History of Bus Service in Central
It could be argued that the first transit system in Central Alberta
was the rudimentary stagecoach service between Calgary and Edmonton
on the C & E Trail from 1883 to 1891 prior to the arrival of the C &
E Railway. The 'depots' were the stopping houses along the way
including 'the Crossing' at the Red Deer River and 'the Spruces'
north of Innisfail.
There was also a brief stagecoach service between Rocky Mountain
House and Red Deer operated by Brewster of Banff in 1914-15 and an
early bus service between the two communities several years later
was operated by White Bus Lines that ended in 1932.
In May 1933 Gordon Sorensen of Stettler started an 80-mile bus
service between Lacombe and Castor using an 8-passenger Studebaker.
Although short-lived due to lack of passengers, it was the beginning
of what was to become a transit empire. In that same year Sorensen
and his new bride moved to Sylvan Lake and began a service between
there and Red Deer using the same Studebaker bus. He expanded the
route west to Rocky Mountain House, at times a challenging
enterprise as the road was not paved and almost impassable after a
heavy rainfall. A brief attempt to provide service to Nordegg was
abandoned as the roads were extremely poor.
Over the next several
years, the network of buses operated by Sorensen covered all of
Central Alberta and beyond including a service to the Penhold
Airbase during the Second World War offering 16 trips per day
between the base and the city.
In 1940 Sorensen moved his family to Red Deer to open a bus depot on
Gaetz Avenue where the family opened the Blue Derby Cafe. In 1945,
that building was sold and he built a new depot and cafe on 52
Street that remained in that function until the 1980s.
1946 he sold one of the routes east of Red Deer to Gerald Weber who
named his fledgling company Cardinal Bus Lines with one red and
white Flxible. A few months later Cardinal began a service from
Stettler to Drumheller using a 1939 Cadillac La Salle beginning a
friendly rivalry that saw routes exchanged by the two companies
several times. Cardinal's depot was located at the Park Hotel on
Cardinal developed a service from Caroline to both Innisfail and
Rocky Mountain House which were both sold to Sorensen in 1949. And
Sorensen sold its Stettler to Calgary route to Cardinal but bought
it back in 1958 as well as the Red Deer to Stettler route.
Eventually Cardinal set up its head office in Calgary and started
concentrating on school bus and sightseeing service.
In 1954 Sorensen began a rural school bus service which evolved to a
fleet of 37 buses by the time it was sold to Prairie Bus Lines in
The first transit service within Red Deer started in 1946 by a
private operator which was sold in 1956 to Sorensen with one bus.
The service had expanded to 14 buses by the time it was sold to the
City in 1966.
Many of the routes that Sorensen had built up were sold to other
operators including most of Greyhound's Central Alberta network.
Greyhound even bought the depot and cafe that Sorensen built on 52
Street that served the city until the 1980s when Greyhound built its
new depot at Gaetz Avenue and 43 Street.
See Red Deer
article by Michael Dawe -
Sorensen Station name a fitting tribute
More to come soon