On my parent’s trip to Drumheller, we visited the Atlas Coal Mine Historic Site. Since it looked like rain in the afternoon, we decided to head there first thing in the morning. We arrived just as it opened and booked all their tours up to 2 pm. This mine operated from 1936 until 1979. Currently, it is a national historic site of Canada and the most complete historic coal mine in the country.
Our first tour was the Tunnel Tour. It started in the washhouse where we learned about the conditions the miners endured. Inside each miner had a skyhook with a basket for their belongings that they pulled by a chain to the ceiling. This is where they would store all their clean clothes and soap. After the workday was done, they would come back and head to the shower room. Here 100 or so men would pack in under 10 showerheads. During this era, running hot water was uncommon, making these men the cleanest in the Valley.
Before we headed to the wooden tunnel, we all grabbed hard hats fitted with LED headlamps. This tunnel is how they transported the coal down from the mine. We hiked single file up the tunnel, our bobbing heads lighting the way. Halfway up the tunnel, the guide got all of us to turn out our lights to simulate how dark being underground gets. At this point, I could not see anything, just blackness. Our guide took this opportunity to share some of the miner’s stories with us. Standing in the dark, focusing to keep my foothold, and listening to their stories made me appreciate the things these workers went through. After, we all turned on our lights and continued to the top. Once outside, our guide took us to one of the mine’s entrances. Currently, it is still closed but they have been trying to reopen it one foot at a time. That concluded our tour and since we were a bit late for our next one, we hurried back down the hill. However, there was no need to worry because once we arrived at the next location; I noticed that half of our last group was also on this tour.
The Tipple Tour took us up Canada’s last standing wooden tipple. This building is where all the coal from the mines would end up to be sorted. In its day, this tall wood building was worth a lot, the equivalent of 2 million dollars today. Climbing up in this building was much easier than our last tour.
Coal Car Ride
Next, we hurried over to the coal cars pulled by an over one hundred-year-old locomotive named “Linda”. Of all the tours, this one was the shortest. Our guide took us through the car’s history and how they would load up the cars with coal then transport it for selling. Then we all piled in and sat down for the ride. I really enjoyed this interactive tour.
Warning: It is very bumpy and loud because the cars hit each other when it stops and starts.
The next tour was one I had never been on before; the Unmentionables Tour. We walked around the site and the guide shared stories of how the miners lived, what their community was like the fun moments, and the hard times. Much of the tour’s history focused on the hot topic of the era; prohibition and prostitution.
Click to read all about my Drumheller experience – Uniquely Alberta Adventures: 12 incredible things to do in Drumheller
On our tours, we had a chance to meet, Bob Moffatt, one of the original miners who still works here as a senior advisor. As we walked around on the different tours, he would pop in and chat with the group. He was full of energy at the young age of 82.
By the end of the day, I felt like I got my 40$ worth with the day pass; it was packed full! I definitely recommend visiting this fantastic piece of Badlands history. It is worth a visit; whether you decide to only go on one tour or to get the day pass like we did.
Cost: $ 40 each for a day pass or just book individual tours
Amenities: Tons of parking. Indoor washrooms. Snacks for sale.
Location: 20 minutes Southeast of Drumheller
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