Calgary Herald from Calgary, Alberta, Canada on May 20, 2004 · 118
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Calgary Herald from Calgary, Alberta, Canada · 118

Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Issue Date:
Thursday, May 20, 2004
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CMS May 2004 May 2004 CM13 Crowsnest Pass It was not the majestic mountain scenery that brought settlers to the Crowsnest Pass it was what lay beneath. Europeans first noted the location of Crowsnest Pass coal seams, and when the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) came through, the regior doomed. At one time, a dozen coal mines provided a heat source for prairie homes, electrical generation, steel production, and of course, fuel for the steam locomotives. The Crowsnest Pass was a mecca for would-be miners and those in the area soon experienced great prosperity as well as great devastation. "Here people really connect with how important it is to remember events and how they effected this country," says Jay Russell, educational interpretive officer at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre. "From the Centre, visitors can see the sites of three different disasters the Bellevue mine disaster that killed 30 in 1910, the Frank Slide that killed 70 in 1903 and the Hillcrest mine disaster that killed 189 in 1914." Ninety years ago, the worst underground mine r- 4t 1 mr v r "IT" I II .aiiiiiT"iin i- I"T Frank Slide Interpretive Centre Spectacular views of the Frank Slide are a world-class attraction in the Crowsnest Pass area. explosion in Canadian history ripped through the Hillcrest mine leaving almost 200 dead. On June 18 and 19, a graveside ceremony honouring these men will be held. The opening ceremony at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre will be open to the public, and will include the screening of two new documentaries focusing on the Hillcrest Mine disaster. The graveside ceremony will take place at the Hillcrest cemetery with performances by Rita MacNeil and the Men of the Deeps. The tragic event was one of several such disasters endured by coal miners in the Crowsnest pass. Explosions and fatal accidents in the mines claimed the lives or more than 500 over less than 40 years. The Crow's Nest Pass Coal Company, which was founded by William Fernie and Colonel James Baker, first began production in 1897. It became the single largest coal and coke producer in the region. The Canadian-American Coal and Coke Company was the first company to launch operations on the Alberta side of the pass at Frank in 1901. ,,-IM'mi Itkmm Proudly preserving a renowned coal-mining past Vl r1 I m 'A Pit Frank Slide Interpretive Centre Visitors can leam about historic events amid the incredible scenery of the Crowsnest Pass. Miners from virtually all ethic backgrounds laboured in the small communities along the 100-km Crowsnest Pass working through booms and busts that took their toll on families looking for a little security in a volatile industry. There were several hostile labour disputes and strikes, and confrontations between unions and management closed mines for months at a time. The last operating underground coal mine, Coleman Collieries, shut down for good, however, in 1979. "We've done quite well in preserving a lot of the artifacts from the mining years, but artifacts alone don't tell a story," says Russell. "In order to understand history, people have to know how artifacts were used and how the human element fits into the picture. And that's what we do." The Frank Slide Interpretive Centre sits on a bench above an awesome carpet of rock, and the story of the Frank Slide, coal mining and settlement are told through interpretive and education programs, audio-visual presentations, special events, and displays. The Crowsnest Museum has also preserved the history of the coal miners with more than I i) .' "' UiUH 1 ' " boomed, many young men headed for the valley to find their fortune. "Many people are fascinated by the men underground and the human drama of coal mining," says Digby. "The miners, their lives and their families are what interests people. It was a very unique way of life, and unless you see a mining site, it's difficult to understand." Mining was a lifestyle for thousands in the valley for about 70 years. Coal was first discovered in the area in the 1880s, and Joseph B. Tyrrell had a great run of luck when he discovered dinosaur skeletons and a coal seam near Drumheller, both during a single week in 1884. Dinosaur bones discovered throughout the Drumheller Valley are displayed in museums worldwide, including at the internationally renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller. It was coal, not bones, however, that brought setters to Drumheller Valley. While the first coal lease was taken out in 1903 by a local rancher, it wasn't until 1907 that an American entrepreneur named Jerome (Sam) Drumheller arrived in the valley to take advantage of a railway that would soon be built through the district. I:. . Atlas Historic Coal Mine Drumheller's Atlas Coai Mine mine facilities are 'frozen In time,' exactly as they were when in operation. The last producing mine In the the area shut down In 1979. He established a townsite around a seam of coal , and a couple of years later, work began at the first commercial coal mine in the valley the Newcastle. By 1921, there were 27 operating mines at Drumheller, and the Atlas Coal Co. Ltd opened its first mine in 1917. The Depression hit the valley hard, although the Second World War later brought a boom. The Drumheller coal mines produced two million tons of coal in their peak year in 1947. The discovery of oil and gas heralded the end of an era in Drumheller, and today there are no operating coal mines in the Drumheller Valley. The Atlas Coal Mine, however, attracts thousands of visitors each year, as do the more than 50 attractions located within 100 square kilometres of Drumheller. Badlands, hoodoos, canyons and coulees provide a fascinating terrain to explore, and coal was one of the formations that helped shape the unique landscape of the valley. "Coal mining was a fascinating business, and visitors shouldn't miss out on the opportunity to see how the miners lived and worked," says Digby. "It's not often that one gets a chance to see history so well-preserved." i If 1 v.. J Li 'U".hS I r . .- v if.-. iv ; v A 'ji fi , i - - i i M ( : . . : i -ft r 1

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