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Paul Pettypiece


 The Forth

Rails and




    Rail Heritage


    Alberta Central
    Heritage Model
    Rail Project

 Rail History

 Red Deer
 and Area



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Paul on CN 6060 at Stettler

relocated Red Deer rail yards

CPR modern locomotives

historical Red Deer CPR station

Mintlaw ACR trestle

replica of Penhold station

Downtown Red Deer
former CPR bridge used as trail across river


The Alberta Central Heritage Model Rail Project:
The History of Rail Transportation in the Municipalities of the Red Deer Region, particularly within the City of Red Deer and the communities of Red Deer County.

The Calgary-Edmonton Railway near Red Deer (CP north-south line through Red Deer)
The Alberta Central Railway (CP line to Rocky Mountain House, abandoned 1983)
The Canadian Northern Western Railway (CN east-west line to Rocky Mountain House)
The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (CN north-south line through Delburne)

Objectives and Purpose

Penhold in 1948The locations of several towns and the major north-south corridor that exists today is primarily the result of the building of the four railways through Central Alberta, and particularly through Red Deer County and the city of Red Deer. Much of the history of that process is being lost over time or is being remembered only as isolated displays in community museums.

The Central Alberta Historical Model Rail Project is an effort to put the whole process in perspective on a regional level so that residents, historians, tourists and rail fans can see how the railway had a profound effect on the development of Red Deer County and Central Alberta as we know it today.

A model rail historical museum is being proposed as an alternative to a full-scale museum that would normally have actual size displays. The cost of acquiring, restoring, maintaining and protecting full size equipment, as well as the cost of maintaining a large museum facility, would be difficult to sustain without a large financial and volunteer commitment.

exterior display and entrance to model rail historic layoutsOn the other hand, a heritage centre or interpretive centre using scale models, would require less space, fewer volunteers and have a special uniqueness unlike anything else in Canada.

walk-through series of model rail layoutsA series of miniature interpretive, interactive and operating displays with moving trains and historically accurate models showing the more significant eras of rail development in the County and the region will have just as much meaning, educational and entertainment value and will be much more flexible and less demanding than a large facility would require.

The facility could also be complimented by a book and souvenir store, with the possibility of a snack bar and/or model railroad store as a means of covering part of the costs of the facility.

Historical Interactive Displays

The most significant eras in the development of communities, changes in transportation trends and rail technologies affecting the municipalities of Red Deer County and the region occurred in the following time periods:

A new Red Deer townsite develops with arrival of the railway1890-92 -- The building of the Calgary-Edmonton Railway (now Canadian Pacific) and the location and naming of communities along the way, including Red Deer, Penhold, Innisfail, Bowden, Olds, Blackfalds, Lacombe, Ponoka and Wetaskiwin. It marked the end of 'The Crossing' settlement where Fort Normandeau is today;

construction of the Alberta Central Mintlaw steel trestle 19111910-14 -- The 'railway fever' era with plans for railways to run out of Red Deer in nine directions and included the actual building of the Alberta Central Railway from Red Deer to Rocky Mountain House (now abandoned) and the building of the Mintlaw steel trestle bridge across the Red Deer River (the second longest CP steel bridge in Alberta), the Canadian Northern Western Railway (now CN) from Stettler through Red Deer, Rocky Mountain House and on to the Nordegg coal fields, and the building of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (now CN) along the east side of Red Deer County from Edmonton, through Mirror and Delburne to Calgary. Red Deer increased its importance as the rail and distribution hub of Central Alberta. Plans had been established for the Alberta Central Railway to run east to Delburne and on to Moose Jaw or Saskatoon, for an Edmonton-Calgary Canadian Northern Western line through Red Deer and for a Canadian Pacific line to Drumheller;

CPR park and station and coal chutes1948-55 -- The steam-to-diesel era and the beginning of the decline in passenger service as a result of the explosive popularity of the automobile and the advent of regular air travel. It was during this period that the Canadian National station closed east of downtown Red Deer and the Canadian Pacific tore down the roundhouse and other steam facilities. The beautiful railway garden park became a parking lot. It was at the end of this period that the special Jubilee 'Chinook' steam train was replaced by the 'Dayliner';

Dayliner through Innisfail1983-85 -- Pre-Relocation of Red Deer's rail yards, the abandonment of the Alberta Central Railway, the final years that grain elevators dominated the skylines of most towns and the caboose was becoming a dying breed, a new generation of locomotives permitting much longer trains were introduced, locomotive shortages saw colourful leased locomotives from all over North America run through the area, the last of the Dayliners, the re-introduction of intermodal freight and unit trains, the realignment of Hwy. 2A south of Red Deer beside the CP line and the final use of the old CN spur line east into downtown for storage;

possible future high speed railthe near future (2010-20) -- The renewal of passenger rail service in the form of light rail, high speed rail and tourist and 'green'-oriented tramways and new industrial development requiring rail access (eg. proposed biofuel plant north of Innisfail).

Much significant rail infrastructure was built, modified, abandoned or destroyed over the past 115 years that could be preserved in model form and various types of rail equipment that was used over the years can be visually highlighted in operational displays that would otherwise be impossible, or at least impractical, to duplicate in any other form.

model rail interpretive displayThe project could become a world-class facility if done to a high standard. There are very few similar type projects in North America and really none in Canada that would meet museum standard.

The largest facility of its kind is in San Diego, California at 27,000 sq. ft. with 5 operating layouts in various model scales. The few other similar facilities are in the 5,000-10,000 sq. ft. range.

Alberta Central Railway Mintlaw steel trestle aerialThe project could be built in either HO scale (1:87) or N scale (1:160). Although HO is more popular among modellers, N scale provides the benefit of much more railroad in much less space. Even in N scale, if the former Red Deer CPR yards were recreated exactly, it would be 24' long without inclusion of the river bridge and the Mintlaw steel trestle over the Red Deer River would be 13' long. Some selective compression would still likely be necessary to model any extensive rail facility.

A representative series of historical layouts could be done in as little as 1,500 sq. ft. but a minimum of 3,500 sq. ft. would be necessary to make it world-class and a viable tourist attraction. To achieve maximum visitor attraction, the facility should be located near the existing Canadian Pacific north-south main line, near significant sites of historic value with easy access by road and trail.

Innisfail in the 1890sSuch an interpretive centre could be located in Penhold, Innisfail, Bowden, Springbrook or the future Liberty Crossing near the Tuttle junction to meet the preferred criteria but could also be located in downtown Red Deer, Sylvan Lake, Benalto or near the Mintlaw bridge along the C & E Trail and still have both historic and tourist value.

Complimenting the operating model railroad displays would be dioramas, local railroad memorabilia, historic photographs, videos and other interpretive displays. Other amenities could include a workshop for hands-on seminars on various aspects of model building and heritage preservation (especially for youth), a snack bar, bookstore, souvenir booth and model supply store.

The Alberta Central Heritage Model Rail Project has now been incorporated into a much larger and bolder concept for a major tourist and community attractor in Red Deer and area called the Forth Junction Project.

          Railway Heritage Preservation in Central Alberta

          'Moving People by Rail' Themed Community Proposal
          Historic Rail Background for 'Moving People by Rail'

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