45: April 2, 2004
the 45th issue of the Bed and Breakfast Traveller, we take you
to the Canadian Badlands region of Alberta, where the past and present
combine to make a unique visitor experience.
Stripes in the Badlands
so very long ago, Coal was King. Coal fueled industry and transportation,
and kept people warm in their homes. So when coal was discovered in
the empty valley of the Red Deer River in what was not yet Alberta,
that was big news. Coal meant trains, and trains meant the westward
expansion of a fledgling nation, and expansion meant more customers
who needed coal to live. The stage was set for entrepreneurs.
first entrepreneur took a chance in 1911. Sam Drumheller opened the
first coal mine in what was later to be called the Drumheller Valley.
In short order, 138 more mines were registered. The track was laid,
and the world swarmed into the valley. Immigrants from Hungary, Ukraine,
Italy, Britain, America and Canada arrived by the trainload ready to
work. Shacks sprang up around pitheads, and communities mushroomed.
Made up largely of single men, Drumheller's coal mine communities were
known as hotbeds of drinking, gambling, fighting, and women of questionable
Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site tells the stories of the mines
and the miners who carved Drumheller out of the badlands of the Red
Deer River. The Atlas was the last of Drumheller's 139 mines to close,
and preserves a nationally significant historic industrial landscape.
The last wooden tipple in Canada looms over the ghostly wash house,
mine office, outbuildings and machinery. Visitors prowl the scenic interpretive
trail, and take a guided tour to the top of the tipple. Children explore
the hands-on Kids Tour, and even collect a paycheque if it's Payday.
Many take a ride in the Mantrip, a sort of miners' train, pulled by
an antique battery locomotive. Historic characters and equipment demonstrations
make the Atlas a fun and fascinating place to visit.
the Year of the Coal Miner, Drumheller joins with the communities of
Canmore, Lethbridge, Crowsnest Pass, and Fernie to remember the men
who dug for coal. For many, mining was good work. Digging coal put bread
on the table, warmed the nation, and fuelled the economy. Beyond that,
it created a brotherhood of miners that outlasted the mines themselves.
of the Coal Miner Events in Drumheller
May 14-October 11
the Atlas Coal Mine and join daily tours, events, and demonstrations.
Open May/June 9:30-5:30, July/August 9:30-8:30, fall hours vary Located
15 minutes from downtown Drumheller on the scenic Hoodoo Drive $5/person
or $15 family; Mantrip Ride $1/person.
Men of the Deeps Father's Day Concert
at Badlands Passion Play Amphitheatre.
phone 866-320-3898. $20/person
Dinosaurs in the Gob Field Trip
The science of coal mining with Dr. Eberth and Fred Orosz
phone 403.822.2220. $15/person, includes lunch
Musicians, actors, storytellers evoke the days when coal was king every
Wednesday evening in the wash house.
Phone 403.822.2220. Included in site admission
Coal Mine Theatre
Actors bring coal mining to life through a new play and historic vignettes
all around Drumheller. Schedule to be announced.
Historic downtown Drumheller comes alive every Saturday evening in July
with music, historic vignettes, displays, food, and more.
Phone 403.823.8100. Free!
Coal Miners Picnic
Coal miners and their families are invited to join dignitaries for the
National Commemoration ceremony for the Atlas Coal Mine.
Phone 403.822.2220. Miners free.
Mine Film Festival
Famous features and intriguing documentaries depict coal mining in all
Badlands Bed and Breakfast Association