Inglewood-Ramsay railway crossing closed forever

Preserving history: City Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra, at left, Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Elder Casey Eaglespeaker and Harry “The Historian” Sanders, right, all were on hand for the closing of the 8th Street S.E. rail crossing, at Fort Calgary on Jan. 14. The event was organized by Carra. (Photo by Jacob Miller/The Press)

One of the city’s most historic, and notorious, rail crossings, at 8th Street S.E., is no more.

On Jan. 14, the city staged an official closing ceremony for the old crossing, which has connected Inglewood and Ramsay for years.

Perhaps fittingly, the ceremony had to be held indoors, at nearby Fort Calgary, because of the extremely cold weather.

The crossing has been ordered closed by CP Rail, which controls the right-of-way in the area.

Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra, who represents the area on city council, mourned the end of the uncontrolled crossing, which is on the CP Rail mainline.

“This is not a happy day, but there are prices to progress,” said Carra.

The crossing, which was on 8th Street S.E. just south of 9th Avenue and just east of the Elbow River, connects Inglewood and Ramsay and allowed motorists to get into downtown quickly.

It has also been a source of frustration to many drivers, who were sometimes forced to wait while trains rolled through, or even stopped, at the crossing.

The city and CP Rail had an 100 year agreement that states the railway could close the crossing at any time, and the city could do anything about it.

“It’s a sad day because we’re losing the important part of connectivity between Englewood and Ramsey,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

“There’s long-standing historical agreements between the railroad and the city of how things will operate, and as you know, the city has very little ability to regulate the railroad,” said Nenshi.

“The railroads supersede the city. In terms of federal law. It’s a very, very strange thing,”

Nenshi hopes that the building of the Green Line LRT will reconnect this area in the future.

“This isn’t just a road closure. It really is something that speaks to the ancient history of this place, how that is an indigenous route along Scotsman’s hill that had been in place for a very, very long time,

“But it’s also important for us to recognize that this is a big change for the people who live work and play in the communities of Inglewood and Ramsay and we should acknowledge that it’s a big deal for people,” said Nenshi.

Although this route is closed, Mayor Nenshi said motorists can use alternate routes, like McDonald bridge, to get around, and for pedestrians and cyclists the Elbow River pathway remains open.

The ceremony started with a traditional Blackfoot blessing, done by Elder Casey Eaglespeaker, who talked about the importance of knowing and understanding aboriginal history in Calgary.

Local historian Harry Sanders spoke about the importance of the route and the crossing.

The route itself used to be the Old North Trail, which possibly went as far north as The Yukon, and as far south as New Mexico, Sanders explained.

“The tracks went in 1883 when the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) reached Calgary, and I believe that 8th Street in its present location was laid out in 1887,” said Sanders.

Sanders went onto say that the earliest reference to the crossing was 1908, in the Calgary Herald.

“It says that you have to wait in the water and muck to get to that crossing,”

“So, it was sort of a criticism of the upkeep of level crossings in the city,” said Sanders.

Let’s talk history: Harry “The Historian” Sanders tells the crowd about the history of the 8th Street S.E. rail crossing at Fort Calgary on Jan. 14. Sanders talked about how 8th Street used to be the old Macleod Trail. (Photo by Jacob Miller/The Press)