A Piece of the Line

It is great what neighbours and friends of Countess share with us. This intriguing piece of history is literally out of the Royal Line (the train line that connected Bassano to Empress, and went through Countess, Duchess, Rosemary, Gem and Patricia).

countess rail tie

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Hamlet Homes

Anyone curious in the history of retail in Canada knows about the Roebuck Sears Catalogues, and that yes, there was a time when you could even order a whole house through them (some assembly required). The kit would arrive with everything you needed to assemble and be able to habitat within. One has to wonder if CP Rail copied, or if Sears learned from them in this instance.

As we have discussed in previous articles the settling of the Royal Line being driven by the railway. Not only driven, but many towns and hamlets named after investors and dignitaries associated with CP Rail. CP Rail would work with the government for immigration for needed workers and settlers (from Wales, Russian Mennonites, Mormons, etc.), but to be able to build hamlets, farm and live…well one needed houses.

original cpr house plans
Original CPR House Plans

A CP Rail house still stands in Countess, it has undergone some renovations and tweaking over the decades from the original floor plan.

Take a look at the slideshow at the end of the article for how history has been re-imagined for living today.





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Marquis & Countess de Bassano

Money can get your name on lots of things. Looking around villages, towns and cities in the late 20th and early 21st century one can notice how many companies have sponsored things. Just look to the local hockey rink and chances are there is a company sponsorship deal. Townships of CP Rail were no different on the Royal Line.

Bassano was named after one of their biggest shareholders from Italy, the Marquis de Bassano whose name was used for the town of Bassano, and his wife, the Countess had the small hamlet of Countess named after her.

bassano station1
Loading the Bassano station July 2012

The thoughts of where the names come from emerges as we contemplate the history of railways in the area. In the early 2000’s Bassano moved for a time from the “Best in the west by a Dam site” to the Train engine logo. Which was puzzling when it was unable to refurbish their old CP Rail station, Countess was not selected to become its new home, that was Beiseker, AB in 2012. The 104 year old station had already received 1/2 million dollars in renovations on its way to become a tourist destination and museum.

bassano station2
Heading from Bassano to Beiseker

Unfortunately in 2015 fire would reduce the historic building to ash. For an example of historic CP Rail Station a trip to Empress, AB will be beneficial.

Countess still holds to celebrating our railroad heritage as part of the Royal Line with our on-site CP Rail Caboose. It was an amazing thing to go through the rail yards and explore the old engines and cars in the early 2000’s with Wayne Ragan to find this attraction:


The historic Royal Line: Bassano, Duchess, Countess, Rosemary, Patricia, Gem, and Empress:



Many folks know about the rich history of farming, ranching and oil & gas in our province. One of the resources that can be forgotten is coal. It was a major economic drive in Southern Alberta until oil & gas took off. What some may not realize is that the Royal Line had their own tie to the coal industry.

From 1920-22 Duchess, AB had a coal mine. The Duchess Coal Company worked a shallow mine for coal for the two years.

Knowing that CP Rail targeted work contracts and immigration from Wales, due to their knowledge of mining and working through rock to build the rail line. It is a preponderance how many would settle and work for the early coal companies. A family aside for this writer, my Great-Granddad came to Montreal, QC for a short stint to work with CP Rail just for this reason.

coal train
Coal train from the Mac’s Store in Blairmore, AB proudly displayed in Countess, AB