In early May 2019, we traced the CNoR / CN abandoned “Peavine” proposed rail extension northwest of Suffield, AB, stopping to photograph some ruins and rusty metal along the way.
The rail extension was proposed to go from Hanna, AB heading south towards a point by the Red Deer River, called Steveville. At the river, the railway line would cross over and zig-zag through the badlands and eventually head southeast over the plains towards Medicine Hat. The CNoR hoped to serve the growing farming base in the area and tie into the new industries in the City.
Construction began in 1914 heading south, but with the start of the First World War and eventual labour/material shortages forced CNoR to suspend work on the line. Work restarted in 1918, but with low wheat prices, CNoR decided to concentrate their efforts on the stretch of track from Hanna to Wardlow first before progressing southwards. Their hard work was rewarded with a train reaching Cessford in December 1919, and by 1921 reaching Wardlow just within view of the Red Deer River. At the river, work was slowly progressing on a massive bridge structure and railbed grading was occurring from the river southeast towards Medicine Hat. Sidings were proposed after the river crossing; Dinosaur, Gilburn, Princess (a diamond crossing with the CPR Empress subdivision track), Pennymac, Bemister, Learmouth, Sinensen, Kalbeck, Stair (another diamond crossing with the CPR Brooks subdivision) and then through Redcliff into Medicine Hat, either by an separate track or possibly sharing CPR trackage.
However, with the low wheat prices and a series of droughts / frozen crops forced several farmers to sell out and move into the urban centers. As well, CNoR’s reorganization into Canadian National (CN) added headaches and additional hurdles to overcome, along with CPR becoming more hostile to the idea of having the competition within range of its client base. The CPR would do everything possible to delay or stall CN’s efforts. The final blow to the Peavine was the Great Depression which further escalated the mass exodus of farmers from the region. CN continued on with the remaining trackage of the Sheerness sub, until getting approval from the government to abandon the track from Cessford to Wardlow in December 1977, and the remaining trackage from Cessford to Batter Junction (outside of Hanna) would be abandoned in January 1992. The photos were taken near the proposed siding named “Pennymac”.
- Jason Paul Sailer