Looking Back


Planning an Alberta Road Trip?


The year is 1906. The first long-distance auto trip made over the entire Edmonton-Calgary Trail took two days (according to AMA info). This was just five years after the first "horseless carriage" arrived in Alberta.


With current travel restrictions, 2020 might be the right year to explore some Alberta roads. It's as easy as going to the nearby AMA office and picking up a roadmap so you can see the whole province at a glance and map out your journey. Go back in time forget the GPS!


                                Alberta MapOfficial Road Map LogoBack in 1924, the Publicity Bureau of the Alberta Government made available a map of Alberta highlighting its potential. The map was re-issued in 1926. This map showed roads, towns, stations on the railway and trading posts but also indicated how different parts of the province could be developed, e.g. the road to Edson was shown as "Heavy Timber"; near Stony Plain was "Whitefish Winter & Summer"; Lethbridge "Gas", "Domestic Coal"; Fort McMurray "Salt", "Tar Sand Exposures". The population of Alberta was estimated at 640,000 and the land capable of cultivation at 72,000,000 acres. Jasper Park shows as "Summer Resort" but Rocky Mountains Park only gives "Anthracite Coal" and "Bituminous Coal" as highlights although Banff is a "Summer Resort". (see Edmonton area close-up map below)


The "Road to the Rockies" (Edmonton Jasper) has been a busy route from the earliest days and a forerunner of the AMA (Good Roads Association) partnered with the Edmonton Automobile Association and raised money to build a safe road in 1917.


Alberta's Main HIghways 1954Fast-forward to 1954. The Alberta Motor Association had incorporated in 1926 and producing up-to-date roadmaps had become an important service. This new map showed all the paved highways: Highway 2 from Clyde down to the American border; Highway 16 from the Saskatchewan border through to Edson (with one graveled piece west of Chip Lake); Highway 1 from Medicine Hat to Lake Louise, Highway 3 from Medicine Hat to Fernie and beyond. The Onoway-Whitecourt road wasn't paved yet.


So ... thinking of a trip to Jasper? Look at your map. Look around. Enjoy the scenery and the amazing highways.


Onoway Museum has a collection of fascinating old maps not only of our province but many at the local level showing the owner of each quarter-section of land in the County of Lac Ste. Anne (and the changes of ownership over time). One map shows all the school districts before consolidation and centralized schools provided bussing to transport students multi-miles rather than them walking along forest trails. Maps have many stories to tell. Come have a look!


And experience once again the pleasure of an Alberta road trip.

Edmonton area close-up map

Edmonton area close-up

The 1924 Alberta map shows stations on the railway at Calahoo, Bilby, Onoway, Gunn, Glenevis, Cherhill, Lisburn, Sangudo. (Note the green and pink areas.)


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Last updated: July 6, 2020