World-class attraction proposed
reprinted from Red Deer
Advocate (Laura Tester) February 4, 2010
Forth Junction idea as theme
park based on model train village
World-class attractions focused on railway and other ground
transportation are being promoted for sites in downtown Red Deer and
Red Deer County by a group that has been working quietly for a year
on the vision.
Forth Junction Heritage Society hopes to turn Red Deer into a major
tourist destination that would include shops, a children's theme
park and a ground transportation museum in the heart of Riverlands.
Visitor accommodations modelled after historic rail stations, plus a
nature park, would be found on land within the county.
Society president Paul Pettypiece told the Advocate on Wednesday
that their "very bold and ambitious" concept will take about 20
years to fully develop, a lot of work and millions of dollars to
This is the first time their vision has been made public.
"It is achievable, sustainable and will create a unique attraction
for visitors and tourists from all over North America and perhaps
the world," said Pettypiece.
"And as a result, (it will) become a major economic generator for
The concept includes four projects, hailed as never seen before in
Forth Junction has a major tourist and public activity centre in
mind for Riverlands, an area west of Taylor Drive set for
It would include a transportation-themed amusement park, shopping
centre, ground transportation museum, large gathering area and an
"The main entranceway would feature a teepee because we want to
start off with ancient transportation systems that the aboriginals
used," said Pettypiece.
The building would also include a tower restaurant in the shape of a
Pettypiece said this project is still in its early stages.
Formed last spring, the now-registered society includes 10 members
who have a strong interest in railway and transportation history.
"We want to get the community engaged in this," said Pettypiece.
The second major project would occur on an unidentified county site
close to the railway and Red Deer.
A series of railway stations, using various historic styles found in
Central Alberta would be set up for accommodations. A family and
nature park, as well as an observation tower would also be on hand.
A miniature train for people to ride in could be operational.
Third, Canada's largest historical model railway museum could be set
up as part of the Riverlands concept. The museum would give the
history on how the city and region looked in 1892, 1911, 1939, 1955,
and 1985 as well as offering a look into the future.
Forth Junction's final project centres on building a replica of The
Chinook -- a high speed transportation passenger train of the 1930s
to 1950s between Calgary and Edmonton. It could go on either the
county site or next to the old CPR railway station near 51st Avenue.
"We want both venues to be self-sustaining, which is why we put the
retail in the downtown project and the accommodations in the county
project," said Pettypiece.
Besides these four projects, Forth Junction is also proposing a
corridor linking Red Deer College with a possible future airport
terminal near the historic Mintlaw trestle just off of the C&E Trail
southwest of Red Deer. The corridor could be used for trams.
A tram or other similar transportation could move people between
Rotary Recreation Park and Bower Ponds along Alexander Way (48th
Guided or self-guided tours could link railway and other historic
icons within the city and region.
Forth Junction also suggests branding the region based on past and
Pettypiece said they've had discussions with city and county
officials, as well as Red Deer Chamber of Commerce, and all appear
supportive of the concept.
"We haven't actually gone out and asked for money -- and this isn't
the time to do it when they are cutting back on projects," he said.
Pettypiece anticipates fundraising and government grants will be
Construction, at the earliest, would begin in three to five years.
"We don't want to take this too far until the community is
supportive of it," said Pettypiece. "We don't want it to go the same
route of the canals."
A business group had lobbied for water canals, similar to those
found in San Antonio, Tex., as a main attraction in Riverlands. The
canal concept was deemed exciting and innovative, but ultimately not
authentic to the community and one with implementation challenges,
according to the 2008 Greater Downtown Action Plan document.