Canadian Pacific Railway Bridge
now 100 years old
reprinted from Red Deer Advocate 'Report on Central Alberta' June 8,
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.
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.
the Red Deer and District Archives
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
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
Unfortunately, the winter of 1906-1907 was one of the worst on
record. Therefore, not much work was completed, particularly on the
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
Shirley Hocken stands on the CP Rail Bridge, spanning the
Red Deer River, that she helped to preserve.
by Jeff Stokoe, Red Deer Advocate
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
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.
The history of Red Deer's CPR station
(Red Deer Express April 2007)
Red Deer becomes a divisional point for CPR
(Red Deer Advocate Special March 2007)
Railway Bridges of Central Alberta
Alberta's Largest Railway Bridges
Calgary and Edmonton Railway (CPR)
Calgary and Edmonton Railway at Red Deer (CPR)
News article: Arches mark influence of
railroad on city (Red Deer