The Canadian Pacific Railway
The Alberta Central Railway
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The Alberta Central Railway

Alberta Central Railway, Red Deer to Rocky Mountain House
Alberta Central Railway, Red Deer to Rocky Mountain House
pportunity to open up a large tract of fertile prairie land, give access to the Brazeau coalfields and ultimately form a link in a new transcontinental railway was the germ in the idea of the Alberta Central Railway, ... ” so stated J. Grant MacGregor, Chief Engineer.1 And with amendments to the Dominion incorporating act of 1901 it was envisioned to be a “trans-prairie” railway.2 This was a far cry from its humble beginnings to build from Coal Banks (Township 38, Range 23 west of the 4th meridian) to the Village of Red Deer and Westerly to Townships 39, Range 7 west of the 5th. meridian in the vicinity of Rocky Mountain House.3

Engineer’s Report  on the Alberta Central Railway, 1914
Engineer’s Report on the Alberta Central Railway, 1914

The railway was first planned to serve the settlers brought into the Red Deer area by the Saskatchewan Land and Homestead Company Limited (1883) that had acquired townships in the then Districts of Assiniboia (Crescent Lake) Saskatchewan, (North Elbow) and Alberta (Red Deer).4 The Red Deer Settlement comprised 10 townships: Townships 37, 38, 39; Range 26. Townships 36, 37, 38, 39; Range 27. Townships 36, 37, 38; Range 28; west of the 4th meridian.5

Shortage of capital led to prolonged delays with requests for time extensions. By 1908, John T. Moore, Managing Director of the Land Company, a member of the Alberta Legislature and one of the incorporators of the ACR was able to secure a Federal subsidy of up to $6400 for up to 70 miles from Red Deer.6 On August 10, 1910, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Prime Minister of Canada, was on hand to drive the first spike.7

Alberta Central Railway Reconnaissance Profile
Alberta Central Railway Reconnaissance Profile

Although grading commenced it became necessary by 1911 to call upon the services of a well-known contractor J.D. McArthur of Winnipeg to assume responsibility for building the line.8 By now the directors of the ACR had decided to relinquish control of the railway that passed into the hands of the Canadian Pacific Railway by lease from January 1, 1913 for 999 years.9 The railway reached Lochearn (Rocky Mountain House Post Office) in July 1914.10 The bridge over the North Saskatchewan built by the CPR had been completed and running rights from Otway to Ullin were given to the Canadian Northern Western in exchange for running rights for the Alberta Central to Brazeau (Nordegg). It was therefore unnecessary for the CPR to build further from Rocky Mountain House.11

The Alberta Central was dissolved and its assets vested in the Canadian Pacific on March 28, 1957.12 The line from Forth to Rocky Mountain House was abandoned in 1981.13

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Notes | Bibliography | Abbreviations
1. Engineering Record, 14 March 1914, p. 315ff.
2. Dominion, 8–9 Edward VII, Chapter 39, 1908; 1–2 George V, Chapter 30, 1911.
3. Dominion, 1 Edward VII, Chapter 44, 23 May 1901.
4. John T. Moore, The Settlers' Guide to Homesteads in the Canadian North-west (Toronto: The Saskatchewan Land and Homestead Co., 1884), pp. 13–14; M. Dawe, “ Saskatchewan Land and Homestead Company,” in Mingling Memories (Red Deer: Red Deer East Historical Society, 1979), p. 12.
5. Moore, The Settlers' Guide to Homesteads in the Canadian North-west, p. 24.
6. Dominion, 7–8 Edward VII, Chapter 63, 20 July 1908.
7. M. Dawe, “History of the Alberta Central Railway,” in Along the Burnt Lake Trail (Red Deer: Burnt Lake Historical Society, 1977), p. 8.
8. Ibid.
9. PC 3472, 17 December 1912. Permission to lease.
10. Omer Lavallée Personal Communication.
11. Dominion, 4–5 George V, Chapter 71, 27 May 1914.
12. Omer Lavallée Personal Communication.
13. D. Philips, CPR, Calgary.