Rail link effort chugging along
reprinted from Red Deer
Advocate (Paul Cowley) May 7, 2013
Efforts to build a rail link
from Stettler to Donalda for historic rail tours keeps chugging
along -- albeit a little slower than anticipated.
"It's taking longer and costing more," summed up Norma Leslie,
president of the East Central Alberta Heritage Society. It was once
hoped that the last spikes would be driven in late 2011 for a 12-km
stretch from Stettler to Red Willow. But unco-operative weather and
the challenges of the job pushed back the schedule.
If all goes well, the stretch to Red Willow will be done this fall,
said Leslie. "We have enough material and enough money to complete
the project to Red Willow. "The big 'iffy' part is the weather," she
The equipment to lay rails and spread ballast is very heavy and when
the ground is wet, track crews risk damaging the rail bed if they go
ahead. The society is leading the $3.3-million project to restore an
abandoned rail line on the east side of Hwy 56 north of Stettler
that was ripped out for scrap in 1997. When complete, the society
hopes to lay about 25 km of new rails all the way to Donalda. When
complete, it's expected Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions, which
runs popular trips from Stettler to Big Valley, will add a northern
At the same time as rail was being laid, five natural linear parks
were created near Edberg, Meeting Creek, Big Valley, Rowley and
Morrin as part of an $800,000 project. Finishing touches on those
parks along rail right of ways will be done this summer.
The first half of the project was given a big boost in 2009 when
Western Economic Diversification Canada gave the project $2.6
million in funding provided through Canadian Badlands, which
promotes tourism in that stretch of Alberta. More money was raised
through provincial and corporate funding.
Now, efforts are focused on raising a similar amount of money to
finish the project, which could cost about another $3 million.
Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions is donating proceeds from the
Father's Day run on June 16 to the society.
A casino licence has also been approved for the historical group
that will provide a big fundraising boost. Government support,
corporate sponsorships and other donations, including in-kind
donations, are also being sought. "It's just a matter of putting
yourself out there and scratching for everything we can get." Leslie
said they haven't set a target date to be finished.
"The sooner the better. We aren't in a position to go into debt over
it. So the money has to come first."
Society member Bruce Gartside said one of the challenges has been
finding sources of the heavy gauge rail needed. "There seems to be
lots of discontinued lines. But (the rails) are staying on the
ground for whatever reason (instead of being salvaged)." What rail
comes on the market seems to be attracting premium prices.
Leslie said the society is also working to raise its profile and is
looking at spearheading an effort to develop, along with other
museum groups and historical societies, a heritage corridor on the
160 km of rail right of way between Morrin and Edberg. The stretch
is full of gems such as original train stations, grain elevators, a
sod house and other heritage sites.
Meanwhile, the society will always welcome aboard new volunteers,
she said. "New blood has new ideas and that's what we're looking
News article: Heritage projects share grant
(Red Deer Advocate July 2013)
News article: Relic caboose gets new home
(Red Deer Advocate May 2013)
News article: Big Valley station banks on
(Stettler Independent Apr.2013)
Blog: Big Valley Canadian Northern Station
Celebrates 100 Years
News article: Track for historic railway tours
likely to be done by late summer
(Red Deer Advocate June 2011)
News article: Rail being laid for heritage
(Red Deer Advocate Sept.2010)
Feature article: 6060 turns 66
(Red Deer Express Sept.2010)
News article: Stettler group wants to convert
grain elevator into museum
(Red Deer Advocate May 2010)
News article: Train track wanted
(Red Deer Advocate May 2010)
News article: Major funding will restore rail
line to Donalda
(Stettler Independent Oct.2009)
Canadian Northern Railway in Central Alberta
- Camrose to Drumheller
Canadian National Railway Stations in Central Alberta