridge of its kind in Western Canada,
         the 4th longest steel trestle in Western Canada (the first being North America's
                longest at Lethbridge, the second being the CNR Wapiti River Bridge near Grande Prairie and the 3rd,
                the CNR Fabyan Bridge near Wainwright, all in Alberta),
         the 6th longest railway bridge of any kind still in existence in Alberta and
         one of the top 12 longest railway bridges in Western Canada.

Historic significance:
As well as being a historic landmark in Red Deer County for a century, the bridge is also symbolic of the optimism and entrepreneurship of Central Albertans as one of the last, and certainly the largest, remaining relics of the Red Deer-based Alberta Central Railway and its dream of becoming a major western railway stretching from Churchill to Vancouver.
Although the railway never realized its dream, it did open up for settlement the area west of Red Deer to the Rockies, provided much-appreciated passenger and freight service and was the catalyst that initiated a major boom that led to the establishment of Red Deer as a city and regional distribution centre.
The  bridge is among the top 4 longest steel railway trestle-style viaducts currently standing in Western Canada.


Photo descriptions and credits:
Header: ACR/CPR Mintlaw bridge deck before track removal (Paul Pettypiece 1985);
Rendering of ACR/CPR Mintlaw trestle (Paul Pettypiece);
ACR Mintlaw bridge under construction 1911 (Red Deer Archives P2631);
Aerial photo of ACR/CPR Mintlaw trestle looking NE (Paul Pettypiece 2007);
Aerial photo of ACR/CPR Mintlaw trestle looking north (Paul Pettypiece 2007);
Aerial photo of ACR/CPR Mintlaw trestle looking west (Paul Pettypiece 2007);
ACR 1st spike Laurier 1910 (Glenbow Archives NA-404-1)
ACR Mintlaw steel trestle shortly after completion 1912 (Red Deer Archives P4559 Fleming; PAA);
ACR/CPR Mintlaw steel trestle looking west (Paul Pettypiece 1985);
ACR/CPR Mintlaw steel trestle looking west (Paul Pettypiece 2011);
ACR/CPR Mintlaw steel trestle looking west showing space left from girder removal (Paul Pettypiece 2011);
ACR/CPR Mintlaw steel trestle looking south from Red Deer River (Paul Pettypiece 2012);
ACR/CPR Mintlaw steel trestle looking north from McKenzie Road (Paul Pettypiece 2010)

Powerpoint Slide Show: History of the ACR & Mintlaw Trestle and Future Trails
(presented at FJHS AGM Oct. 2012)
Railway Bridges of Central Alberta,
Largest Railway Bridges of Alberta
Western Canada's Longest Railway Bridges
Western Canada's Highest Railway Bridges
Rails to Trails
Proposed Forth/Tuttle-Mintlaw-Sylvan Lake Linear Park and Recreation Corridor

Mintlaw Bridge Public Access & Preservation Strategy
find us on facebook  Friends of the Mintlaw Trestle Facebook Group

more about the Alberta Central Railway

News articles about the Mintlaw bridge

Bridges, Structures, Heritage
Rail Structures of Region
Central Alberta Rail Bridges

Mintlaw Trestle
Alberta's Railway Bridges
Western Canada Rail Bridges


The Railways of Central Alberta
Calgary & Edmonton Railway
C & E Railway at Red Deer
Alberta Central Railway
Canadian Northern Railway
Canadian Northern Western RR
Canadian National Railway in RD
Grand Trunk Pacific Central Alberta
Lacombe & Blindman Valley RR
Timetable Excerpts
Railway Stations of the Region
C & ER Combination Stations
Portable Stations
Red Deer CPR 1910 Station
Role of Railway Stations
Red Deer's 4 Stations
CPR Stations in Central Alberta
CNR Stations in Central Alberta
Multiple Station Communities
Station Plans

Trails, Transit, Trains
Trails and Trains Overview
Trains and Transit Overview

Milestones 1910-13
Calgary Edmonton Trail
Transit in Central Alberta
Red Deer Transit

Jubilee 3001 Chinook
Locomotives Central Alberta
Rise and Fall of Passenger Rail


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