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Track for historic railway tours likely to be done by late summer

reprinted from Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley) June 17, 2011

East Central Alberta Heritage Society laying ties

Workers lay out ties as part of the restoration of an abandoned rail line north of Stettler.



The final spikes will be driven late this summer on a 12-km stretch of new track for historic rail tours between Stettler and Red Willow.

East Central Alberta Heritage 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.

Society member Bruce Gartside said the laborious job of laying the rails began last fall until weather stopped the work in early December. Crews began laying rail again in early May.

"We're looking at completion of the whole thing (to Red Willow) in, perhaps, late August," said Gartside.

At the same time as rail was being laid, work was underway creating five natural linear parks to serve as rest areas as part of an $800,000 project.

The parks at Edberg, Meeting Creek, Big Valley, Rumsey and Rowley will include washrooms, picnic tables and signs providing information on local flora and fauna. They are expected to be completed later this month.

While the rail link to Red Willow is expected to be complete this year, trains won't be running the route until next year at the earliest.

Alberta Prairie Steam Tours Ltd. general manager Bob Willis said this year's schedule is already set, but the company plans to add Red Willow trips in the future.

Before the steam trains head to Red Willow, there must be something in place in the community to provide an attraction for rail passengers getting off at the stop to sight-see.

"You don't just throw these things into the marketplace and have them happen," said Willis. "The rail infrastructure is part of the equation, but not the entire one."

Willis said if there is something in place to serve rail passengers by the fall, trips to Red Willow could be added to next season's schedule.

"It's our intention to run to Red Willow, it's just the timing I can't be specific on at this point."

Meanwhile, the society is working on finding the money to complete its dream of connecting Donalda by rail.

About three km worth of rail will be left over after Red Willow is connected.

Now, the society must find close to 10 km worth of track.

The supplier in Manitoba that provided the existing rail has more, but the steel does not come cheap.

"Used rail has become a very hot commodity," said Gartside.

Unless a cheaper supply of rail can be found, it will likely cost about $2.6 million to complete the Donalda link.

Gartside said an application has been submitted for $125,000 in provincial funding. Federal help will also be sought and a fundraising Father's Day Special Train Excursion through Alberta Prairie Steam Tours is set for 11 a.m. Sunday. The annual event raised $14,000 for the society last year.

       News article: Heritage projects share grant funding (Red Deer Advocate July 2013)
       News article: Relic caboose gets new home
(Red Deer Advocate May 2013)
       News article: Rail link effort chugging along
(Red Deer Advocate May 2013)
       News article: Big Valley station banks on restored roof
(Stettler Independent Apr.2013)
       Blog: Big Valley Canadian Northern Station Celebrates 100 Years
(RETROactive Sept.2012)
       News article: Rail being laid for heritage line
(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 (CNR) - Camrose to Drumheller
Canadian National Railway Stations in Central Alberta


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