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Industry Achievement
Edmonton, Alberta (2004)
Edmonton celebrated its centennial in 2004, having grown from humble beginnings as a fur-trade post located on the North Saskatchewan River, to the vibrant industrial centre that it has become today. Playing a key role in the on-going development of the community is the Canadian railway industry.

CN's Calder Yard, 1986In November 1905, the Canadian Northern Railway (CNR) arrived in Edmonton marking the beginning of a long and beneficial association. While the Canadian Pacific Railway's (CPR) Calgary to Edmonton branch had arrived in Strathcona, on the south side of the North Saskatchewan River from Edmonton in 1891, it was the arrival of the CNR, and later its rival the Grand Trunk Pacific (GTP) that ensured the development of Edmonton into an important railway town.

Both the CNR and the GTP constructed extensive freight yards and related facilities in the city—first, the CNR downtown, and then, the GTP in the community of Calder.

The CNR built a classic Pratt-designed passenger station shared by the GTP just west of the present CN Tower on 104 Avenue in 1905. The CPR too added a downtown station upon construction of the famous High Level bridge that finally made the connection from the “south side” with downtown Edmonton in 1913.

Edmonton High Level Bridge, circa 1913In 1915, the Edmonton, Dunvegan, and British Columbia Railway began construction of its route from Edmonton north to the Peace River district, with its headquarters operations located at Dunvegan Yards. This railway formed the basis for what became the Northern Alberta Railways between 1929 and 1980.

Over the years, Edmonton has not only been the major terminal for Canadian National’s operations extending in all directions from the city, but it has been an important regional headquarters for the railway.

First train into Edmonton over the High Level Bridge, June 19, 1913A classic railway hotel, the Hotel Macdonald, was opened by the GTP in 1915. This landmark remains the premier hotel in the city. It was beautifully restored by Canadian Pacific Hotels in the early 1990s.

Today, CN's Network Operations Centre—responsible for system coordination of all CN operations across an extensive North American network—is located in the community, and CN remains an important local employer and corporate citizen.

Edmonton continues to develop as an important regional centre serving the agricultural, forestry, and ever-expanding oilsands development that are driving forces in the western Canadian economy.

CN, CPR, and the Athabasca Northern Railway are part of the city's railway network. The original GTP yards at Calder have now been developed into CN's Walker Yard where extensive flat switching and hump yard operations ensure timely delivery of traffic from various Alberta origins to world markets.

The CN McBain Intermodal Terminal, developed in 2002, and the CPR Alberta Intermodal facility located on the city's south side combine to ensure competitive and environmentally friendly intermodal gateways for regional shippers.

Brent Cheek of the Hall of Fame presenting His Worship Stephen Mandel, Mayor of Edmonton, with the Hall of Fame certificateBoth CN and CPR are essential in providing service to the massive petrochemical complex located in the Fort Saskatchewan area, just north east of the city, and short lines Lakeland & Waterways and Athabasca Northern have paired up to ensure rail access from Edmonton to Alberta's oil sands region at Fort McMurray.

Transcontinental rail passenger service is also offered in Edmonton by VIA Rail's award-winning Canadian service. VIA constructed a new station facility in Edmonton near the west end of CN's Walker Yard in 1997.

Ensuring the preservation of Edmonton's railway history is the Alberta Railway Museum, located in northeast Edmonton. This museum has successfully preserved some unique items of the area's railway historyincluding passenger equipment from the former Northern Alberta Railways.

On the occasion of the one-hundredth anniversary of the Province of Alberta entering Confederation, and of the same centennial of the Canadian Northern Railway's arrival, the Canadian Railway Hall of Fame honours the city of Edmonton in our communities category for 2004.

Photos: CN, CPR Archives & S.I. Smith

    © 2006 The Canadian Railway Hall of Fame. All registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners.