Connect with us

Alberta

Summer Vacation Idea – Central Alberta’s collection of Train stations preserved along the Highway 56 Corridor

Published

13 minute read

Article submitted by Paul O’Neil

For decades, the railroad station or “depot” was the transportation hub of many communities across North America.  As the “storefront” for the railway company, the depot was the town’s gateway, handling express freight, serving travelers, and providing vital communication in an erathat is now almost forgotten.  In Canada’s West, the remaining small-town depots that continue to exist are now museums, private businesses or residences, or in the worst cases have been left to deteriorate as hulks on private property.

There is however a special historical railway on the Prairies that has developed into a true “historic railway district”.  A visit to the depots preserved by the Canadian Northern Society in Central Alberta provides a glimpse into the past – an entire collection of classic railroad station designs, carefully and lovingly maintained by a dedicated group of volunteers.

History Background:

Members of the Canadian Northern Society include historians, community volunteers, gardeners, and other local supporters who have since 1987 been active in the preservation of its namesake railway’s history, and in particular its depots.  The Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) traces its origins to Manitoba in 1896.  Visionary founders Sir William Mackenzie and Sir Donald Mann – both instrumental as contractors in the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway – grew the company from a modest short line between Gladstone and the Dauphin district of Manitoba into to a 9500 mile transcontinental system.

Despite the relative business success of the CNoR’s branchline network, negative financial impacts created by the First World War, together with mounting debt from the over-expansion led to the company being nationalized in late 1918.  By 1924, operations in Central Alberta were amalgamated with the rival Grand Trunk Pacific Railway under the newly formed Canadian National Railways (CN) banner.

DEPOTS

Similar to other western railroads, the CNoR designed standard plans to be used at individual locations based on the size and importance of the locality to be served.  In Alberta, the most common CNoR design was the combination freight and passenger “Third Class” station.  Several “Second Class” depots intended primarily for divisional points were constructed, and a single-story “Fourth Class” depot design were also found.  The designs were flexible enough that additions could be constructed as traffic or operations warranted.  The distinctive pyramid or “semi-pyramid” roofline of a CNoR depot, a feature designed by company architect Ralph Benjamin Pratt, created a unique and pleasing image.

By the late 1960’s the depot-era on the former CNoR Battle River Subdivision (a large portion had by then been renamed the “Stettler Subdivision”) was drawing to a close.  However, the presence of a branch line passenger service in the form of a Budd RDC service between Edmonton and Drumheller ensured the continued existence of several depots as passenger shelters that otherwise would most certainly face demolition.  The Edmonton to Drumheller service lasted into VIA Rail Canada times until the Trudeau Government service cuts of November 1981 gutted passenger service across Canada.

ENTER THE CANADIAN NORTHERN SOCIETY

Meeting Creek, MP 21.2

My beautiful picture

By 1986, the CNoR Third Class depot at Meeting Creek was surviving on borrowed time, vandalized and yet escaping the fate of several identical structures in neighboring towns.  As a result of an interest by a small group of younger railroaders and rail historians, powered perhaps by a few pints enjoyed in a Stettler pub, the Canadian Northern Society (CNoS) was soon established with the intent to save this classic structure from imminent destruction.

Armed with enthusiasm, some grant money, and the support of short-line Central Western Railway; the CNoS got to work repairing the roof, floors, rebuilding the wooden platform, painting, and replacing missing windows, doors and chimneys.  By 1989 the Meeting Creek depot was resurrected from a sad state to her today’s 1940’s-era appearance.

Complimenting the station today is another vanishing prairie icon.  A 1917 Alberta Pacific Grain elevator located across from the depot was purchased by CNoS from the Alberta Wheat Pool in 1992.  Over the years, it too has been conserved by the Society and work continues into its second century.  A second grain elevator, while privately owned, ensures that Meeting Creek continues to feature two classic prairie elevators that dominate the skyline in this picturesque location.

 

Donalda, MP 30.9:

9.7 miles south of Meeting Creek lies the Village of Donalda.  Always an agrarian-based community, Donalda was never larger than 500 souls, and as such rated a Canadian Northern Railway “Third Class Depot”.  Unfortunately, the original depot at Donalda was demolished in 1984.

Thanks to the efforts of the CNoS, the group was able to relocate an original CNoR “Fourth-Class” type depot, donated by a Saskatchewan farmer many miles to the east.  All the Societyhad to do was physically move this building 700 miles from her location at Vandura, Saskatchewan to Donalda!  Through fundraising and community support, the building was moved to Donalda in 1991. The depot was restored to her CN oxide red paint scheme, with cream trim on the windows and facia boards.  The interior of the depot was refurbished to her heyday as a depot and is now included in the present-day collection of the Donalda & District Museum. Like Meeting Creek, a short section of original CNoR 60-pound steel main track remains preserved in front of the depot.

Warden MP 55.8:

Five miles south of Stettler is the one-time important junction of the CNoR Brazeau Subdivision, its westward extension into the coal fields at the foot of the Rockies.  Originally, a “Fourth Class” station was located here, being destroyed by fire and replaced with a standard later version of the company’s “Third Class” design in 1919.  This structure was sold and demolished in the 1980’s, and was recently replaced by a “representative” train order office/depot built entirely by CNoS volunteers, that features design features, artifacts, and “parts” of the original depot.  It is used for educational purposes in a peaceful park-like setting along what is now short-line Alberta Prairie Railway.

Big Valley, MP 72.1:

Established in 1911, Big Valley was once hub of the division for the CNoR.  By 1921 this one-time bustling terminal boasted well over 300 employees on payroll and featured a 10 stallroundhouse, coaling plant, water tank, and other terminal facilities.  Big Valley’s 1912-built depot was a large “Second Class” design commonly constructed by the CNoR at divisionalpoints across the system. The main floor handled passenger and LCL business, while the second-floor housed accommodations for the agent – and later crews and offices.

The Big Valley depot was the second major conservation project for the Canadian Northern Society in 1989.  Encouraged by the Village of Big Valley, CNoS began refurbishment of the station, and was able to raise funding from Alberta Historical Resources Foundation and various temporary job creation programs to restore the depot to today’s attractive 1940’s-era exterior appearance.  

At the same time, shortline operator Central Western Railway was launching Alberta’s first tourist railroad service. Big Valley, like in her previous railroad life, again had the infrastructure to accommodate steam powered trains into the community.  In addition, the 10-stall roundhouse,by then in ruins with only the concrete walls showing her prominence to the community was preserved as an interpretive park through the efforts of CNoS, Central Western, and the Village of Big Valley.  Volunteers cleared and excavated the site, allowing the view of the ash and turntable pits, boiler room and machine shop.  You can imagine the one-time bustling activity of Ten-Wheelers and Consolidations locomotives receiving service at the Roundhouse.  

Big Valley today is the centerpiece of this rich CNoR heritage, plus a restored grain elevator to complete the scene of a bustling prairie railroad terminal.  The Big Valley Historical Society also operates an excellent local museum in a classic garage on Railway Avenue, together with maintaining St. Edmund’s Church – a spiritual home of many of the community’s early railroaders.   Serving as primary destination for Stettler based Alberta Prairie Railway, seasonal excursion trains arrive at Big Valley on a scheduled basis, where passengers spend a few hours in the community, experiencing the magic of its railway, ranching, and mining historical attractions.

Further along the line in the ghost town of Rowley is another preserved CNoR Third Class depot, built to a similar floor plan as Meeting Creek’s railway station.  While not part of the Canadian Northern Society’s collection, it is certainly worth a visit while in historic “Rowleywood”.

Other Projects

In addition to its Stettler Subdivision projects, the Canadian Northern Society has and continues to support other railway preservation efforts.

Over the years the preservation of depots at Rowley, Smoky Lake, Viking, Canora in Saskatchewan, and Dauphin in Manitoba have all been supported by CNoS. A roundhouse project at the former CNoR divisional point of Hanna has also been aided by the CNoS.  While the 1909 Viking depot is in fact a rival GTP station, the CNoS was instrumental in its 1991 preservation – and remarkably you can still catch a train here – with VIA Rail Canada’s flagship train “The Canadian” stopping upon request.

The CNoS collection of depots and the corresponding regional history that they represent has become part of the historical fabric of Western Canada.  It is proud to have left this legacy – and its true hope is that future generations will continue to be educated by its efforts, and will perhaps contribute to the further preservation of each of these wonderful historic structures.  

This summer the Canadian Northern Railway Historical Society invites you to visit these historic buildings along Alberta’s Highway 56 corridor.  

Todayville is a digital media and technology company. We profile unique stories and events in our community. Register and promote your community event for free.

Follow Author

Alberta

Provincial funds help build biofuel plant at Lethbridge reducing emissions equivalent to 41,000 homes

Published on

Diversifying the economy with cutting-edge tech

The Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) fund is supporting a new facility in southern Alberta that will create jobs and cut emissions by transforming agricultural waste.

Alberta’s government is using $4.7 million from the TIER fund through Emissions Reduction Alberta to create a $28.6-million facility in Lethbridge that will produce an estimated 70 million litres of high-value renewable fuel. This facility will be the first of its kind in Canada, turning local agricultural waste, inedible animal fats and used cooking oil into biodiesel fuel and glycerin.

The facility will buy more than $375 million of local feedstock from farmers over the next five years, generating about $500 million in revenue and supporting up to 130 local jobs in fields like engineering, construction and transportation. It will also cut about 224,000 tonnes of emissions each year – the same as reducing emissions from the electricity used by 41,000 homes.

“Alberta is home to world-renowned expertise on cutting agricultural emissions, and the Canary Biofuels facility is another world-class project Alberta’s government is supporting to diversify the economy and create jobs. I’m pleased to see the expansion of another groundbreaking Alberta-based technology that is cutting emissions and getting Albertans back to work.”

Jason Nixon, Minister of Environment and Parks

The facility’s biodiesel will have up to one-third the carbon intensity of petroleum diesel. The renewable fuel produced at the facility has also been pre-sold to a leading Canadian supplier of biodiesel whose customers include fuel retailers, wholesalers, distributors and fleet managers across Canada and the United States. This builds on Alberta’s strong record of environmental, social and governance actions.

“As world leaders in agricultural emission reductions, Alberta farmers will be key beneficiaries of the renewable diesel produced at this facility. Projects like this showcase the steps Alberta is taking to diversify the economy with cutting-edge technology and to create local jobs and opportunities.”

Grant Hunter, MLA for Taber-Warner

“Emissions Reduction Alberta continues to identify and invest in opportunities that accelerate the innovation required to strengthen Alberta’s economy and reduce greenhouse gases. Canary’s project will create new revenues for western Canadian agricultural producers and help meet the growing North American demand for biodiesel. This project is another example of what can happen when government, industry and entrepreneurs come together to deliver better economic and environmental outcomes.”

Steve MacDonald, CEO, Emissions Reduction Alberta

This funding is part of the province’s commitment of up to $750 million for emissions reduction and economic diversification programs and projects through the TIER fund and other funding that will directly support about 9,000 jobs and inject $1.9 billion into Alberta’s economy.

“Canary Biofuels is Alberta’s first Generation 2 biodiesel producer with its flagship facility in Lethbridge. Canary is excited to lead the path in Alberta in abating emissions through sustainable waste-based biodiesel production that supports the energy and agriculture industries in Alberta and the Prairies. Canary would like to thank all its investors and partners, including the Government of Alberta, for their tremendous support. Canary is proud to support Alberta in creating new jobs and helping Alberta industry on its journey to net zero.”

George Wadsworth, CEO, Canary Biofuels

“Canadian canola is used in biofuel production around the world because it’s a low-carbon, sustainable and renewable resource. We are excited to see more investment in Lethbridge that will directly benefit canola farmers and Alberta’s agriculture value chain.”

Brad Orr, director, Canola Council of Canada

“Canary Biofuels will provide long-term diversified business opportunity for R.K. Heggie Grain and Transmark. Local canola producers will have direct market access to the growing biofuel industry, and the livestock industry will get a much-needed supply of canola meal. Canary Biofuels is natural fit with R.K. Heggie Grain and Transmark to provide the company with feedstock for the plant and rail infrastructure to the get finished product to international markets.”

Brent Peterson, vice-president, Transloading, Transmark/RK Heggie Grains

TIER funding

The TIER system is funded by large industry that pay into the fund when they do not meet emissions targets. Alberta is using the TIER fund for a range of programs that are reducing emissions, boosting the economy and getting Albertans back to work.

Quick facts

  • The new Canary Biofuels facility is expected to be operational by fall 2021.
  • TIER helps industrial facilities, which account for more than 60 per cent of Alberta’s total emissions, find innovative ways to reduce emissions and invest in clean technology to save money and stay competitive.
  • Emissions Reduction Alberta invests revenues from TIER to accelerate the development and deployment of innovative clean technology solutions.
  • Since 2009, Emissions Reduction Alberta has committed $649 million toward 204 projects worth $4.5 billion that are reducing emissions, creating competitive industries and leading to new business opportunities in Alberta. These projects are estimated to deliver cumulative reductions of almost 35 million tonnes of emissions by 2030.
Continue Reading

Alberta

Sentencing delay for men found guilty of flouting Alberta COVID-19 rules

Published on

CALGARY — Sentencing arguments for an Alberta pastor and his brother found guilty of contempt after deliberately violating COVID-19 health orders have been put over until September.

Artur Pawlowski and his brother Dawid Pawlowski were arrested in May and accused of organizing an illegal gathering as well as promoting and attending an illegal gathering.

The arrests came after court orders were granted allowing Alberta Health Services and police to arrest and charge anyone who advertised gatherings that would breach health restrictions.

Last month, Justice Adam Germain ruled that Alberta Health Services had proven “nearly to absolute certainty” that the two Calgary men were “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of contempt.”

Discussions on possible sanctions were set for Tuesday, but the lawyer for the Pawlowskis asked for a delay since Alberta Health Services was preparing further affidavits against her clients.

The health provider has indicated it will be seeking 21 days of jail time for the two men.

Germain granted the delay to make sure that defence lawyer Sarah Miller had time to prepare her arguments.

“Frankly, on a matter of this nature, where you have what some legal authorities might describe as an almost public contempt, bordering on criminal contempt … I’m going to give her every opportunity to vigorously defend her clients,” said Germain.

Alberta Health Services has indicated it is seeking 21 days of jail time for the two men.

The judge said the delay might give the court a better understanding of COVID-19 in remand centres and provincial correction institutions.

“There are people who doubt the COVID-19. I can look at the death or morbidity statistics as much as any other judge and it’s a real issue,” Germain said.

“If COVID is running wild in the institutions, we don’t want the 21-day jail sentences that you’ve asked for.”

Germain said he might consider the “unique risks” of someone going to jail. He said the Pawlowskis’ lawyer could have a number of arguments for why they’re not vaccinated, including illnesses that prevent vaccinations.

“Maybe there’s an outbreak in the prison system. All of those things may influence the decision.”

The case is to return to court Sept. 13.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 27, 2021.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

Continue Reading

july, 2021

thu15jul(jul 15)6:30 pmthu19aug(aug 19)6:30 pmPop-up Spray Parks6:30 pm - (august 19) 6:30 pm

Trending

X