Canadian Northern Railway
The Alberta Midland Railway
An Engineering Challenge
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The Alberta Midland Railway

Alberta Midland Railway
Alberta Midland Railway
he Alberta Midland Railway (AMR) was incorporated by an act of the Alberta Legislature on February 25, 1909; the principal applicants were William MacKenzie and Donald Mann. Permission was granted to lay down an extensive network of lines. Only two were built, a main branch from Vegreville to Calgary, and a short cut from this branch from Camrose to South Edmonton (Strathcona).

Railway financing had been affected by a stock market panic following the collapse of the copper market in 1907,1 and the economic doldrums that followed. But by 1909, the legislatures of the two new provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan were eager to make up for lost time and were prepared to enact legislation and provide bond guarantees, for branch line construction. Historian T.D. Regehr states “the charters of these local companies were a curious compendium of local commercial and political pressures and aspirations.”2 And that “these companies were...nothing more than local extensions of the larger systems and were amalgamated with those systems as soon as the available provincial aid had been collected.”3 In fact amalgamation between the AMR and the parent—The Canadian Northern Railway—took effect on July 12, 1909. By Dominion statute dated April 1, 1912 the CNoR was authorized to build the lines of the AMR outlined in the original provincial charter.

The AMR became essentially a coal railway serving the agricultural needs of the country through which it passed. It tapped the coal resource in the Drumheller area to serve prairie markets. The coal was soft and liable to produce sparks that made it unsuitable for steam locomotives but adequate for commercial and domestic use.4

Disagreements with the Canadian Pacific Railway and the City of Calgary led to delays. The CPR had irrigation rights on the Red Deer River and construction was held up between Stettler and Munson until the dispute over the right of way was resolved.5 Initial plans for entering Calgary, submitted in 1910, were opposed and a new plan had to be negotiated.6

An Engineering Challenge

Rosebud River Crossings, An Engineering Challenge for the Alberta Midland Railway
Rosebud River Crossings, An Engineering Challenge for the Alberta Midland Railway

An engineering challenge occurred where the track between Rosedale and Redland, followed a deeply incised, old glacial meltwater valley now occupied by the Rosebud River.

The short cut from Camrose was abandoned in 1929 in favour of a cut-off from Bretona to Bretville Junction, just east of the Clover Bar bridge at Edmonton. With other changes and the demise of coal as a primary source for energy the AMR became another grain line of the Canadian National Railways.

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Notes | Bibliography | Abbreviations
1. G.R. Stevens, Canadian National Railways, Vol. 2, Towards the Inevitable 1896–1922 (Toronto: Clarke, Irwin and Co., 1962), p. 61.
2. T. Regehr, The Canadian Northern Railway: Pioneer Road of the Northern Prairies, 1895–1918 (Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1976), p. 199.
3. Ibid., p. 201.
4. T.D. Regehr, The Canadian Northern Railway: Agent of National Growth, 1896–1911 (Dissertation, Dept. of History, University of Alberta, 1967), p. 202.
5. Duhamel Historical Society, Battle River Country, p. 256.
6. Calgary Herald, 7 September 1910; 30 July 1910.