reprinted from Red Deer
Advocate (Paul Cowley) June 14, 2010
and Central Alberta Life June 17, 2010
Lots of train
history here in Central Alberta, say enthusiasts
Like many who have set down roots in Red Deer, the area's natural
beauty was a major draw for Paul Pettypiece.
But there was something else that caught his eye when he moved to
the city in 1973 from Manitoba, after discovering he hated (the
traffic congestion of) his
intended destination of Calgary.
"I was really fascinated by the railway heritage," he said. "It's
always been somewhat of an interest, but it really peaked when I
For train enthusiasts, Red Deer offers a gold mine of relatively
obscure rail history. No fewer than four railroads have served the
area over the last century.
Remnants of that history are scattered about. The old rail bridge
over the river near Riverside Meadows, the bridge abutment next to
Taylor Drive for the long-defunct Alberta Central Railway, and a
97-year-old Mintlaw trestle for the same railway company over the
Red Deer River in the county. Of course, the most visible reminder
of the city's past rail glory is the well-preserved train station
that still sits at the head of Ross Street, now converted into
"They're kind of disconnected and people don't really understand how
they are connected," he said.
When the city began taking a serious look at the potential for the
downtown area a few years ago, Pettypiece and others with an
interest in rail and transportation history saw an opportunity to
present their own vision.
A proposal was submitted that has since been refined into a more
elaborate and ambitious project billed as the Forth Junction
At the heart of the project would be The Crossing, which is
envisioned as "Canada's only trail-rail-transit family
entertainment-retail-heritage tourist and community attraction." It
would feature indoor gathering area, perhaps echoing a roundhouse
theme, retail, indoor theme park, ground transportation heritage
centre, and an observation restaurant modelled on the Prairies'
once-ubiquitous grain elevators.
Initial plans propose centres showcasing wagon, rail and transit
heritage and a space devoted to the future of transportation, which
could feature an example of high-speed rail technology. A model
railway display would also be a prime attraction, said Pettypiece,
who is an avid model railway fan with 40 locomotives and 500 cars in
his N-scale collection.
A replica could also be created of the Jubilee 3001 "The Chinook"
engine that sped between Edmonton and Calgary and was one of the
fastest engines of its day. Only five were built and none survived.
Pettypiece said the Forth Junction Heritage Society wants to make a
mark with the project. "We want it to be a landmark building that
says Red Deer and is widely recognized as a Red Deer icon."
The group is looking beyond Red Deer however. A heritage railway
station, overnight accommodation village and family nature park,
with a miniature steam train and examples of historic rail stations,
is proposed for Red Deer County just outside the city.
Long-term, shuttle links could be established to tie in the two
areas and perhaps provide connections to other historical rail
attractions such as the Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions out of
The society sees it all as a long-term project that could take 20
years to unfold. "It will happen in stages. We'd like to see
something on the ground within five years."
In the meantime, Pettypiece and other members of the society,
including local historian Michael Dawe, Steve Parkin, transportation
enthusiast and the owner of a historic full-sized transit bus, and
railway buff Darcy Colenutt, plan to stoke interest in the project.
For information go to
Paul Pettypiece: fascinated by trains
Jerry Gerling, Red Deer Advocate