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  Union Bus Depot Cardinal Coach Red Deer 1949 - Glenbow Archives

Forth Junction Project
Historical Perspective
Part 2

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

Railways of Central Alberta

Railway Stations

Rail Bridges & Structures

Trains, Transit & Trails

Historical Perspective 1

Historical Perspective 2

Calgary Edmonton Trail

Rise & Fall of Regional Passenger Rail

3001 'The Chinook'


Regional Transit

Red Deer Transit

Rails to Trails

Trains and Transit (revised and updated May 2022)

Photo descriptions and credits at bottom of page.

railway station, park and coal chutes - Red Deer Archives P3202It was when the Canadian Pacific Railway decided to make Red Deer the divisional point between Calgary and Edmonton in 1908 that the destiny of downtown Red Deer as the hub of Central Alberta became established. It was the same year that the wooden bridge across the Red Deer River was replaced by steel.
As well as building a new grand station at the head of Ross Street in 1910, the Canadian Pacific built a roundhouse, gravitational coal chutes and other maintenance facilities to the west of the downtown. A beautiful railroad park complete with fountain was created east of the station. The original station was moved south to become a freight shed.
In 1910, the Red Deer-based Alberta Central Railway started construction west of Red Deer toward Rocky Mountain House for what was planned to be a transcontinental railway line.

ACR concrete piers over CPR Red Deer 1985 - Pettypiece 
Alberta Central Railway Mintlaw bridge under construction 1911 - RDA P2631The ACR crossed the Canadian Pacific Railway and Waskasoo Creek where one of the bridge abutments still stands along Taylor Drive. The line connected with the CPR to the south at Forth. To the east, the line was constructed across Piper Creek along a wooden trestle. A small station and yards were built farther east in the Mountview area of the town.
Meanwhile, a large steel trestle that was the second longest of its type in Alberta at the time was being built across the Red Deer River southwest of the town.
Unfortunately, the ACR went bankrupt and operation was transferred to Canadian Pacific which had no plans to maintain the dream of another transcontinental railroad. The infrastructure built a few months earlier to Mountview east of its north-south line was removed and construction west terminated at Rocky Mountain House.
To make matters worse for the ACR, the Canadian Northern Western Railway started construction of a competing line originating from near Stettler west to Red Deer North and Sylvan Lake on its way to the Brazeau coal fields. That railway had a business relationship with the Brazeau Colleries and reached Rocky Mountain House first. The railway had also planned to build a north-south Calgary-Edmonton line through Red Deer but construction never occurred.
In 1913, a north-south Calgary-Edmonton line was built 25 miles east of Red Deer by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway through Three Hills, Delburne, Alix, Mirror and Camrose. It was during that same year that Red Deer became a city.
last steam locomotive at Red Deer CN station 1955 - Red Deer Archives P7009 In 1920, the Canadian Northern constructed a bridge across the Red Deer River from the north as well as a station and other facilities where the Co-op Plaza shopping mall is now located. However, the bridge was abandoned in 1941 after several washouts. The railway maintained service at that location until 1960 with an agreement to use CPR trackage to North Junction.
Jubilee 3001 'the Chinook' locomotive Aug. 1938 - Otto PerryFrom 1936 to 1955, except during the early war years, the Canadian Pacific ran a 'high-speed' passenger train using a specially-designed locomotive for its 'Chinook' service, the 4-4-4 Jubilee no. 3001. Only five of its class were ever built and none were preserved.
The Jubilee was replaced by the 'Dayliner' service in 1955 cutting the five-hour trip by one and a half hours. The 3-per-day Dayliners reached their peak in 1969 with 80,000 passengers carried. Railway passenger service came to an end in Red Deer in 1985 after 94 years of continuous service. In the same year, the ACR subdivision to Rocky Mountain House was officially abandoned although there hadn't been a train on the line since 1981. Six years later, the downtown railyards were relocated to the northwest quadrant of the city.

In spite of the railway's early efforts to maintain its hold on passenger service, sometimes half-heartedly, changes had been occurring for a few decades that would require a major shift in thinking. For the most part, the railways had come to see freight as profitable and passenger service as not.
Over time as Western Canada developed, trails had become roads, roads had become highways, and a new freedom of mobility resulted from the development of private automobiles which had become more affordable in the early 1950s. In part due to a huge public investment in highway infrastructure, private and public bus transportation became an attractive alternative to trains for people who didn't have cars.
Cardinal coaches at Park Hotel Red Deer 1949 - Glenbow ArchivesPrivately-owned transit started to develop in Central Alberta in the 1940s and thrived in the 1950s. The first transit service in Red Deer started in 1946 by a private operator which was sold in 1956 to another private operator, Sorensen Bus Lines, which had already established service connecting several communities.

The Red Deer service became public in 1966 when the city took over from Sorensen. Red Deer Transit has continued to expand and provide a high quality of service for a city its size. The service has expanded into Red Deer County as well as to Blackfalds and Lacombe. It may become the operator of an even wider regional network.

As for the future, everything old may become new again, with the increasing popularity of trails and the renewed interest in high-speed rail.

Return to Part 1 - Trails and Trains

Photo descriptions and credits:
Header: Union bus depot in downtown at Park Hotel Red Deer 1949 (Glenbow Archives PA-31-27-1)
Canadian Pacific 1910 station, original C&ER 1892 station as freight shed, park 1912 (Red Deer Archives P3202);
Alberta Central Railway pillars for former bridge over CPR Red Deer at Forth Junction (Paul Pettypiece 1985);
Construction of the CNWR timber bridge at Burbank over Blindman River 1911 (Red Deer Archives P7028);
Construction of the ACR Mintlaw steel trestle over Red Deer River 1911 (Red Deer Archives P2631);
Last steam locomotive at Canadian National Railway Red Deer station 1955 (Red Deer Archives P7009);
Jubilee locomotive that led 'The Chinook' between Calgary and Edmonton 1936 to 1955 (Otto Perry 1936);
CPR Dayliner passes Innisfail elevator row late 1960s (Canadian Pacific Archives);
Union bus depot in downtown at Park Hotel Red Deer 1949 (Glenbow Archives PA-31-27-1)



Trails, Transit, Trains
Trails and Trains Overview
Trains and Transit Overview

Milestones 1910-13
Calgary Edmonton Trail
Transit in Central Alberta
Red Deer Transit

Jubilee 3001 Chinook
Locomotives Central Alberta
Rise and Fall of Passenger Rail

The Railways of Central Alberta
Calgary & Edmonton Railway
C & E Railway at Red Deer
Alberta Central Railway
Canadian Northern Railway
Canadian Northern Western RR
Canadian National Railway in RD
Grand Trunk Pacific Central Alberta
Lacombe & Blindman Valley RR
Timetable Excerpts
Railway Stations of the Region
C & ER Combination Stations
Portable Stations
Red Deer CPR 1910 Station
Role of Railway Stations
Red Deer's 4 Stations
CPR Stations in Central Alberta
CNR Stations in Central Alberta
Multiple Station Communities
Station Plans

Bridges, Structures, Heritage
Rail Structures of Region
Central Alberta Rail Bridges

Mintlaw Trestle
Alberta's Railway Bridges
Western Canada Rail Bridges



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