Monday 27 July 2015

You buy gas at the art gallery in Empress, AB

I had never been to Empress, Alberta and I like going to out of the way places. Named in 1913 for Queen Victoria, the Empress of India. The railway first came through here in 1914. From what I understand there once was a roundhouse. The last train came through here in 1997. The tracks have been torn up and removed. Apparently at its high point about eight hundred people once lived here. I would be surprised if there is around one hundred now. 

I drove my motorcycle there from Medicine Hat, Alberta July 18, 2015. The distance is about eighty-five miles. The first actual gas station along this route is supposed to be at Oyen, Alberta, a distance of one hundred fifteen miles and is north of Empress on Highway 41. On my way there I had no idea if there was going to be gas there or not. After a couple of short side trips on my way to Empress I was concerned I might not make it back to Medicine Hat. I had previously read on the internet that a business in Empress sold gas as a sideline but I did not know how accurate that was.

I got into Empress close to six in the evening. I found a single gas pump that offered regular or diesel beside a building with the sign "That's Empressive" on the front. I walked in and asked where you got gas. The woman behind the counter, who turned out to be Pat, said you get gas at the art gallery, which is where I was. You cannot argue with that logic. The building was an old bank building, you can see the old steel vault door at the back. I mentioned this and got a history lesson from Pat about the building. It started out as a Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, then a residence and boarding house, then a Toronto-Dominion Bank, then a residence upstairs, a business on the main floor.

I stepped out, filled up, and talked to Ross. Pat was elsewhere when I returned. He was heating up some chilli behind the counter, then asked if I wanted any. With no hesitation on my part I told him to add it to the bill. I was invited to join Ross and his friend, who was visiting from Calgary, at their table for dinner. Pat and Ross had retired, moved to Empress, found themselves running a business. They have a gallery, carry some groceries, gas, and promote this town. I had a great time talking to them and Ross gave me information on some sights and ideas for some further road trips. 

If you are ever in the area drop in. Or visit

The old hospital that has been boarded up for years.

Abandoned building.

Abandoned house.

Church. People still live in the houses on this street.

Wild rabbit. You see lots of these in Alberta. I saw antelope outside of town but I was not able to get a photo.

The restored train station.

The inside is empty. I am not sure if more is going to be added to this.

No tracks. This is the old rail line.

Barely north of Empress, on a hill overlooking the town. The Red Deer River is in the background.


  1. Wow - what a great day you had! An interesting place with interesting people willing to share good stories and a meal. Took a look at their web site; lots and lots of good art pieces offered.

  2. I grew up on a farm just outside of Empress. Great place to grow up and a cool place to visit now.