The Empress Station Museum

The Empress Station Museum began life in 1913 when the Canadian Pacific Railway opened for business at a dot on the map near the forks of the Red Deer and South Saskatchewan Rivers.

It wasn't until the following year that the Village of Empress was incorporated with the intention that it become a major railroad hub with lines heading north, south, east and west. 

Homesteaders and businessmen arrived by train to build their futures.  In short order the town had a lumber yard, a cement depot, livery barns, grocery and dry goods stores and a bank.

But by October war broke out in Europe. Attention was focused elsewhere.

Nevertheless, Empress grew into a thriving farm centered community.  In it's hey-dey the population was 1500 people.

It wasn't until 1939 that the Canadian Pacific Railway finally got in action to build a north-south line through the village.  They got as far as constructing the embankment that would be the foundation for a bridge that would take trains across the Red Deer River.

By September of that year the war broke out again in Europe.

The bridge was never built. The war changed the world. Empress never recovered. 

By the end of the war those industries that had built tanks re-configured their plants to build cars and trucks that everyone could afford.

When the railroad was constructed, grain elevators had been positioned every twenty five miles along the tracks.  That was because a team of horses could pull a loaded wagon twelve miles from the farm and twelve miles back to the farm in a day. 

Trucks could make multiple trips. 

Eventually large cement grain depots replaced the small wooden elevators across the prairies.  The populations of many farm communities dwindled...Empress among them.

The Empress Station was closed in 1982.  The tracks were pulled a decade later. The station mouldered.

In 2000 the Empress and District Historical Society was formed with the mandate to repair and restore the station building to its former glory and open it as a museum.  With fewer than a dozen elderly volunteers it was a long, hard slog.

But the work was finally finished and the Empress Station Museum had it's grand opening on Saturday, July 19th, 2014 at noon!  100 years old . . . but who's counting?

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