reprinted from Red Deer
Advocate (Paul Cowley) February 3, 2011
Work will begin before the spring thaw to repair a near-century-old
rail bridge in Red Deer County.
A $121,800 contract to repair a rotting support pier on the former
Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. span across the Red Deer River has
been awarded to Timcon Construction (1988) Ltd., said Evan Bedford,
the county's engineering co-ordinator.
The construction firm wants to begin work to replace the pier while
the ground is still frozen and can support heavy equipment, said
It will not be the usual construction project. The firm must lift a
key supporting girder that has settled over time, crushing the
wooden supports below it. The weight of the bridge on the crumbling
support pier has caused an ominous 60-cm sag in the historic bridge
about eight km southwest of Red Deer.
Bedford said an inspection showed the giant 30-cm-square wooden
supports had over the decades been slowly crushed by the steel
Crews will first lift the sagging support girder and shore it up
with temporary shims. The old pier will be removed and a new steel
one slipped into place by crane and the girder lowered onto it.
"As much as possible, we've tried to get the new structure to
resemble the rest of the old trestles," he said.
The last train to cross the so-called Mintlaw Bridge rumbled 33
metres above the river in 1981. As a safety precaution, the two ends
of the bridge were later removed to stop people from walking across.
Last November, county council approved spending up to $350,000 to
repair the bridge. Since the contract to undertake the most pressing
repairs came in lower than expected, county staff are now reviewing
whether additional work can be undertaken.
Restoration efforts will focus on the west end for now. A similar
east pier is in better shape, as are three smaller piers.
"Right now, our main goal is just to get that wooden structure
replaced that's being crushed because it's more of an emergency
There were fears that if some work wasn't done on the bridge soon,
it would have to be scrapped and a piece of the area's rail history
would be lost forever.
Some would like to see the bridge become part of a walking and
pedestrian trail. The county has estimated it would cost just over
$2 million to provide a new deck, railings, pier repairs and new
spans on each end to reconnect it with the banks. No decision has
been made on that yet.
Bedford admits the project has struck a chord among some of the
staff working to save the bridge, which at 633 metres is the second
longest CPR bridge of its kind in Alberta, after one in Lethbridge.
"It's a beautiful old structure. It's part of Alberta's heritage and
I think no one wants to see it tumble down or anything like that."
more about the
Alberta Central Railway and
ACR Linear Park
Mintlaw Bridge essential to region's railroad
(Red Deer Express March 2010)