Monday, October 21, 2013

Railroad History – Heritage Park/Calgary Alberta

Well, I’ve extensively reviewed Calgary’s Heritage Park…in 4 different segments…and I published 3 blogs about Gasoline Alley at Heritage Park.  And yet, there is one more important chapter to offer that ties the entire park together… A railroad serves all parts of the park, both as a key attraction and as transportation for the park’s many visitors. 

This Canadian Pacific Railway Station at the entrance to the park houses the Park’s Railway Café and the Park’s Information Center.  The building is a re-creation of the station that Canadian Pacific built in downtown Calgary in 1893.  The original station complex consisted of a train station and a restaurant connected by a breezeway.
Constructed of local sandstone in the then popular railway style, each of the two buildings was protected by a massive hip roof with large dormer windows.  By 1911, Calgary had outgrown the old depot and the railroad began construction of a larger building.  The original sandstone structures were dismantled and shipped to the towns of High River and Claresholm…where they were rebuilt into ‘new’ Canadian Pacific Railroad stations.

In addition to the railroad at Heritage Park, guests also have the opportunity to ride on an electric streetcar system that operates between the parking lots and the entrance to the park. 
In the decade between 1901 and 1911, Calgary's population increased from 4,400 to 44,000!  A mass transit system was needed to move these people from their homes in the suburbs to the city center.  Attempts at using chain-driven buses had failed. The city eventually chose electric streetcars because they required minimal maintenance, were inexpensive to operate and were reasonably safe.
An electric streetcar system operated in Calgary between 1909 and 1950.  In its heyday, the system had nearly 80 cars running between downtown and various suburbs!  Car 14, the last streetcar to operate in Calgary, was recreated by Heritage Park in 1973.  In 1991, Heritage Park built another car out of new and salvaged parts.  While I couldn’t locate any information regarding the builder of these streetcars, I did find a site on YouTube where you can watch the streetcars in operation.  Go to   

This simple structure is Bowell Station.  On the Prairies, the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway proceeded so quickly that the station builders were frequently unable to keep up.  Consequently, they used portable structures, such as this one, as temporary stations for the hamlets, villages and towns on the line.
In 1883, when the Canadian Pacific Railroad arrived in the growing town of Calgary, the city’s original train station was much like this one.  In 1909, the CPR unloaded this specific pre-fabricated station from a flatcar and placed it next to the tracks near the hamlet of Bowell, just northwest of Medicine Hat.  Like many small settlements, Bowell never grew large enough to justify the construction of a bigger station, and eventually the CPR closed it.  In 1964, the CPR gave the station to Heritage Park, where it has been ‘repurposed’ and converted into a washroom.

Narrow gauge railways replaced horses, mules and oxen teams as the primary method of transportation in and around Alberta's numerous coal mines.  This eight-ton, compressed air locomotive, nicknamed ‘Jumbo’, was used for 40 years at the Crowsnest Pass Coal and Coke Company at Michel, British Columbia, before being presented to Heritage Park as a gift in 1965.  It was built in 1902 by the Vulcan Iron Works in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania. 

There are 2 locomotives on display at the entrance to Heritage Park.  We didn’t get any pictures as there wasn’t a safe place to park while taking photos.  I ‘borrowed’ this photo from a site that contains many excellent photos from Heritage Park.  I would recommend visiting this web site, which belongs to Brian McMorrow at:  
Selkirk Class Locomotive #5391, located at the front of Heritage Park, is one of two remaining T1c Canadian Pacific Railway steam engines. Nicknamed “King of the Rockies”, the Selkirk class engines were the largest, heaviest and one of the most powerful steam locomotives in Canada.  At the height of their service, these 2-10-4 giants regularly traversed their namesake, the Selkirk Range in the Rocky Mountains. Thirty-six Selkirks were built for the CPR by the Montreal Locomotive Works between 1929 and 1949.  They were retired by the late 1950s when they were phased out and replaced by new diesel powered engines.  To learn more about the ‘Selkirks’, go to
The Canadian Pacific Railroad was the only North American railroad to use the 2-10-4s for passenger service. The Class T-1b "Selkirks", built as semi-streamlined locomotives, displayed a colorful passenger livery and they hauled passenger trains over the Rockies.

This is the Laggan Station on the Heritage Park rail line.  The spectacular wilderness of the Canadian Rockies attracted many tourists, and the Canadian Pacific Railway built this station ca. 1890 on its main line at Laggan…now Lake Louise.  This station, which was built to accommodate the tourist trade, was designed to project an air of warmth as well as a proximity to nature, thereby complementing its mountain setting.
The general manager of the Canadian Pacific Railroad decided that this expensive stretch of track should pay for itself, and he created a number of restaurants along the line.  The mountain scenery near the restaurants made the tourists wish to stay longer, so the CPR converted the restaurants to small inns, and eventually into the magnificent hotels for which the Canadian Pacific RR is known. The railroad donated this station to Heritage Park in 1976.

This is one of the locomotives in operation at Heritage Park.  It’s Pacific Coast Terminals Co. Ltd. #4076 (CP #2024).  This 0-6-0 locomotive was one of 8,410 of this model built by the Lima Locomotive Works.  It was built in 1944 as a switcher for the US Army.  The other locomotive in use at the Park, (#2023), is the same model but it was built by ALCO. 
As mentioned above, this locomotive started out as a switcher for the United States Army.  In 1946, it was sold to Pacific Coast Terminals in New Westminster, British Columbia.  In 1964 it was sold to private owner P.E. d'estrube and was relocated to Nanaimo Camp on Vancouver Island for storage  In 1967, it was donated to the Heritage Park in Calgary and renumbered to #2024.  During the 1970s, the locomotive was rebuilt at Canadian Pacific Railroad’s Drake Street Roundhouse in Vancouver before being relocated to Calgary.  
For more on the history of the Lima Locomotive Works you can go to

Here comes Locomotive #2024 with another load of park guests!  The railroad at Calgary’s Heritage Park is a Standard Gauge Railway.  The Park opened its railway in 1964 in order to provide a working example of the means of transportation that had the greatest impact on the growth and history of Western Canada.
Heritage Park's nearly 30 piece collection of rolling stock includes locomotives, tenders, coaches, flatcars, boxcars, cattle cars and other items from the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Canadian National Railway, Morrissey, Fernie and Michel, Pacific Coast Terminals and Northern Alberta Railway.  All of the equipment was built between 1882 and 1949.  Heritage Park’s railway has a main rail loop that is 4,300 feet long.

This is a photo of the train stopped for passengers to disembark and board at the Shepard Station near ‘downtown’ in the 1910 Village.  To view video of the trains in operation, you can go to

This is another photo of Shepard Station… Shepard, now a suburb of Calgary, was a full day's journey east of the burgeoning town back in the 1880s.  It would become the place where the Canadian Pacific Railway line split to go northeast to Strathmore, and southeast to Medicine Hat.  This station was built in 1910. 
Between 1901 and 1911, nearly a million immigrants arrived at Western Canadian train stations like this one.  The train station represented the end of a long, grueling journey and the start of a new life.  However, these stations would remain a prominent fixture in their lives because it was at the train station that they would receive mail-order shipments as well as relatives joining them in the West.

This is Canadian Pacific Locomotive #2018.  This 0-6-0 class U3c switch engine was built in 1905 at CPR’s “Angus Shops” in Montreal.  She spent most of her career in the rail yards at Fort William Ontario.  In 1943, Canadian Pacific sold her to Canmore Mines Unlimited.  As Canmore Mines #4, this locomotive was used to haul coal from the mines to the mainline in Canmore.  It served for many years and the engine became known affectionately as “Old Goat”.  It was converted from coal to oil in 1964 and it now serves as the switching and standby engine for the Park.   

This is the Midnapore Station.  It’s positioned at the beginning of the living exhibits in the park and it’s the first place that park guests can board the train.  Between 1900 and 1940, the Canadian Pacific Railway used eight designs for most of its stations built in the Prairie Provinces.  The station which was built in 1910 at Midnapore, Alberta, just south of Calgary, is an example of a "combination" station.  It housed a freight storage room, a waiting area and an office under the same roof. 
Midnapore was originally called Fish Creek, but the village postmaster changed the name when he found a letter mixed in with Fish Creek’s mail that was addressed to the postmaster in Midnapore, India.  In 1912, passenger service was introduced between Calgary and Fort MacLeod, stopping at Midnapore, but due to a wartime lack of manpower and decreased business, this station closed in 1918. Canadian Pacific Railroad sold the station to Heritage Park in 1964 for one dollar.
Well…that’s all from us regarding Calgary’s Heritage Park.  This is a Class “A” Attraction, (5-stars!), and we highly recommend it to anyone interested in living history, antiques, collectables, railroads and life as it used to be.  This park has something for everyone!  To learn more, just go to 
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for continuing to follow us on our Alberta “Travel Blog”!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. I love trains son much, when I was Little we only traveled in trains we dont like buses:) sadly here we are not much buses today!

  2. Very informative and interesting! Since Bill retired from the RR, we have many friends up that way on the CP or retired. Beautiful there, and love the old locomotives!

  3. First of all, thanks to Big Daddy Dave for mentioning the video I placed on YouTube about the Heritage Park streetcar.

    There is a site which has more pictures of Heritage Park, mostly by myself and more to come. So far, about 60 that I took and which amplify Big Daddy's wonderful explanations here.

    Now, more details about the streetcar, that I posted at:
    As I wrote the caption, I feel free to reproduce it here.

    Calgary Municipal No 14, more familiarly called the
    Heritage Park Streetcar and formally known as The
    ENMAX Electric Streetcar System; heading home
    empty on the last trip of the season, October 14th 2013
    around 5:00 pm.
    Car 14 was the very last streetcar to run in Calgary,
    from the Ogden CPR shops to City Hall downtown on December 29th, 1950. It was donated to Heritage Park
    in 1973, who restored it, to move visitors from the corner
    of 14th Street SW and Heritage Drive to the main gate.
    The car is double-ended with the trolley pole simply
    lowered at the end of the run and the other one raised
    before the streetcar reverses direction. Between 2007
    and 2010, the Park underwent a great expansion. At that
    time, the streetcar tracks were removed and then
    reinstalled on a new route, doubling the journey. Enmax (formerly The City of Calgary Electric System - now a
    private corporation) was the major sponsor.

    More streetcar parts were found and donated to
    Heritage Park, which then built a replica (No 15) in
    1991. During the summer season, either or both
    streetcars operate between the parking lot and the
    main gate. While walking from the different parking
    lots to the main gate is not too far, taking a noisy trolley
    the long way around for about 15 minutes or so is a
    lot more fun for a loonie (the Canadian dollar coin).

    Just an update on the last paragraph.
    Because Heritage Park is celebrating 50 years of service in 2014, there is no charge for the rides on the streetcar, the train, their boat or anywhere else. It's included into the admission fee.