CPR 2816 crosses Waskasoo Creek
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The Calgary Edmonton Railway

After the arrival in Calgary of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1883, one of the most significant happenings in the history of Central Alberta occurred in 1885 when a charter was granted to the Alberta and Athabasca Railway Company to run a rail line from Calgary to Edmonton and on to Athabasca Landing. Construction was to start in the summer of 1887, run to Drumheller due to a potential oil find and along the west side of Buffalo Lake. This would likely have changed the principle corridor between Calgary and Edmonton.
When the company had trouble financing the project and oil was not found, a revised new charter was to take the railway near proposed Alberta Lumber Company facilities owned by the same principles as the railway and was to cross the Red Deer River near Innisfail. A townsite was laid out near the river and grading commenced in 1887 but stopped after a month due to continued financial problems. Again, the charter was revised with a new proposed route crossing the Red Deer River about 12 miles northeast of Red Deer Crossing near where River Bend Golf Course is today.
Again financial problems caused the charter to be extended with a new name, the Alberta and Great Northwestern Railway. Interests were sold to a new company, the Calgary and Edmonton Railway Company in early 1890 and, once completed, was to be leased to the Canadian Pacific Railway for 6 years. Construction started north of Calgary the same year but a decision was yet to be made as to where it would cross the Red Deer River. Three routes had been surveyed, the one near Innisfail, Red Deer Crossing and the mouth of the Blindman River (17 miles downstream from the Crossing) -- the preferred route as it necessitated only one bridge instead of two.
Red Deer mid 1890'sIn July 1890, James Ross, on behalf of the railway, met with Rev. Leonard Gaetz who was one of the largest landowners near the river, had a great deal of political influence and was one of the principle promoters of the region in Calgary and eastern Canada. When Rev. Gaetz offered to share with the railway 600 acres of land (half of his holdings) to build the townsite and railway there, Mr. Ross gladly accepted.
Tracklaying commenced in September and reached the new Red Deer townsite in November. That month, the first passenger train ran from south of Red Deer (near present day Springbrook) to Calgary, as the four bridges needed to cross the meandering Waskasoo Creek had yet to be constructed. The bridge across the Red Deer River was built over the winter and the line was completed to South Edmonton by July 1891. The first railway station in Red Deer was built that spring.
Red Deer 1912The Canadian Pacific Railway officially took over the railway in August, named all the numbered stations along the route, built a telegraph line and started carrying the mail, taking it away from the stage coaches along the C & E Trail.
The lease was later extended to year 2000. The CPR purchased the line outright in the mid-1900s. In 1904, the Red Deer yards were expanded as it became a divisional point and a station was built at Penhold.
A spur line was constructed in the 1940s into what became CFB Penhold and later Springbrook from the main CPR Calgary-Edmonton line. There is little information about the spur or when it was removed, but it likely brought in coal for the steam plant at the base and possibly other supplies. The spur was likely removed in the 1950s but the old right of way can still be seen in aerial photographs. Personnel that arrived by train for military training used either the Penhold or Red Deer stations.
The Red Deer yards were relocated in 1989-1990 from downtown to the west side of the city. Today, the Canadian Pacific line that runs past Springbrook is the primary north-south freight rail corridor in Alberta and the line sees between 12 and 15 trains per day.

For more on the C & E Railway, visit www.forthjunction.ca/c-and-e-railway.htm


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