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  CPR park 1919

Forth Junction Project
Michael Dawe

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

Region celebrating century of
railroad heritage

reprinted from Red Deer Express March 31, 2010
One hundred years ago, in 1910, Red Deer enjoyed one of the strongest booms in its history. A significant factor in that boom was an enormous amount of railroad construction and development, involving three different railway companies.

Probably the most important boost to the local economy came with the decision of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) to make Red Deer the major divisional point on the Calgary-Edmonton line. Some $250,000 was spent on the project, an impressive sum when one remembers that $1.50 to $2 per day was considered a pretty good wage at the time.

Among the structures built by the CPR were a large new roundhouse, an elevated coal tipple, a new water tower and a new steel bridge across the Red Deer River. In the spring of 1910, work began on the crowning glory of the whole project, an impressive two-storey brick station that straddled the western end of Ross Street.

The location of the station was not an accident. Since the building was the major transportation hub for the community, the CPR wanted it to be visible from all points along the main street.

Fredrick Crossley, the CPR architect in Winnipeg, was given the job of drawing the plans for the new building. He patterned the Red Deer station after the one that had been built in Lethbridge.

new and old CP railway stations and park

- Red Deer's newly constructed CP Railway station in 1910. In this photo the old 1891 station is located to the north. It was later relocated to the south of the main station and used as a freight office.

Photo courtesy of the Red Deer and District Archives


In August 1910, the nearly completed CPR station was the initial reception point for Sir Wilfrid Laurier, prime minister of Canada, who was making his third visit to Red Deer. This latest visit was part of a Western Canadian tour to gauge political opinions and issues in the region. However, another scheduled event was the driving of the first spike for the Alberta Central Railway.

The Alberta Central had been around since May 1901, at least on paper. That was 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 across the whole of Western Canada.

Action on the building of the line, however, did not get underway until April 1909 when the federal government offered a construction subsidy of $6,400 per mile. Soon crews of surveyors were laying out a rail route. Some brushing and grading commenced in the spring of 1910. On Aug. 10, 1910, Sir Wilfrid Laurier drove the first spike at a spot on the east side of Gaetz Avenue, not far from the current site of the Capri Centre.

Just as the ACR finally started construction, another railway company appeared on the scene. It was the Canadian Northern Western, a subsidiary of the CPR's main rival, the Canadian Northern Railway.

The intent of the CNWR was to build a line from just north of Red Deer westwards to Rocky Mountain House and then on to the new Brazeau coalfields at Nordegg. The company was anxious to build as fast as possible. Therefore, it closely followed the route which 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% 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 ACR could cover its day-to-day bills. Thus, the ACR slipped into bankruptcy in early 1912. Construction of the Red Deer to Rocky Mountain House portion of the ACR line was finished up by the CPR.

Nevertheless, for a few years, all of the railroad activity created a wonderful surge of prosperity and growth for the community. Moreover, Red Deer's place as the pre-eminent transportation and distribution hub of Central Alberta was now assured.

More information on the railroad history of Red Deer and area can be found on the website of the Forth Junction Historical Society at

       CPR Station Park once shining jewel of Red Deer (Red Deer Express June 2009)
Canadian Pacific Railway Bridge now 100 years old (Red Deer Advocate June 2009) 
       The history of Red Deer's CPR station
(Red Deer Express April 2007)
       Red Deer becomes a divisional point for CPR
(Red Deer Advocate Special March 2007)
A look back at the Alberta Central Railway (Red Deer Express Sept.2014)
       Laurier's 1910 visit huge event for city (Red Deer Express August 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)
       A look at the Canadian Northern Railway (Red Deer Express Jan.2011)
       Rail relocation project a first in Western Canada (Red Deer Advocate June 2010)
       Rotary Recreation Park area a jewel in heart of city (Red Deer Express Aug.2009)

Calgary and Edmonton Railway (CPR)
Calgary and Edmonton Railway at Red Deer (CPR)
Alberta Central Railway (CPR) - Red Deer to Rocky Mountain House
Canadian Northern Western Railway Brazeau sub (CNR) - Mirror to Red Deer and Nordegg
Canadian National Railway operated in downtown Red Deer from 1920 to 1960

Rise and Fall of Passenger Rail in the C&E Corridor
Jubilee 4-4-4 3001 'The Chinook'
Red Deer once had four railway stations
Canadian Pacific Railway Stations in Central Alberta
Red Deer 1910 CPR station 'jewel' still dominates Ross Street
Canadian National Railway Stations in Central Alberta

Downtown Red Deer Ground Transportation Themes
Railway Icons of City of Red Deer

       News article: Arches mark influence of railroad on city (Red Deer Advocate Oct.2013)
       News article: Historic significance of concrete obelisk preserved in mural (Red Deer Advocate Oct.2008)
       News article: A new face for the old station
(Red Deer Life July 1996)


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