31 May

Local Travel: Atlas Coal Mine

Atlas Coal Mine, East Coulee, Alberta

Winter whips up the valley and gets caught in the coulees. Drawing the company issued coat closer does nothing to stop the bitter cold and driving winds from penetrating  as he trudges up the escarpment to the wash house.

Changing quickly he pulls his clothes high up in the rafters to keep them from the unavoidable the coal dust that permeates everything.

Atlas Coal Mine, East Coulee, Alberta

Although he has hurried he’s last in line at the lamp house. His light and helmet are duly noted in the ledger; a cost that will be marked against his daily wage tallying upwards everyday so that, some weeks, he owes more than he has earned and cannot send anything back to his family in Hungary. He is grateful, though, that there is work for him as he knows that many are turned away everyday.

Atlas Coal Mine, East Coulee, Alberta

‘Brassing in’ so that company officials know he is inside, he climbs up through the tipple along side the conveyor belt to the entrance of the mine.

Atlas Coal Mine, East Coulee, Alberta

Atlas Coal Mine, East Coulee, Alberta

Today is his lucky day as he’s assigned to the pony team meaning he’ll be able to stand during his shift rather than work doubled over in a cramped tunnel next to the smallest of coal seams. Gulch, his horse for the shift, was born in the underground stable and has never seen the light of day.

Atlas Coal Mine, East Coulee, Alberta

Calm, despite the darkness and noise, he spends the shift pulling the several ton coal carts through the shafts to the railway carts that will deliver it to the weigh station and, ultimately, down to the tipple. Time after time after time.

Atlas Coal Mine, East Coulee, Alberta

Twelve long hours later horse and miner finish up for the day. Battling the snow drifts that have built up during the day he makes his way to the Rosedeer Hotel at the edge of town.

Pushing past the ‘ladies’ at the entrance he enjoys a quick beer before heading up to his basic room and falling, exhausted, into bed for the night. Tomorrow is another day.

The Atlas Coal Mine is located in East Coulee just 15 minutes from Drumheller, Alberta. At $15, the tour was a great value really giving us a sense of what life must have been like for miners back in the early 1900’s.

You can still book a room at the Rosedeer hotel; $60 for a regular room or $65 for the ‘Honeymoon Suite’. At the very least you should stop in for a beer at the Last Chance Saloon. It’s much more sedate now than it was 100 years ago but you can check out the memorabilia and the bullet holes in the wall that tell the stories of a much different time.

This is NOT a sponsored post; we visited on our own dime and really did enjoy it enough to recommend that you visit too.

4 thoughts on “Local Travel: Atlas Coal Mine

  1. Sounds like John and I should visit one weekend. What a brutal hard life those miners endured! The black and white photos really complement the post.
    I’ve heard that there are excellent cemetery tours in Calgary in the summer – so will be checking into that too.

  2. I was there years ago and stayed in the honeymoon suit. The bar was very neat too with all the history on the walls. The town also holds a world record for the most bridges to cross to get to the town.

  3. We went to the Atlas mine a few years ago, but never did the tour. Looks very interesting inside. I love the Last Chance Saloon, such a neat place. There are so many little hidden treasures around Alberta.
    Audrey recently posted..Oahu, Beyond Waikiki Beach

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