A look back at the
Alberta Central Railway
reprinted from Red Deer Express September 24, 2014
This year marks the 100th
anniversary of one of the final chapters in the history of one of
the grandest dreams, and greatest disappointments in Red Deer's
The dream was the construction of a 'transcontinental' railway,
centered in Red Deer, and extending from the Hudson Bay to the B.C.
When the last of the Alberta Central Railway was constructed in the
summer of 1914, the line only consisted of a branch from Red Deer to
Rocky Mountain House and operated as a minor subsidiary of the
Canadian Pacific Railway.
The origins of the Alberta Central actually went back to May 1901
when a railway charter was granted by the federal government to a
group of Red Deer and Ontario businesspeople. Originally, the line
was to run from Delburne area to Rocky Mountain House.
However, over the years, the A.C.R.'s charter was amended to allow
it to build a line from the Fraser Valley through the Yellowhead
Pass to Moose Jaw, with extensions to Saskatoon and the Hudson Bay.
For a long time, very little happened with the A.C.R. other than the
periodic time extensions to its charter by the federal government.
Eventually, people began to tire of the lack of concrete action.
Demands were made that the A.C.R. either start immediate
construction, or else sell its charter to a more bonafide railroad
Action finally came in April 1909 when the Federal Government
offered a subsidy of $6,400 per mile to a railway constructed
between Red Deer and Rocky Mountain House.
Soon crews of surveyors were laying out a rail route. Some brushing
and grading commenced in the spring of 1910.
The driving of the first spike in Red Deer by Prime Minister Sir
Wilfrid Laurier in August 1910 was a wonderful public relations
It seemed proof that the construction of the A.C.R. was finally fact
and not political fiction. However, a severe thunderstorm cut short
the A.C.R. ceremony. It seemed symbolic of the problems which were
In late 1910, the Canadian Northern Western Railway started
construction of a line from just north of Red Deer westwards to
Rocky Mountain House and then onto the Brazeau coalfields at Nordegg.
This new competitor was anxious to build as fast as possible.
Therefore, it closely followed the route which had already been
mapped out by the A.C.R.
Having not one but two railroads being built, literally side by
side, drove up construction costs dramatically.
However, with wages for labourers rising by 50% and with prices for
things such as oats soaring to three times the Alberta average,
there was soon a wonderful economic boom in Red Deer and across west
Unfortunately, the A.C.R. found it increasingly difficult to manage
The company did not have enough capital to fulfill its grand plans.
With prices and wages leaping, there was no way that the A.C.R.
could cover its day-to-day bills.
Finally, in late 1911, an agreement was made with the C.P.R. to have
that company take over the A.C.R.'s charter and the construction of
While some insisted that the C.P.R. would eventually follow through
with the grand plans to extend the A.C.R. from Moose Jaw to the B.C.
coast, it gradually became evident that the C.P.R. had no such
By late 1913 and early 1914, the construction of the two rail lines
began to wind down.
The A.C.R. was completed to Rocky Mountain House in the summer of
1914, and the C.N.W.R. finished construction to Nordegg.
The economy of Red Deer and area began to noticeably slow. The great
boom was finally coming to an end.
In 1983, the entire A.C.R. branch line of the C.P.R. was finally
abandoned. However, Red Deer County purchased the rail bridge across
the Red Deer River and a major portion of the old right of way, from
the C.P.R. for a possible utilities corridor/walking trail. Thus,
the legacy of the A.C.R. may continue.
Construction of the Alberta Central Railway (Mintlaw) bridge
across the Red Deer River, 1911.
courtesy of the Red Deer and District Archives P2631
1910 visit huge event for city
(Red Deer Express August 2010)
Mintlaw Bridge essential to region's railroad
(Red Deer Express March 2010)
Sir Wilfrid Laurier visited Red Deer
(Red Deer Advocate May 2010)
The origins of
Alberta Central Rail pillar
(Red Deer Express April 2008)
Alberta Central Railway helped open region
(Red Deer Advocate Special March 2007)
John T. Moore
(Red Deer Express Feb.2003)
Alberta Central Railway (CPR)
- Red Deer to Rocky
ACR/CPR Mintlaw Steel Trestle
News article: Red Deer County seeks partners
to afford bridge access
(Mountain View Gazette Apr.2012)
News article: County council looks at bridge
as tourist attraction
(Red Deer Advocate April 2012)
News article: Plans for Mintlaw Bridge waiting
on public feedback
(Mountain View Gazette Feb.2012)
News article: Opposition comes forward to Mintlaw Bridge preservation
(Mountain View Gazette May 2011)
News article: Reinforcing our history
(Red Deer Advocate Mar.2011)
News article: Repairs planned for crumbling
(Red Deer Advocate Feb.2011)
News article: RD County antes up for Mintlaw
(Mountain View Gazette Nov.2010)
News article: Bridging gap between history and
(Red Deer Advocate Nov.2010)
News article: County buys bridge for a buck
(Red Deer Advocate Dec.2009)
News article: County buys historic railway bridge
(Red Deer Express Dec.2009)
article: Historic significance of concrete obelisk preserved in
mural (Red Deer Advocate Oct.2008)