A step back in time at the Atlas Coal Mine in East Coulee near Drumheller, Alberta, Canada.
Of the 139 coal mines which operated near Drumheller, Alberta, the Atlas Coal Mine, near East Coulee in Drumheller Valley, survived the longest between 1911 and 1979. The Patrick Family mines produced more than 20% of the valley's coal. At peak productivity the Atlas Coal Mine employed more than 300 people. The Atlas Coal Mine #3 and #4 produced nearly 5 million tons of Wildfire Coal sorted by what is now the nation's last free-standing tipple.
The hard work and primitive conditions were humbling by today's standards. It is a fascinating site for learning and observation, where dedicated volunteers continue the painstaking task of keeping history alive. It is more difficult to know where you are going without knowledge of where you have been. The gravel parking area is adjacent to the administration building where passes are purchased and adventure begins. Regularly, the attraction improves and the number and variety of available tours expand.
Adjacent to the parking area is an example of one of the more elaborate homes occupied by miners.
The beginning of the walking tour is across the entrance road at an exhibit of old mining machinery salvaged from the mining operation. The collection includes a variety of tools, coal cars and engines used in the mining shafts to haul coal to the chute which would deliver coal to the tipple for sorting and loading into railroad hopper cars.
On the far, north side of the tipple, several small buildings offer insight into the operation of the mine. The first building visited addresses the use of miners lamps and the batteries to power them. Recent evidence indicates this process was different at the Atlas Coal Mine and many of the exhibits have been moved here from other defunct mines. Interpretive plaques and ample historical documentation bring the exhibits to life.
There is evidence this Lamp House was moved to the Atlas Coal Mine in the 1960s from the Murray Mine. The Lamp House for the Atlas Coal Mine # 4 previously existed near the entrance to the mine shaft.
In some mines, a numbered brass tag was taken into the mine by each miner and returned at the end of the day. In an emergency it would be known who was in the mine, or in a disaster scenario, the tags could be used to identify bodies.
T The little "cartop shed" served as the Lamp House and is adjacent to the larger Wash House where every miner's shift began and finished.
Inside the Wash House, every miner exchanged street clothing for clean workday clothing from suspended baskets which served as lockers. At the end of the 8 hour shift, badly soiled clothing would be hung for overnight laundry and after a hot shower, warm street clothing would be restored from the suspended basket for the walk home. The historical documents on the bulletin board are fascinating.
Historical documents, preserved on the bulletin board, give fascinating insight into the wages and conditions of the time at the Atlas Coal Mine National Historical Site
The Repair Shop is worthy of investigation on the walking tour between the Wash House and the Mine Office. There is plenty of opportunity for hands on experience with some of the tools before capturing additional excellent views of the tipple. A yard filled with classic vehicles, possibly awaiting restoration is en route before entering the Mine Office building to collect more fascinating historical information. This is a very interesting place.
The Mine Office is the final stop prior to returning to the parking area. The office is well-organized with original supplies and documents. A variety of interpretive plaques and relevant documents illustrate the working of the mine, the relationship with miners and the ongoing disputes with mining unions.
The Mine Office is so accurately appointed, it's occupants are expected to return from lunch at any moment. Again, there are fascinating educational documents to bring life to the days of mining at the Atlas Coal Mine near Drumheller, Alberta, Canada.
On the return to the parking area, the walking tour passes beneath the tipple where separated coal is loaded into railroad hopper cars for transportation to markets across North America. Near completion of the walking tour, the tour in the working, steam-propelled, mine locomotive named 'Linda' is about to depart with tiny mining carloads of people.
The final stop is at the equipment exhibit. There is a sand box for the children but, instead of sand, it is filled with crushed coal and it is not immediately obvious why parents would encourage children to play in there.
Enjoying a busy and interesting day which included plenty of fresh air and exercise, indoor and outdoor activities, and an educational bonanza in a variety of ways. All that remains is the return drive to Calgary.
Images for this post were taken on July 16, 2013.