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  last CNR steam 1955

Forth Junction Project
Michael Dawe
Articles

 
Forth Junction Project Vision Sharing Historical Perspective Ground Transportation
Heritage Preservation
Forth Junction
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Rail relocation project a first
in Western Canada

 
reprinted from Red Deer Advocate Report on Central Alberta June 7, 2010
 
There is a great deal of discussion these days about the future plans for the Riverlands district on the western side of the downtown area.

Much of this land had been opened up for redevelopment because of the Canadian Pacific Railway relocation project in the early 1990s and the more recent move of the City Yards.

What is often forgotten, however, is that 50 years ago, Red Deer undertook the first major railroad relocation project in Western Canada.

The Canadian National Railway line, which ran on the eastern side of the downtown area, was moved to a new station and yards north of the river.

The new Riverside Industrial Park was also developed as part of the project.

This was the first joint industrial development between an urban and rural municipality in Alberta.

The Red Deer Advocate described the initiative as "one of the most auspicious milestones in the history of Red Deer."

Red Deer at the time was enjoying one of the greatest booms in its history.

The population of the city had grown more than 180 per cent in the preceding decade.

The value of the industrial and wholesale sectors of the local economy had grown by a similar amount.

The Riverside Industrial Park project meant that the community could now grow even more rapidly as some 1,000 acres of land, with ready access to rail service, would be available for major industrial and warehouse developments.

The initiative had been in the works for a long time. The CNR had started to come into Red Deer and to provide a second rail service to the community in 1911.

However, the outbreak of the First World War had been a huge setback to the plans.

When the construction of the rail line was resumed after the war, the Red Deer branch became little more than a spur into the city. Station grounds were constructed in 1920, at what is now the corner of Ross Street and 47th Avenue.

Moreover, the site the company chose for the crossing of the Red Deer River, by the mouth of Waskasoo Creek, was a very poor one. Spring floods took out the bridge so many times that the bridge site was finally abandoned in 1941.

Arrangements were then made to access the station and yards by means of a transfer track off the south end of the CPR main line.

Needless to say, the arrangement was unsatisfactory and the CNR provided little in the way of effective rail service to the community.

Consequently, it was agreed that the CNR terminal and yards should be relocated to the north side of the river, in conjunction with a major industrial and commercial development.

The necessary agreements were concluded in early 1960 to bring the project to fruition. A series of land swaps were made whereby the CNR acquired new land in North Red Deer.

The city took over a broad band of potential industrial lands along the north side of the river as well as the old rail lands south of the river.

The official opening of the new Riverside Industrial Park and the new CNR station and yards took place on May 17, 1961. The significance of the event was demonstrated when the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce sent a Friendship Train to Red Deer for the ceremonies. A lavish banquet was subsequently held at the new Capri Hotel.

Meanwhile, the old rail lands south of the river were redeveloped into a corridor of high-density residential developments, the large Plaza Shopping Centre, a hotel site, a large expanse of park, a site for the new Red Deer Recreation Centre, and additional land for the Red Deer Fairgrounds. Thus, the project provided a wonderful enhancement of the east side of Red Deer's downtown.

The Red Deer Advocate had been right. The Riverside Industrial Park and railroad relocation project was one of the most significant developments in Red Deer's history, one that has left a positive and lasting legacy for the community.

       A look at the Canadian Northern Railway (Red Deer Express Jan.2011)
       Rotary Recreation Park area a jewel in heart of city (Red Deer Express Aug.2009)

Canadian Northern Railway in Central Alberta (CNR) - Camrose to Drumheller
Canadian Northern Western Railway Brazeau sub (CNR) - Mirror to Red Deer and Nordegg

Canadian National Railway operated in downtown Red Deer from 1920 to 1960
Red Deer once had four railway stations
Canadian National Railway Stations in Central Alberta

 

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