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July 7, 2015, Radio News Broadcast - Sunny 94 FM website

CARTS Eyeing Mintlaw Bridge for Trans Canada Trail Leg Between Red Deer & Springbrook  
   Central Alberta Regional Trails Society is hoping both the County and City of Red Deer will partner with them to make a leg of the Trans Canada Trail System a reality between Red Deer and Springbrook.
   The Society has studied routes for the trail, with 4 options identified. CARTS President Paul Pettypiece says they are attracted to the Mintlaw Bridge option, which brings with it great potential for tourism "the Mintlaw Bridge is a 21 hundred foot long steel trestle that crosses the Red Deer River just southwest of Red Deer. It's the longest abandoned railway bridge in western Canada; it would make a perfect trail; in fact it's probably the only real useful purpose for the structure, but it's the longest of the 4 options and therefore the costliest".
   Pettypiece says the bridge itself needs a fair amount of work to make it safe for pedestrian and cyclist use. He anticipates it would cost several million dollars to complete the Red Deer to Springbrook leg of the trail, with Trans Canada Trail and Alberta TrailNet prepared to fund 50% of the project.

July 7, 2015, Letter to the Editor - Innisfail Province (Daniel B. Craig)
Mintlaw Bridge is worth preserving
   I read Paul Pettypiece's commentary in the June 23 Innisfail Province. I wanted to write a letter to support Forth Junction's efforts to preserve and give new life to the Mintlaw Bridge.
   I think restoring the Mintlaw trestle and converting it to a trail would be really worthwhile.
   The Mintlaw viaduct is a historical structure that has been abandoned for the last 32 years. It is a spectacular structure with an interesting story. Ever since I was two years old I've really liked trains and I think the Mintlaw trestle would be a valuable historical site for everyone to see. Actually, I know many people who really like trains and would be excited to cross the trestle when it's restored.
   Last summer my family and I went to Prince Edward Island where they have a historical trail along the Canadian National rail line, which was abandoned in 1989. It is called the Confederation trail system.
   This is PEI's contribution to the Trans Canada Trail. We spent seven days biking along and exploring the trail.
I especially enjoyed the Elmira railway museum at the eastern point of the trail and the Montreal Locomotive Works engine number CN 1762 in Kensington. The trail had many signs to describe the historical features along the way.
   I think restoring the Mintlaw viaduct and adding it to Alberta's contribution to the Trans Canada Trail would be really cool for more than just rail fans.
   I think bicyclists, hikers and people interested in history would enjoy it too. Starting or ending a marathon over it would be pretty neat.

   Daniel B. Craig
   Red Deer County  
June 16, 2015, Letter to the Editor - Red Deer Advocate (Paul Pettypiece)

Creating trail link to rail bridge an
opportunity not to be lost
June 23, 2015, Commentary - Innisfail Province (Paul Pettypiece)
Preservation opportunity should not be lost
ACR Mintlaw bridge - Pettypiece photo   There are times in our history when the stars line up to create an unusual opportunity to do something special that future generations will cherish. This is one of those times.
   A few years ago, Red Deer County was gifted for $1 the relatively unknown, historic 644-metre-long Alberta Central Railway steel trestle across the Red Deer River just a few kilometres southwest of Red Deer along with the right of way from Hwy 2A to Benalto.
   Since then, the County has thankfully invested several hundred thousand dollars to maintain its integrity as a significant historic resource. After all, it's the longest abandoned railway bridge of its type, not only in Central Alberta, but in Western Canada. Only two other bridges of its type are still actively used by the two major railways, both in Alberta.
ACR Mintlaw trestle - Pettypiece photo   Furthermore, this bridge (built by a local railway company with dreams of interprovincial line through Red Deer) represents the opening up of the land west of the Red Deer River for settlement, development and reaching world markets. It symbolizes the entrepreneurship and work ethic of early settlers to the region.
   The dilemma is what practical use is there for this important historical structure that justifies the cost of maintaining it as a county-owned historic icon?
   There really is only one possible use -- as part of a regional or national trail network that exposes this important structure to the public and creates an active living resource that would attract people to this region.
   This is where the rare opportunity comes in.
   The Trans Canada Trail Foundation is looking to finalize its route in Central Alberta and is prepared to fund up to 50 per cent of the cost of renovating the structure for pedestrian and bicycle use. In addition, there is likely to be significant funding available for special projects to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Canada in 2017, although one significant funding opportunity has already been lost, the Canada 150 grant.
   Other significant funding is likely to be available from the province for active living, heritage, rural development and tourism projects.
   And let's not rule out significant corporate and individual funding for such a high-profile project.
   But the window of opportunity is brief. Trans Canada Trail Foundation funds, allocated in Alberta by Alberta TrailNet, will go to projects most likely to be completed, or at least started, by 2017. However, the decisions on those allocations are likely to be made by the end of this year, if not sooner.
   Let's not kid ourselves -- repurposing this bridge and the linear park approaches will be a multi-million dollar project and there are some challenges to overcome in order to proceed, including addressing the legitimate concerns of adjoining landowners. But it is unlikely that this amount of non-local funding will be available again in the foreseeable future, keeping in mind that Albertans have been among the largest contributors to the Trans Canada Trail.
   If Red Deer County and the City of Red Deer (who had both lobbied in the late 1990s to bring the TCT to Central Alberta) can work together to commit to this project (one of four possible routings between Red Deer and Springbrook), this landmark could become a major Canadian tourist attractor (adding further opportunities for both county and city residents).
   With the support of the Towns of Sylvan Lake, Penhold and Innisfail, this regional treasure and its linkages to those communities will be a lasting legacy to be enjoyed by generations to come.
   Let's not lose this opportunity. If you think this project is worthwhile, please let your municipal councillors know.
- Paul Pettypiece, President, Central Alberta Regional Trails Society (CARTS), Springbrook
Photos - (Red Deer Advocate provided by Paul Pettypiece (upper) - The historic 644-metre-long Central Alberta Railway steel trestle across the Red Deer River could be the centrepiece of a new trail.
Innisfail Province provided by Paul Pettypiece (lower)- The Mintlaw steel trestle is the longest abandoned railway bridge of its type, not only in Central Alberta, but in Western Canada.)


April 17, 2012, Mountain View Gazette (Sylvia Cole)

Red Deer County seeks partners
to afford bridge access

   Future work on the Mintlaw Bridge will require funding from other associations, council heard last Tuesday.
   The bridge, purchased by Red Deer County for $1, has since had $205,000 invested in it for rehabilitation work while new estimates peg opening it up to pedestrian traffic as much as $3.2 million.
   Currently no one is allowed on or across the bridge which would link to part of a regional trail system connecting from Highway 2A to Benalto.
   During the April 10 regular council meeting, Mike Room with RC Strategies reported to council about a recent Public Access and Preservation Strategy.
   The study identified what repairs are necessary to allow for pedestrians and bicycle traffic and stakeholder and landowners' issues and concerns.
   While landowners' concerns were split -- 14 of 38 landowners said they wanted to see public access, 13 said no and 11 said they were unsure -- nine out of nine organizations said there should be access to and across the bridge.
   The cost, however, to allow access to and across the bridge is estimated between $2.7 and $3.2 million with an estimated annual operating and maintenance cost of $225,000 to $250,000.
   Access across the bridge was one of four potential options considered. The other options included disallow access, allow access to a viewpoint and the third, access just onto the bridge.
   While the study suggests access across would be best for the long term, allowing for a trail to attract tourists and the general public, it couldn't be done without assistance from other groups.
   Jo-Ann Symington, community services manager, explained to council that the county is accepting unsolicited proposals from potential partner groups interested in helping with the capital and operating costs.
   Eligible groups and organizations include non-profits, local government organizations, local economic development organizations and corporate organizations.

April 11, 2012, Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley)
County council looks at bridge
as tourist attraction

Mintlaw Bridge - Fiedler photo   A former rail bridge across the Red Deer River is well suited as a scenic walkway, but the millions of dollars to make it happen must come from elsewhere, Red Deer County council agreed on Tuesday.
   Council voted in favour of accepting the recommendation of consultants to convert the former Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. span into a tourist attraction and link to walking trails, complete with viewing platforms and parking areas.
   The cost of upgrading the century-old bridge, which is about six km southwest of Red Deer, is estimated at $2.7 million to $3.2 million. Annual maintenance costs could range up to $250,000.
   At those prices, the county is not willing to go ahead with any upgrades without significant outside investment and proposals from groups willing to partner with the municipality, says a report from county staff. In anticipation of proposals, county administration is setting up a process to review them.
   Councillor Penny Archibald said she received calls from residents in the immediate vicinity concerned about the prospect of having large numbers of walkers drawn to the area. However, they agreed they had been given a chance to voice their misgivings during the consultation process and Archibald made the motion to accept the bridge study for information.
   Jo-Ann Symington, the county's community services manager, said the municipality will not solicit proposals for the bridge. But in anticipation of groups coming forward with ideas, a system will be set up to review submissions, which must be from legally established organizations.
   Construction on the bridge began in 1911 and the 633-metre span 33 metres above the river was finished the following year. It is the second longest railway bridge in Alberta, after one in Lethbridge.*
   The bridge saw its last train in 1988 and was sold to the county for $1 in 2009. Last year, the county spent about $123,000 replacing rotting wooden supports. In all, about $200,000 has been spent on preserving the bridge, which has been disconnected from the banks on each side as a safety precaution.
   Central Alberta Regional Trails Society vice-president Paul Pettypiece was encouraged that council had made a long-term commitment to making the bridge part of a regional trail system.
   "Obviously, I'd like to see it in the much shorter term," said Pettypiece.
   A couple of area groups plan to make proposals to "move it along a little faster," he said. "Ultimately, it will be council's decision and we will have to work with that."
   Pettypiece expressed optimism that the will and potential for funding were available to get the project moving.
Photo: Red Deer County council will turn the Mintlaw Bridge into a tourist attraction, but not until a group steps forward to help with the multi-million-dollar cost of its refurbishment.
Photo by Randy Fiedler, Red Deer Advocate
* Note: A correction in the April 14 edition of the Advocate states: "A story on the Mintlaw Bridge on A2 in the April 11 Advocate contains incorrect information. The bridge is the second longest CPR steel trestle bridge in Western Canada."

Feb. 7, 2012, Mountain View Gazette (Sylvia Cole)
Plans for Mintlaw Bridge waiting
on public feedback
   Red Deer County is still collecting feedback from the public to determine what to do with a 100-year-old bridge purchased by council in 2010.
   Purchased for $1, the county has since invested $205,000 for rehabilitation work on the Mintlaw Bridge, built originally for the Alberta Central Railway that later became part of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
   A public open house was held Jan. 25 to garner feedback on the county's draft bridge preservation and public access strategy. About 70 people turned out for the event, said Jo-Ann Symington, community services manager at Red Deer County.
   "There was a mix of positive and negative feedback," said Symington, adding that there were concerns from adjacent landowners.
   The draft presented to the public included feedback from 55 landowners in the area. Of those who responded, 34 per cent didn't want the public to have access to the bridge, citing concerns over loss of privacy, trespassing, costs to the county, impacts on wildlife and safety of users.
   Of the remaining neighbours, opinions were divided with 37 per cent wanting to see public access become available and 29 per cent uncertain.
   Other consultations with various groups such as the Waskasoo Environmental Education Society and the Forth Junction Heritage Society were all in favour of public access by foot or bicycle and suggested signage, fencing and garbage receptacles as possible solutions to some of the neighbours' concerns.
   Symington said based on feedback from these consultations as well as other workshops, the long-term objective is to allow public access to, on and across the bridge.
   She added, however, that public access to the bridge wouldn't become available any time in the "foreseeable future," saying final approval has yet to be obtained from council and costs to maintain the bridge would have to be shared in some sort of partnership.
   The estimated cost for annual operating and maintenance sits at $40,000 but drives up to $250,000 a year if the public is allowed access. As well, a one-time $2.7-million capital cost outlay would be needed for a parking lot and bridge connection on the west side. Two other possibilities, allowing access to a viewing point or allowing access on the bridge only from the east, were also presented in the draft.
   Because of the costs, no further development or public access will occur on the site until a partnership is in place, said Symington, something that would be looked into more seriously once the draft is approved.
   Meanwhile, the public is asked to continue offering its feedback until Feb. 15 via an online or printable survey found at

May 17, 2011, Mountain View Gazette (Johnnie Bachusky)
Opposition comes forward to
Mintlaw Bridge preservation

   Red Deer County has hired a consultant to study the possible future uses for the historically significant Mintlaw trestle bridge -- but one of the municipality's most famous citizens is dead set against making the ancient structure a promoted public attraction for a new park area.
   "I'm still opposed to making it a public park. It's not set up to be a recreation park," said Jack Donald, whose home is literally situated in the shadow of the bridge, which was for many years unused and forgotten.
   "The other thing is that the bridge is inherently dangerous," added Donald, founder of Parkland Income Trust, and now president and chief executive officer of Parkland Properties Ltd. "Somebody is going to get hurt or even killed."
   Last month, the county hired RC Strategies, an Edmonton consultant company, to gather stakeholder and landowner input on the bridge's long-term preservation, its possible future uses and whether there should be public access from both its east and west entry points.
   The study will cost the county $50,000 and will be finished by the end of the year.
   Jo-Ann Symington, the county's community services manager, said the process will include discussions with all interest groups, including historical societies, trail groups and property owners in the area, including the Donald family.
   "This is an opportunity for the public to comment. They (historical and trail societies) view the bridge as an important historical investment, and now that we have acquired it we want to find out its best future use. As we move through this process that will be determined," said Symington.
   In 2009 the county purchased the bridge for $1. Built in 1912, the structure, located seven kilometres southwest of Red Deer, was originally owned by the Alberta Central Railway, and later, the Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. With a span of 633 metres across the Red Deer River and towering 33 metres above the waterway below, the railway bridge is the second longest of its kind in Alberta, after the one in Lethbridge. Considered one of Central Alberta's few remaining relics to the Age of Steam, the last train to cross the bridge was in 1981.
   Two months ago the county spent $122,800 to prop up the west end of the bridge, which was sagging under the crushing weight of steel girders from above and the ongoing deterioration of decades-old timber supports. It is estimated that a further $2 million of work still needs to be done on the bridge to make it user-friendly for the public. Many years ago several metres at both ends of the bridge were removed to ensure visitor safety, particularly for the many young people who frequent the site.
   For now, however, the county wants to find out how the antique structure can fit in with the many ideas that have recently come to public attention.
   There have been suggestions the bridge could be an integral part of a trail system between the City of Red Deer and Sylvan Lake for hikers, walkers and cyclists.
   The structure is also considered an important component for the ambitions of the Forth Junction Heritage Society, a group dedicated to preserving and promoting the region's transportation history and to making Central Alberta a world-class heritage destination.
   "The bridge definitely is a vital piece of heritage. It and the cement pillar on Taylor Drive (in Red Deer) are the only things left from the Alberta Central Railway," said Paul Pettypiece, the society's president. "In fact many people don't even know where the bridge is."
   Pettypiece said the concerns of landowners in the area of the bridge will have to be addressed before any action plan on future use is implemented.
   Meanwhile, Donald wonders why the county has taken on such a large project that could come at great expense to ratepayers when a significant benefit will be for citizens of the City of Red Deer, which has not committed any resources or funds to any plans and processes to have the bridge preserved.
   "Many people don't seem to understand the implications of this," said Donald, noting the bridge has a serious rust problem and is in dire need of sandblasting and new paint. "The county has no budget in place for things like fencing, or for providing all the things people need, like toilets and garbage cans and telephones. You have to look after these things.
   "I don't think proper preparations have been made."

March 8, 2011, Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley)
Reinforcing our history

   For nearly a century the Mintlaw Bridge has loomed over the Red Deer River, the coal black trestle one of our few remaining connections to the age of steam.
   Besides being an impressive piece of railway engineering, the former Alberta Central Railway, and later, Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. span is a historical treasure and the second longest bridge of its kind in Alberta.
   But time and the elements had taken their toll, and that's what brought a team of consultants and construction specialists to the picturesque river valley about six km southwest of Red Deer on Monday. Their job was to prop up the west end of the bridge, where decades-old timber supports were being slowly crushed under the weight of the steel girders above.

   A temporary support was put in place until a permanent steel pier can be slipped under the bridge later this month to eliminate a dangerous sag that had developed.
   Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood came to watch as a crane from Timcon Construction (1988) Ltd. hoisted the bridge up a few centimetres so it could be placed on the new supports.
   There is no doubt in Wood's mind that it was worth saving the bridge, which was sold to the county for $1 in 2009.
   "You're kind of in awe when you stand up on the other end and see how long this structure is. It's amazing.
   "I can see this was quite a structure in its day when it was built -- and it still is."
   The view from the end of the bridge is impressive. The span covers 633 metres and towers 33 metres above the frozen river below. Only a railway bridge in Lethbridge is longer.
   "It's definitely part of our heritage," said Wood.
   The future of the bridge is undecided. The repair bill for Monday's work came in at $122,800. But it would cost an estimated $2 million to provide a new deck, railings, pier repairs and reconnect the two ends to the banks. A few metres of the bridge was removed many years ago as a safety measure.
   "At this point in time, council has not made a determination (on the future) of this bridge, but felt it was very important to preserve this historical site," said the mayor.
   The bridge and an associated right of way is owned by the county. Some in the public would like to see the former railway line become a walking and cycling path. But the county will go to the public for input before considering such an ambitious trail project.
   Consultant Paul Carrier didn't hide his enthusiasm for the project, which involved researching original engineering drawings and other documents. His team at Edmonton-based CIMA+ even tracked down a document signed by Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier approving the original railway line, which at that time was for the Alberta Central Railway.
   "We were excited -- just the sheer history of this project," said Carrier of their reaction to getting the call to look at the bridge.
   Construction on the bridge began in 1911 and was finished a year later. The pier that had rotted and its concrete base do not appear to be original, but are likely at least 50 years old.
   The last train rolled across the bridge in 1981 and little was done to maintain it in the following years.
   Timcon project manager Stan Cappis said besides the pier problems, the bridge has held up well over the decades.
   "Apparently, it's in really good condition. There was a little bit of creaking when we lifted it up, but that was to be expected.
   "Considering it's close to 100 years old, there was six mm difference between one side and the other. So it's very rigid still."
   The county is considering what other repairs may be useful. The east pier may also eventually have to be replaced but it has not rotted as badly.

Feb. 3, 2011, Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley)
Repairs planned for crumbling CPR bridge 
Work will begin before the spring thaw to repair a near-century-old rail bridge in Red Deer County.
   A $121,800 contract to repair a rotting support pier on the former Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. span across the Red Deer River has been awarded to Timcon Construction (1988) Ltd., said Evan Bedford, the county's engineering co-ordinator.
   The construction firm wants to begin work to replace the pier while the ground is still frozen and can support heavy equipment, said Bedford.
   It will not be the usual construction project. The firm must lift a key supporting girder that has settled over time, crushing the wooden supports below it. The weight of the bridge on the crumbling support pier has caused an ominous 60-cm sag in the historic bridge about eight km southwest of Red Deer.
   Bedford said an inspection showed the giant 30-cm-square wooden supports had over the decades been slowly crushed by the steel girder above.
   Crews will first lift the sagging support girder and shore it up with temporary shims. The old pier will be removed and a new steel one slipped into place by crane and the girder lowered onto it.
   "As much as possible, we've tried to get the new structure to resemble the rest of the old trestles," he said.
   The last train to cross the so-called Mintlaw Bridge rumbled 33 metres above the river in 1981. As a safety precaution, the two ends of the bridge were later removed to stop people from walking across.
   Last November, county council approved spending up to $350,000 to repair the bridge. Since the contract to undertake the most pressing repairs came in lower than expected, county staff are now reviewing whether additional work can be undertaken.
   Restoration efforts will focus on the west end for now. A similar east pier is in better shape, as are three smaller piers.
   "Right now, our main goal is just to get that wooden structure replaced that's being crushed because it's more of an emergency matter."
   There were fears that if some work wasn't done on the bridge soon, it would have to be scrapped and a piece of the area's rail history would be lost forever.

Nov. 16, 2010, Mountain View Gazette (Sylvia Cole)
RD County antes up for Mintlaw Bridge repairs
Red Deer County council approved spending $350,000 to rehabilitate the west end of the Mintlaw Bridge after a report said the wooden structure is slowly rotting and piers are beginning to collapse.
   The county purchased the bridge from Canadian Pacific Railway for $1 last December. A bridge valuation report shows the girder on the west has sunk two feet.
   Engineers speculate if the girder falls any further it may put enough pressure on the rest of the structure to make the entire bridge a writeoff, engineering coordinator Evan Bedford reported to council last Tuesday. He warned a heavy snowfall could be enough to trigger the collapse.
   "I was out on the weekend and it is quite amazing how much that has crumpled away," Div. 6 Coun. George Gehrke said at the meeting. "It's very sad to think we could possibly lose it because I think it has a great benefit historically and everything else ... I think we have to do our due diligence and retain what we have," Gehrke said.
   Construction will begin in the winter when access routes are frozen and workers will replace the wood pier with steel trusses. The wood on the east end of the bridge is also rotting, but has only sunk a couple of inches and Bedford said any rehabilitation can wait for another year.
   The money will come from the 2010 contingency budget for rehabilitation work. An estimated $62,000 is needed for the engineering and another $250,000 for the work.
   "We're excited the county has agreed to pay for keeping the bridge from collapsing, basically," said the president of Forth Junction Historical Society, Paul Pettypiece, who attended council Tuesday.
   He said the bridge, that spans the Red Deer River southwest of the City of Red Deer, has the potential to become a major tourist attraction if rehabilitated.
   "The last train on there was around 1981 and there's been virtually no maintenance since. Not only does the bridge have to get up to standard, it has to be made safe for pedestrian and bicycle traffic," he said.
   More than $2 million is needed to bring the 98-year-old bridge to a stage suitable for pedestrian and bicycle traffic. New decks, railing and pier repair are needed before that would happen but no decisions have been made for that yet.

Nov. 10, 2010, Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley)

Rotting bridge will undergo $350,000 repair   
Bridging gap between history and disrepair

Red Deer County moves to repair historic train trestle with $350,000; Bridge could eventually be part of trail network
Mintlaw Bridge - Fiedler photo   A rotting historic bridge in Red Deer County will get a repair job.
   County council unanimously approved spending up to $350,000 on the 98-year-old Mintlaw Bridge, a former Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. span across the Red Deer River, about eight km southwest of the City of Red Deer.
   Evan Bedford, the county's engineering co-ordinator, said on Tuesday that the east and west approach piers on the bridge are rotting away. Engineers estimate the west girder sections of the bridge have sunk about 60 cm. There is a concern that if the sag continues, enough pressure could be put on the structure to make the bridge a writeoff.
   Even a heavy snow load could cause the bridge to move further out of alignment.
   Engineers are recommending that the wooden pier that is slowly collapsing be replaced with a steel version. The work would be done this winter when access routes are frozen, Bedford said.
   The east end of the bridge is not as badly damaged and could be repaired at a later date.
   The cost of fixing the bridge was estimated at $250,000 for the actual repairs and $62,000 for engineering work. To allow for additional costs, staff recommended $350,000 be allocated from the county's contingency budget.
   The county bought the bridge from CPR in December 2009 for $1 and assumed responsibility for it.
   Councillor George Gehrke has recently checked out the bridge and was amazed at how much has crumbled away.
   "It's very sad to think we could possibly lose this," he said. Maintaining the bridge would preserve a historical resource and allow it to be connected to a trail system later.
   The cost of updating the bridge enough to allow cyclists and pedestrians to use it safely is estimated at $2.1 million. That would provide a new deck, railings, pier repairs and new spans at each end to reconnect the bridge to the banks on either side. No decision has been made on that work.
   Forth Junction Heritage Society president Paul Pettypiece attended the council meeting and came away pleased.
   "Of course, I'm thrilled. Anything that helps preserve that bridge is good by me."
   It's not surprising that some upkeep is needed on the bridge, he said. "The last train was in 1981, which means there's been virtually no maintenance on that bridge since then."
   The society is dedicated to preserving Central Alberta's rail and transportation heritage. The group has proposed a children's theme park and transportation (museum) in Red Deer's Riverlands area. It (is) also looking at creating another attraction somewhere in the county featuring replicas of historic rail stations and a railway park, among other features.
Photo: Sam, left, and Bear, dogs owned by a neighbouring acreage owner, play in the Red Deer River beneath the Mintlaw Bridge's west side Tuesday.
Photo by Randy Fiedler, Red Deer Advocate

March 3, 2010, Red Deer Express (Michael Dawe)
Mintlaw Bridge essential to region's
railroad heritage

ACR Mintlaw trestle under construction 1911   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.
Photo: PIONEER PROJECT - Alberta Central/Mintlaw railway bridge under construction in 1911.
Photo courtesy of the Red Deer and District Archives

Dec. 30, 2009, Red Deer Express (Erin Fawcett)
County buys historic railway bridge
Mintlaw Bridge - Bachusky photo   Red Deer County has agreed to purchase the Mintlaw Bridge from the Canadian Pacific Railway for $1.
   The bridge, which spans 2,112 feet across the Red Deer River valley with the trestles rising 110 feet above the main pier, is located about 7 kms southwest of the City of Red Deer.
   The bridge is the second longest railway bridge in Alberta.* The only other bridge that is larger is located in Lethbridge.*
   "If we didn't buy this bridge then it would have probably gone to the private sector and could have been torn down," said Mayor Earl Kinsella.
   "We would have never been able to get this bridge back if we wouldn't have bought it. It's an asset to use and will be used somehow in the future."
   As part of the County's purchase, they must supply a tax receipt to CPR for the fair market value of the bridge which has been calculated at $8.8 million.
   The Mintlaw Bridge, which was named after the nearby former rail station grounds, has been identified as a heritage site within Red Deer County and meets the prescribed criteria for significance and integrity.
   The bridge is significant for its association with the Alberta Central Railway (ACR), for its engineering and construction, and for its status as an important landmark in Red Deer County.
   The bridge site was picked in 1910. The following winter, gravel for the piers was hauled in by local farmers and construction on the structure began.
   Two men died while working on the Mintlaw Bridge. Hewson Anderson, a local 20-year-old man, fell off the structure around the centre pier and was swept under the ice. In 1912, Edward Garrett was killed on his second day of work. One of the temporary trusses gave way and he received a fatal concussion. In the same accident, Austin Aunn was critically injured, but survived.
   In 1911, no work commenced on the bridge as ACR was short of funding. The following year, CPR took over the ACR. By July the bridge construction had reached the middle of the river and it was completed that fall.
   Meanwhile, Kinsella said there are no immediate plans as to what County council will decide to use the bridge for.
   "The bridge will go into our inventory and it's up to a future council what they want to do with it," said Kinsella.
   "It could be a trail someday, who knows. It could possibly be very useful in the future. There are a lot of possibilities."
   In addition to purchasing the Mintlaw Bridge, Red Deer County also purchased the abandoned rail line out to the County boundary.
   "It's not every day that you have the chance to purchase a right-of-way," said Kinsella. "This opportunity came up and we took it."
* Webmaster Note: The Mintlaw Bridge is actually the fifth longest railway bridge in Alberta but the second longest CPR steel trestle railway bridge and the longest railway bridge in Central Alberta.
Photo by Johnnie Bachusky, Red Deer Express

Dec. 23, 2009, Red Deer Advocate (Brenda Kossowan)
County buys a bridge for a buck
Old CPR Trestle over Red Deer River a Heritage Site
Mintlaw Bridge - Fiedler photo   An enormous relic from what used to be the Alberta Central Railway is set to get a new owner.
   Located just off of the C&E Trail southwest of Red Deer, the Mintlaw Bridge spans the Red Deer River adjacent to acreage subdivisions west of Springbrook and the Red Deer Regional Airport.
   On Tuesday, Red Deer County council agreed unanimously to buy the 97-year-old bridge for $1 and issue a tax receipt for $8.8 million to its current owner, Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd.
   The purchase does not include railway right-of-way leading to the bridge, which is valued at $8.8 million in its current state and has an estimated lifespan of 80 years.
   While the trestle still stands and the bridge deck remains intact, the rails have been gone for a number of years.
   In presenting CPR's offer to council, assistant county manager Rick Henderson said the county would acquire a valuable asset that has already been recognized as a heritage site with significance and integrity.
   The county has been given an inspection report that details repairs needed, estimating that it would cost $2.1 million.
   The report estimates that building a replacement, without rails, would cost $24.6 million.
   Mayor Earl Kinsella said it will be up to a future council to decide what to do with the bridge.

Photo: A pair of horses run through a pasture below the Mintlaw Bridge about 10 km southwest of the city Tuesday; Red Deer County has purchased Alberta's second longest railway bridge* from CP Rail.
Photo by Randy Fiedler, Red Deer Advocate
* Webmaster Note: The Mintlaw Bridge is actually the fifth longest railway bridge in Alberta but the second longest CPR steel trestle railway bridge and the longest railway bridge in Central Alberta.

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