Alberta Central Railway
helped open region
reprinted from Red Deer Advocate '100 Years Vol. 1' March 28, 2007
Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier visited
Red Deer in 1910 to drive the first spike for the Alberta
the Red Deer and District Archives
On Aug. 10, 1910, the prime
minister of Canada, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, came to Red Deer and drove
the first spike for the Alberta Central Railway.
The event was significant not only because it was part of the first
major visit to Red Deer by a Canadian prime minister. It also
represented the start of a major development for Central Alberta.
The origins of the Alberta Central went back to May 1901, when a
charter was granted by the federal government to a group of Red Deer
and Ontario businessmen.
Originally, the rail line was authorized to run from Coal Banks,
near modern-day Delburne, to Rocky Mountain House.
However, over the years, the ACR's charter was amended to allow it
to run its line from the Fraser Valley through the Yellowhead Pass
to Moose Jaw, with extensions to Saskatoon and the Hudson Bay.
In short, it was planned that the ACR would eventually become a
"transcontinental" railroad extending all across Western Canada.
For a long time, little happened with the ACR other than periodic
time extensions to its charter by the federal government.
That is not to say that the ACR was forgotten.
Construction of railroads was politically very popular. John T.
Moore, the major force behind the railway, had political ambitions.
He ran successfully in the 1905 provincial election. He ran
unsuccessfully for a nomination in the 1908 federal election and for
re-election in the 1909 provincial election.
In each campaign, the promise of construction of the ACR was used to
In fact, in the 1908 contest, a mysterious surveyor showed up to
plant survey stakes in politically important areas.
Eventually, people began to tire of the lack of concrete action.
Demands were made that the ACR either start immediate construction
or sell its charter to a more bona-fide railroad company.
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 by Laurier was a wonderful public
It seemed proof that construction of the ACR was finally fact and
not political fiction.
However, a severe thunderstorm cut short the ceremony. It seemed
symbolic of the problems that were to follow.
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 on to the Brazeau coalfields at
This new competitor was anxious to build as fast as possible.
Therefore, it closely followed the route that had already been
mapped out by the ACR.
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 per cent 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 Central Alberta.
Unfortunately, the ACR found it increasingly difficult to manage
financially. The company did not have enough capital to fulfill its
grand plans. With prices and wages leaping, there was no way that
the railway could cover its day-to-day bills.
Finally, in late 1911, an agreement was made with the Canadian
Pacific Railway (CPR) to have that company take over the ACR's
charter and construction of the line.
While some insisted that the CPR would eventually follow though with
the grand plans to extend the ACR from Moose Jaw to B.C. coast, it
gradually became evident that the CPR had no such intent.
By late 1913 and early 1914, the construction of the two rail lines
began to wind down.
As the ACR was completed to Rocky Mountain House and the Canadian
Northern Western Railway finished construction to Nordegg, the
economy of Red Deer and area began to slow. The great boom was
finally coming to an end.
That is not to say that the ACR did not leave a lasting legacy. It
helped to open up and develop West Central Alberta.
It ensured Red Deer's position as the major transportation and
distribution centre for the region. As such, it laid the foundation
for future growth and prosperity.
The Alberta Central Railway Bridge was built across the Red
Deer River in 1911.
look back at the Alberta Central Railway
(Red Deer Express Sept.2014)
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)
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)