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  CPR Red Deer station and park - Red Deer Archives

Forth Junction Project
Calgary & Edmonton Railway 1891 Combination Station and Freight House

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A comprehensive guide to the C&E Railway 1891 Combination Station & Freight House
Mackenzie and Mann influenced the design of Central Alberta's first railway stations
Revised April 2022

Photo descriptions and credits at bottom of page. 

The Calgary & Edmonton Railway Company was an independent company built by William Mackenzie and Donald Mann as well as CPR contractor James Ross and Herbert Holt. They were railway builders and never intended to run trains. The intention was to build a line and lease or sell it to another operator, presumably the Canadian Pacific Railway, which at the time was the only viable operator in the territory which is now Alberta.

Red Deer C&ER combination station & hotels 1892Construction started in Calgary in the summer of 1890 before the site was chosen for crossing the Red Deer River and reached the Red Deer townsite in the fall soon after James Ross negotiated an arrangement to cross the river and establish a community on the substantial land holdings of Rev. Leonard Gaetz.

Red Deer combination station 1898 - Red Deer ArchivesThe new railway gave the Canadian Pacific Railway the first rights to a renewable 6-year lease once completed. It was decided to establish a station building about every 18 miles along the line and a temporary station at intermediate sidings about midpoint between built stations. Initially most sidings were a number but the CPR took on the responsibility of naming those sidings along the route between Edmonton and Fort MacLeod.

Although the CPR took an active role in the design of structures, including stations, those along the Calgary and Edmonton Railway and other railways built by William Mackenzie and Donald Mann had a distinctive flavour and, with few exceptions, were not built elsewhere. The first stations were actually boxcars but those at the primary sidings (every 18 miles) were quickly replaced by cookie-cutter "permanent" combination stations with attached freight house in 1891 and were constructed in approximately three weeks each.

Red Deer combination station 1908These stations were constructed at
Airdrie (Siding 2), Carstairs (Siding 4),
Olds (Siding 6), Innisfail (Poplar Grove/Siding 8), Red Deer, Lacombe (Barnett's/Siding 12),
Ponoka (Battle River/Siding 14),
Wetaskiwin (Peace Hills/Siding 16),
Leduc (Telford) and
South Edmonton (Strathcona) as well as
De Winton, Okotoks, High River, Claresholm and Nanton south of Calgary in 1892.

Combination Station Red Deer relocated as freight house - GlenbowSome were later replaced with newer and larger stations but some stayed in service until the end of steam in the 1950s including those at Ponoka, Innisfail and Olds.

Similar stations were built in Saskatchewan and Manitoba on railway lines built by Mackenzie and Mann as well as a few on other independent lines operated by Canadian Pacific. A few of these stations were later built by the CPR at other locations including Morley and Langdon, Alberta.

Intermediate siding stations along the C & E (Crossfield, Didsbury, Bowden, Penhold, Blackfalds, Hobbema and Millet) were temporary portables until more permanent stations were built starting in 1904.

When Mackenzie and Mann formed the Canadian Northern Railway to compete with the CPR, the CPR negotiated a long-term lease with the Calgary and Edmonton Railway and eventually took over the line.

C & E combination station & freight house 1891 - Pettypiece graphic

Photos from the 1891-1892 period suggest that the portion of the station that contained the residence, office and waiting room had a shingled roof while the freight house portion had a metal sheeting roof.

These cookie-cutter stations were built approximately every 18-20 miles between Calgary and Edmonton and were constructed in about three weeks each.

Although there are no colour photos of these stations, other CPR-influenced stations of the period had a cream, beige and burgundy colour scheme.

interior plan of first C & E combination station - Pettypiece graphicThis station was typically 44'x26' as built with a waiting room and office, plus a living room and a kitchen (later built as a lean-to on the back side on the main floor on some stations leaving space for an additional waiting room) and 3 bedrooms upstairs for the station agent's family. Several variations evolved over time on the interior layout. The freight house was approx. 17' as built but usually expanded to 30' or more in the mid-1890s.

A replica of this station is located in South Edmonton (Strathcona) based on the Innisfail station although the freight shed portion was not replicated. An original station of this type acts as a museum in Strathclair, Manitoba. No station of this type was built after 1906.

Red Deer combination station & freight house 1908 - Pettypiece graphic

Although these stations started out virtually identical, it wasn't long before modifications were made to each station to make them more functional according to the needs of the community and the station master.

This resulted in some distinction between stations but the primary characteristics remained.

interior plan Red Deer combination station 1908 - Pettypiece graphicIn Red Deer, it would seem that when the freight shed was expanded in the mid-1890s, the waiting room was relocated to make it larger and to keep the living quarters on the south side of the station.

Most of the combination station and freight house structures were re-painted in an off-white or light grey colour scheme with cream and tuscan red trim although variations occurred from station to station. Eventually the colour scheme changed to a tuscan red with cream and chocolate trim, again with variations.

Innisfail combination station 1911 - Pettypiece graphic

Modifications to some original stations such as the one at Innisfail included the addition of a lean-to at one end, a kitchen addition on the 'back' side, relocation of doors, windows and chimneys as well as a dormer on the upper floor.

Red Deer combination station converted to freighthouse 1911 - Pettypiece graphic

After Red Deer officially became a division point in 1907, a new station was contemplated. When the new station opened in late 1910, the combination station was relocated from north of the new station to south of it, turned 180 degrees and repainted tuscan red with cream and chocolate trim. It was used exclusively as a freight shed.

Red Deer CPR freight shed 1955 - Pettypiece graphic
The Red Deer freight shed was expanded and used until the early 1960s. It was demolished in 1965. This view is on the street side (originally the track side).

Due to variations in how the local dealer mixed the paint, CPR tuscan red as a station colour ranged from a rich deep red (Colonial red) to maroon to boxcar red to brown. Weathering and age could also alter the colour. Tuscan red as a locomotive or passenger car colour was more consistent but slight variations occurred according to which paint shop did the work.

Wood Combination Station and Freight House (1891-1892)

rear/street view of CPR Red Deer combination station 1910 - RD ArchivesRed Deer
Red Deer CPR 1892 combination station 1905 - Red Deer Archivesbuilt in 1891 to replace boxcar station; expanded in 1890s; replaced by a new brick station in 1910 after Red Deer became a division point in 1908; combination station rotated and moved south of the new station and converted to a separate freight house which was expanded twice; demolished 1965
Innisfail CPR station 1890s - Glenbow Archives
built 1891; expanded and modified in 1890s; relocated from west side of tracks to east side in 1900s; closed 1961; demolished; replaced by cinder block station further north
Olds C&ER station 1897 - Olds Historical Society

built 1891 to replace boxcar station; addition 1913; closed 1962 and sold; mostly demolished but portion moved to nearby farm; replaced by cinder block station

Lacombe C&ER combination station 1910 - Lacombe DHS

built 1891 to replace boxcar station; addition 1910; partially destroyed by explosion October 1911 (1 person killed); new station built 1911 prior to explosion and opened three weeks later due to importance as the terminal of the Stettler subdivision; combination station relocated and used as freight house


Ponoka 1892 C&ER station 1910 - Fort Ostell Museum

built 1891; expanded and modified; used until 1960s; demolished 1968


built 1891; expanded  in 1890s; replaced by new station in 1908 due to importance as the connecting point with Camrose subdivision which was part of the 2nd main line between Edmonton and Winnipeg; combination station relocated and used as freight shed; later demolished


Carstairs built 1891; demolished 1978
A total of 18 stations of this type were built in Alberta (most on the Calgary and Edmonton Railway between Edmonton and Fort McLeod, later absorbed by CPR, and at Langdon and Morley), another 18 in Saskatchewan (built on the Qu'Appelle, Long Lake & Saskatchewan Railway, later absorbed by CNR), and 15 in Manitoba along the Manitoba and Northwestern Railway.

Combination Stations Replaced

Red Deer CPR station 1910 - Pettypiece graphicSeveral of the larger communities or ones that were junctions had their stations replaced before the First World War. Wetaskiwin's was replaced in 1907-08 by a special woodframe station. Red Deer's was replaced by in 1910 by a special brick chateau-style station. Lacombe's was replaced in 1911 by a special woodframe station. Leduc's was replaced in 1914 by a CPR standard A2 Western station.

In the 1960s, the combination stations at Innisfail and Olds were replaced by an uninspiring cinder block building.

Photo descriptions and credits:
Header: Red Deer CPR 1910 station, park and C&ER 1891 combination station as freight house 1911
     (Red Deer Archives P3202);
Red Deer 1891 C&ER combination station 1892 (source unknown);
Red Deer 1891 C&ER combination station 1898 (Red Deer Archives P3206);
Red Deer 1891 C&ER combination station 1908 (Red Deer Archives);
Red Deer C&ER combination station relocated as freight house 1912 (Red Deer Archives 3202 cropped);
Rendering of Red Deer combination station in 1891 (Paul Pettypiece);
Interior plan of C&ER combination station 1891 (Paul Pettypiece);
Rendering of Red Deer combination station in 1908 (Paul Pettypiece);
Interior plan of C&ER combination station in 1908 (Paul Pettypiece);
Rendering of Innisfail combination station in 1911 (Paul Pettypiece);
Rendering of Red Deer combination station converted to freight house in 1911 (Paul Pettypiece);
Rendering of Red Deer CPR freight house 1955 (Paul Pettypiece);
Red Deer C&ER combination station street view 1910 (Red Deer Archives);
Red Deer C&ER combination station 1905 (Red Deer Archives P3201);
Innisfail Calgary & Edmonton Railway 1891 station 1890s (Glenbow Archives NA-1709-71);
Olds C&ER 1891 combination station 1897 (Olds Historical Society);
Lacombe C&ER 1891 combination station 1910 (Lacombe & District Historical Society);
Ponoka C&ER 1891 combination station c1910 (Fort Ostell Museum Ponoka);
Rendering of replacement Red Deer CPR station 1910 (Paul Pettypiece)

Note: All renderings are the intellectual property of Paul Pettypiece and may only be used for personal or historical use.
Photos courtesy of Red Deer Archives, Glenbow Archives, Olds Historical Society, Lacombe & District Historical Society, Fort Ostell Museum Ponoka and Paul Pettypiece. One has an unknown source.


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

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
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


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

Mintlaw Trestle
Alberta's Railway Bridges
Western Canada Rail Bridges



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