Preservation opportunity should not be lost
reprinted from Innisfail
Province June 23, 2015
Creating trail link to rail bridge an
opportunity not to be lost
reprinted from Red Deer
Advocate June 16, 2015
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
(Red Deer Advocate Photo 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 Photo 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.)
Letter to the Editor
Mintlaw Bridge is worth preserving
reprinted from Innisfail
Province July 7, 2015
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
CARTS Eyeing Mintlaw Bridge for
Trans Canada Trail Leg Between Red Deer & Springbrook
reprinted from Sunny 94 FM
website July 7, 2015
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.
News articles related to ACR/CPR Mintlaw bridge:
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
(Red Deer Advocate Feb.2011)
News article: RD County antes up for Mintlaw
(Mountain View Gazette Nov.2010)
News article: Bridging gap between history and
(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)
article: Historic significance of concrete obelisk preserved in
mural (Red Deer Advocate Oct.2008)
Alberta Central Railway (CPR)
- Red Deer to Rocky
ACR/CPR Mintlaw Steel Trestle
Railway Bridges of Central Alberta
Alberta's Largest Railway Bridges
Largest Railway Bridges of Western Canada
Rails to Trails
Lake Linear Park Proposal
Michael Dawe articles related to Alberta Central
Railway / CPR ACR branch heritage
look back at the Alberta Central Railway
(Red Deer Express Sept.2014)
1910 visit huge event for city
(Red Deer Express August 2010)
Mintlaw Bridge essential to region's railroad
(Red Deer Express March 2010)
Sir Wilfrid Laurier visited Red Deer
(Red Deer Advocate May 2010)
The origins of
Alberta Central Rail pillar
(Red Deer Express April 2008)
Alberta Central Railway helped open region
(Red Deer Advocate Special March 2007)
John T. Moore
(Red Deer Express Feb.2003)