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  Mintlaw Bridge near Red Deer 1985 - Pettypiece

Forth Junction Project
Notable Regional Railway Bridges and Structures

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Railways of Central Alberta

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ACR/CPR Mintlaw Trestle

Regional Railway Bridges

Alberta Rail Bridges

Canada West Rail Bridges


Notable regional railway bridges and structures: some spectacular

Photo descriptions and credits at bottom of page.

Because timber was so plentiful in Western Canada, most of the first railway bridges in Central Alberta and western Canada generally were made of wood. Some trestles were spectacular in their length and height, some as long as 4,000 feet. As the railways became more established, they either filled the ends of the bridges with earth or replaced the wood with steel. Some bridges were redesigned after being washed out or damaged by ice jams in the spring.

Aerial of Mintlaw ACR/CPR steel trestle 2007 - PettypieceACR/CPR Mintlaw Steel Trestle
takes a look at the longest steel trestle at 644 metres (2,112 ft.) that has been abandoned but still relatively intact, but relatively unknown, in western Canada. Crossing the Red Deer River southwest of the city of Red Deer, it is currently owned by Red Deer County (along with the adjacent right of way) and may one day be used as part of a regional recreational trail. It was initially built by the Alberta Central Railway (ACR) in 1912 to link Red Deer with Rocky Mountain House and beyond but was taken over by Canadian Pacific when the ACR went bankrupt. The last train on the bridge was in 1981 and the line was abandoned in 1983.

Railway Bridges of Central Alberta
Aside from the Mintlaw steel trestle, Central Alberta has currently, or has had in the past, a number of spectacular railway bridges. This section explores the more note-worthy of the region.

historic 1909 CPR bridge Red Deer 2011 - PettypieceThe former 92-metre (300 ft.) 2-span steel truss CPR bridge (built in 1908 to replace a wooden bridge and abandoned in 1991 after the relocation of the downtown rail yards) across the Red Deer River in the city of Red Deer has been declared an historic resource and is currently part of the city's popular river trail system as well as the Trans Canada Trail.

CNR Blindman River bridge at Burbank 2011 - PettypieceA spectacular curved wooden trestle was built across the Blindman River valley just north of Red Deer by the Canadian Northern Western Railway in 1911 estimated at 550 metres (1,800 ft.). Most of the bridge has been earth-filled and much of the timber has been replaced by steel. It is currently an active 200 metre (650-ft.) CNR bridge linking Red Deer and the Joffre petrochemical plants with Mirror and Rocky Mountain House.

CNR Ardley Bridge 2011 - PettypieceAnother bridge downstream on the Red Deer River is the Ardley bridge built by the Grand Trunk Pacific in 1911 as a wooden structure but again has been earth-filled and timber replaced by steel. This is an active 365-metre (1200 ft.) CNR bridge along the Calgary-Mirror-Edmonton line.

Several other bridges explored in this section currently cross various water bodies and roadways in the region including the North Saskatchewan River bridge at Rocky Mountain House and the CNR Briggs ravine timber bridge.

Duhamel GTP wood trestle circa 1910 - Alberta Archives
Some long-gone bridges are also mentioned - the Battle River Bridge at Duhamel, a 1200-metre (4,000-ft.) curved timber bridge built in 1910 and dismantled in 1924 as a result of the creation of the Canadian National Railways, the CNR bridge at Red Deer built in 1920 over the Red Deer River and abandoned in 1941 as a result of spring washouts, the Alberta Central bridge across the CPR and Waskasoo Creek in Red Deer built in 1911 but removed shortly after and the Horse Guard and Medicine River valley ACR/CPR timber and steel bridge built in 1911 near Eckville, mostly earth-filled over time and removed prior to 1980.

Alberta's Largest Railway Bridges
This section ranks ten of the longest significant railway bridges within the province. The Mintlaw steel trestle comes in at No. 6 but is the 4th longest of its type. The three bridges similar to the Mintlaw bridge but significantly longer and still active are the CPR Lethbridge Viaduct, the CNR Fabyan Viaduct near Wainwright and the newer CNR Wapiti River Bridge near Grande Prairie. Other large bridges in Alberta include the Edmonton High Level Bridge, the mostly timber Rochfort treste near Mayerthorpe and the Peace River bridge. This section also includes 13 other significant railway bridges of which five are in Central Alberta. In addition, three bridges no longer in existence are profiled.

50 Longest Railway Bridges of Western Canada

This section ranks 50 of the longest railway bridges in Western Canada as best as can currently be determined as there is no known registry of Canadian railway bridges. The Mintlaw steel trestle comes in at No. 11 overall but No. 4 in steel trestles. Five of the longest bridges are in Central Alberta of the 22 within Alberta. Seventeen are in B.C., eight are in Saskatchewan and three are in Manitoba.

28 Highest Railway Bridges of Western Canada
The section ranks the 28 highest railway bridges in Western Canada as best as can currently be determined considering the height of several significant bridges are unknown and there are questions in how height is calculated. Based on current information, the Mintlaw bridge comes in at No. 22. Three of the 28 are in Central Alberta. Fifteen are in Alberta, eight are in B.C., three in Saskatchewan and two in Manitoba.

Notable Railway Structures in Central Alberta

Photo descriptions and credits:
aerial view of ACR/CPR Mintlaw steel trestle (Paul Pettypiece 2007);
CPR steel truss bridge at Red Deer 1908-1990 (Paul Pettypiece 2011);
current CNR Blindman River bridge at Burbank (Paul Pettypiece 2011);
current CNR Ardley bridge over Red Deer River (Paul Pettypiece 2011);
Duhamel Grand Trunk Pacific timber trestle bridge near Camrose circa 1912

This page still a work in progress


Bridges, Structures, Heritage
Rail Structures of Region
Central Alberta Rail Bridges
Mintlaw Trestle
Alberta's Railway Bridges
Western Canada Rail Bridges


The Railways of Central Alberta
Calgary & Edmonton Railway
C & E Railway at Red Deer
Alberta Central Railway
Canadian Northern Railway
Canadian Northern Western RR
Canadian National Railway in RD
Grand Trunk Pacific Central Alberta
Lacombe & Blindman Valley RR
Timetable Excerpts
Railway Stations of the Regionhreet
C & ER Combination Stations
Portable Stations
Red Deer CPR 1910 Station
Role of Railway Stations
Red Deer's 4 Stations
CPR Stations in Central Alberta
CNR Stations in Central Alberta
Multiple Station Communities
Station Plans

Trails, Transit, Trains
Trails and Trains Overview
Trains and Transit Overview

Milestones 1910-13
Calgary Edmonton Trail
Transit in Central Alberta
Red Deer Transit

Jubilee 3001 Chinook
Locomotives Central Alberta
Rise and Fall of Passenger Rail


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