History & Stories
Though the Hazeldean Community League was founded in 1955, the story of our neighbourhood begins long before then. Click below to read about Hazeldean's history, authored by local resident Jan Olson.
Hazeldean Remembers Former Railway Site
Artwork celebrates community's ties to locomotive history
Edmonton Journal (Link to digital article)
3 Sep 2012
A new sculpture located on a greenway in the southeast community of Hazeldean commemorates the Edmonton, Yukon and Pacific Railway that once ran through the spot.
The sculpture, titled Ghost Rails, is located on the site of the original rail line, which is now a popular park in Hazeldean in the area of 68th Avenue and 94th Street.
“It’s because of the railway that we have this green strip of undeveloped land in the middle of our residential area,” says Donna Gannon, who has chaired the Hazeldean Community League’s Greenway Committee for the past four years.
While the Edmonton, Yukon and Pacific Railway linked the city’s north and south sides from 1902 until the 1950s — connecting the main CN line with downtown via Millcreek and the Low Level Bridge — it was dismantled in 1980. The Hazeldean site of the former railway has remained an open strip of land since then.
“The greenway is a community asset and a community gathering place,” says Gannon, who has lived in Hazeldean for 36 years.
When the Hazeldean Community League wanted to commemorate the area’s history, they turned to an innovative grant, a project of the Edmonton Heritage Council, Edmonton Arts Council and Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues.
The Living Local grant connects people and their neighbourhoods through art and heritage.
The league applied for and received a grant, which stipulates there must be involvement of a local artist and historian in the project.
Gannon connected with Hazeldean artist Kathryn Ruckman and historian Jan Olson, who has studied the history of the Millcreek area.
“For years I’ve been walking in this neighbourhood with my dogs and can see the little indentations of where the old rail ties used to sit,” Kathryn Ruckman says. “They echo what was there before, like a ghost image.”
The artist, who helped design the sculpture and oversaw the work, says nothing frilly or fancy was used in the sculpture that was built this summer. Instead, it’s made of rail-line materials that are “artfully arranged.”
As historian for the Hazeldean project, Jan Olson interviewed about 30 people who had ties to the Edmonton, Yukon and Pacific Railway. She spoke with people who remember their houses shaking when the train would go by, and the constant smell of coal and smoke. The interviews have been compiled on the Hazeldean Community League’s website and will be available in a short book.
While the Hazeldean community credits its greenway’s existence with the railway, Olson notes the line was almost not built.
“Strathcona didn’t want Edmonton to have the railway line because that would give Edmonton power,” Olson says. It took a “stealth operation” in the middle of the night to connect the lines.
“This one little train really changed the trajectory of Edmonton and Strathcona,” Olson says. “It was the Low Level bridge and the Edmonton, Yukon and Pacific Railway that made Edmonton the powerhouse and left Strathcona with less power in the relationship.”
The sculpture will be officially unveiled on Saturday at 3:15 p.m. at the Hazeldean Green, at 68th Avenue and 94th Street.