This 1928 CPR station has been relocated to a site just north of the Benalto Fair Grounds. (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

Benalto’s historic train station gets funding

Red Deer County steps up with $75,000 to help turn Benalto train station into community centre

Benalto’s historic train station project keeps chugging along.

The community-led initiative to convert a 1928 CPR station into a recreation centre, museum and archives got a big boost on Tuesday when Red Deer County approved a $75,000 donation.

Benalto Booster Club’s Dave More said the project means a lot to the small community just a few kilometres west of Sylvan Lake, south of Hwy 11.

“I think it’s going to give us a true town centre, a place to gather, to collect our history and meet,” he said. “It’s an activity centre for the kids and youth groups and seniors.

“It’s just going to give us a boost to the heart, I guess, the heart of town.”

The Benalto Train Station project has been a unique homecoming years in the making.

For decades, the small station sat in Benalto, a reminder of the community’s railway past.

About 45 years ago, it was moved and in 1980 ended up on the Cupples property, where it was used as a home.

About four years ago, Garett and Brenda Cupples donated the station to Benalto. The gift captured the village’s imagination and the local booster club has raised $104,000 so far to turn into a community centrepiece.

The group has already applied for a provincial grant to cover the remaining $55,000 or so needed to complete the project, hopefully by the end of the year.

Some of the remaining work involves installing washrooms, cladding the basement, refinishing the walls and floors and building a deck.

The surround deck will be reminiscent of a train platform in keeping with the theme. It will feature a fantastic view of the Medicine Valley and the distant Rocky Mountains.

“I would say we’re two-thirds of the way there,” said More. “There was a real good push this winter to get the basement in an operating fashion.

“We had painting bees and mudding bees and sanding and so on.”

The county support allows the Booster Club to lock in contractors on the next stage of work.

“If we can match it with the CFEP (Community Facility Enhancement Program) grant we’ll be in real business.”

When complete, the station will feature a walk-out basement to a square that will serve as a local skating rink in the winter.

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