Central Railway (CPR) Mintlaw Bridge
Central Alberta's longest railway
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.
The 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.
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.
The 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.
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
The bridge, the second longest CPR bridge of its kind in Alberta at 2,112 ft. long and 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.
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.
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
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.
In 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
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
Note: The Mintlaw trestle is the longest railway bridge in
the longest abandoned railway
bridge still intact in Alberta,
the 2nd longest Canadian
Pacific Railway bridge of its kind in Western Canada,
the 3rd longest steel
trestle in Western Canada (the first being North America's
longest at Lethbridge, the second being Canada's 2nd longest at Fabyan
the 6th longest railway bridge
of any kind still in existence in
one of the top 10
longest railway bridges in Western Canada.
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 3 longest steel
railway trestle-style viaducts currently standing in Western Canada.