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Ardley...2
The first elevator was built in 1918 by Minett & Phillips, but burnt down in 1928. The second one was constructed later that year by United Grain Growers, with an annex added in 1958. It was closed in 1985. With the closing of the elevator, along with the shutdown of all coal mining along the river decades earlier, Ardley's population dwindled to under a dozen citizens by the turn of the 21st century.
Ardley United Grain Growers elevator -1968
Ardley's United Grain Growers grain elevator - pictured here in 1968 - was first built in 1928 and was closed and then torn down in 1985.
United Grain Growers Elevator - Photo courtesy of Lynda Swanson
Every once in a while, visitors drive up the dusty rural road off the Delburne Highway to poke around the pioneer settlement. All the businesses are long gone, and any evidence of the old grain elevator has long been wiped away by time and the elements. However, on Kirbyson's property still sits the old train station, surrounded by a score of other old relics from the distant past, including rusting antique cars, trucks and farm equipment. Sometimes, there is an occasional offer to buy the once majestic building.
"My mother wouldn't let it go," said Gary, who said a couple seriously wanted to buy it in the late 1990s. However, time is quickly eating away at the building, and officials with Red Deer County would like to include the train station on their historical sites inventory, with a hope that somehow it can be preserved and maybe even restored. At one time, there were rural train stations in scores of Central Alberta towns, but the Ardley structure is one of the last of its particular architectural style still standing in the county.
Ardley train station sign
© Johnnie Bachusky
Train station sign has not welcomed travelers since 1965.
Similar structures can be found outside the county in Rowley, 25 kilometres northwest of Drumheller, and in Meeting Creek, 125 kilometres northeast of Red Deer. Both buildings have been restored as museums. "It's starting to weather pretty bad. We never did get to put it on a cement foundation," said Kirbyson, mindful it would cost a lot of money to renovate and government heritage funding assistance is hard to come by. John Viznei, a cook at the Delburne Hotel, is a former Ardley resident who would welcome any initiative to preserve the old station. His father, Nick Viznei, was the last section foreman in Ardley. The Viznei family was the final family to live in the station. The family moved to Delburne where his father, now deceased, became the train station's section foreman.
Ardley mine ruin Coal mine wheel at Ardley
© Johnnie Bachusky
© Johnnie Bachusky
Above left: Gary Kirbyson beside a long-forgotten foundation from the hamlet's mining days and (right) a derelict wheel along the road leading to the coal mine.
Ardley town water pump
Anitque water-drilling machine
© Johnnie Bachusky
An antique water-drilling machine from the hamlet's pioneer days.
© Johnnie Bachusky
A rusted old water well near the hamlet's residential area.
Old car at Ardley Abandoned car being reclaimed by the bush
© Johnnie Bachusky
© Johnnie Bachusky
Farm equipment
© Johnnie Bachusky
Antique cars and agriculture equipment from Ardley's days-gone-by, litter the yard of the Kirbyson acreage.
"I remember reading a lot as there was no electricity," said Viznei, who also noted there was no indoor plumbing. "But I have fond memories. Life was simple. "I remember the hobos that used to ride the trains. At that time, some of them used to come through here," he recalled. "There were two big benches along the walls of the waiting room and a huge coal-burning stove. One time my parents gave these derelicts food and a place to sleep on the benches."
Gary Kirbyson
Although his three brothers later followed their father's footsteps by working for CN, Viznei, 57, never did. He confessed he's not overly sentimental about the old derelict train station, but for historical reasons, he would like to see it preserved and restored. "I believe in restoring historical things," said Viznei. "If somebody had the finances, they could make it a beautiful home. These stations were constructed quite solid with huge timbers. I have seen them restored and they are beautiful."
Gary Kirbyson now uses the old train station for storage.
© Johnnie Bachusky