The Alberta Central
Red Deer became a booming community in the early part of the twentieth
century. In May 1901, the Alberta Central Railway was incorporated by an
Act of Parliament to run a rail line east and west from Red Deer with
Red Deer as its headquarters.
Indications are that the original investors (including MLA John T. Moore)
envisioned it as the first phase of a major route across Western
Canada. From Red Deer it would extend east to Saskatoon, splitting there
with a southern route through Moose Jaw (linking with Canadian Pacific)
and south to the U.S. and a northern route to Fort Churchill. To the
west it would extend past Rocky Mountain House to the Brazeau coal
fields, head north and run parallel with the Grand Trunk Pacific through
the Yellowhead Pass where it would link to another railroad to Vancouver.
The initial charter was for a line 25
miles east of Red Deer to the coal banks of the Red Deer River (near
Nevis/Content Bridge/Tail Creek) and 50 miles west to Rocky Mountain
House with expectations to extend the line to the coal banks west of
Rocky Mountain House near Nordegg.
A federal grant wasn't approved until 1908 so
surveying didn't start until that year but due to financial challenges,
construction wouldn't start for another couple of years.
In 1910, Sir Wilfred Laurier, Prime Minister of Canada, and railways
minister George Graham, visited Red Deer
to drive the 'first spike' near Gaetz Avenue north of the present Capri
Construction west of Red Deer started in 1910. The ACR crossed the
Canadian Pacific Railway (C & E Railway) and Waskasoo Creek where one of
the bridge abutments still stands along Taylor Drive. The railway headed west through the present day Westpark subdivision and southwest near the current Red Deer County
To the east, the line was constructed across Piper Creek (through the
present Kin Kanyon) on a wooden trestle in 1911. A small station and
yards were built near where the current Mountview fire hall on 32 Street
is now located.
The line was graded to north of Pine Lake but tracks were never laid
east of the station grounds.
South of the ACR bridge over the Canadian Pacific, the new railway connected with the CPR at Forth
junction (near 32 St.). As the city expanded westward, the junction was
later moved further south to Tuttle, near the new proposed community of
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) at Mintlaw,
a very small community long gone, but apparently with a station and
grain elevator. The bridge, 2,112 ft. long and 110 ft. high, was
completed in the fall of 1912.
Unfortunately, in its quest to build a high quality rail line, the
Alberta Central Railway went bankrupt and the line was leased for 999
years to the Canadian Pacific Railway. The CPR finished construction west
to Sylvan Lake, Benalto and ultimately to Rocky Mountain House by 1914
where a 725' bridge had already been constructed crossing the North Saskatchewan River. During
construction, much of Cygnet (Burnt) Lake was drained by deepening the
outlet south of Sylvan Lake.
Canadian Northern Western Railway also built a line at the same time
west from north of Red Deer, much of the line parallel with the ACR but
at a lower standard of construction.
There were many stories of fights and acts of sabotage that broke out
between the two construction crews in their quest to get to the Brazeau
coal fields first.
The Canadian Northern
Western reached Rocky Mountain House post office (Lochearn) in 1912
before the Alberta Central. However, the Alberta Central/Canadian Pacific had already
built a good-quality bridge across the North Saskatchewan River as well
as two miles of track on each side of it between Otway and Ullin
including both the old and new Rocky Mountain House.
Rather than build a separate bridge across the river, the Canadian
Northern Western (later part of Canadian National) made an arrangement with Canadian Pacific to have running
rights on that 4-1/2 mile section of track. In return, the Canadian
Pacific would have running rights to the Brazeau coal fields. It was
unlikely however that Canadian Pacific exercised those rights as they
had no or at least very few customers west of Rocky Mountain House.
The Rocky Mountain House station, used by both railways, was located at
Lochearn about two miles east of the river. (The current Lochearn
industrial siding is about two miles west of the river.) When Canadian
Pacific lost interest in expanding westward from Rocky, the bridge was
leased to the CNR until the Alberta Central was
The building boom came to an abrupt end with the beginning of the First
World War. Canadian Pacific had no interest in extending the originally
planned eastern leg of the
railway and the tracks to the Mountview station and yards were torn out
east of the north-south main line in 1913. The trestle across Kin Kanyon
was torn down in 1917. The bridge across the CPR and Waskasoo Creek was
removed but the two concrete piers remained until the construction
of Taylor Drive in 1991 when one was demolished.
In 1957, the Alberta Central Railway was dissolved and its assets
transferred to the Canadian Pacific Railway.
In 1961, the Department of Highways purchased a strip of land at Tuttle
west of what is now Gasoline Alley between Highway 2A and C & E Trail to
reroute the line away from West Park in order to avoid building an overpass
over the new four-lane Highway 2 which was under construction. The new
route was activated in 1962.
Although the ACR opened up west Central Alberta to settlement, served a
variety of communities and light industries, and for a time, received a
limited amount of coal from the Brazeau fields, the line was never a
major traffic generator.
Pacific continued to refer to the line as the Alberta Central
subdivision until the line was abandoned in 1983 (the last train ran in
1981). The rails were torn up but much of the right of way is still
intact. The town of Sylvan Lake is proceeding with plans to develop that
rail corridor within the community into a natural linear park.
The Mintlaw steel trestle over the Red Deer River still stands as a
monument to the Red Deer region's development during the days when the
city became the transportation hub of Central Alberta.
are no other structures that have been preserved except for that lonely
pillar along Taylor Drive in Red Deer that once supported the bridge
used by the ACR to cross over the CPR. In late 2008, a large sign with a
mural was attached to the concrete pier.
The Calgary and Edmonton Railway
The Calgary and Edmonton Railway
near Red Deer
The Canadian Northern Western Railway Brazeau Subdivision
Railway Heritage Preservation in Central Alberta
The Alberta Central Heritage Model
'Moving People by Rail' Themed
Historic Rail Background
for 'Moving People by Rail'