‘It’s roughly a billion dollar industry’ Southern Alberta gets its first short line railway


    Train tracks between Foremost and Stirling, Alta. sat idle for 11 years but that’s not the case anymore. Forty Mile Rail bought the 72 kilometres of tracks from Canadian Pacific Railway to make southern Alberta’s first short rail line.

    “We got a track here again, we got an engine here again, we got an elevator working again… Everyone is just excited,” Forty Mile general manager Len Mitzel said.

    The company is made up of 75 shareholders. The train will be used to transfer grain and pulse.

    “We have roughly 300,000 to 350,000 acres apart of this, it’s roughly a billion dollar industry invested in this line right now,” president Paul Laqua said. “So even if you keep one per cent in this community, it’s a definite positive and as far as indirect spinoff, it’s a reason for someone to stay.”

    There is one other short rail line in central Alberta, but this is the only one in southern Alberta. It’s catching on in other prairie provinces; in Saskatchewan there are about a dozen short lines and in Manitoba there are four.

    “The whole economy mindset, everything has changed, we don’t have the Canadian Wheat Board. People are marketing their own grain, there are grain companies out there and they’re busy buying grain for other buyers,” Mitzel said.

    Grain gets dropped off, with Forty Mile Rail handling it on behalf of other companies and producers. It is delivered to an interchange point in Stirling. CP takes over from there, shipping the cargo to other markets.


    Map of the 72 km short line between Foremost and Stirling, Alberta.

    “Most of this stuff will go to the coast and go in containers to go overseas, and we get paid for hauling it from here to our interchange point,” Mitzel said.

    Shipping is already underway.

    “It saves a little wear and tear on the highway… Every car going down this line saves two trucks,” Mitzel said.

    In its first month, Forty Mile Rail sent 100 cars, with 3,300 bushels each. If everything stays on track they are hoping to double that output in a few years.