stations get new lease on life
Moving the old buildings was a challenge,
and much renovation still
needs to be done
reprinted from AGCanada
(Johnnie Bachusky) November 29, 2013
A trio of Alberta communities are welcoming back a pioneer symbol of
hope and prosperity that gripped early settlers across the western
landscape more than a century ago.
Benalto, Beiseker and Scandia are restoring old Canadian Pacific
train stations to their former glory. They hope the icons will
revitalize their communities with additional public services and
increased tourism dollars.
The west-central Alberta hamlet of Benalto reclaimed its train
station, originally built in 1928 and moved out to the Red Deer area
in 1971, to become the centrepiece for its 100th anniversary
celebration next June. Beiseker purchased the 102-year-old Bassano
station and hopes to have it ready in 2014 as its new museum for
western Canadian railway equipment. Scandia has turned the
103-year-old dilapidated Jenner station into a theatre and gathering
place at the hamlet's historical park.
Benalto's original modest centennial plans were dramatically changed
a year ago when Red Deer's Garett and Brenda Cupples offered to give
back the station for free.
"How do you say no to that?" said Dave More, chair of the hamlet's
centennial committee. But while reclaiming the station came at no
cost, there was a price to move it. An even bigger question was
where would the committee put the 64x22-foot two-storey relic.
That was answered quickly when Benalto's Bill and Dale Speight,
owners of the town's former CP Rail lands, donated green space near
Main Street. The committee, helped by a successful media campaign,
then quickly raised the necessary $32,000 to move the station 37
kilometres from Red Deer to Benalto.
On April 24, the station was brought home. A crowd of up to 300
citizens gathered in Benalto to welcome the return of its station.
"They brought it from the west end, through the trees and led by
five young women on horses," said More. "There was not a dry eye on
the whole street. It was quite an amazing moment."
More is hoping the station, which will undergo extensive renovations
this winter, will at least be partly ready for the June centennial
celebrations. Ultimately, the site for the icon will be renamed
Centennial Station Park, a gathering area for the hamlet and symbol
of renewed prosperity.
The Benalto station
was moved to the hamlet from Red Deer in 2013 to a large
green space, the hamlet's former CP lands, which will
ultimately be renamed Centennial Station Park.
Big moving job
While the hamlet was welcoming its original station back, officials
from the Alberta 2005 Centennial Railway Museum Society in Beiseker
had eyes on another community's pioneer icon -- the huge 162x20-foot
Bassano station. After several years of planning, the central
Alberta historical society secured the station in a bidding war for
Last July, it was moved 155 kilometres to the village over two days
and placed south of the old Beiseker station, which houses the
village's office and museum for local history.
While there are great expectations for the new museum, society
officials still have to do extensive renovations and solve a high
water table problem at the site. Even still, they hope to have the
new museum at least partially open by spring.
"We have a lot of interest. We actually have a lot of CP people that
at one time or another did work in the Beiseker area," said society
treasurer Fred Walters. "It's going to mean quite a bit. The good
part is that it's going to increase our tourism."
Beiseker acquired the Bassano station after outbidding
Scandia's Eastern Irrigation District Historical Park.
When Beiseker officials were bidding on the Bassano station, they
were up against the hamlet of Scandia's Eastern Irrigation District
(EID) Historical Park. Scandia, located 34 kilometres southwest of
Brooks, did not get the Bassano landmark but in early 2011 park
officials heard the old Jenner station, lying derelict in a farmer's
field for more than 40 years, was available. "It was in very bad
shape when we got it," said park president Rosalind VanHal. "The
owners said they thought the people who owned it before them had
plans to fix it up and live in it. It never happened. It just stayed
The park acquired it in exchange for $10,000 worth of tax receipts.
With the help of a $230,000 provincial grant and another $70,000
from the EID, the park was able to move the 24x24-foot two-storey
Jenner station 115 kilometres to Scandia and then restore it. The
old station, which sits in the shadow of the "Sleeping Giant" -- a
preserved 1920s-era Alberta Pool Elevator -- now houses a 27-seat
theatre, a venue that will soon feature a film on Carl Anderson, one
of the pioneers of the EID.
"It is beautiful. Everybody in the community says the same thing,"
said VanHal, adding renovations are still required for the station's
second floor. "Everybody who comes through is amazed at what we've
News article: Benalto Train Station returned
to hamlet after lengthy journey
(Sylvan Lake News May 2013)
News article: Riders welcome train station
home to Benalto
(Red Deer Advocate Apr.2013)
News article: Big Valley station banks on
(Stettler Independent Apr.2013)
News article: Benalto station move delayed
(Red Deer Advocate Mar.2013)
News article: Benalto train station to return
home after 42-year absence
(Sylvan Lake News Feb.2013)
News article: Former Benalto train station
donated back to community
(Red Deer Advocate Feb.2013)
Blog: Big Valley Canadian Northern Station
Celebrates 100 Years
News article: Historic train station relocated
(Rockyview Weekly July 2012)
News article: A new face for the old
(Red Deer Life July 1996)
Canadian Pacific Railway Stations in Central Alberta
Current Rail Heritage Preservation in Central Alberta