The Crowsnest Route: Working West (Alberta Section)


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Surveys in the early 1890s determined the general route of the Crowsnest Pass railway but fully detailed construction survey work did not begin until April, 1897. West of Lethbridge, Alberta, the railway faced a long, gradual climb across the coulees and rolling prairie to Macleod, 37 miles (59.5 km) distant. From there, the tracks continued westward following the Old Man River to Pincher Creek, 22 miles (35 km) away where a bridge 1,200 feet (366 m) in length and 122 feet (38 m) high was needed. Farther to the west, the route crossed the south fork of the Old Man River where yet another massive trestle, this time 840 feet (256 m) long, was built. Beyond the bridge the tracks began to curve and twist through the foothills of the southern Rockies. Many smaller bridges, culverts and cuts were needed as the tracks slowly gained elevation. Ninety-two miles (148 km) west of Lethbridge, the railway entered the Crowsnest Pass. In three places the course of the Old Man River was modified to provide a better grade for the railway.

At 100 miles (161 km) west of Lethbridge, the grade reached Crow's Nest Lake at the headwaters of the Old Man River. The lake would later prove to be an excellent source of ice for cooling refrigerator cars and passenger cars. Very heavy rock work was needed to build the grade along the lake shore as the tracks reached the summit of the pass at 4,434 feet (1351.5 m), 105 miles (169 km) west of Lethbridge. At the summit is Summit Lake which drains to the west into Michel Creek, part of the headwaters of the Kootenay River.

For more documentary photographs on this section of the building of the Crowsnest Railway Route. Click on Alberta Construction or South Fork Trestle Construction.

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