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  Mintlaw trestle deck 1985

Forth Junction Project
Railway Bridges
of Central Alberta

 
Forth Junction Project Vision Sharing Historical Perspective Ground Transportation
Heritage Preservation
Forth Junction
Heritage Society


Railway Bridges are sometimes spectacular but always functional
 

Because timber was so plentiful in Western Canada, most of the first railway bridges in Central Alberta were made of wood. Some trestles were spectacular in their length and height, some as long as 4,000 feet. As the railways became more established, they either filled the ends of the bridges with earth or replaced the wood with steel. Some bridges were redesigned after being washed out or damaged by ice jams in the spring.


Significant Bridges of the Calgary and Edmonton Railway (CPR)
 
CPR wood river bridge Red Deer 1891-1909Red Deer River at Red Deer -
 
During the winter of 1890-91, a sturdy 3-span timber truss railway bridge was built across the Red Deer River near the Leonard Gaetz homestead (the new Red Deer townsite negotiated between Gaetz and James Ross). Some years, it served as a traffic bridge when the traffic bridge washed out in the spring.
 
historic CPR bridge Red Deer 1909-1990In 1908, a new steel bridge was under construction consisting of two 150 ft. steel truss spans to replace the wooden structure. A partially earth-filled modified wood trestle spanned the flat on the north side of the river. It opened in 1909.
CPR bridge Red Deer now used as trail
In 1991, the bridge was abandoned after the rail yards were relocated to the west side of the city. The CPR was planning to remove the structure but some dedicated citizens arranged to have the bridge preserved and declared a historic resource. It later became part of the Waskaoo Park and Trans Canada Trail systems.
 
Red Deer Road Overpasses - The 45th Street overpass was built in 1965 and removed after the relocation of the railyards in 1992 as part of the Taylor Drive corridor project. Similarly, a bridge over 67 Street in North Red Deer was demolished.

ACR Overpass (see Alberta Central Railway below)
 
Canadian Pacific Red Deer River bridge west of Hwy 2Red Deer River west of Highway 2 - A new crossing of the Red Deer River was constructed west of the city in 1990 as part of the relocation of the railyards from downtown to the northwest sector that was relatively undeveloped at the time. The relocation also necessitated tunnels under Highway 2 and road overpasses at 32 Street, 67 Street and Edgar Drive. A few years later, another overpass was built on Taylor Drive.
CP rail bridge across Blindman River

Blindman River near Blackfalds - The CPR's crossing of the Blindman River was much less spectacular than the Canadian Northern Western Railway's location. The CPR was able to find a relatively gentle grade in and out of the valley.

see Calgary & Edmonton Railway at Red Deer

Alberta Central Railway
(CPR Alberta Central subdivision - abandoned)

 
ACR piers next to CPR Red Deer 1985Red Deer Over Waskasoo Creek and Calgary & Edmonton Railway - In 1911, the Red Deer-based Alberta Central Railway, with a vision of becoming part of a transcontinental system, built two bridge structures in Red Deer. One crossed the CPR and Waskasoo Creek north of present day 32 Street. Shortly after the CPR took over operations of the ACR, having no interest in extending the originally planned eastern leg of the railway, the three spans were removed but the two concrete piers remained until the construction of Taylor Drive in 1991 when one was demolished.

Piper Creek at Red Deer - To the east, the ACR constructed a wooden trestle across Piper Creek (through the present day Kin Kanyon). The CPR removed it in 1917.   
 
Mintlaw ACR/CPR steel trestleRed Deer River at Mintlaw - In 1911, farther southwest, the railway started construction of a grand steel trestle across the Red Deer River, the second longest CPR bridge of its kind in Alberta (second only to the one in Lethbridge). The bridge, 2,112 ft. long and 110 ft. high, was completed in the fall of 1912. The steel structure consists of 15-75' spans with alternating 15-45' spans and 2-150' truss spans across the river. At each end there are short wood trestle spans and abutments. The last train ran in 1981 and was abandoned in 1983. Red Deer County purchased the trestle in early 2010 from Canadian Pacific Railway for $1 as a heritage site and important landmark. In the future, the County will determine if the structure is suitable for recreational use as a pedestrian bridge and part of a regional trail system.   See ACR Mintlaw Trestle
 
Horseguard ACR wood trestle 1911Horse Guard and Medicine River near Eckville - wooden trestle 1,280 ft. long; 80 timber spans ave. 15' plus 80' steel girder built in 1911; located west of Medicine River bridge near Eckville; later mostly earth-filled; last train ran sometime before 1981, abandoned 1983; little evidence left of bridge; the naming of the bridge was an oddity in that there is no Horse Guard River but a Horse Guard Creek further west and the bridge crossed the Medicine River valley.
 
CPR/CNR bridge Rocky Mountain House 1940North Saskatchewan River at
Rocky Mountain House
- The Alberta Central/Canadian Pacific built a good-quality 725' bridge across the North Saskatchewan River in 1911 as well as 2 miles of track on each side of it. The bridge is a combination of trestle, truss and girder with concrete piers. There are 3-75' steel trestle spans, 3-45' steel trestle spans and 2-150' truss spans across the river. Although the Canadian Northern Western Railway (later Canadian National) actually reached Rocky Mountain House before the Alberta Central Railway, the ACR had surveyed and started construction on the bridge before the CNWR arrived. Rather than build another expensive bridge, the CNWR negotiated running rights on the ACR/CPR bridge in exchange for Canadian Pacific having running rights to Nordegg/Brazeau. After the bridge opened in 1914, the CPR rarely, if ever, exercised those rights. The CPR abandoned its line to Rocky in 1980 and leased it to CN for a time and eventually sold it. Although the line to Nordegg was abandoned in 1955, the CNR still uses the bridge for industrial clients southwest of Rocky Mountain House.                                            see Alberta Central Railway

Canadian Northern Western Railway (CNR Brazeau subdivision)
 
original CNR Blindman River wood bridge 1911Blindman River at Burbank -

 

In 1911, the Canadian Northern Western Railroad started construction of a significant wooden trestle across the Blindman River at Burbank (near Blackfalds north of Red Deer). Although the length of the original structure is unavailable, it is estimated to have been between 1,500 to 1,800 feet long.

 

CNR Blindman River bridge at BurbankThe original bridge was mostly earth filled over time, especially on the southwest end, and the span over the river valley was replaced by a steel truss and girder bridge with wooden trestle ends. The current length of the bridge, still used by Canadian National on the Brazeau subdivision, is estimated at 620 to 700 feet.
 
CNR river bridge washout at Red DeerRed Deer River at Red Deer - A bridge was erected across the Red Deer River from North Red Deer near the mouth of Waskasoo Creek in 1920. With the river bridge being washed out in the spring floods a number of times, the railway abandoned the river crossing in 1941 but continued service to the city station grounds via a connection to the Canadian Pacific along the present site of the museum, downtown Safeway store and Red Deer Lodge.
CNR wood trestle at Briggs ravine
Ravine at Briggs - One of the few remaining timber bridges still in use in Central Alberta is located northwest of Red Deer spanning a ravine close to the Blindman River. It's estimated to be 570 to 590 feet long and is close to a tiny community called Briggs that no longer exists.
 
North Saskatchewan River at
Rocky Mountain House
-
(See description above under Alberta Central Railway, which built the bridge).

West of Rocky Mountain House - The 58-mile line between Rocky Mountain House and Nordegg was constructed in 1913 and 1914 and included over 60 structures over streams, creeks and ravines. Three of the structures were significant timber trestles but there is little documentation of their sizes. The line was abandoned in 1955 (although not officially for another 30 years) and most of the bridges were removed except for the larger ones that have deteriorated over the years. Clearwater County has proposed a multi-use trail along the line which will necessitate significant upgrades to the existing structures and new structures where the original ones were removed.
 
see Canadian Northern Western Railway

Grand Trunk Pacific (CNR)
 
Duhamel GTP wood trestle circa 1912Battle River at Duhamel - The Duhamel wooden trestle bridge was completed in 1910 over the Battle River 20 km southwest of Camrose. At almost 4,000 ft. long and 120 ft. high, it was the longest and one of the largest wooden bridges ever built in the world. The bridge was dismantled in 1924 after the Grand Trunk Pacific become part of Canadian National Railways and the new railway decided to use the Canadian Northern crossing of the Battle River further east.
original GTP river bridge Ardley 1916
 
Red Deer River at Ardley - A wooden trestle bridge 1,500 ft. long and 158' tall was built in 1911 just north of Ardley but it was destroyed by river flooding a few years later. The river portion of the bridge was immediately replaced by three steel spans with two steel towers. The bridge washed out again in 1952.
CNR Ardley Bridge
It was replaced by another three steel spans, four steel towers and a steel trestle at the north end with some earth-fill. The timber trestle at the south end was retained. The total span was reduced to around 1,200 ft. and reopened in 1955. It is still used by Canadian National daily as part of its Calgary-Edmonton main line.                     see Grand Trunk Pacific Railway in Central Alberta

Largest Railway Bridges of Alberta

Proposed Forth-Mintlaw-Sylvan Lake Linear Park and Recreation Corridor


find us on facebook  Friends of the Mintlaw Trestle Facebook Group


 
News Article - Historic significance of concrete obelisk preserved in mural
                                                                                                         (Red Deer Advocate Oct.2008)

News Article - County buys a bridge for a buck (Red Deer Advocate Dec. 23, 2009)
News Article - County buys historic railway bridge
(Red Deer Express Dec. 30, 2009)
News Article - Bridging gap between history and disrepair
(Red Deer Advocate Nov. 10, 2010)
News Article - RD County antes up for Mintlaw Bridge repairs
(Mountain View Gazette Nov2010)
News Article - Repairs planned for crumbling CPR bridge
(Red Deer Advocate Feb.2011)
News Article - Reinforcing our history (Red Deer Advocate Mar.2011)
News Article - Opposition comes forward to Mintlaw Bridge preservation
                                                                                               (Mountain View Gazette May 2011)

Dawe: Mintlaw Bridge essential to region's railroad heritage
(Red Deer Express March 2010)
Dawe: Canadian Pacific Railway Bridge now 100 years old (Red Deer Advocate June 2009)
Dawe: The origins of Alberta Central Rail pillar (Red Deer Express April 2008) 


This is a work in progress and will be updated regularly . . .
 

Bridges, Structures, Heritage
Rail Structures of Region
Central Alberta Rail Bridges
Mintlaw Trestle
Alberta's Railway Bridges
Western Canada Rail Bridges



 

 
The Railways of Central Alberta
Calgary & Edmonton Railway
C & E Railway at Red Deer
Alberta Central Railway
Canadian Northern Railway
Canadian Northern Western RR
Canadian National Railway in RD
Grand Trunk Pacific Central Alberta
Lacombe & Blindman Valley RR
Timetable Excerpts
 
 
Railway Stations of the Region
C & ER Combination Stations
Portable Stations
Red Deer CPR 1910 Station
Role of Railway Stations
Red Deer's 4 Stations
CPR Stations in Central Alberta
CNR Stations in Central Alberta
Multiple Station Communities
Station Plans

 
 
Trails, Transit, Trains
Trails and Trains Overview
Trains and Transit Overview

Milestones 1910-13
Calgary Edmonton Trail
Transit in Central Alberta
Red Deer Transit

Jubilee 3001 Chinook
Locomotives Central Alberta
Rise and Fall of Passenger Rail

 

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