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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.

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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Jacob Markstrom earns shutout as Flames blank Oilers 5-0 in Battle of Alberta

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CALGARY — Jacob Markstrom stopped all 17 shots he faced and the Calgary Flames put an end to their four-game losing skid with a commanding 5-0 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.

Johnny Gaudreau and captain Mark Giordano each had a goal and an assist, while Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm and Brett Ritchie also scored for Calgary (17-21-3). Sam Bennett and Mikael Backlund each tallied a pair of helpers.

The Flames improved to 3-5 against their provincial rivals this season.

Playing their fourth game in six nights, the Oilers (25-15-2) were blanked for only the third time this year. They dropped to third in the North Division — seven points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs and one point behind the Winnipeg Jets.

Goalie Mike Smith stopped 27-of-32 shots in defeat, Edmonton’s second regulation loss in its last 11 outings.

A tentative first 20 minutes of play saw the teams withdraw to the dressing room with a 0-0 tie.

But the Calgary Flames exploded for four goals on 10 shots in the second period from four different shooters.

Monahan got the barrage going with his first since Mar. 13, snapping a 13-game goalless drought. Alone at the side of the net, he capitalized on a defensive mix-up from the Oilers and converted Andrew Mangiapane’s pass at 3:12.

Calgary gained in confidence as the period progressed. They kept the pressure on and it paid off at 10:43 when Gaudreau took a perfect pass across the crease from Noah Hanifin to beat Smith over the glove from a tight angle.

The Flames were again rewarded for good puck movement when Lindholm netted his 10th of the season, five-hole on Smith on the power play. The big-bodied Milan Lucic got the play started and later screened Smith in the crease.

The captain got in on the second period’s deluge of goals. Coming off the bench and storming into the offensive zone, Giordano called for a pass and fired from the right face-off dot, beating Smith between the pads.

Calgary limited Edmonton to very few high-danger chances. Connor McDavid ended the game with one shot.

The Oilers upped the pressure in the third period but could not solve Markstrom. Tyson Barrie came closest when he fired a puck off the post.

Ritchie padded the lead and made it 5-0 with 6:30 left in the game.

There was some confusion shortly after puck drop, possibly related to the Oilers’ lineup card, as Calgary coach Darryl Sutter chatted with officials from behind the bench.

The Flames are back in action in Toronto on Tuesday. The Oilers are off until Friday when they face the Canucks in Vancouver’s first game since their COVID-19 outbreak.

Notes: Edmonton held a ceremony to honour the late Colby Cave earlier Saturday. The 25-year-old Oilers forward died last April after doctors discovered a cyst in his brain. … Mangiapane and Bennett extended their point streaks to four games. … The Oilers placed 27-year-old centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (upper body) on the injured-reserve list earlier Saturday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 11, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Edmonton Oilers place centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on injured list

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EDMONTON — The Edmonton Oilers have placed Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the injured-reserve list. 

The 27-year-old centre missed Edmonton’s game against the Ottawa Senators Thursday with an upper-body injury. 

Nugent-Hopkins is fifth on the team in scoring with 28 points (12 goals and 16 assists) in 40 games. 

Edmonton has recalled forwards Tyler Ennis and James Neal to the active roster. 

The Oilers (25-14-2) sit second in the North Division, five points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

Edmonton is set to face the Flames in Calgary on Saturday. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 10, 2021. 

The Canadian Press

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