A Protective Unifier of East and West?
The completion of a transcontinental rail way may have been the main reason for John A. Mac Donald's peculiar return to power in 1878, after his scandal ridden defeat. A leader who had already demonstrated the flaws in his demeanour, Mac Donald still held his voters confidence in being able to fulfill the promise of a link between the manufacturing mecca of eastern Canada with the markets and raw materials of the western frontier. This physical link, a requirement for joining confederation for British Columbia, is a demonstration of the capacity of Canada to stand apart from its southern neighbours; to form its own unique and unified identity, stretching from "sea to sea". The railway plays a fundamental role in the birth and maturation of Canada as a nation.
The flip side of such promise and possibility is seen in the divisiveness of the placement of the railway, as it played out locally. The construction of the rail ways held a high cost in human life for Chinese labour forces. The normalization of its shipping method lead to the displacement dispossession of the Metis and their Red River Ox carts. The life blood of settlements were quickly sucked dry, if the rails happened to exclude them. Thriving communities like the original Duhamel and Rosenroll, along with many others, where deemed obsolete by arbitrary surveyor decisions. Change, for some, was costly. For others, the rails pumped in instantaneous population explosions. Winnipeg, for instance, went from a population of 241 in 1871, to over 163 000 in 1916, all as a result of their enticement of the Canadian Pacific.
Currently, both the CNR and CPR provide daily rail service through Camrose County; and in fact, even share the use of a section of rail line (a huge testament towards cooperation in ``taming the west).
Pictured to the lower right, is monument placed on St. Thomas Road, to commemorate where the Grand Trunk Pacific Rail tracks used to cut through what is now a farm lane, to the bridge that stood across the valley in what became known as Ross' Flats. Click on the photo of the Grand Trunk sign to hear local resident and author, Stan Trautman give more details about the placement of those particular tracks, and their connection to Ross's Flats.
Click on the photo of the Rosenroll Creamery from the provincial archives to hear Mr. Trautman on the potency of the surveyors, in setting down far more than just timber and metal.
The photo to the right documents the hope deeply entrenched in the rails, noting the expectation for future expansion, in this 1907 booklet set out by the Trustees of Camrose as a progress report of their town. The booklet is a protected artifact at the Camrose and District Centennial Museum.
Click on the photo of John A Mac Donald above, to hear the CBC interview between Author Richard Gwyn & Michael Enright, discussing: Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: His Life, Our Times.
The photos below document some of the early surveying tools used. These, and many more railway artifacts, are on display at the Camrose Heritage Railway Station & Park.
Battle River Rail: Preserving Transportation & Agricultural Infrastructure
Battle River Rail is a community lead co-operative which seeks to conserve the history and relevance of the railway in the area. By offering a way to keep usage and shipping options local, the group seeks to conserve the transportation and agricultural infrastructure that has impacted the Battle River area since the turn of the century. On November 10, 2010, Battle River Rail received its permanent operating license from Alberta Transportation. Click on the box above, "MORE INFORMATION ON BRR" to find out details on what and how you can ship!
Experience the Luxury of the Rails:
If you are more interested in experiencing the rails for yourself, Battle River Rail Passenger Excursions may be the perfect fit for you! The Friends of the Battle River Railway have lovingly restored a luxury vintage passenger car, and use it regularly for adventurous excursions in and around the county. The photos to the right and below, (provided by Tourism Camrose, shows a recent travel & dining experience, where passengers were on route to the historic, and quite possibly haunted, Heisler Hotel.
Friends of Battle River Railway:
Friends of Battle River Railway organize experiences through out the year, to recreate the magic of rail travel. In June of 2016, passengers boarded the train at the Camrose County Nature Conservation Centre, and then roamed the rails to Heisler. Pre-dinner snacks and live entertainment added to the ambiance, before the tour culminated with a dining experience at the Historic Heisler Hotel. For more information, please click on "Friends of Battle River Rail" box.
The photo gallery below captures only a fraction of the railway culture readily available in Camrose County. Whether you are exploring Meeting Creek, Round Hill, Camrose Heritage Railway Station, Donalda, Ferintosh, Heisler, Rosalind, or a plethora of other places, you are sure to find the relevance of the railway around every corner.