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
Daniel B. Craig
Red Deer County
June 16, 2015, Letter to the Editor - Red Deer Advocate (Paul
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
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.
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
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
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.)
17, 2012, Mountain View
Gazette (Sylvia Cole) Red Deer County
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
The study identified what repairs are necessary to allow for
pedestrians and bicycle traffic and stakeholder and landowners' issues
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
Eligible groups and organizations include non-profits, local
government organizations, local economic development organizations and
April 11, 2012, Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley)
County council looks at bridge
as tourist attraction
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
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
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
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)
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
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
Feb. 3, 2011, Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Even a heavy snow load could cause the bridge to move further out of
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
3, 2010, Red Deer Express (Michael
Mintlaw Bridge essential to
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
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
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
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
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
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
Red Deer County has agreed
to purchase the Mintlaw Bridge from the Canadian Pacific Railway for
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
"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
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
In the same accident, Austin Aunn was critically injured, but
In 1911, no work commenced on the bridge as ACR was short of
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
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
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.