by Rail' Themed
Red Deer Downtown/Rail Yard District/Riverlands Redevelopment Proposal
'Moving People by Rail' Themed Community
Celebrating the City's Past as a Passenger Hub and
Showcasing the Future Potential of Moving People by Rail
94 years, the Canadian Pacific, and to a lesser extent Canadian
National, moved people in and out of Red Deer, from the earliest
passenger trains carrying immigrants in 1891, the troop trains of the
two world wars, the intercity Jubilee Chinooks of the mid-1930's until
the mid-1950's to the dayliners from the mid-1950's until 1985.
Cheap gas, the love affair with the automobile and regional to
international air service made passenger service unprofitable for the
railways and toward the end, the railway did everything in its power to
discourage passengers from using rail.
Times have changed -- gas is no longer cheap, people are developing a
greater awareness of the limitations and effects of fossil fuels, more
people are looking for transportation alternatives and there's a great
potential for the revival of rail as a people mover. The long-discussed
high speed rail linking Calgary-Red Deer-Edmonton and beyond is gaining
Major road corridors have created barriers for the free-flowing of
moving pedestrians and bicycles in and around downtown Red Deer, the
Cannery Row district and to the soon-to-be-redeveloped Riverlands area almost as much as the railway had done before it was
relocated to the west side of the city.
The Riverlands area itself is isolated from the rest of downtown
by the thoroughfare Taylor Drive and there is limited vehicle and
pedestrian access into the area.
This challenge, combined with the proposed concept of developing new themed
communities, creates an opportunity to showcase and celebrate the role of
rail travel both in the past and in the future as a means to move people effectively.
The Red Deer downtown has already embraced to some degree the importance
of the railway to the growth of the city.
The old railway station, the railway pedestrian bridge, the old Alberta Central Railway
bridge support along Taylor Drive and the water fountain splash park
already exist as part of the railway heritage. And a few miles away is
the 2nd largest steel Canadian Pacific railway bridge in Alberta crossing the Red Deer
Alexander Way already carries a railway theme that could be expanded
greatly to create a major tourist attraction while at the same time
showcase innovative ways of moving people by rail and moving people
effectively through the downtown area.
A type of tram or street car (heritage or modern), light rail passenger car or even monorail connecting the
existing downtown to the Riverlands area along Alexander Way and across
Taylor Drive, either at street level or overhead, provides an opportunity
to explore energy-efficient and environment-friendly transportation
options for moving people around, both as a tourist attraction and
A similar rail linkage people-mover system could ultimately be expanded
to other parts of Red Deer including Red Deer College, Westerner Park,
Bower Ponds and the future High Speed Rail Terminal. A special corridor
should be established dedicated to public transit and trails until a rail
line is feasible.
Such a system would permit high density housing in the downtown area of
Cannery Row (the proposed Rail Yard redevelopment district) while
providing access to a major
culture, arts and/or heritage centre in the Riverlands area without the
need to create an elaborate road network within the community.
Future rail corridors should be combined with walking and bicycle trails or
sidewalks for multi modes of travel that reduce our dependence on cars. A linear park system
with water features using captured stormwater as well as other highlight
features such as town squares, band shells, public art, gazebos and
gardens could punctuate the corridors.
Combined or separate interpretive centres could highlight both the past
and future of rail travel. One could feature the future potential of
eco-friendly rail travel while another could house scale models of
downtown Red Deer at different periods of its history with corresponding operating
A full-size rail museum would be possible, but as an alternative, original or full-size replicas of the passenger trains,
locomotives and other equipment that ran out of the Red Deer downtown, such as the
the Jubilee Chinook could be displayed throughout the rail-themed
community. Displays could also include future passenger concepts.
Children's parks could feature rail-themed rides and furniture.
The overall theme could be carried through the entire downtown area including
the east side of downtown in the vicinity of the museum/recreation
centre area where trains once roamed and today supports high density
The railway had a major impact on the development of Red Deer and its
downtown and is an integral part of the city's heritage. The opportunity
exists now to celebrate that heritage as part of a renewal of the
downtown and potential to create a major tourist attraction.
This proposal with several modifications and additions is now part
of the Forth Junction Project proposal for a major tourist and community
attractor for downtown Red Deer and Red Deer County developed by the
Heritage Society in 2009.
Background to Red Deer Downtown Redevelopment Proposal
The Alberta Central Heritage Model
Railway Heritage Preservation
in Central Alberta