Many features of the Canadian landscape and climate can have an adverse effect on rail travel. Snow, fog, rain, ice and frost can make tracks slippery and dangerous. The steep grades through the Rocky Mountains can also cause a locomotive to lose traction, especially if the locomotive is pulling a heavy load.
To give an engine extra traction, sand is blown onto the rails directly in front of the driving wheels. Sand is such an effective means of providing traction that it is widely used by all sorts of trains, including the C-Trains of Calgary's Light Rail Transit System. During the 1920s, the Canadian Pacific Railway built this sand tower at the Alyth Yards in Calgary. It was used in Red Deer from the mid-1960s until 1976, when the CPR donated it to Heritage Park. The Railway Sand House was rebuilt in 2008 incorporating many of the original components.