Railway dream shifts to county
Forth Junction targets county
society envisions rural locale to showcase past and future glories
of railway and ground transportation
2-page feature article reprinted from
Gazette (Johnnie Bachusky) December 27, 2011
Impatient with the City of Red Deer's timelines to redevelop its
Riverlands District, the Forth Junction Heritage Society is now
targeting up to nine sites in Red Deer County for the main location
of its ambitious dream to transform the region into a world-class
heritage tourism destination point.
The plan now is to secure a site of at least 40 acres within 20
kilometres of the City of Red Deer and the CPR main line, the latter
being essential to the railway and ground transportation themes of
its proposed tourism park.
The park concept includes two components - the first being a Western
Canada Transpo Centre with a "grand" central gathering place, a
multi-level retail centre, a tower and restaurant up to 10 storeys
high, amusement park, heritage plaza and a historical model rail
The second part of the concept is a Railway Station and Transit
Heritage Resort, which could include a Railway Station Village, a
replica of the Jubilee 3001 "Chinook" steam locomotive, Retro Bus
Depot, nature park and observation tower. The goal behind the
Railway Station Village is to have full-scale replicas of pioneer
stations representing 25 Central Alberta communities.
The initial plan was for the Transpo Centre to be located in Red
Deer's downtown area Riverlands District while the resort would be
in the county.
"Now that the Riverlands is not available we're thinking of
combining the two," said society founder Paul Pettypiece.
"We have semi-abandoned the (Riverlands) idea," added Pettypiece,
noting the city's immediate priorities with the Riverlands District
are infrastructure redevelopment and planning. "The city was not
willing to commit themselves to anything for seven years."
Having the entire project close to the railway in the county would
enable the society and its project to establish marketing links with
rural communities along Central Alberta's railway corridor,
especially those with ongoing railway heritage tourism amenities,
including Innisfail with its historical village and Didsbury with
its preserved pioneer train station and model railway club.
"We haven't contacted all the people (landowners) yet," said
Pettypiece of the new nine proposed sites in the county. He said the
preferred sites are near Penhold and Springbrook. "None are
specific. We are still in the preliminary stages. I don't want to
get specific until I get more of a relationship with the county."
Pettypiece admits his group's dream of seeing the project at full
build-out is at least 20 to 25 years away. However, he said it is
possible that within three years a site can finally be secured
featuring at least a few attractions.
But first the society, now composed of about 30 members, is focusing
on getting letters of support from both the city and the county to
secure a $40,000 provincial grant to conduct a feasibility study.
The society has already received a letter of support from Tourism
Pettypiece said he has talked to some county officials but they were
waiting for a letter, which was delivered Dec. 19.
"Everybody I talk to really likes the idea and concept and hope we
proceed, but nobody is willing to commit funds," said Pettypiece,
adding his group has had preliminary discussions with some
corporations and Canadian Pacific. "They liked the idea but they are
not committing until it is certain it is going ahead."
Meanwhile, Tyler Harke, the county's economic development
coordinator, said he has had preliminary discussions with Pettypiece
but it would be premature to comment on the project without having
received something in writing from the society.
"It is nice to see some people come forward with new ideas," said
Harke. "The process would be for the group to come up with something
in writing and it would be presented to council."
In the meantime, the society has been granted charitable status by
the Canada Revenue Agency. This permits the society to issue
tax-deductible receipts. However, the society is limited to
activities that educate and preserve the evolution of trails, trains
and transit in Central Alberta. As well, Forth Junction has plans to
establish itself as a not-for-profit corporation.
For more information on Forth Junction visit its website at
Pettypiece says a letter has been delivered to Red Deer
County asking for its support to obtain funding from the
provincial government to conduct a feasibility study.
Mountain View Gazette
Forth Junction potential sites