The co-operative applied to have a post office called Barrhead located in the store. The request was granted and the post office officially opened on January 1, 1914.1 As soon as elevator facilities opened in Westlock in 1914 on the Edmonton, Dunvegan and British Columbia Railway (ED&BCR)farmers, in the area east of the Pembina River in the vicinity of Manola, began to make the lengthy 18 mile haul with their grain into Westlock. This market outlet helped to stimulate the economy of the area.2 Much of the land east of the Pembina River had been disposed of by September 1, 1916 as well as that west of the Pembina in the immediate area of the Paddle River.3
The McArthur railway interests had received a provincial charter on February 6, 1912 to build a railway called the Athabasca Valley Railway through this area.4 While the charter allowed its principals to raise bond money, the government did not undertake to guarantee any bonds for this project. The charter specified that the railway could be built from a point at or near Edmonton or from a point on the ED&BCR at, or near, Independence (Busby) to a point at, or near Fort Assiniboine on the Athabasca River. The proposed railway would follow a route approximated by the Fort Edmonton to Fort Assiniboine by the fur trade trail.5 In 1916–17 railway surveyors ran two preliminary surveys over two routes between Busby and Fort Assiniboine.6 Shortly after these surveys were run the operating McArthur railway companies in Alberta had collapsed as financial, and to a large extent, as operating entities. No further work was done on the Athabasca Valley Railway and the Charter lapsed.
In the early 1920s settlers began calling on the government to build a railway into this area. The government responded slowly. It was in the process of refinancing and rehabilitating the McArthur railway lines as well as extending lines in the Peace River, Waterways and Hoadley areas.7 Nevertheless, the government did authorize further survey work west of Busby in 1923.8 A very well organized group of settlers presented their case for railway service into the Pembina Valley to the government in February 1924.9 On April 8, 1926 an act to build and operate the Pembina Valley Railway passed through the Alberta Legislature. In that act the Legislature authorized a loan of $775,000 for the purpose of constructing a 27-mile railway from Busby to a point in Townships 58 or 59 Range 4, west of the 5th Meridian.10
Construction began soon after the passage of the act. The final surveys located the line from Busby to a point in the north east quarter of Section 20, Townships 59, Range 3, west of the 5th Meridian where the government acquired land for a townsite and railway terminal facilities.11 The original settlement of Barrhead moved in 1927, one mile west and two miles south to establish itself at the new townsite, which took the name Barrhead.12 Wet weather in the summer of 1926 hampered completion of the grade for the full distance to Barrhead. Trackloging did follow closely behind the grading contractors as the Board of Railway Commissioners formally authorized the Pembina Valley Railway to link up with the ED&BCR at Busby via order number 37748 issued on June 16, 1926. The track reached the Pembina River crossing at mile 19 in the autumn of 1926. The construction department began to carry freight as far as Manola on January 15, 1927.13 Over the winter of 1926–27 contractors erected a bridge across the Pembina River consisting at two 150-foot Howe Truss spans. West of the river, contractors moved slowly with building the grade due to another wet sooner. On September 17, 1927 the tracks reached the new townsite at Barrhead at mile 26.5. The first scheduled train arrived at Barrhead on October 18, 1927.14
The railway offered regularly scheduled train service on a twice weekly basis. Passengers rode in a combined coach and express car coupled behind the freight cars. Before the arrival of the railway, people in the Barrhead area had access to Edmonton by way of a regular bus service.15 This service continued after the advent of railway service. The railway did stimulate agricultural activity in the area as each community along the new rail line had grain elevator and stock per services. Some lumber and pulpwood came out of the area as well.
The Government of Alberta operated the Pembina Valley Railway from its inception until June 30, 1929. On July 1, 1929 the PVR became the Barrhead subdivision of the new Northern Alberta Railways.16