In Chapter 16 of Rings of Time, Liam and Emilie make a trip to Mountainview, a real-life railway town in Southern Alberta, which sprang into existence as the Canadian Pacific Railway laid track across Western Canada throughout the first decades of the 20th century.
The decision to erect a railway station in a town could make or break the town. A railway station meant population growth, jobs, business and opportunity. Mountain Park, for example, was a work camp associated with the Alberta mining company Mountain Park Coal Company. Between 1909 and 1913, the MPCC completed construction on several rail lines linking its camps, opening up the region to large-scale mining. By 1921, the population of Mountain Park had reached 321 souls. Nearby Cadomin grew quickly as well; by 1926 it boasted a bowling alley, pool hall, churches, hotels and stores.
Meanwhile, Grouard, Alberta was a bustling metropolis in 1913. It had a population of more than 1000 people, 2 schools, 4 doctors, 20 general stores, 1 movie theatre, 1 skating rink and nearly 4 kilometres of sidewalks. Unfortunately for Grourard, the railway station was built nearly 20 kilometres south of the town and many of the businesses and residents decamped for High Prairie, which was on the rail line. Today, Grourard is a tiny hamlet with just 255 residents (2016) while High Prairie has over ten times this population.
Student Prompt: What details do you notice in these photographs? Imagine you are one of the people in one of the photographs. Write a letter home about what it’s like to live in a fast-growing Alberta town in the early 1900s.
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