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How the Railroads Shaped Red Deer

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A crowd gathered at the Red Deer train station to provide a sendoff for members of “C” Squadron of the 12th Canadian Mounted Rifles Regiment. Heading off to join WWI in May 1915. Photo courtesy City of Red Deer Archives. P2603

Rivers, creeks and streams have shaped the land for eons, slowly carving away earth to reveal the terrain we know today. Much of the same can be said for the impact and influence that railways had in shaping the size and shape and even the very location of what is now the City of Red Deer. 

Prior to the construction of the Calgary and Edmonton railway, which started heading north from Calgary in 1890, what we now recognize as the bustling city of Red Deer was unbroken and forested land. The nearest significant settlement was the crossing for the C&E Trail of the Red Deer River, very close to where the historic Fort Normandeau replica stands today. 

Small town of Red Deer from along the Calgary and Edmonton Railway line looking north circa 1900. The Arlington Hotel and the CPR station can be seen. Photo courtesy City of Red Deer Archives. P4410

 

Above left: The Canadian Northern Railway excavating grade along the side of North Hill of Red Deer, AB in 1911. Using the steam shovel Bucyrus and trains. Photo P782. Above right: Workers building the Canadian National Railway trestle bridge at Burbank siding near Red Deer, AB, 1924. P7028. Photos courtesy City of Red Deer Archives.

Reverend Leonard Gaetz whose land formed the townsite for Red Deer. Photo courtesy City of Red Deer Archives. P2706

Navigating how to handle crossing the Red Deer River would be a significant challenge for construction of the railway route. Initially, the route was planned to take the tried-and-true path that had served animals, first nations people and fur traders for centuries, past the Red Deer River settlement. Yet just as the mighty river powerfully shaped the contours and dimensions of the land, the future site of Red Deer would be singlehandedly determined by Reverend Leonard Gaetz.

Rev. Gaetz offered James Ross, President of the Calgary and Edmonton Railway company,  land from his personal farmlands for the river crossing and the townsite for Red Deer.  Ross accepted and history was forever shaped by the decision, as what is now home to more than 100,000 people grew steadily outward starting at the C&E Railway train station. 

A steam engine pulling a passenger train, likely near Penhold, AB, sometime between 1938 and 1944. Photo courtesy City of Red Deer Archives. Photo P3595.

The rails finally reached the Red Deer area in November of 1890 and trains soon began running south to Calgary. By 1891, the Calgary and Edmonton railway was completed north to Strathcona. Alberta gained one of its most vital transportation corridors and the province would thrive from this ribbon of steel rails.

CPR Station in 1910

Over time, the C&E railyards grew and expanded to accommodate the demand for moving more and more commodities like grain, coal, lumber and business and household items along with passengers. Those passengers were the pioneer settlers who would make Red Deer the commercial hub that it remains to this day.

Alberta-Pacific Elevator Co. Ltd. No. 67 elevator and feed mill, circa 1910. Photo courtesy City of Red Deer Archives Photo P3884.

For nearly 100 years, the downtown was intimately connected with the railway in the form of hotels built to welcome travelers, grain elevators, warehouses, factories and the facilities required to service the locomotives and equipment that operated the trains. Tracks and spurs dominated the downtown area, especially after the advent of the Alberta Central Railway and the arrival of the Canadian Northern Western Railway (later absorbed into Canadian National railways).

Left: Aerial view of downtown and the railyards in1938. Note old CPR bridge over the Red Deer River along with the old CNR bridge that was demolished in 1941. P2228 Centre: CPR Track at south end of Red Deer, circa 1904 or 1905. P8060 Right: CPR depot water tower and round house in 1912. P3907. Photos courtesy City of Red Deer Archives.

 

Left: CPR downtown railyards in 1983. Photo S490. Right: Southbound morning Chinook train at the CPR station in the summer of 1939. P13391. Photos courtesy City of Red Deer Archives.

By the 1980s, the ever-present tracks and downtown railyard were seen as an industrial blight in the heart of the city that the railway created so funding was sought and plans were made to relocate the now Canadian Pacific rails from their historical home to a new modern yard northwest of the city. 

This was actually the second relocation of tracks from downtown as the Canadian National railway tracks were removed in 1960 which permitted the development along 47th Avenue south of the Red Deer River.

This massive project opened up the Riverlands district downtown to new developments which included condominiums, grocery stores, restaurants and professional buildings. Taylor Drive was built following the old rail line corridor and removal of the tracks in Lower Fairview meant residents wouldn’t hear the rumble of trains in their community anymore. 

Just as the waters gradually shaped the places we know now, the railways definitely forged Red Deer into the vibrant economic hub of central Alberta that it remains today. 

The 45th Street overpass across the CPR tracks. This was demolished in 1992. Photo courtesy City of Red Deer Archives. Photo S8479.

We hope you enjoyed this story about our local history.  Click here to read more history stories on Todayville.

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Visit the City of Red Deer Archives to browse through the written, photographic and audio history of Red Deer. Read about the city and surrounding community and learn about the people who make Red Deer special.

My name is Ken Meintzer.  I’m a storyteller with a love of aviation and local history. In the 1990’s I hosted a popular kids series in Alberta called Toon Crew.

I'm a storyteller with a love of aviation and local history. In the 1990's I hosted a popular kids series in Alberta called Toon Crew.

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Alberta

Province loosens rules for participants and team volunteers in Rinks and Rec Centres

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Further clarity for youth participants in the Provincial Restrictions Exemption Program

As of Monday, September 20, 2021, The City of Red Deer has adopted the Provincial Restrictions Exemption Program. The program applies at all City owned and operated recreation and culture facilities.As a part of the Restrictions Exemption Program, The City had previously announced that all vaccine-eligible visitors 12 years and older to City facilities would need to show proof of vaccination, a valid medical exemption, or a negative rapid COVID-19 test within 72 hours of entry. Over the weekend, the Government of Alberta released further details about the Restrictions Exemption Program which clarify the requirements for youth sport, fitness and performance activities.

As a result of continued consultation with provincial government representatives, the following updates have been applied for all City of Red Deer recreation and culture facilities, effective September 21, 2021:

  • Volunteers for organized sport groups can enter to perform their activity-related responsibilities without proof of vaccination, exemption, or negative COVID-19 test

  • Youth sport, fitness and performance participants can take part in their activities without proof of vaccination, exemption or negative COVID-19 test

  • Youth aged 12-17 must show proof of vaccination, medical exemption or a negative test result to enter any facility while not participating in activity. This includes spectators, or using the concourse and common areas.

  • Anyone ages 18 or older will be required to show proof of vaccination, medical exemption or a negative rapid test result within 72 hours of a visit to facilities.

    • From September 20 to October 25, proof of a single dose is considered acceptable as long as the dose was given more than two weeks before visiting a facility. After October 25, proof of double vaccination is required.

All other vaccine-eligible visitors will be required to follow the guidelines set out for the Provincial Restrictions Exemption Program which can be seen here: https://www.alberta.ca/covid-19-public-health-actions.aspx.

Effective September 20, anyone unable to wear a mask will be required to provide a medical exemption letter from an authorized health professional. More information about mask exemptions is available at alberta.ca/masks

Please visit www.reddeer.ca/RecUpdate for more information about the Restrictions Exemption Program at our facilities.

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Alberta

Canadian women's hockey team to play B.C. Junior A men as part of Olympic prep

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CALGARY — Canada’s women’s hockey team will play a pair of games against male Junior A teams in B.C. next month.

The national women’s team, currently centralized in Calgary to prepare for the 2022 Winter Olympics, will travel to face the Trail Smoke Eaters on Oct. 4 and the Cranbrook Bucks on Oct. 5.

Canada is coming off winning a women’s world championship Aug. 31 in Calgary, where the host country edged the United States in overtime for gold.

Twenty-six skaters are trying out for 20 spots on the Olympic roster.

Three goaltenders have already been named to the Beijing-bound side: Ann-Renée Desbiens, Emerance Maschmeyer and Kristen Campbell.

The women are accustomed to a regular slate of games against male midget triple-A clubs as part of their Olympic prep, but games against Junior A teams are more rare.

Goaltender Shannon Szabados made 52 saves in Canada’s 3-2 win over the AJHL’s Calgary Canucks on Dec. 5, 2009.

Canada split a pair of Maritime Junior Hockey League games in September of 2019, when the women lost 4-2 to the Valley Wildcats and downed the Pictou County Crushers 4-1.

“We are grateful to both Trail and Cranbrook for their willingness to be part of our training as we start our season,” said Gina Kingsbury, Hockey Canada director of operations for the national women’s teams, in a statement Monday.

“The level of competition we expect to face is crucial in our journey and we look forward to showcasing our athletes to hockey fans in both communities.”

Fans can buy tickets and attend both games subject to meeting B.C.’s COVID-19 requirements.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 20, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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