Paul Pettypiece consulting research logo Red Deer station, coal chutes, park 95 years ago
 
 

Paul Pettypiece

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old CPR bridge in downtown Red Deer

corner of Gaetz and Ross downtown

modern CPR locomotives

historic Red Deer CPR station
 
Mintlaw ACR trestle
 


Red Deer Downtown/Rail Yard District/Riverlands Redevelopment Proposal 2008
'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


Historic Rail Background

downtown originates with coming of the railwayThe location of downtown Red Deer was determined as a result of a deal between homesteader Rev. Leonard Gaetz and James Ross of the Calgary-Edmonton Railway (Canadian Pacific) in 1891. The railway had looked at a number of sites to cross the Red Deer River including 'the Crossing' upstream (old Red Deer-Fort Normandeau) and the confluence of the Red Deer and Blindman Rivers downstream. Rev. Gaetz offered half his land for a townsite if the railway crossed the river on his property.

Red Deer develops with the railwayThriving downtowns had developed in Red Deer, Innisfail and Lacombe and all three communities were approximately the same size at the turn of the century, all vying to become the focal point of Central Alberta.

It was when the Canadian Pacific Railway decided to make Red Deer the divisional point between Calgary and Edmonton that the destiny of downtown Red Deer as the hub of Central Alberta became established.

railway station, park and coal chutesAs well as building a new station, the Canadian Pacific built a roundhouse, coal chutes and other maintenance facilities to the west of the downtown in the area now known as Riverlands and Cannery Row. The railway was the primary employer, customer and supplier for the fast-growing city.

The rapid growth, the central location and the enthusiastic entrepreneurial spirit of its citizens attracted more railways to look at Red Deer as the hub of regional systems.

restored CPR 2816The Alberta Central Railway made Red Deer its headquarters for what was envisioned as part of a transcontinental system from the West Coast to Eastern Canada. The Canadian Northern Railway planned to make the city its divisional point for its own Calgary-Edmonton main line. The Grand Trunk Pacific saw north Red Deer as the divisional point for its east-west line. And Canadian Pacific planned to construct a line from Red Deer to Drumheller. Between 1911 and 1914, it seemed that Red Deer would become the railway hub of Alberta with plans for railways running from the city in nine directions. The businesses of downtown Red Deer thrived and had their own vision of a major city rivaling or exceeding Calgary and Edmonton.

Alberta Central Railway bridge across Red Deer RiverThe First World War and a recession put a grinding halt to many of the ambitious plans and many of the railways went broke. The Canadian Pacific took over the Alberta Central and finished its line to Rocky Mountain House but no further. The ACR trestle across Kin Kanyon and the railway yards in Mountview were removed, as was the bridge over the CPR into West Park. The Canadian Northern and the Grand Trunk Pacific became part of the Canadian National Railway system with a station at the current location of the Co-op Plaza shopping centre on the east side of downtown. With the CN bridge crossing the river frequently being washed out in the spring breakup, the railway linked its station with the CP line through the area where the Golden Circle, museum, recreation centre and Lodge hotel are now located.

looking down Ross St. to historic railway stationBut the Canadian Pacific continued to be one of the dynamic forces in the economy of downtown Red Deer.

For 94 years, the Canadian Pacific 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.

Back to Proposal

The Calgary and Edmonton Railway (now Canadian Pacific Railway main north-south line)
The Alberta Central Railway (abandoned Canadian Pacific Alberta Central subdivision)

Railway Heritage Preservation in Central Alberta
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