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  Mintlaw trestle deck 1985

Forth Junction Project
Railway Structures
of Central Alberta

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

Overview of Railroad Structures used by Central Alberta Railways

GTP station and water tower DelburneStructures have always made the railway tick. Some structures for several decades served customers such as stations, freight houses, stockyards and gardens while others were necessary for the functioning of the railway (especially during the time of steam) such as roundhouses, water towers and coal chutes. Many structures continue to be necessary, such as yards, sidings and bridges. Many larger communities tended to have industrial spurs but in recent years, those industrial spurs tended to more rural. Most structures were/are owned by the railway but others were not, such as grain elevators and hotels (usually in close proximity to the station).  But all were necessary for the efficient and profitable operation of the railway.

CPR station and grain elevators Penhold 1948With changes in technology, customers and other circumstances, many of these structures were modified, replaced or eliminated. Only a handful of structures that became obsolete have been saved and preserved but many, that were at one time plentiful, have disappeared forever.

Central Alberta had a variety of all of these types of structures -- some are still standing but most are gone. Those that survived tell a story of the settlement and development of Western Canada. Below is a sampling (by no means complete) of some of the structures that were in or near Red Deer.


See: Railway Stations of Central Alberta
         Canadian Pacific Railway Stations of Central Alberta
         Canadian National/CNor/GTP Railway Stations of Central Alberta
         Multiple Station Towns of Central Alberta
The railway station was the hub of the communities of Western Canada for several decades. Some communities had more than one station if served by more than one railroad.

CPR Red Deer garden park in front of station 1911
Red Deer landmarks included a beautiful park complete with fountain east of the station from 1910 to 1960.  It was replaced by a parking lot and later became the site of a commercial building. The original fountain can be found at the centre of 'The Arches' about a block south of the original park.


See: Railway Bridges of Central Alberta
         Alberta Central Railway Mintlaw Bridge
         Alberta's Largest Railway Bridges

GTP water tower Delburne museum
Water Towers
Steam locomotives logically had an insatiable appetite for water in order to function. They tended to be located at 30-50 km (20-30 mi.) intervals. Most of the tanks were 40,000 gallons but those at divisional points tended to be 60,000 gallons. Most towers in Western Canada were enclosed to prevent freezing. Once dieselization was complete between 1955 and 1960, most water towers were eliminated.
CPR Red Deer
- In 1906, the railway was already preparing for major changes with an agreement with the town to supply twice the amount of water as had been originally negotiated. During the following year, further improvements were made including a new water tower.
CNR Big Valley - In 1912 Big Valley had a 60,000 gallon water tank. A similar tank was built in Hanna in 1913.

Some of the water tanks recorded in Central Alberta during steam era days were along the following lines:
C&E (CPR) - Strathcona, Leduc, Wetaskiwin, Ponoka, Lacombe, Red Deer, Innisfail, Bowden, Carstairs, Calgary
ACR (CPR) - Sylvan Lake, Crawshaw near Eckville, Alhambra and Rocky Mountain House
CNWR (CNR) - Troon near Alix, Joffre, Burbank, Sylvan Lake, Leslieville, Rocky Mountain House, Horburg, Pollock and Harlesh
L&BVER/LNW (CPR) - Lacombe and halfway between Rimbey and Bluffton

Coal Loading Facilities
Steam locomotives in Western Canada used coal to heat the water to create the steam that powered the engines. Most large coal loading facilities were located at divisional or terminal points. Smaller coal loading facilities were located at junctions or intermediate points usually no more than 75 km (50 miles) apart. In the mid to late 1940s, most steam locomotives on the prairies converted to oil making coal no longer necessary.
 elevated coal chute behind Red Deer CPR station 1911
CPR Red Deer
- A Red Deer landmark between 1907 and 1923 was a 280-ton elevated gravitational trestle coal chute where box cars full of coal were pushed to the top to load steam locomotives. It was replaced by a more modern mechanical coaling plant in 1923 which lasted until 1960.
CNR Big Valley - In 1911, the Canadian Northern Railway arrived in Big Valley. During the following year, the town was a thriving terminal for the railway with many improvements that included a new elevated 100-ton coal chute. It was replaced by a 200-ton coal dock in 1915 that was used until 1948.
CNR Mirror - There was a 100-ton 2-pocket coal dock with mechanical hoist

Other coal loading facilities recorded in Centrral Alberta during steam era days were located along the following lines:
C&E (CPR) - Wetaskiwin, 280-ton plant Strathcona similar to Red Deer, Olds, Calgary
CNWR (CNR) - Nordegg
LNW/LBVER (CPR) - Lacombe

Roundhouses and Engine Facilities
CPR Red Deer roundhouse and water tower 1912
CPR Red Deer
- A single stall engine house was built in the early 1890s. It was replaced in 1907 by a 4-stall brick roundhouse and 70 ft. turntable; 6 stalls were added in 1911. The structure was last used in 1955 and demolished by 1963. There is no evidence left of the structures and a commercial area is located on the site at the southeast corner of 49 Avenue and Taylor Drive.
 CNR Big Valley roundhouse ruins
CNR Big Valley - In 1912 Canadian Northern at Big Valley had a five-stall roundhouse and a 70 ft. turntable. Five stalls were added to the roundhouse in 1918. The roundhouse and other facilities closed in 1948. An interpretive centre has been established at the remains of the roundhouse/turntable and at one of the grain elevators.
GTP Mirror yards and roundhouse 1912

CNR Mirror
- In Mirror in late 1910 or early 1911, Grand Trunk Pacific constructed a 6-stall roundhouse with 75' turntable, rail yards and other facilities.

CNR Hanna - A 10-stall roundhouse and turntable was built in 1913 by Canadian Northern and five stalls were added in 1919. It was closed in 1961 and used for a variety of purposes for several years. It is one of a very few roundhouses still intact. There is currently a project underway to restore it and develop an interpretive centre.
CNR Red Deer
- There is no record of an engine house at the Red Deer Canadian National yard at the current location of the Co-op shopping centre and Park Plaza but, being a terminal point, there was a small turntable, likely constructed around 1923, which was removed in 1960.
Some of the other engine facilities recorded in Central Alberta were located along the following lines:
C&E (CPR) - 1906 12-stall roundhouse Strathcona, 18-stall roundhouse Calgary expanded to 36 stalls; 1916 4-stall engine house at Lacombe and 4-stall roundhouse at Wetaskiwin,
CNWR (CNR) - Engine house located at Otway near Rocky Mountain House
LNW/LBVER (CPR) - Engine houses were located at Lacombe, Bentley and Rimbey

Red Deer landmarks included a large CPR stock yard built in 1906. There was also a stockyard in northeast Red Deer served by Canadian National.
There were also stockyards in Penhold, Lacombe, Ponoka, Big Valley and several other communities.

CPR Red Deer yards 1985Yards and Sidings
CPR Red Deer - In 1904, the Red Deer yards were expanded. In 1906, the railway was preparing for major changes with more yard improvements as a result of the decision to make Red Deer the divisional point between Calgary and Edmonton. During the following year, further improvements were made including the laying of heavier rail. In 1948, the rail yards were expanded due to an increase in freight traffic as a result of the oil boom. In 1991, the downtown rail yards were torn up as a result of the major relocation of the line to the west side of the city.
A number of sidings between Calgary and Edmonton were lengthened over the years to accommodate meets of longer and longer trains.
North of Red Deer and south of Blackfalds next to Highway 2A is the interchange between Canadian National on the Brazeau subdivision and Canadian Pacific on the Leduc subdivision, called North Junction. CN crosses over both Hwy 2A and CP.
One of the largest industrial rail storage yards in North America was built at, and adjacent to, the Nova Chemicals Joffre plant (served by CN) with 60 storage tracks having a capacity of over 1,300 cars. A smaller but still significant yard was built at the Dow Chemical Prentiss plant nearby in conjunction with a CP rail spur constructed in 2000. The Nova Chemicals plant is expanding its rail yard in 2015.

Grain Elevators
CPR Red Deer - New grain elevators were constructed in 1948 north of the station and in the late 1950s, more elevators were built on the south end of the yard. A new U.G.G. grain elevator in 1952. Five grain elevators were demolished (three on the east side of the yards and two on the west side) by 1992.
CPR Innisfail grain elevators 1960s
CPR Innisfail - Innisfail once had the highest concentration of grain storage between Calgary and Edmonton with eight elevators with a total capacity of over 22,000 tonnes.
CPR Sylvan Lake - The first grain elevator in Sylvan Lake was built in 1923 by Alberta Pacific on the ACR line.
grain elevators in Penhold 1948
In 1916, the following grain elevators were recorded:

C&E (CPR) - north of Red Deer: 3 Red Deer, 2 Lacombe, Morningside, 3 Ponoka, 2 Hobbema, 5 Wetaskiwin,
2 Millet, 5 Leduc, 3 Strathcona,
C&E (CPR) - south of Red Deer: 3 Penhold, 2 Innisfail, Bowden, 2 Olds, 4 Didsbury, 4 Carstairs, 3 Crossfield, Airdrie, 6 Calgary
former Mintlaw grain elevator

- west of Red Deer: Mintlaw, Cygnet, Sylvan Lake, Benalto, Kootuk near Eckville and Hespero. The Mintlaw elevator was sold and relocated to a farm northeast of Blackfalds.
CNWR (CNR) - west of Mirror: Haynes, Oberlin, Sylvan Lake, Eckville, Leslieville
LNW/LBVER (CPR) - Lacombe, northwest of Lacombe: Aspen Beach, Bentley, Rimbey, Forshee

In modern times, most of the landmark wooden grain elevators have disappeared from the skyline. But there are a few still remaining such as the two at Niobe north of Innisfail. There are also modern high-throughput elevators both south and north of Olds and near Crossfield on the CP line. At Alix, there is a malting plant and elevator served primarily by CN but has access by CP.


Alberta and Arlington hotels Red Deer 1909Red Deer

Queen's Hotel 1891 (51 Ave. & 49 St. northeast east of station) demolished 1899 replaced by Arlington Hotel 1899 demolished 2009,
Alberta Hotel 1892 (51 Ave. & Ross/50 St. southeast east of station) expanded 1899 renovated and renamed Buffalo Hotel 1939 repurposed 2007,
Nelson's Hall 1899 (51 Ave. & 49 St. southwest south of station) renamed Royal Hotel 1903 renamed Windsor Hotel 1905 closed 1993 burned down 1994,
Alexandra Hotel 1902 (Ross St. 2 blocks east of station) renamed the Auditorium renovated and renamed Park Hotel 1947 repurposed 2001,
Valley Hotel 1947 (51 Ave. & 49 St. southeast east of station) closed 2009 expanded and repurposed 2010

former Carling brewery in downtown Red Deer

CPR Red Deer
- Industry near the CP city yards included the C.A.D.P. (Alpha Dairies) built in 1936 and still in operation in the same location but no served by rail. Southwest of the downtown was Carling Brewery built in 1954, closed in the early 1970s, later occupied by a mattress factory served by CP and used today for a variety of commercial, office and cultural businesses.
There were a number of small oil storage facilities east of the yards in the downtown that were closed in the early 1970s. West of the yards were American Can, the Macdonalds Consolidated grocery warehouse and several other small warehouses and industries that were closed in the early 1980s.
Farther south, CP served Drummond Brewery (formerly Uncle Ben's 1972-79) which closed in 1995 and the Chrysler warehouse until rail relocation occurred in 1990.
Just north of the city is the Evraz (formerly Ipsco) steel pipe plant built in 1983, served by CP.
CNR Red Deer - Northeast of the city centre, Canadian National served a couple of meat packing plants (Canada Packers opened 1970, closed in 1991) and a feedlot well into the 1980s. A CGTX/GATX railcar repair facility built in 1969 is still one of the major traffic generators for CN in northeast Red Deer.

railyard at Prentiss
Oil, Gas and Petrochemicals - In more modern times, several oil and gas industry loading facilities exist all over Central Alberta served by both CN and CP. The largest generators of railway traffic are the Nova petrochemical plants at Joffre (opened in 1979 and served by CN), the Dow petrochemical plant at Prentiss (opened in 1984 and now served by both CN and CP) and the ethylene glycol loading facility at Blackfalds (on the CP main line).

There was a short spur track at the landmark but relatively small Bowden refinery (built 1962 by White Rose, taken over by Shell same year and sold to Parkland FasGas in 1987) closed in 2001. The refinery reopened in 2006 to produce industrial fluids. A 3-track rail spur was constructed in 2011.
Another major generator of railway traffic is the Ram River and Strachan gas plants west of Rocky Mountain House that produce sulphur for export, served by Canadian National.
Johns Manville plant Innisfail 1985
CPR Innisfail - In Innisfail, the Johns Manville fibreglass insulation plant built in 1977 on the CP line also generates some rail traffic.

This is a work in progress and will be expanded 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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