Edmonton, Dunvegan and British Columbia Railway

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The Edmonton, Dunvegan and British Columbia Railway (ED&BC) was an early pioneer railway in northwestern Alberta, designed to open up the Peace River district.

The ED&BC was preceded by a promotional railway known as the Athabaska Railway, which was floated in the 1910s during the heady days of Canadian railway expansion. On paper it was to strike out from Edmonton northwestward to Peace River Country, over Pine Pass and eventually reach Prince George, British Columbia. There were also amorphous dreams of reaching the Yukon. Together with the Pacific Great Eastern Railway, the owners had dreams of becoming a much larger system, possibly through partnership.

The company was rechartered in 1911 under the ownership of J.D. McArthur with the name Edmonton, Dunvegan and British Columbia Railway. Chided as the "Exceedingly Dangerous and Badly Constructed Railway", it took a few years to formulate. Fires, flood, strikes and other mishaps plagued the line in its early years.

Construction of the ED&BC started in 1912 from Edmonton heading toward Westlock, reaching High Prairie in 1914, and Spirit River in 1915. Deciding not to proceed to Dunvegan, a branch was built south from Rycroft to Grande Prairie in 1916. In 1924 the line was extended to Wembley and it reached Hythe in 1928.

Costs, financial depression, overbuilding by many companies in the west and World War I all curtailed railway development. As a result, the Government of Alberta bought the railway, and leased it to the Canadian Pacific Railway for several years.

Northern Alberta Railway[edit]

In 1929, the ED&BC became part of the Northern Alberta Railway (NAR), a Crown corporation of the Government of Alberta. The government extended the NAR's former ED&BC line west from Hythe to a new western terminus at Dawson Creek, British Columbia, however the entire NAR stagnated throughout the 1930s and the Great Depression. A traffic boom returned to northern Alberta with World War II and the construction of the Alaska Highway and the oil industry in the Northwest Territories.

The ED&BC was one of three lines in Northern Alberta, all merging into the NAR; the other two being the Central Canada Railway and the Alberta Waterways Railway. ED&BC locomotive No. 73 and several cars survive at the Alberta Railway Museum in Edmonton.

Scientific wunderkind Dr. Karl Clark, of the University of Alberta, ran out of room in the university basements, and human muscle to move the raw oilsand material he was researching at the University of Alberta, and thus he moved his washing machine, steam plant and other apparatus, to the ED&BC shop facilities in Edmonton. He continued to perfect his oil separation process which became the basis for modern-day Alberta's oilsands industry, demonstrated by Syncrude's vast operation in Fort McMurray.