Project on track to restore old railway between Stettler and Red Willow

End of the road….project – After almost seven weeks of paving Highway 12 through the Town of Stettler

End of the road….project – After almost seven weeks of paving Highway 12 through the Town of Stettler

Plans and work are on track to restore an old railway line linking Stettler and Red Willow under a project that East Central Alberta Heritage Society must complete to retain federal funding.

“Work began this week on the grading of the base for re-laying the rail and with co-operation from the weather, the grading to Red Willow should be finished in about 10 days,” society chair Norma Leslie told The Independent last Friday, Aug. 13.

“Laying of the rail will start when the grading is complete, and gravel has been laid on the grade and completion of the project is scheduled for March 31, 2011.”

That leaves about 10 miles to go to Donalda.

With longtime plans to relay the old 20-mile rail line on the east side of Highway 56 that was removed by Central Western Railway in 1998, the local society was granted funding of $3.2 million for this part of the project last fall from the federal Community Adjustment Fund under Western Economic Diversification through Canadian Badlands tourism agency.

“The adjustment from the original application was approved because we simply could not raise enough money to go all the way to Donalda in the time frame we were allowed,” said Leslie.

“East Central Alberta Heritage Society is still dedicated to complete the line to Donalda, but that will have to be another project, and we will need to raise more money to make that a reality.”

A further $732,000 was approved from the same fund to develop five linear parks along the track between Red Willow and Big Valley.

Recently the society purchased quality 80-pound steel rail from Cando Contracting Ltd in Brandon, Manitoba with some of the rail already arrived.

“Funding for the linear parks is also in place,” said Leslie.

“We have completed one-on-one consultations with all of the landowners adjacent to the proposed parks, and have completed the environmental survey we were required to complete.”

Work is scheduled to commence on the parks by the end of August.

“We do anticipate that the linear parks may be completed sooner than planned,” said Leslie.

With the exception of two or three landowners, all of the adjacent landowners to the linear parks have given their signed approval.

Development permits will be applied for with the appropriate municipalities within the next couple of weeks, and then work will proceed.

With the bulk of the funding coming from Western Economic Diversification through Canadian Badlands Ltd., the project has also received support from the Government of Canada Community Adjustment Fund, the Province of Alberta, Atco Electric and ATB Financial, Cando Contracting Ltd. and gift in kind support from the County of Stettler, the Town of Stettler and many other individuals and companies.

Drumheller-Stettler MLA and Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Jack Hayden and federal Crowfoot MP Kevin Sorenson strongly support the project, said Leslie.

Restoring the old line will enable world-famous Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions to extend its tours north of Stettler.