Mintlaw Bridge essential to
reprinted from Red Deer Express March 3, 2010
Central Alberta is very rich
in railroad history. Most of the communities in this region began as
townsites or sidings on a rail line.
One of the most spectacular heritage railroad landmarks is the huge
Alberta Central Railway (ACR) bridge across the Red Deer River,
southwest of the city, near the old railroad hamlet/siding of
The origins of the Alberta Central go back to May 1901 when a
charter was granted by the federal government to a group of Red Deer
and Ontario businessmen. Originally, the rail line authorized to run
from Coal Banks, near modern day Delburne, to Rocky Mountain House.
However, over the years, the ACR's charter was amended to allow it
to run its line from the Fraser Valley through the Yellowhead Pass
to Moose Jaw, with extensions to Saskatoon and the Hudson Bay. In
short, it was planned that the ACR would eventually become a
"transcontinental" railroad extending across the whole of Western
For a long time, very little happened with the ACR. Action finally
came in April, 1909 when the federal government offered a subsidy of
$6,400 per mile to a railway constructed between Red Deer and Rocky
Mountain House. Soon crews of surveyors were laying out a rail
route. Some brushing and grading commenced in the spring of 1910.
Work began on the major bridge across the Red Deer River in
November, 1910. It was to be 2,112 feet long, with 15 quadrilateral
towers and a large centre pier of the bent rocker type. The concrete
substructure was to be built some three to four feet above the
highest known water mark. The bridge itself was to rise some 110
feet above the main pier.
Hence, the ACR bridge across the Red Deer was to be one of the
largest railroad bridges in Alberta.
In order to facilitate the work of the contractors, Robert Dawe, the
local resident engineer for the ACR, had a 445-foot long suspension
bridge constructed alongside the work site. This was accomplished by
having a strong swimmer, Clarence Markle, swim across the river with
a light line. Heavy rope and then cables were pulled across the
river to create the suspension bridge.
In February, 1911, the contract for the concrete substructure was
let to Jackson and Goldie, a firm from St. Boniface, Manitoba. Other
work was given to a large number of local contractors and
In late 1911, the Canadian Bridge Company got the contract for the
construction of the steel superstructure. However, work continued
very slowly as the ACR was short of funds. Eventually, the ACR fell
In 1912, the CPR took over the work on the ACR line. By March 1912,
10 of the quadrilateral towers were erected. By the fall of 1912,
work on the bridge was completed.
Unfortunately, there were two fatal accidents during the
construction of the bridge. Hewson Anderson was killed when he fell
off the scaffolding around the centre pier and was swept under the
river ice. In April 1912, Edward Garrett was killed, on his second
day on the job, when once of the temporary trestles gave way and he
received a fatal concussion to the brain.
In 1981, the last train went over the ACR Mintlaw bridge. In 1983,
the entire ACR branch line of the CPR was abandoned. However, late
last year, Red Deer County purchased the rail bridge from the CPR
for $1, plus a tax receipt for $8.8 million.
Thus, a remarkable heritage landmark is likely going to be saved for
Recently, the Forth Junction Heritage Society has made a number of
proposals towards the preservation and promotion of Red Deer's
railway and transportation heritage. More information on the society
and its proposals can be found at
Also, on Saturday, March 6, 2010 at the Parkland Mall as part of Red
Deer's annual "Let's Talk at the Mall", the Red Deer Museum and Art
Gallery will be having a booth to talk about its public programming,
Hands on History art project and future plans. There will also be a
small display relating to Red Deer's railway history.
PIONEER PROJECT - Alberta Central/Mintlaw railway bridge
under construction in 1911.
courtesy of the Red Deer and District Archives
ACR/CPR Mintlaw steel trestle
Central Railway page
News article: County buys bridge for a buck
(Red Deer Advocate Dec.2009)
News article: County buys historic railway bridge
(Red Deer Express Dec.2009)