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  Mintlaw trestle deck

Forth Junction Project
Michael Dawe

Forth Junction Project Vision Sharing Historical Perspective Ground Transportation
Heritage Preservation
Forth Junction
Heritage Society

Mintlaw Bridge essential to
region's railroad heritage

reprinted from Red Deer Express March 3, 2010
Central Alberta is very rich in railroad history. Most of the communities in this region began as townsites or sidings on a rail line.

One of the most spectacular heritage railroad landmarks is the huge Alberta Central Railway (ACR) bridge across the Red Deer River, southwest of the city, near the old railroad hamlet/siding of Mintlaw.

The origins of the Alberta Central go back to May 1901 when a charter was granted by the federal government to a group of Red Deer and Ontario businessmen. Originally, the rail line authorized to run from Coal Banks, near modern day Delburne, to Rocky Mountain House. However, over the years, the ACR's charter was amended to allow it to run its line from the Fraser Valley through the Yellowhead Pass to Moose Jaw, with extensions to Saskatoon and the Hudson Bay. In short, it was planned that the ACR would eventually become a "transcontinental" railroad extending across the whole of Western Canada.

For a long time, very little happened with the ACR. Action finally came in April, 1909 when the federal government offered a subsidy of $6,400 per mile to a railway constructed between Red Deer and Rocky Mountain House. Soon crews of surveyors were laying out a rail route. Some brushing and grading commenced in the spring of 1910.

Work began on the major bridge across the Red Deer River in November, 1910. It was to be 2,112 feet long, with 15 quadrilateral towers and a large centre pier of the bent rocker type. The concrete substructure was to be built some three to four feet above the highest known water mark. The bridge itself was to rise some 110 feet above the main pier.

Hence, the ACR bridge across the Red Deer was to be one of the largest railroad bridges in Alberta.

In order to facilitate the work of the contractors, Robert Dawe, the local resident engineer for the ACR, had a 445-foot long suspension bridge constructed alongside the work site. This was accomplished by having a strong swimmer, Clarence Markle, swim across the river with a light line. Heavy rope and then cables were pulled across the river to create the suspension bridge.

In February, 1911, the contract for the concrete substructure was let to Jackson and Goldie, a firm from St. Boniface, Manitoba. Other work was given to a large number of local contractors and businesses.

In late 1911, the Canadian Bridge Company got the contract for the construction of the steel superstructure. However, work continued very slowly as the ACR was short of funds. Eventually, the ACR fell into bankruptcy.

In 1912, the CPR took over the work on the ACR line. By March 1912, 10 of the quadrilateral towers were erected. By the fall of 1912, work on the bridge was completed.

Unfortunately, there were two fatal accidents during the construction of the bridge. Hewson Anderson was killed when he fell off the scaffolding around the centre pier and was swept under the river ice. In April 1912, Edward Garrett was killed, on his second day on the job, when once of the temporary trestles gave way and he received a fatal concussion to the brain.

In 1981, the last train went over the ACR Mintlaw bridge. In 1983, the entire ACR branch line of the CPR was abandoned. However, late last year, Red Deer County purchased the rail bridge from the CPR for $1, plus a tax receipt for $8.8 million.

Thus, a remarkable heritage landmark is likely going to be saved for future generations.

Recently, the Forth Junction Heritage Society has made a number of proposals towards the preservation and promotion of Red Deer's railway and transportation heritage. More information on the society and its proposals can be found at

Also, on Saturday, March 6, 2010 at the Parkland Mall as part of Red Deer's annual "Let's Talk at the Mall", the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery will be having a booth to talk about its public programming, Hands on History art project and future plans. There will also be a small display relating to Red Deer's railway history.

ACR Mintlaw trestle under construction 1911

PIONEER PROJECT - Alberta Central/Mintlaw railway bridge under construction in 1911.

Photo courtesy of the Red Deer and District Archives


       A look back at the Alberta Central Railway (Red Deer Express Sept.2014)
       Laurier's 1910 visit huge event for city (Red Deer Express August 2010)
       Sir Wilfrid Laurier visited Red Deer (Red Deer Advocate May 2010)
       The origins of Alberta Central Rail pillar (Red Deer Express April 2008)
       Alberta Central Railway helped open region (Red Deer Advocate Special March 2007)
       John T. Moore (Red Deer Express Feb.2003)

Alberta Central Railway (CPR) - Red Deer to Rocky Mountain House
ACR/CPR Mintlaw Steel Trestle

Railway Bridges of Central Alberta
Alberta's Largest Railway Bridges
Largest Railway Bridges of Western Canada

       News article: Red Deer County seeks partners to afford bridge access (Mountain View Gazette Apr.2012)
       News article: County council looks at bridge as tourist attraction
(Red Deer Advocate April 2012)
       News article: Plans for Mintlaw Bridge waiting on public feedback
(Mountain View Gazette Feb.2012)
       News article: Opposition comes forward to Mintlaw Bridge preservation
(Mountain View Gazette May 2011)
       News article: Reinforcing our history
(Red Deer Advocate Mar.2011)
       News article: Repairs planned for crumbling CPR bridge
(Red Deer Advocate Feb.2011)
       News article: RD County antes up for Mintlaw Bridge repairs
(Mountain View Gazette Nov.2010)
       News article: Bridging gap between history and disrepair
(Red Deer Advocate Nov.2010)
       News article: County buys bridge for a buck
(Red Deer Advocate Dec.2009)
       News article: County buys historic railway bridge
(Red Deer Express Dec.2009)
       News article: Historic significance of concrete obelisk preserved in mural (Red Deer Advocate Oct.2008)

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