Red Willow rail construction comes to screeching halt

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  • Jun. 29, 2011 5:00 p.m.

ADAM JACKSON/Black Press

The reconstruction of the rail line between Stettler and Red Willow has come to a screeching halt due to funding.

The section of rail that is being rebuilt was originally ripped out in 1996 and sold for scrap, but now it is being rebuilt to attract the Alberta Prairie Railway trail to Red Willow.

“The tourist train had been running to Donalda prior to it being ripped out, and the Alberta Heritage Society formed to buy the rail to stretch from Big Valley to Stettler and at the same time, they acquired the rail right of way between Morin and Edburgh,” said Alberta Heritage Society’s Bruce Gartside.

The length of the right of way turned is approximately 160 kilometres.

Planning and some construction started two years ago with the receipt of a $2.6 million grant from the federal government as a part of the economic action plan.

“We are currently constructing the rail from Stettler to Red Willow, which puts it halfway to Donalda,” said Gartside. “But the used rail that we bought was so costly that we could only afford to get half way.”

Gartside says that the group will need another $2 million to finish the rail line.

Due to the price of the used rail — which surprised the society — the funds have drained and construction is at a standstill.

The East Alberta Heritage Society also ran into some problems buying the rail, as they were not allowed to bid on the rail with the other major companies, which means that they had to go through a third-person system.

On the bright side for the heritage society, all proceeds generated from the 255 passengers on the Father’s Day special train on June 19 will be donated to the East Alberta Heritage Society.

The society will find out the grand total within the next week, but in previous years the train rides have raised between $14,000 and $16,000.

The money raised this year will go toward relaying the rail between Stettler and Donalda.

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