Brandon, Manitoba’s second largest city (population of 41,511 in 2006), is located in the Assiniboine Valley in the western part of the province. The Assiniboine River 1 meanders across a glacial spillway floor that is steeper on the north side—the “North Hill”—than on the south. Without the aid of stereovision the North Hill is not obvious on this photo, but several wooded gullies 2 indicate its location. Historically the bulk of settlement was located on the gentle southern slope; only recently has settlement encroached on the north hill 3. The meandering Assiniboine has left behind several abandoned meanders 4 and river segments 5, one of which is named Lake Percy 6. Land north and south of the spillway is underlain by ground moraine that exhibits the characteristic light-toned hillcrests 7.
In contrast to the area around Portage la Prairie, the whole of this area is subdivided using the DLS system: sections are easily recognized north and south of the city 8; one in the southeast is misshapen 9, and major roads within the city run along section lines 10. The photograph covers parts of townships 9, 10, and 11; the boundary between 10 and 11 is a correction line, the correction here being about 4500 feet (1371 m) 11. Brandon is located in the centre of a large farming area with most of the land around it being cleared for agriculture. Sections are divided into quarter sections 12 and smaller-sized fields 13. The very small fields northwest of the city 14 are test plots at an experimental farm.
Brandon is a railway town, owing its origin to being a division point[i] on the CP line that runs through the north end of the city 15. The first settlement in the area was at Grand Valley 16 about two miles (3.2 km) east of the present central business district, and it was assumed that this would be the location of the division point. However, when local land owners asked more for their land than CP was willing to pay, Colonel Rosser, the engineer in charge, decided on a high, well-drained site south of the river, two miles to the west. This proved to be a wise decision because Grand Valley was flooded in 1881 and 1882. Also seen is the CN line that runs through the southern part of the city 17 at an angle to the general trend of the roads. Abandoned lines can be seen in the northeast 18 and west 19.
The Trans-Canada Highway 20, partly twinned, bypasses the city to the north and PTH 10 (Eighteenth Street in Brandon) 21 runs south/north through Brandon and then jogs east just over a mile (1.6 km) 22 before continuing north—eventually to Flin Flon. The curve in the road 23 results from the correction at the township10/11 boundary.
The city originated along Pacific Avenue that runs east/west parallel to the railway line. In classic prairie fashion the downtown area is a blunt T-shape 24 with businesses along east/west trending Pacific, Rosser, and Princess Avenues and north/south along 9th and 10th streets. In the older parts of the city treed residential streets run north/south and east/west in harmony with the DLS system 25. This pattern is broken in the west 26, south 27, and southeast 28 by crescents, bays, and, in one place, courts 29. The new developments on the North Hill 30 also follow a grid pattern, despite the opportunity for something more enterprising. The same is true of some new developments south of the city 31.
Industry in Brandon is concentrated in the southeast in the industrial park along the CN line 32. Further east is a fertilizer manufacturing plant—Koch Nitrogen Fertilizer Holding 33—and just south of the river is the second thermal electric power station in Manitoba, the other being in Selkirk. The dark-toned area 34 is a coal pile, the fuel used in the plant at the time; water for cooling is taken from the Assiniboine.
Other items peripheral to the city include a park with an outdoor swimming pool 35, a drive-in cinema 36 (now no longer in use), and a poultry farm 37.
[i] Division points were placed about every 125 miles (201 kilometres) along a line because that was about what a crew could cover in a day when the lines were built. Some, like Brandon, had superintendents, train dispatchers, major shops etc. Others, like Broadview, were much more modest “away from home” places where crews stayed over until a train could take them back to Brandon. Because of the railway employment, division points tended to grow because merchants knew that some of their customers had incomes in good times and in bad. (Chuck Bohi, May 2007).