Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Five Minute Railfan Guide - Lethbridge

Take an Alberta Break... visit Lethbridge!
I've been to Lethbridge, Alberta several times for work and for pleasure. It's a lovely city in southern Alberta and I encourage you to visit the area if you can. In this post I'll describe some Lethbridge area railway highlights for the railfan visitor.

Lethbridge Overview

The city is split by the Old Man River, which runs north-south. The main highway through the city is #3 which comes from the west from Fort MacLeod and the Crowsnest Pass, and continues east past the city toward Coaldale, Taber etc. and eventually to Medicine Hat. The other major highway is #4 which heads southeast from Lethbridge through Stirling, Warner and Milk River to the border with Montana.
Lethbridge area rail map
Lethbridge is served by the Canadian Pacific Railway. There are four railway subdivisions that connect to Lethbridge.
There is also a large industrial area in Lethbridge that is well served by rail.

Here are some railfan "hot spots" in and around Lethbridge.

Kipp Yard

View of the Kipp Yard from the overpass
The major yard in the area is Kipp yard, located just northwest of Coalhurst, which is itself just northwest of Lethbridge. There used to be a large yard inside Lethbridge but this was removed in the mid 1980s. Kipp hosts several tracks for train storage and classification as well as a locomotive servicing facility.

The yard itself is of course off limits, but it is somewhat visible from highway 3 which runs parallel to the yard. There is an overpass over the southeast end of the yard which is a great spot to photograph trains from, and it is easily accessible from the highway. Range Road 225 runs parallel to the yard on the north side of the yard and provides some limited views into the yard.

Just north of the yard, the CP Aldersyde subdivision splits off and heads north.

The High Level Bridge

Canpotex potash cars on the High Level Bridge in Lethbridge, AB
Lethbridge's "High Level Bridge" is the largest conventional trestle railroad bridge in the world. I wrote a post about it already.

There are several angles to photograph the bridge from. You can get quite close to it on the Heritage Heights (northwest) end. There are plenty of paths in the valley below where you can get a side view of it, and the view from the oddly-named Whoop-Up Drive is quite good.

Obviously, trespassing is a bad idea and never, never go on the bridge.

Railway tracks inside Lethbridge

Inside Lethbridge

Railfanning inside Lethbridge itself is a bit more challenging. The majority of the main line through Lethbridge is not very accessible and there are only a few spots that are worth visiting. Parking can be a challenge, too.

There's one overpass at Stafford Drive that gives a good view down the tracks in either direction. The rest of the rail/road crossings are vehicle underpasses so you don't get any good views. There is one pedestrian overpass near 17th Street that has a decent view, although you have to work around a fence.
View from the pedestrian overpass, facing west. Parrish and Heimbecker elevator visible.
There are two level crossings near the giant Alberta Grain elevator that could be used, but again, parking is a challenge.

The CP Montana subdivision splits off from the main line by the elevator and heads southeast out of town. I did shoot at this location and it works OK. There is one level crossing on the Montana sub in town at 43rd Street South.

East of the crossings mentioned above, the main line track is buried between industries and you can't see much from public property. There is one turnabout at the intersection of 1st Avenue South and 36th Street South where you can see the track.

After that, there's the busy 43rd Street North crossing (not recommended) then you're out of Lethbridge. Between Lethbridge and Coaldale, the track parallels highway 3 and there are numerous opportunities to photograph trains there.

Industrial Tracks

Richardson Trackmobile
The other railfanning opportunities inside Lethbridge are the industrial tracks. There is an extensive industrial track network north of the main line. Driving along 2nd Avenue North, you will find numerous level crossings in the Anderson Industrial Park and Shackleford Industrial Park.

The major industrial rail customers in Lethbridge are:
  • Richardson Pioneer, 2415 2A Ave N - has own trackmobiles
  • Alberta Terminals, 2620 2nd Ave N
  • Ring Container, 1820 31 St N
  • ADM Alliance Nutrition, 1310 41 St N
  • Parrish and Heimbecker, 1301 2 Ave S - has own trackmobile

Alberta Terminals elevator
I've seen one or two GP38s working the industrial spurs. As always, stay on public property and do not trespass.
CP 3051 working the industrial tracks in Lethbridge

Other Railway Attractions

CP 3651 in Lethbridge
Lethbridge's train station still exists on 1st Avenue South (801 1 Ave S) as a community health services building. Steam engine CP 3651 is on display behind it. This engine was built in July 1910.

You can visit the Galt Historic Railway Park in Stirling, not far out of Lethbridge on highway 4.

The new Forty Mile Railway shortline is near the Galt park - read more!

Rail Traffic

I don't know the exact number of trains, but I would say "several" trains pass through Lethbridge every day. It is not a super busy line but there is almost always a train in Kipp Yard, either arriving, departing, or shunting, and the industrial track is being served throughout the day.

Read More

Thanks to Jason Paul Sailer for reviewing my maps and industrial locations!


Chris BIGDoer Doering said...

Nice works as always Steve. Got to go inside the Richardson Plant to record trucks being unloaded. They didn't want me to shoot the rail car mover, but still it managed to find it's way into a shot or two in the background. Shhhh, don't tell them.

Canadian Train Geek said...

Your secret is safe with me, Chris. ;)

That Richardson plant is quite the plant! Recently expanded, too. I was fortunate to see the rail car mover crossing the street doing some shunting.

Jason Paul Sailer said...

Your welcome Steve :P Nice write-up!

Canadian Train Geek said...

Thanks for your help, Jason :)

David said...

Good write up, Steve.

If I ever make it down there, I will reference this for sure.

Canadian Train Geek said...

Thanks, David! I hope you do get to make use of it :)

Jenn said...

Nice post Steve! I have always enjoyed Lethbridge and area (my dad grew up near Taber) my last trip there earlier this year was full of photographing vintage signs, ghost signs, and old buildings. It's an interesting city. We visited the park at the foot of the High Level bridge...very cool looking up at that amazing bridge!