Glenbow was a town. Once. Now it’s a open field nestled in a valley beside the railway tracks and the Bow River. Save for the one building still standing (barely), it would be hard to imagine anything was ever here. But on close examination, little details come forward. A pile of bricks, an old cellar depression, a rail sticking out of a hillside. All of them can be traced back to the town and its industries.
The town site is within the recently opened Glenbow Provincial Park aka Glenbow Ranch Park and is located in the Bow Valley between Calgary and Cochrane. Neither city is terribly distant, yet when inside the park, it’s easy to believe you are well away from civilization. The illusion is amazing.
There are many hiking and biking trails to explore – main trails are paved, and there are interpretive signs and biffies here and there. From the parking lot it’s a steep downhill to the Glenbow town site. Actually it’s a steep downhill no matter what part of the park you plan to explore. The park’s office is near the parking area and the views from it, of the vast green area spreading out below you, are quite nice.
In this report, we’ll briefly discuss the town of Glenbow and the industries associated with it. Other parts of the park will be saved for future reports.
Even in its heyday, Glenbow was never much of a town and as a town, it didn’t last very long either, yet it is a fascinating, albeit brief part, of local history. Founded around 1907, it survived until about 1920.
Overshadowed by the much larger Calgary to the east, and Cochrane to the west, Glenbow was a mere dot on the CPR line – blink and you’d have missed it.
The town owed its existence, initially anyway, to the sandstone quarry on the hillsides above it. Here quality building blocks were excavated and used for various structures in the province. The Church of the Redeemer in Calgary and the Legislative Buildings in Edmonton being notable examples that still exist today (see Google Maps below). The quarry started around 1905.
After an initial flurry of activity, the the quarry ended up closing in 1912 with lack of demand and declining quality of stock each two reasons for that. While in operation, it was a large employer in the area. From the cutting area high on the hillside, blocks were transported down an incline railway to a CPR siding below. I have found a section of rail sticking out of a bank not far from the quarry site and presumably this was from that operation.
After the quarry shut down, the same people who ran it opened a small brick factory nearby. Located near the store/post office, the clay material came from the field immediately beside the operation. I understand that the quality of bricks was an ongoing issue and as a result the factory did not last long. Beside the pit where the clay was excavated and small pile of reject bricks and some concrete bits, nothing much else remains of this operation.
The town site is below the sandstone quarry on a flat near the Bow River. Nothing much remains here – no foundations, no debris, no cellar pits, nothing. It’s like the town never existed. At it’s height some hundred and fifty people called Glenbow home. Above the town, about halfway between it and the store is a depression for the school house. It’s clearly seen beside the trail and is located on a second flat a little higher than the town itself.
Further west and quite separated from the town is the store and post office, the only building still standing. Even so its days seem numbered, and it’s in very poor shape but hopefully attempts will be made to save the historic structure. It opened in 1909 and operated at least until 1920, and perhaps even a bit longer. Notice how much it has deteriorated since the the time we photographed it in 2004.
One can presume the train station was in the immediate area too. Also nearby at one time was a grain elevator, which was destroyed by fire.
The CPR east/west mainline passes through the Glenbow Park and while there you’ll likely see lots and lots of trains (not a bad thing for a rail buff). Along the tracks in places one can see old telegraph poles with insulators and wires still attached. There are several rail crossings in the park (with lights and bells and gates), which are great places to shoot passing trains.
On the terrace above here is the remains of an old building. We’ll be looking into that one along with some other ruins in a future report. On our trip lots of flowers were in bloom.
Some picture are courtesy Google.
Check out this report, where we explore the park’s western edge…
Glenbow Ranch western trails.
In 2004 we hiked from Calgary and to Cochrane and to see that report, follow the link below…
Calgary to Cochrane.
Reference: The Glenbow Provincial Park website.
If you wish more information on this place, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: August 2012.
Location: Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park near Cochrane AB.