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Manitoba from the Air
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Birtle is an example of a town in which an antecedent business centre was soundly established before the railroad arrived. The railroad, therefore, had to remain on the outskirts while at the same time the original business area managed to remain dominant.[i] On the photograph, the CP line can be seen north of town 1. Two elevators 2 can be seen on it, with just to the south a cluster of buildings 3 which probably house some rail-related industry.

The town is beautifully situated in the valley of Birdtail Creek 4 offering an opportunity for a more enterprising road pattern than the standard grid. However, the opportunity was missed, and the grid is set down on the south side of the valley ignoring its existence. PTH 83 5 runs north/south through the area and PTH 42 6 east/west, the two amalgamating to pass through the centre of Birtle, forming the main street 7 along which most of the town’s commercial establishments are located.

Given the large scale of the photo several items of the town’s infrastructure are identifiable: two schools 8, a hospital 9, a racetrack 10, a cemetery 11, a sewage lagoon 12, and a primitive runway 13. The Birdtail Creek has been dammed 14, creating a lake 15 with recreational features around it. A long building on the north shore 16 is probably a motel.

In recent years Birtle’s population has dropped from a high of 887 in 1981 to 715 in 2001. In an effort to reverse the trend, the town placed advertisements in eastern Canadian newspapers enticing people to relocate here by emphasizing the very low cost of housing, the beautiful setting, and the relaxed atmosphere of rural living. It does not seem to have been successful because the population continued to drop, to 662 in 2006.


[i] Warkentin, J. and Ruggles, R. I. Historical Atlas of Manitoba. Winnipeg: Manitoba Historical Society, 1970, 360.

Figure 8.35