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April 17, 2019, Red Deer Advocate (Michael Dawe)
Red Deer's key thoroughfares pay tribute
to city's founders

   One of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to the names of streets and avenues in Red Deer, is why the north-south roadways are called avenues and the east-west roads are named streets.
   The usual pattern in North America is the other way around.
   The simple answer is no one knows for sure. The original townsite of Red Deer was mapped out by George Bemister in November 1890. Generally, he called the north-south thoroughfares avenues.
   However, he was not consistent in his pattern of names. While the main north-south road was designated as Gaetz Avenue, the main east-west road was called Ross Avenue. This anomaly continued from 1890 to 1909, when the Town of Red Deer finally changed the name to Ross Street.
   While there may have been some confusion by originally naming both of the main north-south and east-west thoroughfares as avenues, there is no doubt as to where the two names originated.
   Gaetz Avenue was named in honour of Rev. Leonard Gaetz. He was the person who owned the farm in what is now downtown Red Deer.
   When the Calgary-Edmonton Railway was built through central Alberta in 1890 and 1891, Gaetz offered a half share of his farm to the railway company if they located the new townsite on his land. His offer was accepted.
   The main east-west roadway was named after Sir James Ross. He was the senior executive in charge of the C. & E. Railway Company.
   Therefore, it seemed fitting to the townsite officials that he should get one of the two main roads in the new hamlet named in his honour.
   James Leveson Ross was born in Cromarty, Scotland, in 1848. His parents were prominent members of the shipping industry. He trained as a civil engineer in England.
   In 1868, he immigrated to the United States to take part in the great railway construction boom that followed the end of the American Civil War.
   After serving as chief engineer with the construction of the Ulster and Delaware, and then the Wisconsin Central railways, he was enticed to move to Canada by railway promoters who were associated with the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway across the Canadian West.
   Ross was appointed as the general manager and chief engineer of the North American Railway Contracting Company, a subsidiary of the CPR.
   He was then put in charge of the construction of the main CPR line across the Canadian Prairies to Craigellachie, B.C., in the Rocky Mountains. Ross gained great fame for completing the project one year ahead of time.
   Ross then became involved in a number of railway projects in Eastern Canada and the northeastern United States. He also became a major shareholder in the CPR.
   In the late1880s, Ross became the head of the Calgary-Edmonton Railway Company (a de facto subsidiary of the CPR), which was created to construct a rail line linking northern and southern Alberta (i.e., Calgary and Edmonton).
   In July 1890, he came to central Alberta with Nicol Kingsmill to negotiate the land agreement, whereby the company and Gaetz would own equal shares in lots in the new townsite of Red Deer, which was located on Gaetz's farm.
   After the successful completion of the C. & E. line, Ross remained active not only with railway construction projects, but also a number of other major business initiatives.
   He became an owner of street railway systems in Toronto, Montreal and several American cities. He also became the chief executive officer with the Dominion Iron and Steel Company at Sydney, N.S.
   In 1909, Ross made a visit to the town he had helped to create. He commented on how dramatically the community had changed from a small hamlet with a few dozen residents to a bustling town of more than 2,000.
   He also commented on the impressive vista that Ross Avenue provided when looking east from the CPR station, through the centre of downtown Red Deer, toward the East Hill.
   There is no record to indicate if Ross' visit prompted the town to change the name of Ross Avenue to Ross Street.
Photo: The north side of Ross Avenue is seen shortly before it was renamed Ross Street by the Town of Red
  Deer in 1909. Red Deer Archives photo.

Oct. 21, 2016, Red Deer Advocate (Susan Zielinski)
Historic bridge in need of more work
   Red Deer's CPR Bridge needs more than a new coat of paint and minor repairs, but exactly what it needs has yet to be determined.
   The historic bridge, built in 1907, was originally slated for a $3.7 million repair and paint job as part of the 2016 capital budget.
   Wayne Gustafson, engineering services manager for the City of Red Deer, said work was postponed when an evaluation in late spring suggested more work was required to parts like abutments, piers and some substructure components.
   A detailed engineering review is now underway to identify what needs to be done soon and to develop a full work plan for ongoing maintenance.
   "The idea would be that we take the time to make sure we know exactly the work plan that is needed, and how best to roll that out. Some of that work will likely start next year and into 2018," Gustafson said on Thursday.
   "There's nothing that's emergency-related that has to be done right now."
   The city converted the structure into a pedestrian bridge in 1992 after CPR donated the old train bridge to the city a few years earlier. In 1993, the bridge was designated a provincial historic site.
   A 2013 report identified structural deficiencies that could contribute to future problems and public safety issues. An assessment in 2014 indicated the presence of lead paint. Paint on the supporting structure and steel trusses are flaking and falling into the river potentially affecting the overall health of the river.
   Gustafson said money already approved for the bridge would be used next year to start work that needs to get done first. Council will have to approve further funding during 2018 budget discussions. The engineering review won't be complete for council's consideration in the 2017 budget.
   Once work begins, the bridge will likely be closed at various times during repairs, he said.
"The intention is to keep it open and functional as much as possible, which I think can be done for the most part."

Aug. 3, 2016, Red Deer Express (Michael Dawe)
A look at the history of Riverlands
   The 'other side of the tracks' is a well-worn phrase in the English language. Unfortunately, it is often used in a negative context.
   Riverlands is the current name used for the area west of the old CPR main line, on the south side of the river. It is a district which the City has targeted for rejuvenation and redevelopment.
   Riverlands first became a distinct area after the construction of the Calgary-Edmonton (CPR) railway in 1890-1891. The train tracks were a clear division between the fledgling townsite and the open lands to the west. Those western fields were generally still pasture.
   One of the first businesses west of the tracks was a small sawmill, on the south bank of the river. After 1900, the sawmill was moved to what is now Bower Ponds as a new millpond could be easily created there.
   During the 1890s, a sandstone quarry was opened along the riverbank, upstream from the sawmill. The sandstone blocks were most often used for basement foundations. However, they were also used as the main building material for such structures as St. Luke's Anglican Church.
   In 1893, the annual Red Deer Fair was moved to the CPR roundhouse as that was the most spacious building in the community. An adjacent racetrack was soon added. The Fair continued to be held in Riverlands until 1902 when it moved to the new Alexandra Park on the southeast side of the Town.
   In 1896, the Red Deer Creamery was built in Riverlands.
   In 1904, the Western General Electric power plant was constructed on the site of the old sawmill. The Town's water intake and filtration plant were installed next to the Western General complex.
   After the City bought out the Western General in 1926 and a contract was signed with Calgary Power for cheaper hydro-electric power, the old steam plant was dismantled.
   In 1907, Red Deer was designated as a main divisional point on the C&E line. Consequently, there was an extensive expansion of the railyards, including the construction of a new roundhouse, coaling trestle, railway bridge and train station. Over time, a row of grain elevators was constructed on the west side of the rail tracks.
   In 1929, the City struck an agreement with the E.B. Eddy Company to build a large match factory west of the old power plant. However, the onset of the Great Depression caused the postponement and eventual cancellation of the project. Nevertheless, the City kept the site vacant for many years in the hopes that the match factory project would be revived.
   In the 1930s, the Red Deer City Yards were relocated to a new site at the foot of the West Park hill. Some of the buildings in the new yards came from the old Hydro-Pete Refinery on the hill.
   Following the Second World War, Red Deer's position as a transportation and distribution hub was greatly increased. Much more warehouse and industrial space was urgently needed.
   Hence, an extensive warehouse and light industrial area developed in Riverlands throughout the 1950s. In the early 1960s, the City Yards were moved farther north to a larger site which was also closer to the river.
   After the Riverside and Golden West Industrial Parks were developed north of the river in the 1960s, new industrial and warehouse companies began to move to those locations instead of increasingly cramped Riverlands area.
   The next big change occurred in the late 1980s and early 1990s with the relocation of the CPR line and railyards to a new location on the west side of the City. This opened up a large area for redevelopment. One of the first major projects was the construction of the new Superstore complex.
   Over time, other new retail, service and residential buildings have been constructed. In the past few years, the City yards have been relocated to a large new site on the northeast side of the City, opening up even more land for redevelopment in Riverlands.
   Currently, plans are being put in place to foster more new growth and to enhance Riverlands as a highly attractive area in the heart of the community.
Photo: HISTORIC PLACE - The Riverlands area, looking southwest, 1956. The large building on the left is the Alpha Plant (Central Alberta Dairy Pool). The two bridges on the right are the Gaetz Avenue traffic bridge and the CPR railway bridge. Red Deer Archives P4447.

June 22, 2016, Red Deer Express (Michael Dawe)

A look at the history of the CPR bridge
   This year marks an important milestone in the preservation of historic landmarks in our community.
   Twenty-five years ago, in 1991, Red Deer City council passed a bylaw designating the old Canadian Pacific Railway bridge across the Red Deer River as a municipal historic resource.
   The history of this important structure stretches back more than 100 years.
   When the Calgary-Edmonton Railway was constructed in 1890-1891, a timber bridge was constructed across the Red Deer River.
   However, by the early 1900s, with the rapidly growing traffic along Alberta's main north-south transportation corridor, it was obvious that a much more substantial bridge was needed.
   Work on a new bridge began in the late fall of 1906.
   The bases for concrete pillars were installed. Unfortunately, the winter of 1906-07 was one of the worst on record. Hence the bridge piers were not completed.
   More progress was made in the summer of 1907. However, with the onset of a brief, but sharp recession in late 1907, there was another pause in construction.
   Finally, in April 1908, the CPR announced that concrete piers would be completed and a substantial steel superstructure would be erected. The estimated cost of construction was $57,000. To put that sum into context, a very good wage in those days was $1.50 to $2 per day. The project was finally completed in March 1909.
   There was one recorded death of a laborer employed on the bridge project. James J. Shea died in July 1908 of complications after swimming in the Red Deer River.
   The bridge quickly had more uses than just a rail link. While the CPR actively discouraged people walking over the bridge, many found it to be a quick and convenient way to cross the river between the City of Red Deer and the Village of North Red Deer.
   In the late 1980s, when plans were being carried out to move the CPR main line to the west side of the City, a decision was made to remove the rail bridge.
   However, a dynamic Riverside Meadows resident, Shirley Hocken, kept asking why the bridge needed to be removed. She pointed out how heavily the bridge was used by pedestrians, even when it was not really safe to do so. She also pointed out that it would cost roughly the same to remove the bridge as it would to save it.
   Consequently, she spear-headed the Save The Bridge committee to lobby for preservation and to raise the funds necessary to convert the structure into pedestrian and bicycle pathway, linking the Waskasoo Park trails on both sides of the river.
   Funds were secured from such sources as the Waskasoo Museum Foundation, Red Deer Community Foundation, the Recreation Parks and Wildlife Foundation, the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation, Northside Community Association, Royal Canadian Legion, Red Deer and District Chinese Society and numerous private individuals. A very significant contribution came from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters who donated the labour to construct the bridge decking.
   While Red Deer City council designated the bridge as a municipal historic resource in September 1991, on Oct. 3rd, 1993, the bridge was given further protection as a provincial registered historic site.
   Meanwhile, on Sept. 13th, 1992, the bridge was officially opened. The $171,500 cost been covered with government and foundation grants, donations and contributions of volunteer labour. There was also money left over to cover future repairs and maintenance.
   In May 2002, the Old CPR Rail Bridge Committee was recognized with Red Deer's first Heritage Recognition Award.
   As should be expected, time and the elements have necessitated new repairs and refurbishment.
   Consequently, City council has recently provided funds to complete those repairs and ensure that the historic landmark will remain an attractive and well-used link in Red Deer's popular trail system.
Photo: LANDMARK - The new CPR bridge across the Red Deer River under construction, 1908.
Red Deer Archives P3909

Nov. 25, 2015, Red Deer Advocate (Crystal Rhyno)
Capital budget
Get the lead out
Council to spend $3.7M to repair, repaint CPR bridge

   The CPR bridge will be getting a paint job.
   Calling the bridge an environmental hazard, council approved $3.7 million in spending to remove the lead paint, give it a recoat and make repairs to the municipal historic resource in 2016 on Tuesday's capital budget debate.
   Council heard that lead from the paint on the supporting structure and steel trusses are flaking and falling into the river, potentially affecting the overall health of the river.
   But the decision was not taken lightly as council did not want the bridge to become a "Green Onion" where members of the community balked at the city spending $750,000 to re-paint the water tower.
   Most councillors stressed it is not about "making the bridge pretty" but out of concern for public safety and the Red Deer River.
   City manager Craig Curtis said there are financial and health risks in delaying the project. He said approving the project this year would be the most cost efficient.
   Mayor Tara Veer said the community fought to keep this heritage resource in the 1990s.
   "Once we know there is a risk to public health and safety, we have a responsibility to react," said Veer.
   Coun. Paul Harris said the bridge has become part of the community's identity.
   "To suggest that we wait is an example of borrowing from our future to pay for our present," he said. "We have an ethical obligation now that we know there is going to be lead in the river."
   Coun. Tanya Handley did not vote in favour but she shared the concern about "lead is falling in the river." She said there needs to be more communication with the public about the necessity of the project before she could support it.
   Coun. Lawrence Lee voted in support after unsuccessfully arguing to defer the paint remediation to another budget cycle in order to get a better price on the project.
   Councillors Frank Wong and Buck Buchanan were also opposed.
   The paint job and repairs are expected to extend the life of the bridge for another 40 years.

Sept. 28, 2015, Rockyview Weekly (Dustin Ruth)
Fire destroys part of historic
Bassano train station

   The historic Bassano train station in Beiseker caught fire in the early morning hours of Sept. 18 and Beiseker RCMP are investigating it as suspicious.
   Sergeant Glen Demmon, detachment commander with Beiseker RCMP, said there was no power to the building at the time, but crews have yet to determine how the station caught fire.
   "We can't conclusively say whether (the fire) was set by a person or not at this time," he said. "It's just being treated as a suspicious fire."
   The nearly 50-metre long 104-year-old station lost about half the building before the fire was doused, said Fred Walters, treasurer of the Alberta 2005 Centennial Railway Museum Society (ACRMS) that had been working to transform the old station into a museum.
   For Walters, hearing of the fire evoked emotions of anger and sadness, as a prospect of one day developing the Bassano station into a museum documenting the history of the railway in Western Canada is now up in smoke.
   "I have spent a tremendous amount of hours involved with that project," Walters said.
   Built in 1911, the station had been used for maintaining and rebuilding cars from the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) since the early 90s, said Walters and was set to be demolished in 2011 before Sabrina Nasse, the CAO in Bassano at the time, prevented it from happening.
   "They had bulldozers lined up and everything else," he said. "She put a stop to it."
   After that, ACRMS approached CPR with a proposal to purchase the station and in 2012 it was transported to Beiseker.
   Moved onto a foundation in the fall of 2014, the building was about a year and a half away from opening up as the museum it was intended to be all along, Walters said.
   "We had some problems with the foundation moving a bit," Walters said. "There is a higher water table in Beiseker than we expected."
   ACRMS is now in a state of limbo, he said, until the adjustor sends a report to insurance and the society can determine future options.
   However, according to Walters, a walk through the aftermath of the fire with the adjustor on Sept. 19 did not look positive.
   "At this particular point, due to the amount of water damage, (the adjustor) thought it would have to come down," he said.
   The Bassano station was the last of its kind, according to Walters, as the society had searched for others like it but was unsuccessful.
   Preserving the history of old railway stations was of a particular interest, he added, as it was usually cheaper and quicker to destroy.
   If the Bassano station must come down, Walters said Alberta will have lost something important.
   "We'll have lost 104 years of history in the building itself (and) you've lost the last building of that type in Western Canada or . . . maybe all of Canada, I don't know," he said.
Photo: The more than a century old Bassano rail station caught fire on Sept. 18 and Beiseker RCMP are investigating the fire as suspicious. Photo by Dustin Ruth, Rocky View Publishing

Feb. 5, 2014, Ponoka News (Mike Rainone)
Reflections of Ponoka 
A road and a train station is where it all began
   The early history of the development of this vibrant district is an exciting and colorful story, which all began in earnest in 1875 when construction on the rough and winding Edmonton-Calgary trail was completed, and then in 1891 when the first noisy work trains arrived at Siding 14 near the tiny Village of Ponoka. At the same time, settlers were already moving into the area to start a new life among the barren expanse of forest, rich soil, and rolling hills and it was during this early period that the quick momentum of the growth and successes of Ponoka and surrounding districts began to roll on with great gusto.
Our first real road
   The main credit to opening the rugged Edmonton-Calgary trail should go to Reverend John McDougall and his brother David, who cut the northern half in 1873 as a cart path from Fort Edmonton to Morley. This route, which eventually became Highway 2A many decades later, was likely the same as the old fur trail made by the North West Company way back in 1803, which followed an old Indian trail past the Bear Hills, across the Battle River at Ponoka, over the Red Deer River at the present city, then turned south-west to travel in a straight line to Morley.
   By 1881, the trail had developed almost to the point where the local citizens were demanding mail service along the way from Wetaskiwin to the station at Ponoka, which at the time had a population of three whites and 300 Indians, but would eventually offer a complete postal service from Calgary to Edmonton by 1883. One of the surveyors, George P. Roy predicted great things for the future of this new route, which was used in the days of the pioneers for only wagons and stage-coaches. And how straight it was going over small hillocks, through corduroyed patches of muskeg and across small streams, but following the route by doing a little ditching, adding a small culvert or slight cut, or throwing a few branches on the soft spots to make it passable.
   Once the automotive era arrived on that steadily improving road, it was always claimed that the farmers along the way were usually present to help improve conditions for the public travellers, offering repairs where needed, or water-food and even accommodations during often present inclement weather or road conditions.
Welcome to Siding 14
Ponoka station 1910   Siding 14 began in 1890 as a solitary railway depot, which was inhabited by the section crew and a caretaker for the nearby octagonal wooden water tower, which was fed from a small reservoir in the Battle River by a windmill driven pump. As a vital supply point for the huge steam locomotives, these structures would be our modest beginnings, and soon welcomed hundreds of railway workers, settlers, labourers, professionals, and businessmen looking to establish their homes, their farms, and their livelihoods here. Due to the demand on the facility and the event of the steel rails reaching the Ponoka siding from both directions, the community's first official building, the big brown station was built in 1891. The classic 'B' type train depot included a long loading platform and a waiting room, which in the winter was heated by a stove all night long to accommodate incoming railway travellers or locals looking to get warm. A landmark at the end of Chapman Avenue, the water tower also supplied a nearby hydrant to assist our local fire department with the dousing of many fires that occurred in the countless wooden buildings now being built in the community. It became obsolete with the Canadian Pacific Railway's conversion to the powerful diesel locomotive in the 1950s, then was dismantled and rebuilt as a granary on a farm north of town, and still stands to this day.
Ponoka CPR dam remnants   The men working on the tracks with wagon teams and heavy equipment in those days had no easy life, facing backbreaking tasks, long hours, sickness (influenza and other maladies), unpredictable conditions, and low wages of just $1.50 per day. Those with teams were paid $2.50 a day and board, while teamsters received $25.00 a month and board in the village. Most camped beside the river as they moved along with the crew, while some stayed in the station with the agent and family, and only a few could afford the $4.00 a week room and board in Ponoka. Early historians claim that during the construction of the railway, a massive stock pile of wooden ties near Morningside stretching half a mile were piled over 50 feet high, with some remnants still remaining to this very day.
   It wasn't long before three daily trains were arriving in the Ponoka station, quickly setting the daily rhythm of this now bustling town (1904), with a steady influx of freight, mail, and passengers, who may either make this community their new home or move on down the line. While Dick Slater and his dray were delivering supplies throughout the community, freight and grain cars would rest on the siding while they were loaded from elevator row or with livestock from the stock yard. Mail was sorted on board the train, so service was prompt, and passengers could now reach Lacombe in comfort in just 20 minutes. That busy train station was the 'heart of Ponoka' for many decades, the centre of heavy traffic and supplies, a friendly place to pop in and purchase a ticket, and on many occasions the spot where hundreds gathered to greet the arrival of their hockey team, a celebrity, or family and special friends.
   Rail passenger and local freight traffic would steadily decline as highways improved and car and truck ownership grew. The historical train station was demolished in 1968 to make way for a new Shopping Centre development, while the speedy Calgary/Edmonton day liner service was discontinued several years later. The main C.P.R. line is now very busy day and night with long freight trains hauling every type of cargo, but the fond memories will always remain of those shrill whistles blowing both day and night or of the long plumes of smoke that billowed from those big black steam engines as they lumbered into and through town 24-7 with their precious cargo, always followed very closely by that now long extinct old caboose.
Photos: One of Ponoka's first buildings, the Canadian Pacific Railway Station was built in 1891 and served our community and districts for 77 years. Fort Ostell Museum
Believe it or not, the remnants of one of Ponoka's earliest historical sites, the C.P.R. Railway dam on the Battle River, still stand to this day just across the street from the Royal Hotel and down the hill. The sturdy and solid wooden structure had many purposes; including providing the water to be pumped up to the tower to feed countless steam engines on the Edmonton/Calgary line, as well as a holding pond for the thousands of logs that came down the river from Pigeon Lake to the local mills. Built in 1891, the dam was also a great place for fishing, swimming, a romantic stroll along the river, or just plain old 'train watching'. Fort Ostell Museum

Dec. 3, 2013, Innisfail Province (Sylvia Cole)
Penhold man remembers day of the trains
Elmo Johnson's love for the rails never ends after an illustrious four decade career
Elmo Johnson - West photo   With more than 42 years of experience working at 30 different train stations, Elmo Johnson knows a thing or two about industry and has a passion to preserve the history.
   Johnson, 86, lives in Penhold but still holds the memories of his childhood and early career near and dear to his heart.
   Next year marks the centennial year for Benalto, a hamlet located west of Sylvan Lake and Johnson plans to be in attendance.
   What interests Johnson the most is getting to see the Benalto train station, where he first started working at the age of 16.
   "Us young guys used to be at the station but I was the only one (the engineer) they didn't have a problem with," said Johnson. He said he thinks he established a good relationship because he reminded the engineer of his own son, who had passed away.
   Johnson's passion for trains though was sparked several years before his teen days where he would hang around and check out the steam engines.
   It was his first ride on a train, in 1939 at the age of 11 when CP offered rides to Edmonton to see King George VI and Queen Elizabeth who were on a royal visit, that really got his attention.
   "It was the Depression then and my parents really had to scrape money together to buy the ticket," he remembered.
   Four years later, in the midst of a war, the only men left to look after the stations were older and needed help, explained Johnson.
   So when he heard of an opening when he was just 16 years old, he knew he wanted to join.
   That was in Benalto and Johnson acted as an assistant agent working directly from the train station that is now returning to the village after a 40-year hiatus. The station, built in 1928, was purchased and moved in 1980 to a location west of Red Deer, used by a family as a home.
   The station was donated back by the family and moved to Benalto early this year. The village is now working to restore the station in time for the 100-year anniversary.
   "I was thrilled," said Johnson of the news it was going back to Benalto. It brought back memories for Johnson who also went to school in Benalto as a child and ran into a former classmate.
   He said moving the station into town was a "slow process" and noted traffic on Highway 11 was quite backed up and transmission lines had to be moved to accommodate the wide and high load.
   Johnson himself donated $500 towards the restoration, noting the importance of preserving the history of Alberta when the use of trains was the main means of transporting things such as livestock, mail and passengers.
   As an agent, Johnson was responsible for loading the train and selling tickets. He also had to telegraph and receive train orders and understand train rules.
   Besides Benalto, Johnson also worked in Bowden, Exshaw and Rocky Mountain House, Banff and Lake Louise to name a few, before ending up in Penhold.
   "We once held up a train for two hours to try and get all of the men on board," he said, remembering a particular Thanksgiving weekend in Penhold when 200 soldiers from the airport were heading home to see their families.
   He said they worked hard to cram every last passenger into the train and said it was standing room only.
   When in Penhold, Johnson lived inside the station with his wife, Alma, and five children for 16 years.
   "My children still remember it. My son wrote a song that is about that experience," said Alma.
   The couple moved to Penhold in 1952 and has continued to live there even though Johnson's work took him elsewhere. The Penhold station closed in 1968 and was torn down in 1969.
   Johnson continued to work at stations throughout Alberta including Red Deer, Crossfield and Lacombe, where he eventually retired in 1985.
Photo: Elmo Johnson has worked as agent at more than 30 train stations in a career that has spanned more than 40 years. Photo by Noel West, Innisfail Province

Oct. 19, 2013, Red Deer Advocate (Crystal Rhyno)
Arches mark influence of railroad on city
Bill McKay, CAHS President at Arches - Advocate photo   The Historic Arches project was unveiled at Centennial Plaza Park in Red Deer on Friday after nearly 20 years in the making.
   The nine-pillar arches near Alexander Way and 52nd Avenue celebrate the influence of transportation and the railways in the development of the city.
   Bill MacKay, president of the Central Alberta Historical Society, said the arches record the history of the railroad and its impact on the residents.
   "Really it's the social issue of Red Deer because it has to do with people," said MacKay.
   "People coming and going and settling and finding homesteads. It has to do with the coal mines, the Depression and why the rail was important for the coal mines."
   The Arches project has been in the works since about 1999. They were erected a few years ago and the historic Michener Fountain, also in the park, was moved to the site in 2005.
   Resembling roundhouse doors, the arches feature 27 plaques with little-seen-before historical photos on nine pillars. The photographs showcase a part of the rail history including transportation before and after the railroad, the role of the Metis people, and other milestones.
The Arches dedication - photo Advocate   The permanent plaques will go up in the next few weeks while QR codes linking to the society's website will likely be operational by January.
   MacKay said the society wants to keep up with technology and to give residents access to Red Deer history in the ways people are accessing information today.
   This year the project went full steam ahead as a legacy project for the city's centennial.
   Mayor Morris Flewwelling was involved with the project since the early days. As one of his final acts as mayor, Flewwelling said it was fitting to see the project complete with the unveiling on Friday.
   With an estimated $225,000 price tag, the Arches project was funded through local donations, contributions from the city and grants from the province.
Photo: Red Deer's historic arches were unveiled during a ceremony Friday at 52 Avenue and 45 Street.
Photo by Jeff Stokoe, Red Deer Advocate

Aug. 21, 2013, Wetaskiwin Times (Michael Chan)
Railway Days still chugging along to success
Railway Days at ACR Museum - Wetaskiwin Times   All aboard!
   The annual Railway Day event was held at Alberta Central Railway Museum Aug. 18.
   The event is an opportunity for children and families to learn about history on the railways. It's also a chance for visitors to take a train ride around the site.
   The museum site features railway stations, railcars and a restored train.
   All of the restoration work on the vehicles at the museum was done by the Railway Day organizer Bill Wilson and his staff of volunteers.
   Railway Day was a full day event at the museum, which had a number of activities, shows, exhibits and food for attendees to enjoy.
   "It's been a good day," said Wilson. "Very busy like usual."
   "This is our big day of the year."
   The day began with a pancake breakfast. There were also model train exhibits, collectors show, a telegraph service demonstration, train rides, speeder rides, wagon rides and spike pounding demonstrations.
   Throughout the day, there was classic music playing in the background by a band that has been going to Railway Days for years, the Dynamics.
   Families and children were treated to train rides throughout the day, around the one kilometre track that circles the museum.
   Along the ride, conductor Ken Jones not only punches the tickets for riders but dishes out little tidbits about trains to the children.
   "It's a fun thing to do," said Jones, who has been volunteering his time at railways in Alberta since 1988.
   "It's a hobby of mine, I like to help people enjoy trains, it's nice."
   "The more the years pass, the more people forget about trains so it's nice to help them understand."
   It's also a day where the seniors can reminisce about the past and relive some of that forgotten magic.
   "It's a nostalgia thing," said Dwayne Reed, a long-time volunteer at Railway Day from Morningside. "Especially for the old folks.
   "As we grow older you begin to see things a little differently than you use to."
   "You guys will too one day," laughed Reed.
   "Every year we do this, everyone gets a kick out of it."
Photo: The conductor of the railway, Ken Jones, escorting passengers onto the train throughout the afternoon
  during Railway Day.
Photo by
Wetaskiwin Times

Aug. 15, 2012, Ponoka News (Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye)
Railway Day promises fun for the whole family
   Old trains seem to strike the imagination of just about every child; pulling the cable and announcing a train in departure is probably on their bucket list of things to do in life.
   They just might be able to fulfill that dream at Alberta Central Railway Museum Aug. 19. The museum will host its annual Railway Day with a range of activities and rides for the entire family, explained operations manager Bill Wilson. "We try to keep it family-oriented."
   The museum celebrated its 20th anniversary in June, and Wilson expects to see at least 400 people attend.
"We just enjoy seeing the families come and have a great day."
   It starts with pancake breakfast at 10 a.m. and all you can ride train rides at 11:30 a.m. Expect a spike pounding demonstration as well as speeder rides (track maintenance cars) and hot dogs, ice cream and pop on sale as well. Two trains will operate on the one-mile track to give children a chance to enjoy older train engines.
   "We have two trains: one is a conventional one, and the other is a Dayliner...we have two full crews because we're running two trains," he explained.
   The Dayliners used to run between Edmonton and Calgary and would travel at 90 mph to stay on schedule. The conventional train has old sleepers in the rooms of the passenger car and shows how what the seating was like a few decades ago.
   Tickets for the day are $8 and children under two are free and activities should end by 4 p.m. Take Secondary Highway 611 east from Hobbema and then north on Secondary Highway 822, follow the signs to the Alberta Central Railway Museum.

July 23, 2012, Rockyview Weekly (Dawn Smith)
Historic train station relocated to Beiseker
Bassano station - Rockyview   After more than two years of effort, Beiseker is the new home of an historic train station.
   The circa 1911 station, which is 162 feet long by 31 feet wide, was moved about 156 kilometres on July 19 from its previous home in Bassano, where it had fallen into disrepair. The 100-year-old building now rests on the west side of Beiseker at the Rail Museum site awaiting restoration and a future life as a museum.
   "This is one of the last wooden-framed stations that are available," said Fred Walters, Beiseker councillor and member of the Alberta 2005 Centennial Railway Museum Society (RMS), the organization responsible for the move.
   "There is 100 years of Alberta railway history (represented)."
   Mammoet Movers oversaw the relocation of the building with a crew of seven. The move cost about $400,000, money garnered from government grants and community fundraising efforts.
   According to Walters, restoration of the roof will begin as early as July 23. The building is scheduled to be moved onto its foundation later this summer.
   Walters, who has lived in Beiseker for 18 years, added an early estimate of the cost of restoring the station is $200,000. According to Walters, three or four previous attempts to move the (station) over the past year have failed due to permitting and equipment problems.
   About 50 curious bystanders were on hand for the train station's entrance into the village on two flatbed trucks. The atmosphere was festival-like, with kids cheering and adults taking photos of the building.
   Several media outlets were also on hand, including a cameraman from the Discovery Channel's Daily Planet, which plans on featuring the move in a future episode.
   "This is awesome," said Melanie McCullough, who has lived in the village for eight years. "The adrenaline is just going, you can't even foresee the excitement until it happens."
   Walters' wife Marion said she is proud of her husband, who played a large role in bringing the station to the village.
   "He has worked very hard to bring it here and he had a lot of support from the community," said Marion of her husband of 53 years. "I'm so thankful that it's here and he can say 'it's done.' He is 75 years old and this is keeping him young."
   Lisa Kirkland, a member of the RMS, which is a non-profit organization, was on hand to witness the move as well.
   "I think most people are relieved (it's here)," she said, adding the relocation went smoothly.
   Kirkland said the society is planning on constructing a 300-foot platform to the station and laying rail ties to mimic what the station would have looked like about 100 years ago.
   The station will join about 18 pieces of railway equipment located on the land, mostly obtained from Canadian Pacific Railway, including old cars dating as far back as 1921 and a double-track snowplough built in 1930, the last built by the rail company, said Kirkland.
   Walters said the museum will be good for the village as it will attract visitors.
   "It will become a tourist attraction and small towns need tourists to survive," he said.
Photo: Village of Beiseker residents gather to witness the relocation of an historic train station, July 19. The building, which is about 100 years old, was moved 156 kilometres from Bassano to the Beiseker Railway Museum, located on the west side of the village. The station is awaiting restoration and a final move onto its foundation later this summer.
Photo by Dawn Smith, Rocky View Publishing

. 2, 2011, Mountain View Gazette (Johnnie Bachusky)
CP's heritage train rolls through region:
ticket sales go to Children's Wish Foundation
   Railway enthusiasts should be feeling a boost this week as Canadian Pacific's Heritage Train was scheduled to roll through the region as part of the second annual drive to support the Children's Wish Foundation (CWF).
   The original plan for CP Train Ride 2011 was to have the historic 2816 Empress steam engine stop in Didsbury on July 29 but due to "unforeseen circumstances" that plan was abandoned. However, CP was slated to send its valued pioneer fleet of vintage coach cars and a heritage diesel engine through Didsbury on Friday morning. After the local stop the heritage train's next scheduled stop was Red Deer.
   CP Train Ride 2011 is swinging through Alberta from July 29 to Aug. 5. Along with the July 29 stop in Didsbury it will also stop in the town on Aug. 5.
   In both 2010 and 2011 CP sold the public train tickets as a way to give people a unique rail experience, and more importantly, to raise money for CWF. All proceeds from ticket sales went to CWF. The funds further allow the organization to help children with life-threatening illnesses to have the opportunity to receive their ultimate wish. Last year, $50,000 was raised through ticket sales.
   Meanwhile, railway historians were not only excited at having the opportunity to see a heritage train roll through the region but noted the event also gave a boost to local and regional efforts to raise public awareness of the importance of the railroad to the area.
   Dean Jorden, curator of the Innisfail & District Historical Village, said part of his organization's mandate is to educate the public about the crucial role the railroad played in developing the region. He noted that in 1974 the village acquired the Bowden CP train station after it had been decommissioned in 1968. The Innisfail CP station, once located near Discovery Wildlife Park, was decommissioned in 1961 and demolished shortly after.
   As well the village has acquired over the years an impressive collection of CP artifacts. It also showcases the glorious history of the railroad in Innisfail and the region through expertly crafted miniature train models that are on display in the renovated Bowden station. As well, the village has created several storyboards detailing the history and economic evolution of the railway in the town and surrounding region.
   "Innisfail wasn't a railway town at first," said Jorden, noting the railway first came through town in 1892. "When people were using the Calgary-Edmonton Stage Coach Trail they were recognizing the importance of agriculture. When the railway came it mushroomed. The railway then brought machinery and more people."
   In every small town in the region grain became king and the railway played a key role in its transportation and economic importance, stopping at the pioneer wooden elevators in Innisfail, Olds, Didsbury, Carstairs and several other points.
   The visit by Canadian Pacific's Heritage Train further boosts the village's desire to jump on board Paul Pettypiece's Forth Junction Project ( for Red Deer and Central Alberta. The project's goal is to establish the region as a world-class heritage destination celebrating the past, present and future of rails, trains and transit.
   "We want to plug into that vision," said Jorden. "What we are doing (railway history) is important to Innisfail and to the growth it has had."
   For more information on CP Train Ride 2011 visit

June 15, 2011, Red Deer Express (Michael Dawe)
An early community landmark -
the Michener Fountain

railway station, park and coal chutes   Over the past century, Red Deer has sported several beautiful historic buildings and notable landmarks.
   Unfortunately, many of these structures and objects have been demolished and/or sent to the local landfill.
   One beautiful community landmark, which was literally saved from the scrap heap, was the Michener Fountain. It used to be located in the centre of the old C.P.R. Station Park on the west end of Ross St. along 51 Ave.
   The Station Park was first created in 1905 as a rest stop for passengers who were tired or wanted relief from the smoke and grit of early steam trains.
   Mr. Nash, a 'practical gardener', was hired to do the landscaping. Mayor Edward Michener donated more than 100 spruce, poplar and 'experimental' trees from a large tree nursery that he owned on the East Hill.
   Edward Michener was not only the mayor of the town. He was also one of the wealthiest men in the community. He and his partner, Stan Carscallen, had created the highly successful real estate and land development firm, Michener Carscallen.
   Michener Carscallen developed such subdivisions as Parkvale, Grandview and Highland Park (now better known as Michener Hill).
   They also later created Whitewold Beach, one of the first lakeside subdivisions at Sylvan Lake.
   A grand event occurred in the Station Park in April 1906.
   The Lieutenant Governor, Premier and all the members of the Legislative Assembly of the newly-formed Province of Alberta were invited to Red Deer as part of an unsuccessful pitch to make Red Deer the provincial capital.
   During the visit, the provincial dignitaries each planted a ceremonial spruce tree in the Station Park to commemorate the creation of the Province of Alberta.
   The brutal winter of 1906-1907 took a terrible toll on the plantings in the park. Consequently, in the spring of 1907, the Town invested $225 to renew and refurbish it.
   A decision was made to plant native tree species and hardy perennials to make it less likely that winterkill would hit hard in the future.
   The crowning centerpiece for the renewed park was a large ornamental fountain, which was donated by now former Mayor Michener. It soon became a landmark for travelers coming to Red Deer on the train.
   Ironically, while the park meant to be a permanent beauty spot in the community, in the summer of 1960, it was turned into a parking lot.
   The trees were all cut down. The Michener Fountain was discarded.
   Fortunately, Russell McFaul, a local contractor, salvaged the fountain.
   It was later sold to Ken Martin, who used it as a centerpiece in his yard at Penhold. In 2001, Mr. Martin very generously decided to donate the fountain back to the City of Red Deer, on the understanding that it would be put in an appropriate park setting. He also had the City promise that the fountain would not be discarded again in the future.
   Consequently, a new park was created, with the fountain as centrepiece, on a new site south of the Medican complex, along 52 Ave.
   The designation of Centennial Park was given to the site, to mark the fact that much of the work was completed during the centennial of the Province of Alberta in 2005.
   Unfortunately, a second ornamental fountain, which used to stand in front of the old Post Office on Ross St. was not as lucky. This second fountain had been donated to the Town of Red Deer by the Presbyterian Young Peoples group in 1911.
   One of the notable features of the Young Peoples' fountain was that it had an outlet for people, a small step up for children, a large street-side trough for horses and a small overflow basin for dogs.
   Eventually, Red Deer City Council decided to remove the Young Peoples' fountain and replace it with a small porcelain one. The old fountain was hauled to the City Yards for storage. Over time, people began to forget what it was. Eventually, the remnants of the fountain were hauled off to Harper's Metals for scrap.
   On Friday, June 17, at 11:30 a.m., the annual Red Deer Heritage Recognition Awards ceremony will take place at the historic St. Luke's Anglican Church on the corner of Gaetz Avenue and 54 St.
C.P.R. Station Park with the Michener Fountain in the centre and trees planted to commemorate Alberta becoming a province along the edge. Photo courtesy of the Red Deer and District Archives

May 10, 2010, Innisfail Province (Michaela Ludwig)
New exhibits call Historical Village home
   Two new exhibits at the Innisfail Historical Village tell more about Innisfail's founding years.
   As a 40-year anniversary project, the Innisfail and District Historical Society set about restoring the Village's Bowden CP Rail station. And through the doors of that old station, visitors will find several displays depicting Innisfail in its early years and what the railroad meant to central Alberta. Scaled-down model trains chug along the tracks and scenes of what Innisfail would have looked like in 1892, when the tracks were first laid; 1910, a time of considerable growth for the town; and 1960, the end of the steam era, are all displayed.
   There are also cases of CPR artifacts in the room.
   Next to the Role of the Railroad exhibit sits a familiar scene, straight out of Donna Chadwick's memory.
   Chadwick's grandfather, G.W. West, was Innisfail's first storekeeper and his shop is also set up in the railroad station.
   West, originally from Prince Edward Island, was looking for a new career and rode a construction train to the end of the line back in 1891. The end of the line happened to be Innisfail, or Poplar Grove as it was known back then. West opened his store here on July 1, 1891, eventually getting into hardware, lumber, furs, meat and grain.
   Chadwick spent many years in that store while she was growing up, first when her grandfather owned it and then when her father, Frank, owned the store.
   The store served the Town of Innisfail for 77 straight years -- the only family-owned store in western Canada to have survived that long, said Chadwick.
   Many of the artifacts that now line the walls of the exhibits came from Chadwick's home, where she had been storing them after the old store was demolished.
   The area where the station agent and his family would have stayed has also been restored, complete with equipment the station agent would have used in the early 1900s.
   Workers from the Bowden Institution Work Release Program and local handyman Rob Vander Velden contributed a lot of time and effort to the restoration -- the workers put up new drywall and painted inside the station and Vander Velden put together all of the tiny pieces for the model rail exhibit.
   The Village will be hosting its annual grand opening on May 22 and guests can come out for a pancake breakfast, check out a few antique cars and tour the new exhibits.

May 10, 2010, Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley)
'Sleeper' village grand opening set
Innisfail Historical Village has been a bit of a
sleeper among Central Alberta attractions

   Innisfail Historical Village has been a bit of a sleeper among Central Alberta attractions.
   Curator Dean Jorden and other members of the Innisfail and District Historical Society plans to use their 40th anniversary celebrations to change that.
   To draw more people to the society's impressive collection of historic buildings, vehicles, equipment and other artifacts in the middle of Innisfail, a project to restore the 1904 Bowden CPR rail station has recently been unveiled.
   The grand opening is set for May 22 with a vintage auto show and pancake breakfast at the 42nd Street and 52nd Avenue site.
   A general store with many artifacts from the town's first store owner George Washington West has been built in the station along with new exhibits emphasizing the area's rail history.
   Within a display case designed to look like an old-fashioned rail passenger car, volunteer and train enthusiast Rob Van der Velden has painstakingly crafted a pair of N-gauge model railway displays featuring dozens of scratch-built buildings.
   They depict Innisfail in 1910 and in the 1960s, when an impressive line of grain elevators stood sentinel. A similar display for 1892 will be ready for next year.
   Jorden said they have spent the past 18 months working on the project, which replaces a general exhibit of farm and household items.
   Besides the child-pleasing railway displays, a pair of morse code stations have been set up to let visitors try their hands at dot-dash communicating.
   A display case also features a range of CPR memorabilia, a collecting feat in itself.
   "I didn't realize how hard it was to get this CPR stuff. It's really collectible," said Jorden.
   The station master's office and home were also given a facelift as part of the project.
   Floors were refinished, walls repainted and period furniture added.
   The $25,000 project was funded by local service clubs, community organizations, Museums Alberta and Red Deer and District Community Foundation and private donors.
   Bowden Institution prisoners also contributed some of the labour through the Work Release Program.
   In one station room sits an eerie display of life's "what ifs". A pair of suitcases owned by Innisfail farmer David Marshall are on display that had once been destined to join their owner on the Titanic.
   Marshall had gone to England to marry his fiancee and had booked his return on the doomed ocean liner.
   But a brother wanted him home sooner to help with spring planting so he cancelled his tickets and booked an earlier ship. He, his new bride and his suitcases missed their brush with fate.
   The museum features 17 buildings displayed on two acres of land.
   These are furnished to interpret the history of the area up to the 1930s and includes an original log stopping house built by settlers in 1884.
   Similar structures were once posted every 20 miles (32 km) to give travellers respite.
   There is also a large display of farm machinery and a day-use picnic area.
   Throughout the summer there will be a number of events and celebrations including a Canada Day bash. A Bourbon Street Variety Show and Carnival is set for Aug. 14.
   The season opens May 15. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays and holidays.
   For information go to
Photo: Dean and Wendy Jorden stand at the railing of the old Bowden Railway Station at Innisfail Historical

March 31, 2010, Red Deer Express (Michael Dawe)

Region celebrating century of
railroad heritage

new and old CP railway stations and park   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.
   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
Photo: RAILWAY HERITAGE - 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

Sept. 19, 2009, Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley)

Help add a little history to the Arches project
   The Central Alberta Historical Society is looking for help on a major downtown project to honour the city's past.
   Eight arches are in place at Centennial Park Plaza and the final phase of the roughly $240,000 project involves the placement of 27 plaques on the nine pillars supporting the arches that surround a historic fountain.
   Sheila Bannerman, president of the historical society, said constructing the arches in the new park at 48th Street and 52nd Avenue cost more than expected so the society is turning to the community to sponsor the plaques on the feature meant to evoke a railway roundhouse.
   "We will be looking to sell subscriptions through the Arches Fund that will help cover the cost of the plaques. We are working on putting together a pamphlet that will be presenting to various individuals and organizations to see if they would like to donate."
   Each subscription will be for one plaque. And as that subscription come in, that plaque will be done and mounted on the arches.
   "We're kind of looking at it as a representative walking tour of Red Deer history. Each plaque will represent a significant era."
   A committee has been set up to work out designs and content of the etched metal plaques and to set prices. Exactly what will go on each panel has not been determined. They may feature historical photos or artists' impressions of Red Deer of yesteryear, or both.
   "It's pretty much in the exploratory stages for that. We're trying to stay away from representations of individuals because it would be basically impossible to represent all of the important individuals in Red Deer history."
   How long it takes to finish off the project will depend on the success of the subscription drive.
   "Basically, it's something that will be a good long-term project, in terms of both history and art. We don't want to rush it. We want to make sure, because it's going to be there for a long time, that it will be really worth going and having a look at."
   City parks superintendent Trevor Poth said tenders have just gone out on concrete work for the site and if all goes well, landscaping can be completed and the fountain hooked up by the end of October. It is estimated that work will cost $75,000 to $100,000.
   The Arches project has been funded through local donations, contributions from the city and grants from the province and CP Rail.

Sept. 7, 2009, Wetaskiwin Times (Vince Burke)
Whistle sounds on railway season
   The steady sound of a train rumbling down the track, a lonesome whistle blowing and smoke reaching skyward, all are fading away for another season.
   At least that is the case as the summer season came to an end this past weekend at the Alberta Central Railway Museum.
   The Museum which houses antique railway equipment, engine and CPR passenger trains wrapped up a busy summer of events.
   Although events such as Railway Day, this past month and a Teddy Bear Picnic, early this summer attracted some good crowds, Bill Wilson, engineer and museum manager, said the slumping economy has affected attendance.
   "Overall attendance, I am sure is down from last year," he said.
   "I haven't got this year's count but, we haven't had the American or European visitors that we usually get.
   "If you are interested in the railway, you will come a long way to see it, but if you are not interested, you could be next door and you will never go near it."
   He said many people have a great interest in the past and the role the railway played in shaping Canada and North America, but with the cost of travel increasing, it makes it hard for visitors from outside the Wetaskiwin region to make the trek.
   "What I found this year that there is a lot of day trips," he said.
   "People just go for the day and they go here and they go there, and then next weekend they go someplace else, but they aren't going anywhere for a week at a time.
   "The cost of fuel, the cost of lodging it is all getting high, and families, they are feeling the pinch."
   Wilson said a few things they tried to work on this past season was adding onto the siding, which is a scaled down version of the 1907 CPR Wetaskiwin Depot.
   Early in the summer, Wilson's father, took a familiar spot in the engineer's seat.
   George Wilson, at 100-years old is the oldest retired CPR engineer.
   "He was 44 years with the CPR," he said.
   "It was a pretty special occasion. He got on the train and I said here is the seat and away we went. I just told him to keep it between the fences."
   In addition to special events like that, the museum continues to find more pieces for the collection. The latest addition to the museum, a CPR Rail Diesel Car 9108 Dayliner made its inaugural run on the museum's track in June. The dayliner was acquired this past October.
   A Hobbema grain elevator, which was built in 1906 and was one of the longest operational elevators in Alberta, used up until 1991, was moved to the museum grounds in 2002. It has been undergoing restorations and the hope was to unveil it this season, but Wilson said there is more to be done.
   "We have to rebuild the scale house. We can look to have a grand opening then," he said.
   The museum first purchased the elevator from Agricore for only $1, and moved it to the site. So far, $130,000 has been spend on restoration.
   "We probably have more into moving it, than they did building it," laughed Wilson, but added it is a very valued piece to the museum.
   "You see the elevators and the railway went hand-in-hand. That is one of the reasons the elevator is here today. You'll notice on our sidings we have two box cars, which CPR donated, because that is what the grain was transported in.
   "When we are done with the elevator it is going to be back in working condition. You will be able to elevate grain in it and it will be a working elevator."

June 24, 2009, Red Deer Express (Michael Dawe)
railway station, park and coal chutes
CPR Station Park once
shining jewel of Red Deer

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the creation of the City Parks Department.
   However, while a formal Parks Department commenced with the donation of the six-acre Gaetz Park along the Red Deer River, there were two public parks space created before 1909.
   In 1901, the newly-formed Red Deer Town Council created a town square where City Hall Park is now located.
   However, this was meant to be a public assembly area and sports field and not a park in the usual sense of the word.
   In 1905, a small park area was created by the CPR train station, as a rest area for passengers who were tired or wanted relief from the smoke and grit or early steam trains.
   There had been a grassy area next to the station soon after the first station building had been built in the early 1890s. However, Town Council felt that a more formal park was needed.
   A "practical" gardener, Mr. Nash, was hired to take care of the changes and new plantings. More than 100 spruce and poplar trees were acquired from Mayor Edward Michener, who had started Red Deer Nurseries, a large tree nursery in what is now the Grandview subdivision.
   Nash re-leveled the lawn areas and reseeded them. He also dug metre-wide borders along both sides of the walkways and planted large numbers of colourful flowering perennials and annuals.
   A grand event occurred in April, 1906. The Lieutenant Governor, premier and all the members of the Legislative Assembly of the newly-formed Province of Alberta were invited to Red Deer as part of a pitch to make Red Deer the provincial capital.
   There was a lavish banquet at the Arlington Hotel where the speeches went on until four in the morning.
   The next day, or more accurately, later on in the morning, the provincial dignitaries were roused out of bed and taken to the CPR Station Park.
   They each planted a ceremonial spruce tree to commemorate the creation of the Province of Alberta.
   The dignitaries then boarded the train, extolling the many charms of Red Deer and the wonderful time they had enjoyed during their visit.
   However, once back in Edmonton, the overwhelming majority voted to make that city the permanent capital of the province.
   The brutal winter of 1906-1907 took a terrible toll on the plantings in the CPR Station Park.
   Particularly hard hit were the experimental trees and plants that had been used.
   In the spring of 1907, the Town invested $225 to renew and refurbish the park.
   Nash was rehired to do the work. Many of the lost trees and perennials were replaced by Red Deer Nurseries with native varieties.
   The crowning centrepiece for the renewed park was an ornamental fountain, which was donated by now-former Mayor Michener.
   It soon became a landmark feature for travelers coming to Red Deer on the train.
   Ironically, in 1955, while Alberta was celebrating its fiftieth anniversary as a province, a proposal was made to turn the beautiful CPR Station Park into a parking lot.
   While initially nothing happened, in the summer of 1960, the park was finally paved over, the trees were all cut down and the fountain discarded.
   Fortunately, Russell McFaul, a local contractor, salvaged the fountain.
   The fountain was later sold to Ken Martin, who used it as a centrepiece in his yard at Penhold. In 2001, Mr. Martin very generously decided to donate the fountain back to the City of Red Deer, on the understanding that it would be put in an appropriate park setting. He also had the City promise that the fountain would not be discarded again in the future.
   Meanwhile, the parking lot on the old CPR Station Park location was sold off for a commercial building site as the City determined that there was not a need for so many parking lot spaces in that part of the downtown.
   The Clarica/Sun Life Financial building was constructed on the old park/parking lot site.
   Consequently, a new park was created, with the fountain as centrepiece, on a new site south of the Medican complex, along 52 Avenue.
   In the past year, the Central Alberta Historical Society, which has been planning a major historical interpretive feature for the downtown area since 1999, began work on a set of historical arches around the edge of the new Michener Fountain Park.
   Resembling the old roundhouse, which used to stand west of the old CPR station, it will become a landmark for the community, much as the Michener Fountain has been.
Photo: RED DEER'S PIONEER JEWEL - CPR Station Park on Holt (51) Ave. and Ross St. in 1911. Note the
  ornamental fountain which had been gifted to the Town of Red Deer by former Mayor Edward Michener in
  1907. Photo courtesy of the Red Deer and District Archives - George Fleming photographer.

June 10, 2009, Wetaskiwin Times (Vince Burke)

Right on track:
Alberta Central Train Museum
celebrates 17th anniversary

   The sound of a train engine being fired up excited the visitors as they readied themselves for a trip back in time.
   The Alberta Central Railway Museum attracted a steady stream of people, young and old, to check out its exhibits of Central Alberta's railway history and take a ride on an old passenger train.
   It was all part of the museum's 17th anniversary celebration June 7.
   "It has been 17 years since we opened in 1992, and every year we have a bit of a party," said operations manager Bill Wilson of the museum that is located south east of Wetaskiwin.
   That party included a pancake breakfast, birthday cake and a tour of the museum grounds via its own train.
   "Most of the people come for the train ride. We have a model track and we run a passenger train," he said. Wilson, himself was dressed in full conductor's garb, as he served up a pancake breakfast, before getting the train ready for its first set of passengers.
   The one-mile track runs around the 10-acre parcel of land that hosts old and relic buildings like grain elevators that once stood alongside many rail stops across the prairies.
   Wilson said the museum allows visitors to experience a trip back in time, seeing what the railway offered Central Alberta.
   "We have the exhibitions here and there is a scale model of the Wetaskiwin (rail) yards in the 1930s and then we have a display of the telegraph and on our Railway Day (in August) we have the telegraph working," he explained.
   "That's when the passenger trains were still running. Right up until 1985 we had the passenger trains running right up to Edmonton and Calgary.
   "(Visitors) are quite impressed and they figure we are doing a good job."
   According to Wilson, the museum started off small 17 years ago and bit-by-bit pieces have been added to a collection, which continues to grow.
   "It took us a while to get the model track built. We were probably 10 years building the track and the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) donated the rolling stock. So as it becomes available they bring it into Wetaskiwin and we truck it out here," said Wilson, who added the donations come exclusively from CPR, because of Wetaskiwin's historical connection to the rail line. The city was a large and central terminal at one time.

June 8, 2009, Red Deer Advocate 'Report on Central Alberta' (Michael Dawe)
Canadian Pacific Railway Bridge
CPR wooden bridge 1891-1909now 100 years old
This year marks the centennial of one of Red Deer's most well-used landmarks. It is the 100th anniversary of the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railroad bridge. It was an important transportation link over the Red Deer River and now serves as a heavily used pedestrian bridge between Riverside Meadows and downtown Red Deer.
   When the Calgary-Edmonton Railway was constructed in 1890-1891, a timber bridge was constructed across the Red Deer River. While not very elaborate in appearance, it was very sturdy. On two occasions, in 1900 and 1901, the traffic bridges across the river were swept away in spring floods, but the rail bridge held.
   In the summer of 1906, the Canadian Pacific Railroad, which had taken over operation of the C. & E. line, began making a number of improvements to the Red Deer rail yards. New switches were installed and a small new roundhouse was built.
   In October 1906, three carloads of cement arrived in preparation for construction of a new rail bridge across the river.
   This work was part of making Red Deer a major divisional point for the main line between Calgary and Edmonton. As a result, all the freight trains running between Calgary and Edmonton would have their crews changed at Red Deer. Moreover, new trains would be assembled or broken up in Red Deer, prior to their departure to other points along the line.
   Making Red Deer a divisional point meant a major investment in the rail facilities here.
   It meant the creation of a great many construction jobs as well as a significant number of permanent new jobs once the project was completed.
   Unfortunately, the winter of 1906-1907 was one of the worst on record. Therefore, not much work was completed, particularly on the new bridge.
   While some improvements were completed in the summer of 1907, the onset of a brief but sharp economic recession again put much of the work on hold.
   In April 1908, the C.P.R. reported that a new standard steel bridge would be completed across the Red Deer River. The estimated cost of construction was $57,000. To put this sum into context, a very good wage in those days was $1.50 to $2 per day.
   Work soon began to erect the metal superstructure onto the partial completed concrete piers that had been built in the harsh winter of 1906-1907. The project was completed by March 1909.
   There was one recorded death of a labourer employed on the bridge project. James J. Shea died in July 1908 of complications after swimming in the Red Deer River.
   While the C.P.R. actively discouraged people walking over the bridge in order to prevent accidents, many found it a quick and convenient way to cross between the City of Red Deer and the Village of North Red Deer.
CPR steel bridge Red Deer   In the late 1980s, when plans were being carried out to move the C.P.R. main line to the west side of the city, a decision was made to remove the rail bridge. However, a dynamic North Red Deer/Riverside Meadows resident, Shirley Hocken, kept asking why the bridge needed to be removed.
   She pointed out how heavily the bridge was used, even when it was not really safe to do so. She also pointed out that it would cost roughly the same to remove the bridge as it would to save it.
   Hence, she spearheaded a Save The Bridge committee to lobby for preservation and to raise the funds necessary to convert the structure into a pedestrian and bicycle pathway linking the Waskasoo Park trails on both sides of the river.
   Funds were secured from such sources as the Waskasoo Museum Foundation, Red Deer Community Foundation, the Recreation Parks and Wildlife Foundation, the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation, Northside Community Association, Royal Canadian Legion, Red Deer and District Chinese Society and numerous private individuals.
   A very significant contribution came from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters who donated the labour to construct the bridge decking.
   On Sept. 3, 1991, Red Deer City Council passed a by-law designating the rail bridge as a municipal historic resource. On Oct. 3, 1993, the bridge was designated a provincial registered historic site.
   On Sept. 13, 1992, the bridge was officially opened. Not only had the $171,500 cost been covered with government and foundation grants, donations and contributions of volunteer labour, there was a sizeable endowment fund left over to cover future repairs and maintenance.
   Thus, a historic landmark was saved.
   In May 2002, the Old C.P.R. Rail Bridge Committee was recognized with Red Deer's first Heritage Recognition Award.
Photos: 1. This 1908 picture shows construction to replace the Old Calgary-Edmonton Rail Bridge with the new
  Canadian Pacific Rail Bridge across the Red Deer River.
Photo courtesy of the Red Deer and District Archives
  2. Shirley Hocken stands on the CP Rail Bridge, spanning the Red Deer River, that she helped to preserve.
  Photo by Jeff Stokoe, Red Deer Advocate

April 18, 2007, Red Deer Express (Michael Dawe)
The history of Red Deer's CPR Station  
One of the most important public buildings in Red Deer for many years, and an architectural jewel in downtown Red Deer, is the old Canadian Pacific Railway station.
   Situated on the west end of Ross St., Red Deer's main east-west thoroughfare, the building is a true landmark.
   When the Calgary-Edmonton Railway was first built in 1890-1891 and the townsite of Red Deer was created, the company built a small railroad station in less than three weeks.
   While the structure was improved and expanded over the next 15 years, it was never really adequate for handling the traffic coming in and out of Red Deer.
   In 1907, the C.P.R., which had taken over the operation of the C.&E. Railway, decided to make Red Deer a major divisional point. An extensive set of improvements were made to the rail yards. A new water tower, coal chutes, a large new roundhouse, stockyards and a steel rail bridge across the Red Deer River were constructed.
   As the project came to a climax, the company decided to finish off with a large, new and very impressive station.
   Since the railroad station was the major transportation hub for the community, the company decided to place it on the end of Ross St., so that it would be visible from all points along the main street.
   This meant that the old station had to be moved to the south, where it was re-used as a freight office.
   Fredrick Crossley, the C.P.R. architect in Winnipeg was given the job of drawing the plans for the new building. He decided to pattern the Red Deer station after the one which had been already built in Lethbridge.
   The building was to have a central polygonal tower with a conical roof. The projecting eves of the long low roofline were to be supported by large brackets. Sandstone lintels and sills were used around the windows to give the brick structure an even more impressive appearance.
   The main floor of the building was to consist of a baggage room on the south end and the Express office on the opposite end. Between these two rooms was to be a large general waiting room with a 14-foot ceiling.
   There were to be men's and women's washrooms, with a ladies "retiring room" and a men's "smoking compartment" between the two washrooms. The ticket office to be located at the rear sextagonal window.
   There were apartments on the upper floor as many of the train crews needed a place to stay overnight while the trains were assembled and disassembled at the divisional point. The furnace and coal storage area were located in the basement.
   Work began on the building in the spring of 1910.
   J. McDermid and Company of Winnipeg acted as the general contractors. As the station was being completed, the Prime Minister of Canada, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, made an official visit to Red Deer in August 1910. Pictures of the official party at the station show that many of the window casings had not been installed yet.
   By fall, the station was completed and fully operational. The total cost of the new building was $34,050, a very impressive sum in a day when $2 per day was considered a pretty good wage.
   Red Deer was very proud of its impressive new station. However, with the city growing very rapidly, it soon proved to be too small. In 1912, a 20-foot addition was added onto the south end to provide space for the Dominion Express Office.
   As rail passenger traffic declined in the 1970s, the station was used less and less by the public.
   In the late 1980s, work began on moving the rail yards out of the downtown and relocating them to the west side of the city.
   There were serious proposals to demolish the station and to extend Ross St. westwards over the old station site and to a new bridge across the Red Deer River.
   However, the federal government intervened. The building was designated under the Heritage Railway Station Protection Act in 1990. It was only one of two railroad stations in Alberta to get the federal designation.
   In May 1991, the station was designated as a municipal heritage resource by Red Deer City council. The Province of Alberta made it a Provincial Historic Resource in April 1993.
   In 1995, the station was purchased, restored and remodelled into architect, law and real estate offices. After a number of years of decline and neglect, the building was restored to its original magnificent appearance.

March 28, 2007, Red Deer Advocate '100 Years Vol. 1' (Michael Dawe)
Red Deer becomes a divisional point for CPR

CPR station and park 1911   Sometimes major news stories do not get a lot of attention, at least not at first.
   On Dec. 14, 1906, the Advocate printed a two-inch story on the front page which stated "the action of the Canadian Pacific Railway in asking the Town Council last evening for rates on an estimated water supply need of 100,000 to 200,000 (gallons) per day indicates that the Company contemplates extensive improvement and enlargement at Red Deer in the near future."
   There had been other hints that the CPR had big plans for Red Deer.
   A number of improvements had been made in the summer of 1906 to the CPR yards including the installation of new switches and grades as well as the construction of new stock pens and a small new roundhouse.
   In October 1906, three carloads of cement arrived in preparation for construction of a new rail bridge across the Red Deer River.
   Still, there was not a full indication of what CPR was planning. The Advocate speculated that Red Deer might be made a shipping point for a new rail line east to Stettler and the newly settled areas of East Central Alberta.
CPR roundhouse and water tank Red Deer 1912   Actually, what the CPR was planning was to make Red Deer the major divisional point for the main line between Calgary and Edmonton.
   That would mean that all the freight trains running along the Calgary & Edmonton line would have their crews changed at Red Deer.
   Moreover, new trains would be assembled or broken up in Red Deer prior to their departure to other points along the line.
   Such a move would involve a major investment in the rail facilities at Red Deer.
   There would be a great many construction jobs while the work was being done, as well as a significant number of permanent new jobs in Red Deer once the project was completed.
   People could be forgiven for not really believing that such a major undertaking was imminent. The winter of 1906-1907 was one of the worst on record. Therefore, not much work was completed -- particularly on the new bridge.
   Some further improvements were done during the summer of 1907. A new coal chute and a water tank were constructed. However, the onset of a brief, but sharp economic recession again put much of the work on hold.
   In the spring of 1908, the railyards became a bevy of activity and construction. A large elevated coal tipple was built, the same size as the ones in Calgary and Canmore.
   Work began on a large addition to the roundhouse. A large repair shop was built.
   The station house was enlarged.
   Much of the trackage was upgraded to a heavier gauge steel.
   On April 27, 1908, the CPR made official what had been obvious for more than a year. Red Deer was going to be the major divisional point on the C & E line.
   The company estimated that it would spend $130,000 to $150,000 in additional improvements, including the expenditure of another $57,000 on the partially completed steel rail bridge across the river. To put that sum into context, a very good wage in those days was $1.50 to $2.00 per day.
   The company, in its official announcement, indicated that there were two main factors in the decision. First was Red Deer's location half way between Calgary and Edmonton.
   Second was the ready supply of large amounts of water out of the river, water being essential to the operation of the steam trains.
   In 1910, work began on the "crowning glory" of the whole project.
   A beautiful new railroad station was constructed at an estimated cost of $34,000.
   The new structure was to be located in the middle of the west end of Ross Street. That way it could be clearly seen from the commercial heart of the community.
   While the new station was large and impressive, Red Deer's economy continued to boom, in large part due to the impressive new investments and increase in employment made by the CPR. Within a year of the station being completed, an addition had to be constructed on the south end of the station.
   It is hard to overstate the importance of Red Deer becoming the major divisional point on the C & E line.
   At the turn of the last century, Red Deer had been a smaller town than either Innisfail or Lacombe.
   Now that it was the transportation and distribution centre for Central Alberta, Red Deer began to surge ahead. The foundation of much of Red Deer's future growth and prosperity was now in place.
Photos: 1. The Canadian Pacific Railway's station cost $34,000 was visible from the commercial centre of Red
  Deer. Photo courtesy of the Red Deer and District Archives
  2. CPR roundhouse and water tower circa 1911; abundant water was critical.
  Photo courtesy of the Red Deer and District Archives

July 14, 1996, Red Deer Life (Ryan Cromb)
A new face for the old station
Red Deer CPR station   If you walked into Red Deer's old CPR train station a year ago, there would have been plaster falling off the ceiling, rotten linoleum and plywood underfoot, and bits of two-by-fours scattered everywhere.
   "We had to gut it," says architect John Murray, who along with Altvater and Co. law firm bought the building last year to house their offices.
   "We would have liked to have preserved the whole inside, but it was such a mess. For 60 or 70 years modifications were done to the building -- some not very well."
   All that remains of the original interior is a radiator and two light fixtures, just inside the front entrance. A staircase along the north end of Murray's office and the upper and lower floors also survived.
   "We tore out the plywood and linoleum, and sanded and patched up here and there," he says.
   Now the deep brown, immaculately polished wood floor looks brand new. Faint creaks give away its age. The rest of the building resembles a modern office, with thick glass doors, stately boardrooms and ergonomically-designed work stations.
   "This would be where baggage and goods were shipped through," says Murray, opening up a side door. The opening is original, but the door is new, he says.
   Upstairs, the low, angled ceiling retains the shape of the station's roof, and the warped floor has noticeable hills and valleys, but otherwise it's a typically modern office.
   The building's frame hasn't been altered much, except for the odd door converted to a window. And every brick, at one time painted red, has been painstakingly restored to its natural salmon pink.
   "It was hard work getting the paint off. We had to use chemicals and water, and a lot of effort. I heard they painted them just to make work during the depression," says Murray, adding that each brick previously had thin black lines painted along its edges.
   Murray estimates the masonry restoration cost $40,000, but says it was worth it.
   "Very much so. It wouldn't be the same otherwise," he says.
   He would not say what the total cost of restoration came to, but previous reports were around $650,000.
   "It's been a great change. It's a good thing they didn't just bulldoze it," says former conductor and brakeman Bob Carson, who worked out of the Red Deer station from 1948 to 1984.
   The exterior now looks just as it did in the old days, he says.
   "But if you blindfolded me and took me in there at night I wouldn't know it was the Red Deer station."
   Carson was invited to the official reopening in March and, with retired conductor Lee Scott at the other end, held up the ceremonial ribbon for Mayor Gail Surkan to cut.
   "They've really done a job fixing up the inside," says Scott, who worked out of the station from 1949 to 1986.
   "It was a pretty crude place by the early '80s. Girls working the night shift would sit on their feet because there were mice running everywhere."
   Scott says it's a completely different place now, but it's still got the old look.
   "It keeps a little bit of history alive," he says.

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