The CPR’s Crossfield Subdivision was one the last lines constructed during the great prairie branchline building boom and less than 50 years later, it was one of the first to be abandoned. Many would agree that this line should have never been built in the first place and it’s doubtful it ever turned a profit for its owners. In the heady days of the boom though, building it probably seemed like a good idea.
Stretching west for 44kms from Collicutt Siding (Crossfield) to Cremona, the line was finished in early 1931. As I said this makes it one of the last built for the CPR.
While the area had been populated long before the arrival of the railway, the trains were certainly responsible for the towns and villages that sprung up around the line. Most of what you see here dates from the time of the railway’s construction, The towns or sidings in order from east to west are Nier, Madden, Dog Pound and Cremona. Only two towns ever amounted to anything, with Cremona being the largest and it still has somewhat of a stable population. Madden is next in size, but shows signs of dieing. There is only a couple newer style houses in the Dog Pound area and nothing of Nier could be found at all.
The line was abandoned by 1978, however in talking with an associate who worked in the area it may have not been used for a number of years prior to that. Larry Buchan, who was employed the CPR in the 1970s mentioned never hearing of a train being sent down the line.
That is was cast off so early clearly shows how bad traffic must have been at this time. Before the 1990s it was very difficult for a rail line to be abandoned. The government saw to this and there were endless regulations that made that action near impossible.
In examining the line it was obvious that it was cheaply built, but I guess that suited the CPRs plans just fine. The trains wouldn’t be travelling very far anyway, so there was no need to built it to higher standards. I am unaware if passengers were ever carried on the line – perhaps there was a mixed train or maybe they were just handled in the caboose. I could not find any information on the frequency of trains on the line, but its assumed most action would be at the time of the harvest. Outside of grain, there was likely not any other industries served by the branch.
Of the grain elevators on the line, I have confirmed that Nier and Dogpound had one, and Madden and Cremona two each. In the 1960s Nier’s was painted in a funky psychedelic pattern as a promotional stunt – the author having seen a picture of this. It was groovy! All these elevators dated from the time the line was built and all were closed and torn down shortly after the line was abandoned.
There is still a small section of the subdivision in use and the tail end of the wye* in Collicutt is used to access a customer in the area. The track sure is rough here.
west, we pass through Nier (nothing left) and then Madden. There are two stores or business in “downtown”, both closed. One was the general store and I recall it being open in the late 1990s, or perhaps even later. I found a couple interesting trucks here, including a Mapleleaf (a Canadianized GMC), a Ford C series and a GMC Brigadier. The Mapleleaf had a poop spreader mounted on it.
The Ford represents one of the most common medium duty trucks, and was quite popular with both farmers and industry. Made without much change from the 1950s until 1990, these trucks can still be seen everywhere. Next to it and facing away is another Ford product (according to some truck experts I know), but I could not get a shot of it due to a dog that was unhappy to see me. Not far from it there is a nice bright yellow GMC Brigadier. Given all those lights, perhaps it was a snowplow. This model was built between 1977-1987.
Heading west again, we find nothing much in Dog Pound. It’s hard to even find the rail bed here. And just after that, we end our trip in Cremona. The area where the rail yard was has been built over or is part of a park and little remains. The two legs of the wye can be seen, but even then you have look hard (it’s more clearly defined on Google Earth – my favourite rail line tracing resource). Cremona seems to be doing okay, but even then there are a couple closed stores in the downtown section.
Of the abandoned rail lines Connie and I have explored this one is certainly is the most obscure. There is not much left and what is there is often hard to find. You have to really look to see it. It’s a forgotten line.
* Wye – a place where locomotives or equipment could be turned or a junction that allowed trains travelling in any direction to travel down any other line the wye is connected to.
To see some other former rail lines we’ve explored, follow these links…
Bridge hunting – Bullpound Alberta.
Unfinished Canadian Norther Railway line Fort MacLeod.
Abandoned CPR Bow River bridge.
If you wish more information on this place, by all means contact us!
Date: October 2012.
Location: Northwest of Calgary.