Battle River Railway Trestle

At 2775 feet long and 195 feet high, located approximately 3.5 miles northwest of Wainwright on Highway 14 and 3.5 miles west on township road 45-2, this historic railway trestle overlooks the Battle River and can be partially seen from the Fabyan Campsite.

The Railway Trestle, built in 1908, was the longest freestanding trestle in Canada during war time. A man was required to walk across it previous to the train every time there was to be a crossing. Grand Trunk Pacific began construction of this magnificent structure in 1907 and was completed December 10th, 1908. It is the second largest in Canada, with Lethbridge Trestle being the largest. The first train across was January 1909. The total cost of the trestle was $600,000.00.

In 2000, the Way of the West Society created a rest area and look-off site to overlook the trestle. From this area you can enjoy the beautiful view of the Battle River Valley as well as watch trains cross the trestle.

At the rest area, there are two information posts containing the following:

“West of Wainwright the railway met a deep challenge, a glorious valley that was home to the Battle River. In 1907, the concrete footings of the bridge that would span the valley were poured. Farmers and other contractors hauled supplies to the site by wagon from Hardisty. When the railway crept to the eastern side of the valley, supplies could be brought in by rail. The construction site became a tiny community all its own with a store, cafe and hospital. When three men working on the trestle drowned after their scow was swamped in mid-stream, their fellow workers erected a cairn in their memory.

The Battle River Trestle, completed on December 10, 1908, is 2775 feet long and stands 195 feet above the river. The high earth fill beyond the west abutment of the steel trestle conceals wooden trestle work built to correct grade elevation.

The first train to cross the trestle was the construction train, bringing supplies for the railway to continue its westward crawl to Edmonton. By November 1909, that part of the line was finished, and trains could travel all the way from Wainwright to Edmonton.

The push across the west proved too much for the Grand Pacific Railway. It declared bankruptcy in 1919 and became part of Canadian National Railway (CNR) in 1923. The tracks through Wainwright became CNR’s mainline.

The trestle has remained much as it was when it was completed in 1908. The concrete footings were refaced in the 1940’s. In 1981, a new concrete deck for the gravel, called ballast, under the ties was added to the trestle, and a full walkway with railing was also added.

Like many other communities in Alberta, Wainwright is where it is today because of a railway. The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTPR) surveyed the town site in 1908, forcing the moving of buildings from Denwood 2.5 miles to the new town. Following its policy of naming towns after employees, Wainwright honours William Wainwright, a vice-president with the GTPR.

Rail by rail and spike by spike, the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway crawled west from Winnipeg. In a good day, work crews laid two miles of track. On July 21st, 1908, the GTPR arrived in Wainwright.”