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Eat. Drink. Shop. Bike. Hike. And More.

Grande Cache, Alberta has a variety of unique attractions & outdoor adventures.

CAMPING ● GOLFING HIKING ● FISHING WHITE WATER RAFTING HORSEBACK RIDING & MORE

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Pierre Grey’s Lakes Provincial Park

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Pierre Grey’s Lakes Provincial Park

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Vintage Metal Signs Zippo Lighters Collector’s Knives Colouring Books

Wildhorse Lake

Tr a

(See detailed information on reverse)

Historic Mining Town

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Historic Site of (See detailed information on reverse)

Robb

Edmonton

Mary Gregg Lake

Luscar

Mercoal Coalspur Cabin

Watson Creek

Luscar

TECK COALCARDINAL RIVER MINE

Watson Creek

Leyland Cadomin Leyland TECK COALCARDINAL RIVER MINE Cadomin INLAND CEMENT

Coalspur Coalspur Cabin Diss

Kilometres Miles

Sterco Sterco

Coal Valley Coal Valley COAL VALLEY Foothills RESOURCES INC – COAL VALLEYLUSCAR MINE Foothills Lovett River RESOURCES INC – Beaverdam Cabin

Snaring River

Provincial Park Whitehorse Wildland Provincial Park

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Lovette Cabin

Lovett

Lovett Fairfax Lake

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Please note this is a self guided tour. Services are very limited on this self Please note this is a self guided tour. guided tour. It requires travel through Services are very limited on this self active mining and forestry roads. You guided tour. It requires travel through may not have cell phone service and active mining and forestry roads. You many of the roads are not maintained may not have cell phone service and year round. Fuel and medical services many of the roads are not maintained are not available outside of the major year round. Fuel and medical services centres. Some of the communities on are not available outside of the major the tour offer food services, but hours centres. Some of the communities on vary throughout the year. Before the tour offer food services, but hours venturing into the area, check with a vary throughout the year. Before local Visitor Information Centre for venturing into the area, check with a Fairfax Lake up-to-date info! local Visitor Information Centre for up-to-date info! To Drayton Valley 129 km

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Muskiki Lake Muskiki Lake

Brazeau Canyon Wildland

Brazeau Canyon Wildland

To Forestry Trunk Road Nordegg 65 km Rocky Mountain House 155 km To Forestry Trunk Road Nordegg 65 km Rocky Mountain House 155 km VID DA

Road Road

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Fish Lake Shunda Lake

British Collieries

Nordegg

Nordegg

Shunda Ck

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Brazeau River

Red Cap Cabin

Originally published as a Commemorative Tour Map of the Rocky Mountain Branch by the Canadian Institute of Mining, in 1998. The 2017-2018 Edition of Experience our Coal History is a production of CMI Publishing with offices located at 116 Parkview Way SE, Calgary, Alberta, T2J 4M8, Phone: 403-259-8290. Reproduction by any Originally published as a Commemorative Tourwith Mapthe of the Rocky Mountainof Branch by the Canadian means is prohibited except written permission CMI Publishing. SpecialInstitute thanks to the Canadian Institute of Mining, in 1998. The 2017-2018 Editionand of Experience Coal Historytoisreproduce a production oforiginal CMI Publishing with thanks to the staff of Mining, Metallurgy Petroleum our for permission their map. Special offices located at 116 Parkview WayStation SE, Calgary, Alberta, T2J 4M8, Phone: 403-259-8290. Reproduction by any of the Galloway Museum for their kind assistance. means is prohibited except with the written permission of CMI Publishing. Special thanks to the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum for permission to reproduce their original map. Special thanks to the staff of the Galloway Station Museum for their kind assistance.

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To Drayton Valley 129 km Pembina Forks 60A oad P. 4 Nordegg to Hinton 202 km T W iver R R Fo lk E res Pembina Forks 60A ad tr y P. 4 r Ro734 Nordegg to Hinton 202 km W T ive R F or Elk es tr y 734 40 Shunda Ck Brazeau River

Red Cap Cabin

Jasper

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Mountain Park Mountain Park

Experience Local Hospitality

Kilometres Miles

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(active limestone quarry) Whitehorse INLAND Creek CEMENT (active limestone quarry) Whitehorse Wildland Whitehorse Creek

Snaring River

Jasper

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Mary Gregg Lake

WESTMORELAND GREGG RIVER MINE WESTMORELAND GREGG RIVER MINE

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Airstrip

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Kaydee Cabin

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VISTA – PROPOSED MINE

Maskuta Creek Kinky Lake

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Main Roads Secondary Roads

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McLeod Cabin

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Jasper Jasper National National Park Park

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Fickle Lake

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Solomon Hill

To Edmonton 203 km

Fickle Lake

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To Edmonton 203 km

Highways

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Brule Tipple

When Coal Was King

The Coal Branch

Marlboro

Pocahontas

The following excerpts are part of a story written for CMI Publishing by Ian Clarke. The original article appeared in the 2009 edition of Experience the Mountain Parks.

The eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains south of the Athabasca River have been dominated by coal mining for nearly a century. Exploration for viable coal mining deposits began in the region during the last quarter of the 19th century. Two other industries were intimately related to the coal mining: railways and logging. The development of the Yellowhead Pass for rail transportation prompted the active coal exploration and development in the early years of the 20th century. The reliance of other industries including railways on coal for fuel resulted in the creation of a series of mines and communities between about 1910 and 1950, which became known as the Coal Branch. The Coal Branch refers to the branch line of the Canadian National Railway which left the main line at Bickerdike, 16 km west of Edson, and ran southward and westward into the foothills to tap the rich coal reserves of that area.

In May 1911, clay marl was discovered west of Edson. The clay was found to be highly suited to cement manufacturing. By 1913, the Edmonton Portland Cement Plant was opened in Marlboro, shipping cement to Edmonton and centers beyond. Portions of the plant are still standing including the iconic smoke stack which is visible from Highway 16. The area around the plant has been designated a Historic Resource by Yellowhead County.

The Jasper Park Collieries and the town of Pocahontas were located in Jasper National Park. Prospecting in the Yellowhead Pass region began in earnest when the Grand Trunk Railway was announced and the future Jasper Park mine claim was staked by Frank Villeneuve in 1908. By 1910, the coal company was in operation and was ready when the steel arrived in Jasper in 1911. The mine maintained operations until 1921 when low coal prices combined with competition from the Brûlé mine forced its closure. At its peak, 200 to 300 people lived in the town of Pocahontas. The remains of the town can be visited via the Miette Hotsprings road.

Rocky Mountain Branch

It is not well known that Alberta is Canada’s largest coal producer. Even though there have been over 1,800 coal mining operations in Alberta through the last two centuries, only 12 active coal mines remain. While none of them involve underground work, the evidence of underground coal mining and the men and families whose lives depended on it, still exists in the hundreds of fascinating historical remnants of an era now long past. In 1792, during his fabled trek along the foothills of the Rockies, Peter Fidler made significant notes in his journals of rich coal-bearing strata along the East Slope. Euro Canadian settlement was slow to follow, but by the 1870s, ranchers, Métis freighters, and a handful of farmers needing to warm their shelters and cook their meals were digging coal from the readily available seams along the streams, creeks, and coulees of the southern plains.

Our Coal History 2017/2018

This proliferation of mining companies and their company towns was matched in the badlands of the Red Deer River valley when Samuel Drumheller proved the viability of mining the readily accessible coal seams in the valley walls. The towns of Newcastle, Drumheller, Midland, Rosedale, and Wayne were followed by Nacmine, Cambria, Willow Creek, Lehigh, and East Coulee. In the seventy years after commercial production began in 1911, 139 mines were opened and 34 of these proved to be profitable over the long term.

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The year that Drumheller shipped out its first load of commercial coal, a German entrepreneur named Martin Nordegg, opened a new mine on the East Slope, not far from the beautiful glacial hues of Abraham Lake on the North Saskatchewan River system. He also built Alberta’s first “planned community” to house the hundreds of families who came to work in his Brazeau Collieries.

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You’ll enjoy The Nordegg Heritage Centre and the Brazeau Collieries Industrial Minesite Museum. The collections at the Centre include artifacts, and archives relating to the history of the area of Nordegg, with particular emphasis on the coal mining industry.

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By 1908, serious prospecting for coal was undertaken in the Athabasca Valley, adjacent foothills and front ranges in anticipation of the Grand Trunk Railway. The mining town of Brûlé was founded by Mackenzie and Mann in 1912 on the newly established Canadian National Railway line.

For over 30 years, coal was “king” and communities thrived. Although skilled labour was scarce during Interior of the Marlboro

The subsequent years were filled with the efforts of coal mining pioneers such as Nicholas Sheran, the Healy brothers, and Alexander & Elliot Galt. Alberta’s coal mining boom was underway. The coal deposits that where seen by members of the British Palliser Expedition in the late 1850s in the Crowsnest Pass, led to investment in coal mines throughout the many regions. Fabled names like Lille, Leitch, Hillcrest, Frank, Bellevue, Mohawk, Greenhill, Coleman, and Boisjolie sprung up. This activity dominated the reginal economy until the 1950s. It was in many ways the heart of underground mining in western Canada.

Brûlé

Cement Plant

Hinton

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Mountain Par

The first long term settlement in the general area was in 1888 when Jack Gregg opened a trading post at Prairie Creek (Maskuta Creek), at the western end of modern Hinton. The post was located on the Jasper Trail and served travellers, local residents, and trappers. In 1908, the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway built a construction camp on the Prairie Creek Flats, creating a new population base for a time. In 1912, coal was prospected east of the trading post

All the Coal Branch communities were closely knit groups who shared the risks and sorrows as well as the joys and benefits of working and living in the area. Given the dangers of the work, it was essential that a cooperative spirit prevail. The unity forged by the ‘Coal Branchers’ continues today. Many families have never left the Branch, others return to visit and remember. Others are now discovering the people and places which together form the Coal Branch.

and a new settlement grew near Happy Creek. In 1914, the CNR established its station called Bliss near Hardisty Creek, three miles east of the Happy Creek settlement. In 1915, another station called Dalehurst was established east of all those prior locations and it was the official postal station in the area. By 1925, prospecting of coal near Hardisty Creek led to another new settlement, Drinnan. This scattering of siding and facilities represented in the area until 1931 when Frank Seabolt, R. W. Jones and Harry King opened the Hinton coal mine. The population boomed to one thousand by 1939. By 1950, the Hinton area was caught in the recession created by the falling coal market and the population dropped below 100. By 1956, Hinton was revitalized by the establishment of the North West Pulp and Power Ltd. Mill. Two communities re-established themselves, Drinnan and Hinton, and in 1957 they amalgamated.

The Coal Branch Railway

Grande Cache

The railway was the only means of mechanized transport in the region for many years. The train, which serviced the western Coal Branch was affectionately known as “The Blue Flea”. The train for the eastern branch was often known as “Sam’s Train”. The coal powered steam engines provided regular service to the Coal Branch, bringing goods and travellers in and out of the isolated communities. Rides on the Blue Flea were generally fun-filled social events and it was the main attraction at every siding. During the 1930s, the towns on the west leg were linked by a road cut by depression relief crews and built with community effort. An all-weather road linking the towns to the outside world was not completed until 1951, one year after the first of the Coal Branch mines began closing. The Blue Flea remained the principal means of travel to and from the Coal Branch.

The town of Grande Cache was incorporated in 1969 to support the coking-coal operation of the McIntyre Mine of the Smoky River. Historically, the area supported a large community of hunters, trappers, outfitters, and ranchers. Prospecting for coal, in the Grande Cache area, began in the 1920s. The lack of a rail spur made mining in this region impractical. In 1935, the mine lease on the Smoky River was acquired by the Blue Diamond Coal Company Ltd. 7 years later, the operations at Brûlé were closed. The lease was acquired by McIntyre Porcupine Mines. In the late 1960s, McIntyre opened a mine near Grande Cache in response to the growing Japanese demand for coking-coal. The mine, which operates as Grande Cache Coal today, is currently owned by UP Energy.

the war years, many of the mines grew in size. But that did not last. With the end of the war, much of the county’s production dropped off quickly. By the mid 1940s, new diesel locomotives began to replace the steam locomotives in the railway’s efforts to reduce costs and improve productivity. Such a move threatened the coal industry even more. Within a few short years, the steam locomotives and the coal mines that fed them were gone.

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Brule Machine Sho

In 1919, the mine was in full production employing 170. In 1920, the mine was bought by the Blue Diamond Coal Company. By 1922, the mine’s production had peaked and the town had a population of about 600. By 1928, the mine closed. Brûlé became a ghost town with only a park warden and one local family remaining. Salvage crews hired by the province reclaimed materials from the town for the ongoing war effort in 1942.

Luscar

began an advertising campaign in Ontario using a touring truck to demonstrate their product. This move ensured their survival through a time when many small mines failed. The Lakeside mine finally succumbed to the failing coal market and closed in 1955. Along with Cadomin, Robb is one of the last surviving Coal Branch communities.

Sterco Luscar Tipple and Town

site

The Luscar mine was opened north of Cadomin in 1921 by the same financial backers as the Mountain Park mine. Luscar Collieries Ltd acquired additional leases staked by John Gregg and R. W. Jones. The new company built a spur line from Leyland, which was assumed by the CNR upon completion. The Luscar mine employed 180 men within a year of operation. An underground fire in 1922 hampered production for a year as the seam had to be sealed off and another seam opened. While coal from Luscar was of high quality, its friability meant that briquetting was necessary. Unlike the Mountain Park mine, which rarely experienced full shutdowns, Luscar was prone to frequent shutdowns. Many of the residents would spend summers camping in the wilderness, close enough to the town to be notified if workers were needed. Peak production occurred in the 1920s again after World War II. In 1941, the population of Luscar was about 650. Luscar survived the first mine closures in the early 1950s, but when its briquette plant burned down in 1956, it was decided that the mine would not rebuild and operations ceased in October for that year. The mine saw a rebirth in 1969 when Cardinal River Coal reopened the Luscar mine in response to the growing Japanese market for coking coal. This was followed by the opening of Gregg River mine in the early 1980s.

Mercoal The Mercoal mine was opened on the western arm of the Coal Branch in 1920 by Louis Stupor. Mercoal was known for high quality coal suitable for railway use. In 1941, the mine was acquired by Canadian Collieries (Dunsmuir) Ltd. and expanded. The population went from just over 200 to nearly 825 in five years. When mines started closing in the western Coal Branch in the 1950s, many workers moved to Mercoal for employment. The new workers complicated the housing shortage so many families salvaged their homes from other towns and rebuilt them in Mercoal. The loss of the railway market as engines were switched to diesel, eventually caught up with Mercoal and the mine closed in 1959. Today, only remnants of the once bustling community are visible.

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Mountain Park Mountain Park was the first coal mine on the western arm of the Coal Branch. Local prospector John Gregg had identified the coal deposits in 1909 with the guidance of his Aboriginal wife Mary Cardinal Gregg. In 1910, Gregg and Robert Wesley Jones, an engineer with the Grand Trunk Railway, staked claims to the deposits and sought a buyer. In 1911, the Mountain Park Coal Company Ltd was created and development of the mine and town began. The company built 50 km of railway line to reach the branch line at Coalspur. Throughout the mining period, Mountain Park was the highest populated place with an elevation over 1830m in Canada. The beauty of its surroundings forged a special bond for the residents of the town. For most of its history, the mine provided job security for its workers and the town population reached

Mining operations at Sterco began in 1918 when Senator Oliphant staked a claim and started the Rocky Hard Collieries. In 1921, he merged the mine with other interests in the area and changed the name of the mine to the Sterling Collieries Ltd. and the name of the town from Basing to Sterco.

Tipple, Coal Spur, Mile 36, Parkhill Junction

Sterco Tipple

The original mine was surface stripped using hand shovels. During the 1921 changes, steam shovels were brought in to lessen the burden and mine the coal. Open pit mining increased production figures with lower personnel requirements. Sterling could produce 1200 tons of coal a day. Despite production capacity, the mine faced seasonal shut downs as the domestic market for coal fluctuated each summer.

The mine remained in production until 1954, when like so many mines, the change of industry to diesel fuel and the domestic market to natural gas forced its closure. Mining eventually returned to the area in 1977 when Luscar Sterco (1977) Ltd. opened mining operations on the Lovett Branch.

Blue Flea Spe cial on the Mo untain Park line in the Alb erta Coal Branch .

Coal Valley The Coal Valley mine was a relative latecomer to the Coal Branch. The mine opened in 1922 by the same financial backers as the Sterling Collieries at Sterco. Like Sterco, the Coal Valley Mining Company was run as a strip mining operation. Within one year, the mine had 100 employees and was producing 500 tons of coal daily. The town was originally called Prattville after one of the French investors on the Board of Directors. However, the name soon changed to Coal Valley. The mine was subject to seasonal closures each year and was hard hit during the Depression. The mine at Coal Valley closed in 1955 and the town was abandoned. The former town site is once again the location of open pit mining operations within the Luscar Sterco (1977) Limited lease.

o, Strip mining

Sterling Collieries, Sterc

Foothills Mercoal after 195

Coalspur In 1909, the Coalspur prospect was one of the earliest coalmines opened on the Coal Branch. The Yellowhead Pass Coal and Coke Company was created in 1911 to work a 5,000 acre lease near the rail line. It had a difficult history and was closed in 1915 due to an underground

Beginning in 1918, the Foothills Collieries was first mined as an underground operation by the Central Alberta Hard Coal Company. It was sold a year later to Windatt Coal Company and flourished. The coal from Foothills was marketed in the northern regions of Alberta and British Columbia. Like all the mines on the Lovett branch, Foothills coal was primarily used for domestic heating. Hence mining was limited to winter production. The community was somewhat distinctive in that the workers were predominantly l

led up at Mercoa

Mine car being pul

Reader Contests

Historic Coal Mining Sites in Alberta

Almost all buildings of the Brazeau Collieries coal mine are still standing, and the area is now a National Historic Site. Conservation of the mine structures is an on-going process, and a trail system leads the visitor through the mine site.

Edson

North of Nordegg, the new transcontinental railway known as the Canadian National, gave rise to another coal mining region bordering Jasper National Park. Alberta’s historic Coal Branch rail line runs southwest from Edson off Highway 16 and along 180 km of our most beautiful scenery. It opened in 1912 and produced an abundance of small mining communities that prospered until the end of the Second World War. The area included mines at 18 different sites. Of the 18, only Robb has survived the passing of the early coal age in Alberta. The loss of WWII production contracts and the introduction of full diesel service on the railways by 1952 spelled the end of this chapter in the Alberta's coal history. The town remnants, the rusting mining equipment, and the vestiges of the mines themselves are a colourful reminder of this era; they provide one more picturesque tour for the adventurous.

High River

New Denver

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Let this self-guided coal mine tour map help you to create a fascinating “on the road” expedition itinerary or a simple series of week-end excursions or day trips through a range of landscapes, historical experiences, and recreational treks. Either way, the mining history of Alberta offers unparalleled adventure through unrivalled scenery. Ian Clarke was an Alberta government historian and the Regional Director, Southern Operations, for the Historic Sites and Museums Branch. He was trained in Canadian History at the University of Calgary and the University of Manitoba. Ian worked in Historic Sites research, planning and development for thirty-two years, first with Parks Canada and then in the Alberta Historic Sites system.

Sam’s Train (Samuel

Sutherland is 3rd from the left with the top He was the conducto hat. r of the line.

Historic Trails The Bighorn Trail is one of the most prominant. It was believed to be part of the legendary Old North Trail that followed the eastern slopes of the Rockies from the Yukon to Mexico. The Trail was part of the travel routes used by the First Nations for centuries. The Trail continued to be used by trappers, Coal Branch residents and explorers through the first half of the 20th century. Much of the route was followed when Highway 40 was constructed. Remnants of the trail can be found by hearty travelers and a portion near Hinton has been refurbished. An Iroquois Métis trapper and guide, Pierre Bostonais, first led Hudson’s Bay Company fur traders over the famed Yellowhead Pass in 1825. The legendary blonde, blue-eyed guide was nick named Tête Jaune, meaning Yellow Head. To this day, the surrounding county and a portion of the highway bear his name.

This is one of the true Alberta boom towns. Before it even existed plans were in place for it to serve as the divisional point for the proposed Grand Trunk Railway. In 1910, surveyors laid out the town just ahead of railway construction. When steel arrived, the town had a settled population of 15. Promotion of the town as the ‘Calgary of the Grand Trunk Pacific’ and the ‘Pittsburg of Canada’ led to real estate speculation. Lots sold for $200 in 1910, but were quickly worth over $1000. By January 1911, there were 490 residents and by summer, the town had a population of 1200. On September 21, 1911 the town was formally incorporated. It was the centre of trade and commerce for the Yellowhead region, supporting the railways, agricultural and minning communities of the area. Between 1911 and 1915, Edson also served as the starting point for the laborious (400 km) overland trek to Grande Prairie. The Grande Prairie Trail as it was known, included four major river crossings and endless miles of muskeg.

Mail horses used

along the Grande

1

ing Edson in 191

Prairie Trail leav

1000 people. Early financial difficulties experienced by the mine were principally related to maintenance of the privately built railway. Mountain Park was the first mine to fall to the coal depression following World War II. After nearly 40 years, the underground operations closed in 1949 and the short-lived surface mining operations ceased in June 1950. Town buildings were salvaged, some of which are still standing in Edson, and within five years only traces of the town could be seen. However, the town cemetery still remains and is maintained by former residents to this day.

fire. The original mine opened and closed periodically under many operators and many small operations opened in the general vicinity. Despite the instability of the local coalmines, the community thrived throughout this time as, unlike other towns on the Branch, Coalspur had a diversified economy. Its location at the junction of the Coal Branch spur lines ensured steady traffic for local businesses. It was the headquarters for the Brazeau Forest District and the hub of the Coal Branch, supporting railway workers and travelers. The Vitally mine of Coalspur was the last to close in the Coal Branch in 1962. Today, only remnants of the original town site are visible.

Cadomin Derived from the contraction of Canadian Dominion Mine, Cadomin was the largest community in the Coal Branch. Claims were staked in 1912 and were followed by five years of exploration and minor coal extraction. In 1917, the Cadomin Coal Company Ltd. was established and full-scale mining began. Production at Cadomin was highly profitable, in part because the mine used the privately built and maintained Mountain Park rail line to ship its coal, to the displeasure of the Mountain Park Coal Company. Cadomin became the leading town in the Coal Branch, providing many specialized services. Among many other services, the town housed an RCMP detachment and had a government liquor store, a drug store and a branch of the Bank of Nova Scotia. By 1931, the population of Cadomin was 1700. In 1952 when the Cadomin mine closed, some found work at the new limestone quarry south of town. Others commuted to the Luscar mine. Some went to other towns and some just stayed and retired. Between the limestone quarry and the eventual return of mining at Luscar in 1969, along with seasonal and recreational residents, the community of Cadomin survives to this day.

Baldy Robb and his sons

Robb

Ukrainian immigrants and descendants. Foothills mine continued to operate through the Depression and World War II and was the second last mine to close in the Coal Branch in 1961. The former town site of Foothills is located within the Luscar Sterco (1977) Limited lease.

Lovett Lovett was the first coalmine on the Coal Branch and loaned its name to the eastern stem of the railway line. In 1909, the Pacific Pass Coal Company began testing its claims at Lovettville or Fergie as it was first known. The mine, established in 1911, was in full production by the time the railway arrived in 1913. The original Lovettville mine changed ownership several times over a ten-year period and was finally closed in 1920. Between 1919 and 1927, a series of small mines was operated by numerous interests. The Val d’Or Collieries offered some stability for nearly 10 years between 1922 and 1932 and Reco, a second community, grew up just north of Lovett. At least ten mines operated in the Lovett area, but not one of them survived the Depression. The area is now within the Luscar Sterco (1977) Ltd. lease.

Like Coalspur, Robb was the central community for a number of small mines in the general vicinity. The townsite was named by local outfitter and prospector ‘Baldy’ Robb who claimed he named the town after ‘someone back East’. The largest and longest living mine was the Lakeside Mine. Opened in 1918, the operation became known as Minehead. After several unstable years, the lease was bought and operated by Lakeside Coals Ltd. During the difficult depression years, the Lakeside mine Miners from the

Coal Branch

Three Miners in the Albe

rta Coal Branch.

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