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News articles about the Forth Junction Heritage Society:

Dec. 24, 2016, Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley) & Jan. 5, 2017, Central Alberta Life
 
Forth Junction
Railway museum project eyes
private collection


Forth Junction founder Paul Pettypiece - Jeff Stokoe photo Red Deer AdvocateA once-in-a-lifetime opportunity has given a boost to a local group's dream of a building a Central Alberta transportation park.

Forth Junction Heritage Society has been working behind the scenes since 2009 to get a project rolling for an interpretive heritage, facility activity, and nature park, to be built around a rail, trail and transit theme.

Then they got word that Saskatchewan railway collector Gary Southgate was looking for a centrally located showcase and restoration area for his nearly three dozen pieces of railway heritage, including steam and diesel engines, passenger and baggage cars, and a caboose. He even has a station sitting on blocks waiting for the right home.

"For any kind of railway museum starting off with that kind of collection is very, very unusual," says Forth Junction president Paul Pettypiece.

Southgate has not committed his collection yet, but he is interested in the local society's plans and is coming to Central Alberta early next year to check out proposed sites.

Pettypiece said the society has been working with the City of Red Deer to nail down a 40-acre site close to the CP and CN rail lines. A location at the north edge of Red Deer is being seriously considered for what is being called a Transpo Park.

For the city, the attraction represents a significant economic development opportunity. The same pitch is being made to the province, which would hopefully provide some financial support.

To get the project really rolling, a feasibility study is needed. The province has been approached to provide funding help for the study, likely to cost around $80,000.

Project supporters believe the timing is right despite the province's economic struggles. Premier Rachel Notley wants to improve the province's economic diversity, and new tourism attractions fit that bill.

Pettypiece said the idea is to create a unique attraction.

"For us, we don't want to be just a railway museum. There's plenty of those around.

"We want to be something that's much, much bigger and would draw people from across Canada. So we're thinking fairly big.

"We might have to start off somewhat small, but ultimately we're looking at a world-class destination."

It is meant to be a year-round, family-oriented facility with a variety of outdoor and indoor displays, children's theme park, natural and picnic areas, restaurant, shops, railway station, space for conferences and events, and a railway heritage centre, and model railway museum.

A large site is needed to build a railway loop to offer rides.

The goal is to create an iconic structure to draw attention. A railway roundhouse and grain elevator mashup of sorts is one idea.

Photo:
Paul Pettypiece is working with the Forth Junction Heritage Society in an effort to build a Central Alberta transportation park. Pettypiece is pictured with the CP Rail caboose in Penhold. Photo by Jeff Stokoe, Red Deer Advocate


Dec. 3, 2013, Innisfail Province (Sylvia Cole), online edition Nov. 19, 2013

 
World-class destination centre
still in the works
 
Forth Junction founder Paul Pettypiece - Bachusky photo Mountain View GazettePenhold's Paul Pettypiece says dream of the Forth Junction Project is an issue of timing
 
Although on a bit of a hiatus, the Forth Junction Project is still a go, says Penhold's Paul Pettypiece.

"The dream isn't lost, it's just a matter of timing," said Pettypiece, president of the Forth Junction Heritage Society during an interview last week.

The society has big plans to create a world-class destination in Central Alberta that would preserve and share the transportation heritage of the region.

The planned Transpo Centre is a multi-phase project to be completed over 25 years and would include an indoor amusement and family activity park, a retro bus depot and transit museum, a conference hall, observation tower and restaurant as well as a railway station heritage resort.

Originally plans were to create the heritage resort in the county, and the remaining amusements in the Riverlands district of Red Deer.  But since learning the city had other plans for that area, the society has combined the two ideas and are looking to build it somewhere in the county.

At least 12 Red Deer County locations where the 40-acre project could be completed have been identified. The hope is to have it within 20 kilometres of the city, which is the main transportation hub, an integral part of the area's history.

"When Red Deer was chosen as the distribution point it was no bigger than Innisfail," said Pettypiece, explaining how that key decision played a role in making Red Deer a city.

"Innisfail could have been the main distribution centre."

Pettypiece said there hasn't been much movement on finding land or collecting dollars because of a couple of roadblocks.

"With the (municipal) election we also wanted things to settle a bit first and the economic situation hasn't been right," he said of getting both political and financial support. He also said his work has become busier, meaning the time to spend on this project has been set aside.

The group, currently made up of 15 active members, is "satisfied to put it on hold and pursue it at another time."

Pettypiece hopes a year from now they can pursue their dream more strongly. He said it's important to preserve and share the history of transportation in the region because of the impact it had on shaping the communities.

"Red Deer was the hub of railway activity and transit," said Pettypiece.

"Other communities that were thriving were doing so because of the railway," he said using Innisfail and Olds as examples.

"You can go one step further and say the railroads helped with the development of Western Canada generally," he said.

In the meantime, the society still meets regularly and will hold its annual general meeting tomorrow night where Pettypiece will present the PowerPoint, "Railways as Parents of a City."

The group has been busy assisting other societies with projects such as the Central Alberta Historical Society's Arches project that was unveiled in October and features interpretive plaques that celebrate the influence of transportation and railway on the development of the city.

"In all likelihood it wouldn't have become a city," he said.

In addition, the group is also friends with the Central Alberta Regional Trail Society as advocates for using abandoned rail lines as trails.

"We've been continuing with collecting historical information and have worked on creating an online Facebook presence."

To learn more about the group and its activities, its Facebook pages include the Forth Junction Project, the Forth Junction Heritage Society and Friends of the Mintlaw Trestle.

Photo: Paul Pettypiece said there hasn't been recent movement with the Forth Junction Project due to the recent municipal election and the current economic climate.
Photo by Johnnie Bachusky, Innisfail Province


Jan. 12, 2012, Innisfail Province (Johnnie Bachusky) & Jan. 19, 2012, Olds Albertan
 
Our View (Editorial)

Praise today's big dream

Railway concept captures region's uniqueness
 
It would be easy to dismiss the ambitions of Paul Pettypiece's Forth Junction Heritage Society project for central Alberta as over the top and unachievable.

Certainly, the scope of the plan is enormous. If realized it would cover an area of at least 40 acres, with one part being a Western Canada Transpo Centre that will include a "grand" central gathering place, a multi-level retail centre, heritage plaza and a historical model rail museum.

The second component would be the Railway Station and Transit Heritage Resort. This would include a Railway Station Village, a replica of the Jubilee 3001 "Chinook" steam locomotive, Retro Bus Depot, and observation tower.

This is a lofty dream, one that could require hundreds of millions of dollars to be realized. But Pettypiece is a realist and does not envision it to be anywhere near completed for at least 25 years.

Most people at this point in time are not prepared to give Pettypiece more than lip service, noting current economic conditions do not warrant such ambitions and the price tag it would entail.

That is understandable but what Pettypiece does have in his favour now is an idea for central Alberta that is completely original when one considers the types of tourism mega projects that already exist in the province and the rest of the country.

As well, Pettypiece can also benefit from the fact the City of Red Deer did not move on his idea for the Riverlands district, a downtown area that is as perfect as one could imagine for a mega project to put the city and the region on the map provincially and nationally as a world-class tourism destination point.

Where the dreams of a San Antonio-style Riverwalk for the Riverlands died in part because it was felt by a few (influential as they were) that copy-cat Texas-style development had nothing to do with the region's heritage, Pettypiece's Forth Junction idea of creating a railway and ground transportation theme is groundbreaking and a near perfect fit to reflect the region's culture and history.

However, what Pettypiece's main battle could be is the ingrained notion with many central Alberta residents, as proven during the past Riverlands debate, that the region ought not to think too big, that dreams are only for dreamers and not to be mixed with good old fashioned conservative pragmatism.

Thankfully, Pettypiece's Forth Junction Heritage Society is patient, and slowly but surely growing. The society has now secured a letter of support from Tourism Red Deer and is awaiting another one from Red Deer County, where nine potential sites for the project are being considered.

As well, the society is quietly laying the groundwork for future support by consulting with regional heritage groups in communities along the CPR main line, notably Innisfail and Didsbury.

Last fall, the society visited the Innisfail Historical Village, which is now an official member of Pettypiece's group.

The historical village has a strong railway component to its own operations and officials there see plenty of potential symmetry with Forth Junction's future ambitions.

"I think it is tremendous," said Village curator Dean Jorden. "He (Pettypiece) sees tying the Village in so you could plan a visit to the main centre. This would increase our daily traffic flow and attendance. It would do nothing but absolute good for us."

Pettypiece also wants the same linkage with Didsbury's heritage people, considering that town's devotion to heritage, notably through its restored train station and programs offered there. And once Olds resolves its issues with its local museum (space and funding) there may be more opportunities there as well for additional regional support.

In the meantime, Pettypiece and the society must move only one step at a time, dodging the naysayers, which there will always be many. But big dreamers are good at rolling with punches. Once convinced there mission is true, their spirit is unbreakable.


Dec. 27, 2011, Mountain View Gazette (2-page article by Johnnie Bachusky)

Railway dream shifts to county

Forth Junction targets county

 
Heritage society envisions rural locale to showcase past and future glories of railway and ground transportation
 

Forth Junction founder Paul Pettypiece - Bachusky photo Mountain View GazetteImpatient with the City of Red Deer's timelines to redevelop its Riverlands District, the Forth Junction Heritage Society is now targeting up to nine sites in Red Deer County for the main location of its ambitious dream to transform the region into a world-class heritage tourism destination point.

The plan now is to secure a site of at least 40 acres within 20 kilometres of the City of Red Deer and the CPR main line, the latter being essential to the railway and ground transportation themes of its proposed tourism park.

The park concept includes two components - the first being a Western Canada Transpo Centre with a "grand" central gathering place, a multi-level retail centre, a tower and restaurant up to 10 storeys high, amusement park, heritage plaza and a historical model rail museum.

The second part of the concept is a Railway Station and Transit Heritage Resort, which could include a Railway Station Village, a replica of the Jubilee 3001 "Chinook" steam locomotive, Retro Bus Depot, nature park and observation tower. The goal behind the Railway Station Village is to have full-scale replicas of pioneer stations representing 25 Central Alberta communities.

The initial plan was for the Transpo Centre to be located in Red Deer's downtown area Riverlands District while the resort would be in the county.

"Now that the Riverlands is not available we're thinking of combining the two," said society founder Paul Pettypiece.

"We have semi-abandoned the (Riverlands) idea," added Pettypiece, noting the city's immediate priorities with the Riverlands District are infrastructure redevelopment and planning. "The city was not willing to commit themselves to anything for seven years."

Having the entire project close to the railway in the county would enable the society and its project to establish marketing links with rural communities along Central Alberta's railway corridor, especially those with ongoing railway heritage tourism amenities, including Innisfail with its historical village and Didsbury with its preserved pioneer train station and model railway club.

"We haven't contacted all the people (landowners) yet," said Pettypiece of the new nine proposed sites in the county. He said the preferred sites are near Penhold and Springbrook. "None are specific. We are still in the preliminary stages. I don't want to get specific until I get more of a relationship with the county."

Forth Junction potential site mapPettypiece admits his group's dream of seeing the project at full build-out is at least 20 to 25 years away. However, he said it is possible that within three years a site can finally be secured featuring at least a few attractions.

But first the society, now composed of about 30 members, is focusing on getting letters of support from both the city and the county to secure a $40,000 provincial grant to conduct a feasibility study. The society has already received a letter of support from Tourism Red Deer.

Pettypiece said he has talked to some county officials but they were waiting for a letter, which was delivered Dec. 19.

"Everybody I talk to really likes the idea and concept and hope we proceed, but nobody is willing to commit funds," said Pettypiece, adding his group has had preliminary discussions with some corporations and Canadian Pacific. "They liked the idea but they are not committing until it is certain it is going ahead."

Meanwhile, Tyler Harke, the county's economic development coordinator, said he has had preliminary discussions with Pettypiece but it would be premature to comment on the project without having received something in writing from the society.

"It is nice to see some people come forward with new ideas," said Harke. "The process would be for the group to come up with something in writing and it would be presented to council."

In the meantime, the society has been granted charitable status by the Canada Revenue Agency. This permits the society to issue tax-deductible receipts. However, the society is limited to activities that educate and preserve the evolution of trails, trains and transit in Central Alberta. As well, Forth Junction has plans to establish itself as a not-for-profit corporation.

For more information on Forth Junction visit its website at www.forthjunction.ca

Photo:
 Pettypiece says a letter has been delivered to Red Deer County asking for its support to obtain funding from the provincial government to conduct a feasibility study. Photo by Johnnie Bachusky, Mountain View Gazette
Forth Junction potential sites. Map supplied.


Dec. 2, 2011, Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley)
 
Forth Junction pulling toward a new station

A Central Alberta group of railroad and transit buffs are keeping the wheels turning on their dream project of creating a transportation-themed tourist attraction.

For the Forth Junction Heritage Society, that has meant switching gears and dropping a proposal to locate a major attraction combining historical interpretation, dining, retail, amusement park and entertainment in Red Deer's Riverlands area.

Society president Paul Pettypiece said the City of Red Deer was reluctant to endorse that proposal because a vision for Riverlands has not been decided on. Rather than wait years for a show of support that might not come, the society will focus its attention on a site outside the city.

A rural site has always been a part of the society's vision. An attraction featuring replicas of regional railway stations for overnight lodging, a railway park, lookout tower, interpretive centre, heritage transit vehicle display depot and miniature steam railway has been proposed for a yet-identified site. A functioning 1/8-scale replica of the Jubilee 3001 The Chinook steam locomotive that ran between Edmonton and Calgary would also be a crowd pleaser in the Red Deer County theme park.

"Now, we're thinking we might combine the two into one facility," he said.

However, there's a limited number of places with good visibility that would be suitable for a tourism entertainment site, he said. "So we're looking at our options in terms of a location."

A suitable site would need at least 40 acres within 20 km of the city and good road connections.

Meanwhile, the 30-strong society has been busy doing the basic legwork to keep the project moving ahead.

The group recently lined up charitable status, which allows the group to issue tax-deductible receipts to donors contributing to efforts to provide education and preservation initiatives connected with the evolution of trails, trains and transit in Central Alberta.

A not-for-profit corporation will be established next year to champion parts of the project that don't fit the charitable designation, such as retail outlets, theme parks and other semi-commercial attractions.

Background work has also been done to back up a grant application to Tourism Alberta to undertake a $40,000 feasibility management destination study.

"That really needs to be done before we can do much of anything else," he said.

Red Deer County and City of Red Deer have been approached to ask for their support and presentations may be made later to councils in each municipality.

Pettypiece is encouraged by the support the group has received from those who have seen their plans. Their vision was on display at the recent Red Deer Model Train and Hobby Show at Westerner Park and was well received by show goers.

"Most people we've talked to are very excited about it and would like to see it proceed."


Dec. 2010, We Mean Business (quarterly publication of Red Deer Chamber of Commerce, Rob Gilgan)
 
Volunteer profile
A volunteer on the right track

 
Chamber volunteer Paul Pettypiece - Gilgan photo Red Deer Chamber of CommerceThe signature on an email from Paul Pettypiece reads: 'Sustainable future, respectful past'. Far from an empty slogan, it's a snapshot of how the Chamber volunteer manages his life. When the Chamber developed policy committees in 2006, Paul was a member of two of them: Transportation, and Civic Affairs, which he also chaired.

While the focus of the transportation policy committee was broad and included highway, rail and air, the high speed rail discussion was among the most memorable. "I helped draft the high speed rail policy three years ago that went to the Alberta Chamber conference which was unfortunately defeated. I have recently helped develop a new policy to go to the Board for approval soon, as part of my contribution to the new Housing and Infrastructure Policy Committee," he said.

He was also on the Civic Affairs committee during interesting times, when the City and County seemed to be at loggerheads on every issue. "By the time the committee was formed, the City and County were starting to talk," he explained. He's watched the two bodies work hard together in the community's interest. The committee involvement also led him downtown in the early days of the development of the Greater Downtown Action Plan. Currently, Paul's volunteer energies are directed toward Forth Junction, a proposed project to develop a multi-use community, heritage, retail and entertainment centre in Riverlands, part of Red Deer's revitalized downtown.

For Paul, Forth Junction is the culmination of a life-long interest in the railway and he's working to ensure the rail heritage that was so vital to Central Alberta's success isn't overlooked and forgotten. The name comes from the junction, situated south of 32nd Street, that connected traffic from the CPR and Alberta Central Railway, feeding a line that ran west to Rocky Mountain House. He hopes the Riverlands development would include 2 or 3 heritage centres, a shopping centre, elevated restaurant, a gathering centre and theme park, connected to a hotel and convention centre, eventually. "It needs to be an indoor facility, run year-round and be self-supporting," he says.

The project is a major undertaking, threading together all of the resources in Central Alberta and beyond that currently care for the railway heritage. Paul feels it's a perfect fit as he transitions into semi-retirement. He also continues to be involved in Junior Achievement and the Central Alberta Regional Trails Society, as well as serving his community on the Springbrook Community Association. Paul operates Central Alberta Websites, a website publishing and development firm that also hosts reddeerregion.com and springbrookwaskasoo.com.

Photo: Paul Pettypiece is a Chamber volunteer who is working hard to ensure Central Alberta's railway heritage becomes an important part of Riverlands.
Photo by Rob Gilgan, Red Deer Chamber of Commerce


Oct. 28, 2010, Red Deer Advocate (Laura Tester)
 

Forth Junction

Tourism board supports rail project

 
Tourism Red Deer is giving an initial stamp of approval to a Red Deer group's proposal for a children's theme park and group transportation museum in the largely undeveloped district of Riverlands.

Executive director Darren Kuz said the tourism board met earlier this month with Paul Pettypiece, president of Forth Junction Heritage Society, to hear the group's dreams for tourist attractions in the city and Red Deer County that embrace a railway theme.

Kuz said the board was impressed with what they heard and as a result, the project is being supported in principle. A letter of support will be crafted and given to Pettypiece within a week.

"In general, they were very supportive of his presentation and the hard work that was put into the proposal," said Kuz on Wednesday. "Whatever goes into Riverlands, we'll do what we can to market it to residents and to visitors."

The heritage society wants to see shops, a children's theme park, observation tower restaurant and ground transportation museum within Riverlands, west of Taylor Drive and south of the Taylor Bridge. A second main attraction will occur in an unidentified location within Red Deer County. It would include replicas of several regional railway stations for overnight lodging, a railway park, and a lookout tower.

Being in the initial stages, the society's plans haven't received formal endorsements by the city and county.

Kuz added he anticipates Tourism Red Deer's first study on tourism's economic impact will be done by the end of 2010.

Tourism Red Deer hired Atif Kubursi, an economic professor at Hamilton's McMaster University, to do the $30,000 study funded through the City of Red Deer.

"We want to find out the overall value of what the tourism industry is," said Kuz.

Some of the questions that will be answered include the number of full-time jobs directly related to tourism within the city and surrounding area.

The study's results will help Tourism Red Deer to craft detailed marketing plans, Kuz said.


Oct. 27, 2010, Red Deer Advocate (Laura Tester)
Forth Junction rail project seeking
charitable status

 
A Central Alberta group eager to make Red Deer's railroad history into a tourist attraction is in the final stages of applying for charitable status.

Forth Junction Heritage Society president Paul Pettypiece said he hopes to have the application filed this week with Revenue Canada.

The society wants to become a registered charity so it can begin fundraising for the project that's expected to take millions of dollars in donations and government grants.

Pettypiece said the society has been increasing its public awareness this fall so that more Central Albertans know about the project. Last weekend, Pettypiece and several others were kept busy chatting with visitors at the Red Deer Model Train and Model Show at Westerner Park.

The society has several projects in mind.

One attraction would include shops, a children's theme park, observation tower restaurant and ground transportation museum in the heart of Riverlands, west of Taylor Drive.

Pettypiece said the society will apply for $40,000 through Alberta Tourism so it can conduct a destination study on whether this Riverlands attraction could work.

The society has also met with top brass at Tourism Red Deer to gauge its interest.

A second main attraction will occur in an unidentified location within Red Deer County. It would include replicas of several regional railway stations for overnight lodging, a railway park and a lookout tower.

Originally, the society was looking to build a real-life size replica of The Chinook, a passenger train that ran from the 1930s to the 1950s between Calgary and Edmonton. It may go on the county parcel or next to the old Canadian Pacific Railway station near 51st Avenue.

Pettypiece said the version has been scaled back to one-eighth the size of the original due to cost. Now estimated at $275,000 versus around $1 million or more. It will be able to function like a real one where people will be able to ride in railway cars hitched behind.

Forth Junction held its annual general meeting on Tuesday, featuring Red Deer historian Michael Dawe as a guest speaker.

Red Deer's rail history is very important to the city, he said.

In the early 20th century, Canadian Pacific Railway made Red Deer a divisional centre, helping to make Red Deer a much larger community than others around it, including Blackfalds and Innisfail. The railway was the biggest employer for years, Dawe said.


July 31, 2010, Red Deer Advocate (Laura Tester)
 

Forth Junction
Rail tourist attraction idea gets rolling

 
A proposed major tourist attraction focused on the railways and ground transportation is gathering some steam in Red Deer, says the president of the Forth Junction Heritage Society.

Paul Pettypiece said the society is getting interest about its proposed project that is expected to take 20 years to develop. Members have been circulating their message around through word of mouth since earlier this year.

This fall, Forth Junction will increase public awareness by meeting with various groups including Tourism Red Deer. The society will also have a booth at a model railroad show at Westerner Park. A major membership drive will be launched.

Pettypiece said the society is also seeking charitable status so it can begin fundraising.

Also in the works is a feasibility study, which Pettypiece said will be needed before any fundraising takes place.

"We want to make sure we're ready when the City (of Red Deer) and (Red Deer County) is ready," said Pettypiece. "But the timing isn't ready with so many factors, including the economy. But I am confident it will happen."

Forth Junction proponents would like to see several projects centred on the history of the railway history.

One attraction, dubbed The Crossing, would include shops, a children's theme park and ground transportation museum in the heart of Riverlands, west of Taylor Drive, and the Railyards district, west of Gaetz Avenue and north of Ross Street. It would also feature Canada's largest historical model railway museum, which would look at the history of how the city and region looked from the late 1890s to the mid 1980s, as well as a glimpse into the future.

Visitor accommodations modelled after historic rail stations, plus a family and nature park, would be found at The Junction on a piece of yet-to-be-identified land in Red Deer County.

Forth Junction also hopes to build a replica of The Chinook -- a passenger train that ran from the 1930s to the 1950s between Calgary and Edmonton. It may go on the county parcel or next to the old Canadian Pacific Railway station near 51st Avenue.

The society has a website, forthjunction.com.

Pettypiece hopes to have a more concrete plan, as well as actual locations, in the next couple of years. "We want to get the support of the city and the county," Pettypiece said. "Both have to have planning in place before any land can be procured."

The society has about 15 members, including historian Michael Dawe, Steve Parkin, transportation enthusiast and the owner of a historic full-size transit bus, and railway buff Darcy Colenutt.


June 14, 2010, Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley) & June 17, 2010, Central Alberta Life
Railway heritage
Lots of train history here in Central Alberta, say enthusiasts

Model railroader - Gerling photo AdvocateLike many who have set down roots in Red Deer, the area's natural beauty was a major draw for Paul Pettypiece.

But there was something else that caught his eye when he moved to the city in 1973 from Manitoba, after discovering he hated (the traffic congestion of) his intended destination of Calgary.

"I was really fascinated by the railway heritage," he said. "It's always been somewhat of an interest, but it really peaked when I came here."

For train enthusiasts, Red Deer offers a gold mine of relatively obscure rail history. No fewer than four railroads have served the area over the last century.

Remnants of that history are scattered about. The old rail bridge over the river near Riverside Meadows, the bridge abutment next to Taylor Drive for the long-defunct Alberta Central Railway, and a 97-year-old Mintlaw trestle for the same railway company over the Red Deer River in the county. Of course, the most visible reminder of the city's past rail glory is the well-preserved train station that still sits at the head of Ross Street, now converted into office space.

"They're kind of disconnected and people don't really understand how they are connected," he said.

When the city began taking a serious look at the potential for the downtown area a few years ago, Pettypiece and others with an interest in rail and transportation history saw an opportunity to present their own vision.

A proposal was submitted that has since been refined into a more elaborate and ambitious project billed as the Forth Junction Project.

At the heart of the project would be The Crossing, which is envisioned as "Canada's only trail-rail-transit family entertainment-retail-heritage tourist and community attraction." It would feature indoor gathering area, perhaps echoing a roundhouse theme, retail, indoor theme park, ground transportation heritage centre, and an observation restaurant modelled on the Prairies' once-ubiquitous grain elevators.

Initial plans propose centres showcasing wagon, rail and transit heritage and a space devoted to the future of transportation, which could feature an example of high-speed rail technology. A model railway display would also be a prime attraction, said Pettypiece, who is an avid model railway fan with 40 locomotives and 500 cars in his N-scale collection.

A replica could also be created of the Jubilee 3001 "The Chinook" engine that sped between Edmonton and Calgary and was one of the fastest engines of its day. Only five were built and none survived.

Pettypiece said the Forth Junction Heritage Society wants to make a mark with the project. "We want it to be a landmark building that says Red Deer and is widely recognized as a Red Deer icon."

The group is looking beyond Red Deer however. A heritage railway station, overnight accommodation village and family nature park, with a miniature steam train and examples of historic rail stations, is proposed for Red Deer County just outside the city.

Long-term, shuttle links could be established to tie in the two areas and perhaps provide connections to other historical rail attractions such as the Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions out of Stettler.

The society sees it all as a long-term project that could take 20 years to unfold. "It will happen in stages. We'd like to see something on the ground within five years."

In the meantime, Pettypiece and other members of the society, including local historian Michael Dawe, Steve Parkin, transportation enthusiast and the owner of a historic full-sized transit bus, and railway buff Darcy Colenutt, plan to stoke interest in the project.

For information go to www.forthjunction.com

Photo: Paul Pettypiece: fascinated by trains  Photo by Jerry Gerling, Red Deer Advocate
 

Feb. 24, 2010, Red Deer Express (Johnnie Bachusky)
 

Our Opinion (Editorial)

New idea for Riverlands worth
an Olympic cheer

 
While Olympians continue their quest for glory this week in Vancouver, there are those in this city and region quietly moving forward with dreams of their own.

Before the recession dropped like a bomb in late 2008 Red Deer was positioning itself for an exciting and prosperous future with ambitious Olympian-like plans for the Riverlands that featured a canal-driven development concept with an ultimate goal of making the city a major tourism destination point.

But after a less than thorough process, the City opted for a Vancouver-imported plan that was less ambitious on the tourism generating scale and more directed towards a glitzy revitalization project for a new Red Deer community.

The latter proposal, while credible, was without any theme that was either historically, culturally or geographically relevant, or even remotely interesting, for the city or anyone visiting.

Now comes an idea from the Forth Junction Heritage Society, which is pitching a concept it believes would be a world-class tourism attractor. And it is certainly interesting, and relevant. The idea is based on a ground transportation theme, particularly the railway and its past and future role in the region. The concept envisions using the Riverlands as its base in the city while stretching into Red Deer County where the municipality is embracing open spaces, trails, and heritage, with the latter underscored by its recent acquisition of the historic Mintlaw trestle railway bridge.

Like the past proponents of the canal idea for the Riverlands, society members are urging the public to think bold and big. They note, even in spite of the recession, the timing is just right to aim for the stars, particularly with Red Deer's 100th anniversary just three years away in 2013.

What should appeal to the many naysayers of the past canal idea is that the society has moved slowly and methodically with its ambitions, and has come up with a plan that is original and relevant, not transplanted from Texas or Canada's west coast.

The society was formed 10 months ago from a group of local transportation historians and model railroaders. There is now a board, society bylaws, business plan, non-profit charity status and a web site. With Paul Pettypiece as president, the society also has credibility.

The early and cautious word from City Hall is that the idea is an interesting one and worth exploring.

While everything at this point is just preliminary, Pettypiece and his people have certainly done their homework, far more so than the well-intentioned proponents of the early canal idea.

And while any refined and final approved concept is still a long ways off it is encouraging to know that dreams of glory, thinking grand and big, are flourishing in this community. Like any great Olympic performance, that is worth celebrating.


Feb. 8, 2010, Red Deer Advocate (Greg Neiman)


Our View (Editorial)
One-time opportunity
 
Let's set aside throne speeches, Parliaments, taxes and frozen windrows of snow for a while and think about something really important: a model rail museum and theme park for Riverlands.

The first time you hear of a tourism-themed idea like this, the normal reaction is: "What the heck are you thinking about?"

If the idea cannot climb over that first reaction, it is dead. Witness the proposal for a set of canals running through the downtown area.

Now, if I had to make a choice between living in a city with a waterpark extending several kilometres through our city core, surrounded by greenery, shops, restaurants and festival sites, or a transportation-themed museum surrounded by greenery, shops, restaurants and festival sites, I still like the canals.

But that's just me. The majority definitely rules here, and I realize I'm more likely to be tossed into a canal than to canoe along one in Red Deer.

However, quite early after the public defeat of the canals option has come another, with different options and appeals, and it's worth spending time thinking about the possibilities.

Of all cities, Red Deer is in a unique position. We have a major land redevelopment opportunity on some rather pretty waterfront, that happens to be physically connected to the economic and cultural heart of the city.

We have recent planning agreements with our two neighbouring counties to preserve our joint riverlands corridor as a connected and protected greenway stretching many kilometres both upstream and downstream of the city. We are at the south end of a major public trails initiative that will quite soon traverse many kilometres of rather pretty countryside and farmland, all the way to Ponoka.

Given the size of these tourism assets, and their natural connection to our downtown, we'd be fools not to think big, when we think about Riverlands.

Our opportunity to remake and re-think our very self-identity as a city makes Red Deer the envy of virtually all others. We've been talking about downtown redevelopment for more than 25 years now and pretty well all we've been able to produce are award-winning plans.

Well, that's as much -- and probably more -- than most Canadian centres have accomplished. It is extremely hard to do this work.

But history has afforded Red Deer a chance to redevelop a very large parcel of riverfront land that connects to downtown, which is something no other city has at this stage. There just isn't any more new space to develop in city heartlands -- especially in a reasonably natural setting.

So we can't let this opportunity pass. We need to make this redevelopment into something the whole world can look at and not say: "What the heck were they thinking?" but rather: "Gee, I wish we had the chance to do something like that."

It became clear fairly soon that a canals option wasn't what we had in mind.

Might it be a model railway museum and transportation theme park? Don't say no right away, just because it's novel or unusual, or might cost you some money up front.

If links can include a future Riverlands greenway, as well as other attractions outside the city limits, there are huge possibilities in this.

We want something to showcase our city and our new downtown area for visitors, but we also want something that enhances our lives here every day.

Believe it or not, our downtown is still the major economic engine of the city. It is a high-density employment zone, and it is becoming increasingly attractive as a high-density residential zone. A huge portion of Red Deer residents live within a 20-minute walk of the downtown.

So we owe it to ourselves to think long into the future when we think about Riverlands, Alexander Way and the whole downtown area.

This opportunity will never come again.


Feb. 5, 2010, Red Deer Advocate online blog (Leo Pare) & print edition Feb. 10, 2010
 
Commentary:
Happy to hear more talk on
large scale attractions


Since the canals project dried up in late 2008, there hasn't been much talk around Red Deer's future as a tourism destination.

The Advocate recently posted an online poll which revealed readers' dismal evaluation of our tourism appeal. Online commenters fiercely debated Red Deer's ups and downs. Some touted amenities like camp sites, rec facilities, and natural landscape -- all of which are tremendous community assets to be sure -- but let's be realistic. Nobody is packing up the family and travelling 500 kilometres to visit the Red Deer Museum or the Lion's Campground.

I thought the canals idea has serious potential for our community, but with a nation-wide recession looming, people weren't keen on millions of tax dollars being invested into such a frivolous project.

The crushing of the canals idea left us with the impression there was little appetite for grandiose tourism schemes in Red Deer, so I was a bit surprised to see this story on the front page of Thursday's Advocate: 'World-class attraction proposed for Riverlands'.

It seems a group of forward-thinking folks have been carefully crafting a new idea that would, in theory, turn Red Deer into a major tourist destination. Their extravagant proposal includes children's theme park, a ground transportation museum in the heart of Riverlands, visitor accommodations modelled after historic rail stations and a nature park.

Forth Junction Heritage Society president Paul Pettypiece told the Advocate the "very bold and ambitious" concept will take about 20 years to fully develop, a lot of work and millions of dollars to realize.

It's nice to see somebody taking tourism seriously in Central Alberta.

Undoubtedly, the opponents to this new idea are already forming their protests in acrimonious letters to the local newspapers and politicians.

Well naysayers, it comes down to the old mantra of 'you gotta spend money to make money.' When it comes to investing in tourism, go big or go home.

As residents of my hometown of Chauvin can attest, being home to the old spherical septic tank they converted to be the World's Largest Softball hasn't generated much tourism over the past 25 years. And I doubt many folks are pulling out the motorhome for a weekend at the giant Glendon Perogy or St. Paul's UFO landing pad.

Establishing ourselves as a must-visit location means thinking on a grand scale and investing millions of dollars.

If Red Deer is serious about becoming a tourism destination, then we need to get serious about providing visitors with attractions worth travelling for.


Feb. 5, 2010, Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley)
Tourism proposal facing obstacles
Transportation theme park must capture attention of public

The toughest task facing a group trying to develop rail- and transportation-themed tourist attractions for the Red Deer area will be getting the proposal moving, predicted a local businessman who previously pitched canals to put the city on the map.

"They're very difficult," said Ken Mandrusiak of ambitious tourist concepts. "It's like starting a train. Once you get going, you can create some momentum."

A local group called Forth Junction Heritage Society has been quietly crafting a blueprint to make Red Deer a tourist destination by building a transportation museum, shops, children's theme park and Canada's largest historical model railway museum in Riverlands, and other rail-themed attractions and accommodations in Red Deer County.

Vital to the success of any effort to create a draw is developing something that is unique with a "wow" factor. Mandrusiak said it has to be the kind of attraction that a visitor to Alberta would put on their must-visit list. "It would definitely have that kind of sizzle to it."

The success of any attempt to lure visitors will involve creating a place where people want to congregate, where there is a lot going on, and the focus is not just a single attraction. Boosters of the River Walk canal feature saw it as a catalyst that would inspire restauranteurs, merchants and others.

Mandrusiak, who hasn't seen the heritage society's concepts, said if something unique is planned it could have merit, but it will not be easy.

"It gets a little tricky. There's always economics to everything and creating a buy-in.

"I think the idea of doing something on a grand scale is right."

City Councillor Larry Pimm said the society has come up with an interesting set of ideas, but it must be put to the public.

"If the public is really cool to it, it probably fades."

Finding the money for a large-scale project is always a "big hurdle," especially in tough economic times. When the money can't be found to support long-sought projects such as a 50-metre competitive swimming pool, it is clear budgets are tight, he said.

Pimm believes successfully developing Riverlands will also mean developing a downtown where more people have made their home and densities are increased.

County Councillor Dave Hoar said while the society has made administration aware of its proposal, council hasn't had a chance to talk about it yet.

"At this point in time, we have no position on it. It would be premature.

"On the other hand, we do own Mintlaw Bridge and the rail line between Red Deer and Sylvan Lake. It wouldn't be totally out of reason we might consider something."

The county recently purchased for $1 the 97-year-old Mintlaw Bridge over the Red Deer River near Springbrook from Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd.


Feb. 4, 2010, Red Deer Advocate (Laura Tester)

World-class attraction proposed
for Riverlands

 
Forth Junction idea as theme park based on model train village

World-class attractions focused on railway and other ground transportation are being promoted for sites in downtown Red Deer and Red Deer County by a group that has been working quietly for a year on the vision.

Forth Junction Heritage Society hopes to turn Red Deer into a major tourist destination that would include shops, a children's theme park and a ground transportation museum in the heart of Riverlands. Visitor accommodations modelled after historic rail stations, plus a nature park, would be found on land within the county.

Society president Paul Pettypiece told the Advocate on Wednesday that their "very bold and ambitious" concept will take about 20 years to fully develop, a lot of work and millions of dollars to realize.

This is the first time their vision has been made public.

"It is achievable, sustainable and will create a unique attraction for visitors and tourists from all over North America and perhaps the world," said Pettypiece.

"And as a result, (it will) become a major economic generator for the region."

The concept includes four projects, hailed as never seen before in Canada.

Forth Junction has a major tourist and public activity centre in mind for Riverlands, an area west of Taylor Drive set for development.

It would include a transportation-themed amusement park, shopping centre, ground transportation museum, large gathering area and an atrium.

"The main entranceway would feature a teepee because we want to start off with ancient transportation systems that the aboriginals used," said Pettypiece.

The building would also include a tower restaurant in the shape of a grain elevator.

Pettypiece said this project is still in its early stages.

Formed last spring, the now-registered society includes 10 members who have a strong interest in railway and transportation history.

"We want to get the community engaged in this," said Pettypiece.

The second major project would occur on an unidentified county site close to the railway and Red Deer.

A series of railway stations, using various historic styles found in Central Alberta would be set up for accommodations. A family and nature park, as well as an observation tower would also be on hand. A miniature train for people to ride in could be operational.

Third, Canada's largest historical model railway museum could be set up as part of the Riverlands concept. The museum would give the history on how the city and region looked in 1892, 1911, 1939, 1955, and 1985 as well as offering a look into the future.

Forth Junction's final project centres on building a replica of The Chinook -- a high speed transportation passenger train of the 1930s to 1950s between Calgary and Edmonton. It could go on either the county site or next to the old CPR railway station near 51st Avenue.

"We want both venues to be self-sustaining, which is why we put the retail in the downtown project and the accommodations in the county project," said Pettypiece.

Besides these four projects, Forth Junction is also proposing a corridor linking Red Deer College with a possible future airport terminal near the historic Mintlaw trestle just off of the C&E Trail southwest of Red Deer. The corridor could be used for trams.

A tram or other similar transportation could move people between Rotary Recreation Park and Bower Ponds along Alexander Way (48th Street).

Guided or self-guided tours could link railway and other historic icons within the city and region.

Forth Junction also suggests branding the region based on past and future transportation.

Pettypiece said they've had discussions with city and county officials, as well as Red Deer Chamber of Commerce, and all appear supportive of the concept.

"We haven't actually gone out and asked for money -- and this isn't the time to do it when they are cutting back on projects," he said.

Pettypiece anticipates fundraising and government grants will be needed.

Construction, at the earliest, would begin in three to five years.

"We don't want to take this too far until the community is supportive of it," said Pettypiece. "We don't want it to go the same route of the canals."

A business group had lobbied for water canals, similar to those found in San Antonio, Tex., as a main attraction in Riverlands. The canal concept was deemed exciting and innovative, but ultimately not authentic to the community and one with implementation challenges, according to the 2008 Greater Downtown Action Plan document.



News articles related to the vision of the Forth Junction Heritage Society:

News articles related to Calgary & Edmonton Railway / Canadian Pacific in Central Alberta:
       News article: Get the lead out - repair, repaint CPR bridge
(Red Deer Advocate Nov.2015)
       News article: Reflections of Ponoka: A road and a rail station is where it all began (Ponoka News Feb.2014)
       News article: Penhold man remembers day of the train
(Innisfail Province Dec.2013)
       News article: Wimborne comes alive again with new book
(Innisfail Province Nov.2013)
       News article: Arches mark influence of railroad on city
(Red Deer Advocate Oct.2013)
       News article: CP's heritage train rolls through region
(Mountain View Gazette Aug.2011)
       News article: Help add a little history to Arches project
(Red Deer Advocate Sep.2009)
       News article: A new face for the old station
(Red Deer Life July 1996)

News articles related to ACR/CPR Mintlaw bridge:
      
Commentary: Preservation Opportunity Not to be Lost
(Innisfail Province & Red Deer Advocate June 2015)
       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 articles related to Alberta Central Railway heritage:

       News article: Benalto train station gets funding
(Red Deer Advocate Nov.2015)
       News article: Benalto Train Station returned to hamlet after lengthy journey
(Sylvan Lake News May 2013)
       News article: Riders welcome train station home to Benalto
(Red Deer Advocate Apr.2013)
       News article: Benalto station move delayed (Red Deer Advocate Mar.2013)
       News article: Benalto train station to return home after 42-year absence
(Sylvan Lake News Feb.2013)
       News article: Former Benalto train station donated back to community (Red Deer Advocate Feb.2013)
       News article: Historic significance of concrete obelisk preserved in mural
(Red Deer Advocate Oct.2008)

News articles related to Canadian Northern / GTP /Canadian National Railway heritage:
       News article: Hanna society buys historic roundhouse
(Drumheller Mail Dec.2013)
       News article: Big plans for the Hanna roundhouse
(Drumheller Online Oct.2013)
       News article: Hanna Roundhouse celebrates new beginnings
(ECAReview Oct.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: Slag piles give Nordegg mine an historic edge
(Red Deer Advocate May 2012)
       Feature article: 6060 turns 66
(Red Deer Express Sept.2010)

News articles related to regional railway museums:
       News article: Railway Days still chugging along to success
(Wetaskiwin Times Aug.2013)
       News article: New exhibits call Historical Village home
(Innisfail Province May 2010)
       News article: 'Sleeper' village grand opening set
(Red Deer Advocate May 2010)
       News article: Alberta Central Train Museum celebrates 17th anniversary (Wetaskiwin Times June 2009)

News articles related to regional historic railway stations:
       News article: Benalto train station gets funding
(Red Deer Advocate Nov.2015)
       News article: Alberta railway stations get a new lease on life
(AgCanada Nov.2013)
       News article: Benalto Train Station returned to hamlet after lengthy journey
(Sylvan Lake News May 2013)
       News article: Riders welcome train station home to Benalto
(Red Deer Advocate Apr.2013)
       News article: Big Valley station banks on restored roof (Stettler Independent Apr.2013)
       News article: Benalto station move delayed (Red Deer Advocate Mar.2013)
       News article: Benalto train station to return home after 42-year absence
(Sylvan Lake News Feb.2013)
       News article: Former Benalto train station donated back to community (Red Deer Advocate Feb.2013)
       Blog: Big Valley Canadian Northern Station Celebrates 100 Years (RETROactive Sept.2012)
       News article: Historic train station relocated to Beiseker
(Rockyview Weekly July 2012)
       News article: A new face for the old station (Red Deer Life July 1996)

News articles related to regional railway heritage preservation:
       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: Track for historic railway tours likely to be done by late summer
(Red Deer Advocate June 2011)
       News article: Rail being laid for heritage line
(Red Deer Advocate 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: County heritage project a first for Alberta
(Red Deer Advocate Feb.2010)
       News article: Major funding will restore rail line to Donalda
(Stettler Independent Oct.2009)

News articles related to regional model and miniature railways:
       News article: Trains still roll for some
(Red Deer Advocate Nov.2012)
       News article: Back yard model railway track okayed
(Red Deer Advocate Aug.2012)
       News article: Stay busy, stay young: Fred Freschette (Red Deer Advocate Nov.2010)
       News article: A work in two golden ages: Ernie Beskowiney (Red Deer Advocate July 2010)
       News article: New exhibits call Historical Village home (Innisfail Province May 2010)
       News article: 'Sleeper' village grand opening set
(Red Deer Advocate May 2010)

News articles related to transit heritage:
       News article: Newest city ghost unveiled downtown
(Red Deer Express May 2012)
       News article: Ghost unveiled
(Red Deer Advocate May 2012)
       News article: Classic bus cruises city streets
(Red Deer Advocate June 2011)
       News article: Transit to retire last low-floor vehicle
(Red Deer Advocate Feb.2011)
       News article: Parkade named Sorensen Station
(Red Deer Express June 2010)
       News article: Downtown parkade to be named after transportation pioneer Gordon Sorensen                                                                                                                
(Red Deer Advocate June 2010)
       News article: Rare GM public bus saved by city bus man
(Red Deer Express Dec.2009)

News articles related to regional trail development including rail-trails:
      
Commentary: Preservation Opportunity Not to be Lost
(Innisfail Province & Red Deer Advocate June 2015)
       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: City council adopts river valley plan
(Red Deer Express July 2010)
       News article: Building trails to paradise (Red Deer Advocate March 2009)
       News article: Clearwater County calls on province for advice about trail (Red Deer Advocate April 2008)
       Editorial: On the trail of a worthy plan (Red Deer Advocate Sept.2005)

News articles related to historic downtown Red Deer redevelopment
(the original vision of the Forth Junction Heritage Society included an attraction in the new downtown
Riverlands but this vision was modified to have one destination close to the city and active rail line):

       Commentary: The Greater Downtown Action Plan progress and potential (Red Deer Express May 2013)
       News article: Riverlands development ready for debate
(Red Deer Advocate Sep.2011)
       News article: Railyards: Open house on a 20-year plan for downtown
(Red Deer Advocate June 2011)
       News article: Riverlands: Strong turnout for open house
(Red Deer Advocate March 2011)
       Commentary: Red Deer could use more bold visionary landmark designers
(Red Deer Express Sep.2010)
       News article: Paths to change (Rotary Recreation Park) (Red Deer Advocate Aug.2010)
       Editorial: Time for downtown vision
(Red Deer Advocate July 2010)
       News article: Big expectations for downtown Red Deer (Red Deer Advocate June 2009)
       News article: Chance of a lifetime (Red Deer Advocate Jan.2009)
       Editorial: No San Antonio but hope left for Big Wow (Red Deer Express Nov.2008)
       News article: Canal plan jettisoned (Red Deer Express Nov.2008)
       News article: Red Deer - Alberta's next great city (Red Deer Express July 2008)

News articles related to high speed rail
(Forth Junction supports the concept of a future rapid passenger rail service connecting major destinations as efficient and enviro-friendly but is not directly advocating for any specific high speed rail proposal):

       News article: Talk of high-speed rail line picking up steam?
(Red Deer Advocate Dec.2013)
       News article: City touting high-speed rail stop at downtown station
(Red Deer Advocate Jan.2013)
       News article: Fast-tracking bullet train a ticket to nowhere
(Red Deer Advocate Dec.2011)
       Commentary: Steam good alternative for high-speed rail link
(Red Deer Advocate Apr.2011)
       News article: Business officials laud rail proposals
(Red Deer Advocate Apr.2011)
       News article: Chamber pressing high-speed rail plan
(Red Deer Advocate Jan.2011)
       Editorial: Train's future needs path
(Red Deer Advocate Nov.2010)
       News article: Project creates issues for rural residents
(Red Deer Advocate Nov.2010)
       Editorial: High speed rail back on
(Red Deer Advocate July 2010)
       News article: Rail plan returns
(Red Deer Advocate July 2010)
       News article: Get moving on high-speed rail link: expert
(Red Deer Advocate June 2010)
       News article: Rural groups want high-speed rail study
(Red Deer Advocate March 2010)
       News article: Political will lags behind train debate
(Red Deer Advocate Oct.2009)
       News article: Province offers update on high speed rail (Red Deer Express July 2009)
       News article: Company pushes for high speed rail (Red Deer Express April 2008)
        
News article: Rail group projects service in five years (Red Deer Advocate April 2008)


Historian Michael Dawe articles related to transportation history in Central Alberta
 
 

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