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Forth Junction pulling toward a new station

reprinted from Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley) December 2, 2011

A Central Alberta group of railroad and transit buffs are keeping the wheels turning on their dream project of creating a transportation-themed tourist attraction.

For the Forth Junction Heritage Society, that has meant switching gears and dropping a proposal to locate a major attraction combining historical interpretation, dining, retail, amusement park and entertainment in Red Deer's Riverlands area.

Society president Paul Pettypiece said the City of Red Deer was reluctant to endorse that proposal because a vision for Riverlands has not been decided on. Rather than wait years for a show of support that might not come, the society will focus its attention on a site outside the city.

A rural site has always been a part of the society's vision. An attraction featuring replicas of regional railway stations for overnight lodging, a railway park, lookout tower, interpretive centre, heritage transit vehicle display depot and miniature steam railway has been proposed for a yet-identified site. A functioning 1/8-scale replica of the Jubilee 3001 The Chinook steam locomotive that ran between Edmonton and Calgary would also be a crowd pleaser in the Red Deer County theme park.

"Now, we're thinking we might combine the two into one facility," he said.

However, there's a limited number of places with good visibility that would be suitable for a tourism entertainment site, he said. "So we're looking at our options in terms of a location."

A suitable site would need at least 40 acres within 20 km of the city and good road connections.

Meanwhile, the 30-strong society has been busy doing the basic legwork to keep the project moving ahead.

The group recently lined up charitable status, which allows the group to issue tax-deductible receipts to donors contributing to efforts to provide education and preservation initiatives connected with the evolution of trails, trains and transit in Central Alberta.

A not-for-profit corporation will be established next year to champion parts of the project that don't fit the charitable designation, such as retail outlets, theme parks and other semi-commercial attractions.

Background work has also been done to back up a grant application to Tourism Alberta to undertake a $40,000 feasibility management destination study.

"That really needs to be done before we can do much of anything else," he said.

Red Deer County and City of Red Deer have been approached to ask for their support and presentations may be made later to councils in each municipality.

Pettypiece is encouraged by the support the group has received from those who have seen their plans. Their vision was on display at the recent Red Deer Model Train and Hobby Show at Westerner Park and was well received by show goers.

"Most people we've talked to are very excited about it and would like to see it proceed."

News articles about the Forth Junction Heritage Society (more below):
       News article: World-class destination centre still in the works (Innisfail Province Nov.2013)
       Editorial: Praise today's big dream
(Innisfail Province Jan.2012)
       Editorial: Railway concept captures region's uniqueness (Olds Albertan Jan.2012)
       Feature article: Forth Junction targets county
(Mountain View Gazette Dec.2011)

News articles related to ACR/CPR Mintlaw bridge mentioning the Forth Junction Heritage Society:
       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: RD County antes up for Mintlaw Bridge repairs
(Mountain View Gazette Nov.2010)
       News article: Bridging gap between history and disrepair
(Red Deer Advocate Nov.2010)

News article related to regional model and miniature railways mentioning the Forth Junction Project:

       News article: Trains still roll for some
(Red Deer Advocate Nov.2012)

News articles related to historic downtown Red Deer redevelopment mentioning the Forth Junction Project
(the original vision of the Forth Junction Heritage Society included an attraction in the new downtown
Riverlands but this vision was modified to have one destination close to the city and active rail line):

       News article: Railyards: Open house on a 20-year plan for downtown
(Red Deer Advocate June 2011)
       News article: Riverlands: Strong turnout for open house
(Red Deer Advocate March 2011)
       Commentary: Red Deer could use more bold visionary landmark designers
(Red Deer Express Sep.2010)

Michael Dawe articles related to regional railway heritage mentioning the Forth Junction Heritage Society:
       Region celebrating century of railroad heritage (Red Deer Express March 2010)
       Mintlaw Bridge essential to region's railroad heritage (Red Deer Express March 2010)


 News articles about the Forth Junction Heritage Society:
World-class destination centre still in the works 11/13       Praise today's big dream 01/12       Forth Junction targets county 12/11 
Forth Junction pulling toward a new station
12/11        A volunteer on the right track 12/10        Tourism board supports rail project 10/10
Forth Junction rail project seeking charitable status
10/10        Rail tourist attraction idea gets rolling 07/10        Railway heritage 06/10
New idea for Riverlands worth an Olympic cheer 02/10       Happy to hear more talk on large-scale attractions 02/10
One-time opportunity 02/10       Tourism proposal facing obstacles 02/10       World-class attraction proposed for Riverlands 02/10

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