Early Canadian Northern Railway plans indicate that this railway station was
to be named "HEDA", however when it opened in 1914 it bore the name ENTRANCE, the last
station prior to "entering" the Rockies on the transcontinental line. My grandfather,
Roy Woodley arrived in Alberta working with the Canadian Northern Railway survey crew
and settled at this location that he called Entrance in 1913. Roy built a general store
and was awarded the contract for the Entrance Post Office. A small community grew at
this location, near the station, post office, store and restaurant. This station
building sat on the 99' wide railway right-of-way. Following receivership of both the
Canadian Northern and Grand Truck Pacific railway companies and amalgamation into
Canadian National Railways, this railway line was abandoned and the station building was
sold in 1932. The station building was subsequently owned and used as a private dwelling
by Alan Boomer, Harry Ennis, then Billy Magee.
This historic railway station building has been restored close to its original site and is the main house for Old Entrance Bed 'n Breakfast Cabins operated by Mary Luger.
THE TWO "ENTRANCE" RAILWAY STATIONS - by Mary Luger April 2, 2009
Prelude: A speedy survey of the Yellowhead Pass was made in 1864 by Dr. John Rae, sponsored by the Hudson's Bay Company, the Imperial and Canadian governments and the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. In 1871 Walter Moberly under the direction of Sir Sandford Fleming also undertook a survey through the Yellowhead Pass for the Canadian Pacific Railway route from Halifax to Victoria, however politics of the day resulted in this railway being constructed further south through the more difficult Kicking Horse Pass. It was not for another 36 years that plans for the GTPR construction were to begin, then not one but two major railway companies began construction over the Yellowhead Pass as the Canadian Northern Railway sent surveyors and pack trains in 1900. Ultimately, the duplication of the rail lines and the end of the economic boom resulted in the financial collapse of the two companies and the nationalization of the CNoR in 1918 and the GTPR in 1920. Out of these two railways and a few smaller companies emerged Canadian National Railways, officially in 1922. The GTPR grade had been constructed to higher standards and almost all of the CNR main line west of Winnipeg, Manitoba makes use of the original GTPR grade today.
Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTPR) built their station originally named DYKE in 1911 at mile 60.3 west of Edson. This railway station was renamed ENTRANCE in 1927. As Dyke, this station building would have been at it's busiest during 1913 with the near-by construction of the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) bridge crossing the Athabasca River. At that time, there was a bridge construction village also known as Dyke near the bridge site on the flats along the south side of the river.
Dyke station was named for GTPR employee Albert Edward Dyke who was born in England in the mid 1880s. At the age of thirteen he entered the employment of Sir Robert McAlpine who was involved in construction of various railways and bridges. Dyke departed England the following year, traveling to North Borneo, Hawaii and Japan. He worked on various sugar cane railway projects prior to coming to Canada with the railway at Medicine Hat, Banff and Revelstoke. In 1910 he began work with GTPR during construction of their line from Edmonton to Prince Rupert. Dyke worked as a purser on the director's signal inspection train that checked the line, naming and numbering various line sections where the local dispatchers would later telegraph notice of passing trains by Morse code. He enlisted in military service in 1916 and was wounded at Ypres. Following recovery he remained in England, later working for the Crown.
By 1914 Roy Woodley was operating a general store and post office alongside the CNoR station on the north side of the river at Entrance, the location now known as Old Entrance. He held the government contract for the Entrance Post Office until 1925.
In 1917 sections of steel track were removed from both railways lines for the war effort. The CNoR track was removed between Chip Lake and Obed and from Snaring to Geikie. The GTPR track was removed between Obed and Snaring. The end of the economic boom and duplication of the rail lines resulted in the financial collapse of both railway companies, the CNoR in 1918 and the GTPR in 1920. The railways were amalgamated and operated as Canadian Government Railways prior to formation of Canadian National Railways (CNR) in 1922. The steel was replaced on the original GTPR grade from Obed to Dyke in 1926 and three miles of new grade was built west of Dyke to cross a new trestle to connect with the CNoR line on the north side of the Athabasca River near Solomon Creek. The Dyke station had been idle for ten years until it was rehabilitated in 1927 and put back into service. The Dyke railway station was renamed Entrance after the local residents successfully petitioned to have their Post Office relocated to Dyke from the original Entrance site on the north side of the Athabasca River.
Growing up at Entrance on the south side of the river, my earliest recollections of the Entrance railway station (previously named DYKE) is during the early 1960s when it was still an operating CNR station. At that time a man by the name of Watt (no relation to the store owner) had taken over as the station agent from Art Dunn and was residing there with his family in the combined train station house. I recall playing with their son Doug on the lawn of the neatly fenced back yard, when we were five or six years old. My older sister and I slept over in a tent in that yard with Valerie Watt on one occasion and I vividly remember the ground vibrating as the trains passed by during the night. Another day we went with father to the train station from our home on the opposite (north) side of the tracks from the Entrance community to pick up items that had been mail ordered from a catalog. We went from our house with our Ford 9N tractor towing a narrow flat deck trailer that father had built for farm use. As there was no planked railway crossing in place near the station, our new blue bathroom set would have been carried across the tracks to the trailer. This exciting event followed shortly after rural electrification brought power to Entrance and running water to our home. To drive a car from our house to the train station or to the general store at Entrance we had to drive east almost half a mile to the level railway crossing then double back on the car road along the south side of the tracks.
The Trekofski family with children Melvin, Martin and Rita were the last family to live in the Entrance station prior to its closure in 1965. Another memory of this station building is during the time that it sat idle for a couple years. Along with my best buddy Jimmy Melin we would access the empty building through an unlocked sliding window on the north side facing the tracks, out of sight of the general store and Entrance residents. A favorite spot was out on the roof on the west side of the gable where up there facing the mountains we would enjoy a bottle of pop and a bag of chips that we had bought at the general store for 25 cents. We had a secret hiding place in the large eave space that could only be accessed from a small opening in a completely dark, windowless room located above the baggage room. A man who at the time rented a small house near the station and had an interest in buying this building was keeping an eye on it to guard against vandalism. This fellow had very dark eyes and a large pet snake that we often saw on his shoulders or wrapped around his neck. I felt this man was rather frightening. One day while we were in the empty station building, we heard someone come in so we quickly went into the hiding place. We didn't move very far into the eave space so as not to make much noise. In the complete dark this man reached in grabbed onto my leg. He ordered us out of the building, nothing more. I can't say if he had his pet snake with him as I didn't take the time to look back.
The station building was put up for sale by tender for removal from the railway right-of-way. After receiving no bid on this building CNR demolished it in 1967. I recall the day the bull dozer arrived. Gordon Watt, owner of the general store and several rental houses at Entrance, was hopping mad and tried to halt the bull dozer. I believe he had been hoping to acquire the building for rental use, but for reasons unknown he had not placed a bid on it. It could have been had for one dollar. I was 12 years old then and I recall the sense of waste and loss for our community when that building crumbled and burned. I did not know then that at a much later date I would prevent the destruction of Canadian Northern's railway station building at Old Entrance and make it my home.
It has often been recorded that place name ENTRANCE was derived by the name of the last railway station before entering Jasper Park. Original CNoR plans actually indicate that this station was to be named HEDA, not Entrance. It's always been known within our family that Entrance was named by Roy Woodley. In a 1972 newspaper interview my grandmother Dora Woodley stated that they moved to their home that Roy called "Entrance - gateway to the west" in 1913 when the CNoR steel reached Solomon Creek.
The CNoR station opened their Entrance railway station in 1914. It was closed by CNR in 1927. The steel tracks were left in place as a spur line from the new railway trestle to the Bliss gravel pit until removal in 1932. The station building was at that time sold to Alan Boomer, a retired telegrapher. Boomer sold the station building to Harry Ennis who in turn sold it to Billy Magee. These three in turn, leased a portion of the 99' wide railway right-of-way on which the station building was located, first from CNR then later from Alberta Transportation. Following Billy Magee's death no documentation proving his ownership of this building could be found by his estate. I purchased Magee's land in 1987 when it was listed for sale by his estate. The station building was subsequently advertised for sale by public tender by Alberta Transportation for removal from the right-of-way. The building was in poor condition and I was the only one to bid on it, paying over thirteen hundred dollars. It too could have been had for one dollar.
Roy, Dora & son, Francis Woodley, 1915
Roy Woodley settled at the location he called Entrance in 1913 near the Canadian Northern Railway station. He operated this general store, the Entrance post office and a restaurant here from 1914 to 1925, during some of those years in partnership with his brother Earl. Roy sold the post office and store business and leased the buildings to Tom Monaghan. Monaghan built a new store and relocated the post office near the Dyke station on the Grande Trunk Pacific Railway on the other side of the Athabasca River one mile east. That station was renamed Entrance that same year. This original store building was torn down and rebuilt on property near new Entrance in the late 1930s on the homestead Frank Woodley (Roy's father) had filed in 1928. It was never used as a store at the new location and was later the Mildred (Woodley) and Carl Luger family home.
Woodley Family at Old Entrance - by Mary Luger April 2, 2009
The Woodley brothers left Cartwright, Ontario in 1910 for work with the survey crew during construction of the Canadian Northern Railway grade. My grandfather, Roy Thompson Woodley (May 14, 1890 - June 29, 1969) and his younger brother Earl Francis Woodley (June 5, 1893 - March 13, 1979) arrived at Hinton in 1911 at the ages of 21 and 18.
Roy had been employed as a store clerk in Cartwright, Ontario for seven years prior to taking employment with CNoR during construction of the transcontinental railway. During the winter of 1912-13 Roy remained in Hinton working at Leslie Zohrab's store while Earl continued working with the CNoR crew until completion of the transcontinental line to Vancouver in October 1915.
Roy met his future wife Theodora (Dora) Webb (March 6, 1893 - October 27, 1975) at Hinton when she stepped off the train at the end of the railway steel in spring of 1912. They were married in Edmonton September 13, 1914. A year earlier, Roy had moved onto vacant land and filed for homestead on the portion of SW2-51-26-W5, lying north of the Athabasca River at the location now known as Old Entrance. Roy built a house, general store and restaurant alongside the Canadian Northern Railway station. Dora began residence at Entrance when the railway steel reached Solomon Creek in 1913. Roy was awarded the contract for the Entrance Post Office January 1, 1915. Their first son Francis was born at home in Entrance on May 14, 1914, Clarisse (Mrs. Tom) Groat, nee Moberly, delivered the baby. Earl joined Roy in business at Entrance about 1916 after completion of the railway to the west coast and together they operated Woodley Bros. General Merchants until 1923.
Earl Woodley married Edna Badgley October 23, 1921. Edna (February 1, 1899 - May 1, 1971) was the daughter of Sarah and Ward Badgley. Ward was supervisor of the Athabasca Forest Reserve and resided at the Entrance headquarters from 1917 to 1922. Earl and Edna built a house on Roy's homestead and lived at Entrance prior to moving to Red Pass B.C. in 1923, after that time rented their house at Entrance to various people. They bought Red Pas Hotel and operated it and E.F. Woodley General Merchandise store until retirement to Abbotsford B.C. in 1946.
After Earl's departure from Entrance, Roy operated his store briefly as R.T. Woodley General Merchant then sold to Thomas Monaghan on June 16, 1925 and leased the store buildings at Entrance (now Old Entrance). Monaghan relocated the store and post office in 1927 to the other side of the river into a new store building that he had constructed near the original GTPR Dyke railway station, operating as Entrance General Store. The DYKE station had sat idle for ten years as the railway steel had been removed for the war effort from the GTPR. The station was rehabilitated by CNR and renamed ENTRANCE in 1927.
Roy's wife Dora Webb had travelled from England to western Canada with her friend Connie Nickerson with intentions of going to the west coast. These two young women were among thousands of men in the area at that time involved with the construction of two major railway bridges for the two railways, the GTPR crossing at Prairie (Maskuta) Creek and the CNoR crossing of the Athabasca River near Entrance at Dyke.
In 1923, with his growing number of children, Roy Woodley had a log schoolhouse constructed at Entrance, however in 1926 with completion of the trestle west of Entrance the CNR main line by-passed this location. The rail line remained in place through Old Entrance as a spur line for the CNR to the Bliss gravel pit until 1932. The Woodley family with ten children resided at Entrance until 1933, with a short departure to Vancouver and then to Edmonton in 1925.
The Roy Woodley family relocated near Hinton in 1933 onto a new homestead filed in Dora's name. Roy and Dora had thirteen children with the last two being born after they left Entrance. Roy managed Frank Seabolt's store in Hinton for several years, then after the Second World War briefly operated a coal mine at Hinton with his sons and later in life worked as a watchman and timekeeper at various mines and logging camps. Roy and Dora retired on their property at Hinton known as "Woodley Acres" where the Howard Johnson (Crestwood) Hotel is located.
From tax records we know that Roy Woodley retained ownership of the property at Entrance until relinquishing the land title to his brother Earl in 1949. Earl Woodley held title until 1955, selling the land at that time to my paternal grandmother's cousin, Wilbert (Billy) Nelson Magee. I purchased this property (my grandfather's original homestead) from the Magee estate following Billy's death in 1987.
Log Schoolhouse, 1998
Built on Roy Woodley's property in 1923, this log schoolhouse is in fairly good condition today. Roy and Dora Woodley's children attended classes here with private teachers during three summers only. Enrollment never reached the required minimum of seven students required for a public teacher. In later years this building was used as a dining hall during construction of a new railway bridge three miles west in 1926, then for community dances and other social functions and as a summer vacation home by Dr. Anne Burrows who had spent her early childhood years with her parents at Entrance while her father was Superintendent of the Athabasca Forest Reserve.
Shand outside his Cabin, 1963
James Shand-Harvey, an Eton-educated man of upper-class Scottish descent, called this tiny log cabin at Old Entrance home for 46 years, from 1921 until his death in 1968. "Shand" came to the Yellowhead Pass region first in 1907 working with the Dominion Land Surveyors then returned for good in 1909, packing supplies during the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway construction. The book Pack Saddles to Tête Jaune Cacheby J.G. MacGregor chronicles the life of this early packer, forest ranger and trapper.
Forest Headquarters at Entrance, circa 1925
Entrance (now known as Old Entrance) was headquarters for the federal Atahbasca Forest Reserve from 1916 to 1930. None of these original log buildings remain, having been replaced with frame buildings by the Alberta Forest Service which maintained a ranger station at the site until the mid-1960s.