Canadian National Railway
operated in downtown Red Deer
from 1920 to 1960
Revised May 2022
and credits at bottom of page.
1911, the Canadian Northern Western Railway (a subsidiary of the
Canadian Northern Railway) built a line west from a point on their
newly-built north-south line west of Stettler to connect with the
Nordegg coal mines. The line included a spectacular timber bridge
(later upgraded and mostly earth-filled) across the Blindman River
A spur line was built from North Junction near Blackfalds and
Burbank south to
North Red Deer. The spur was planned to be part of a future
north-south line connecting Calgary and Edmonton. The intention was
to build a bridge across the Red
Deer River into Red Deer but due to other priorities, the bridge was
delayed. A recession, financial troubles
and the First World War delayed and ultimately nixed the north-south plan.
However, when the newly-created Canadian National Railways absorbed the
bankrupt Canadian Northern, the Grand Trunk Pacific and other
railways including the CNWR, a bridge
was constructed in 1920 over the river near the mouth of Waskasoo
Creek south to Ross Street (where the Co-op Shopping
Centre now stands).
A small yard and temporary station was
built and the proposed line was graded further south up the
escarpment along where Spruce Drive is now located as the new
railway temporarily revisited the original vision of a north-south
rail line through Red Deer.
station was built (Plan 148) in 1923 (at the current site of Albert's
Restaurant) replacing the temporary station.
It was a one-of-a-kind
hybrid of a Canadian Northern third class station and a
yet-to-be-standardized Canadian National Railways third class station.
station was 62'x24' with a platform
300'x12'. The main
floor had a ticket office, waiting rooms, toilets, baggage and
express. On the 2nd floor was a residence.
view 1942 of CNR downtown rail yard (north on left, south right)
that includes small turntable, station (far right of photo),
grain elevator (opposite and above station), freight house (left of
bridge over the Red Deer River being washed out in the spring floods a number of
times, the railway abandoned the river crossing in 1941. This was due to
the poor choice of location at the mouth of Waskasoo Creek and the
lower quality bridge, unlike the CPR bridge that withstood ice jams
and flooding year after year.
Top of this 1942 aerial photo above is west (north to the right).
The CNR line is close to the bottom (parallel to 47 Ave.) with the
washed-out bridge piers over the river on the right and the S-curve
track to the CPR yards on the left. The east-west road couplet left
of centre is 49th and Ross Streets. The north-south road at the top
is Gaetz Ave.
to the Red Deer station grounds continued via a new connecting S-link
with the CPR yards further west on which CNR trains
shared trackage with CP to the north junction south of Blackfalds
for the next 20 years.
After 35 years of continuous service, the
last passenger train (mixed) and coincidentally the last steam
locomotive left the station in 1955.
ticket office and waiting rooms were closed and replaced with more freight and
express space. The new role of the building initiated a new paint
scheme from white/light grey with green trim to oxide red with cream
Red Deer CNR downtown yard ca 1956 shows station (above and behind
church), opposite National grain elevator, freight shed (left
The station yards continued to be used until they were relocated to the north side of the river in 1960-61. The station and
turntable were removed in 1960.
Trackage rights on the Canadian Pacific line between downtown and
continued to be used for freight only until the mid-1970s to serve a few customers
which included Macdonalds Consolidated.
Meanwhile, the abandoned CN yards were redeveloped into the Co-op
Shopping Centre (1961) and a series of apartment buildings. The
S-link land became the sites of the Red Deer Recreation Centre
(1964), Red Deer Lodge hotel (1975), Red Deer Museum and Golden
Circle seniors centre (1980).
Canadian Northern Western Railway Brazeau Sub
Red Deer once had 4 railway stations
Canadian National Railway stations of Central Alberta
Photo descriptions and credits:
Red Deer 1923 Canadian National Railways modified 3rd class station 1955 (Red Deer Archives P7009);
CNWR Burbank bridge over Blindman River under construction 1911 (Red
Deer Archives P7028);
Rendering of 1923 CNR station Red Deer 1923 (Paul Pettypiece);
Aerial photo of CNR downtown yard 1942 showing turntable, station,
elevator (Red Deer Archives P11648 crop);
CNR bridge washout over Red Deer River at Red Deer 1941 (Red Deer
Aerial photo of CNR line in Red Deer 1942 showing CPR link (left),
bridge washout (Red Deer Archives P11648);
Rendering of 1923 CNR station Red Deer 1954 white siding (Paul
CNR downtown station and National grain elevator 1946 (Red Deer
Last passenger train & last steam locomotive at Red Deer CNR station
1955 (Red Deer Archives P7009);
Red Deer CNR downtown yard ca 1956 (Red Deer Archives P4449);
Rendering of 1923 CNR station Red Deer 1956 oxide red siding (Paul
Note: All renderings are the
intellectual property of Paul Pettypiece and may only be used for
personal or historical use.
Photos courtesy of Red Deer Archives.