Railways of the Springbrook Waskasoo Area
When the Canadian Pacific Railway arrived in
Calgary in 1883, the Calgary and Edmonton Trail gained major
significance as the north-south route from Calgary to Edmonton
and it wasn't long before the value of a railway joining
Alberta's two major population centers became obvious.
In 1890, the first half of the
Calgary and Edmonton Railway was built. It was leased and
later sold to the Canadian Pacific Railway. The route followed
C & E Trail corridor but the railway decided on its own
route to reduce the grade of the railway or to accommodate
preferred locations for communities.
Around Springbook, the
railway was built a couple of miles east of the C & E Trail
crossing Waskasoo Creek several times before reaching the new
townsite of Red Deer, about 7 km east of the
settlement at Red Deer Crossing (where Fort Normandeau now
stands). Rev. Leonard Gaetz, who owned a considerable amount of
land where central Red Deer now exists, had partnered with the new railway to build the railway
on his land, much to the
chagrin of the settlers at the Crossing. During that winter, a
bridge was built crossing the Red Deer River and the line
continued to Edmonton the following year. That bridge is now
part of the Waskasoo Park
Regular passenger service started in 1891 between Calgary and
Edmonton, continuing for the next 94 years.
Red Deer became a booming community in the early part of the
twentieth century, mostly as a result of several railways being
built during the first 15 years of the 1900s.
In 1901, the
Alberta Central Railway was chartered with Red Deer as its
headquarters. It was to have run southeast to Pine Lake, then
northeast to the Delburne area, and then to connect with
the main CP line somewhere farther east, preferably at Moose Jaw. To the west, it was to
go to the Brazeau coal fields near Nordegg and there were dreams
of it extending through Howse or Yellowhead Pass to the west coast.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier came to Red Deer to drive the 'first spike'
but construction didn't start until 1911. The station was
located near the present Mountview Fire Hall. The line went west
from there across
Kin Canyon on a wooden trestle and crossed the Canadian Pacific
and Waskasoo Creek at a point where today a lonely bridge support stands
along Taylor Drive near what was called Forth junction. It
headed west through what is now Westpark, then southwest
crossing the Red Deer River just north-east of Springbrook where
a steel trestle, one of the longest in Alberta, was built at
Unfortunately, the company went bankrupt and was leased
to the Canadian Pacific Railway which built the line through
Sylvan Lake in 1912 and as far as Rocky Mountain House by 1914, but no
further. A competing line, the Canadian Northern Western Railway,
had reached Rocky first. There were apparently fights that
occurred between the construction crews along the way with the
two rail lines parallel with each other in many places. The
eastward right of way was levelled to north of Pine Lake but
tracks were never laid.
Meanwhile, Red Deer had become a divisional point of the CPR in
1908 with several upgrades to the rail yards, thus securing the
community as the transportation, distribution and service centre
of Central Alberta.
A spur line was constructed in the 1940s into what became CFB
Penhold (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.
As the City of Red Deer expanded
westward and Highway 2 was being constructed in the early 1960s, the
CPR junction with the ACR was moved from Forth to a few miles
south at Tuttle
siding, north of McKenzie Road. The ACR line was
abandoned and the rails were torn up in 1983. Much of the right
of way is still intact.
busy Red Deer downtown CPR yards were relocated to the northwest of the
city in 1989.
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 Central Alberta railways, visit