We have driven past this museum plenty of times in the past few years and finally this past weekend, we had a chance to stop by and check the place out.
The Drumheller Valley was famous for a time of coal mining nostalgia. Coal was easier to access and especially easy to spot since the black coal seams were obvious throughout the geographical layout of the valley. Although coal mining started early in 1911, the Atlas Coal Mine wasn't built until 1939.
Located in East Coulee near Drumheller, the Atlas Coal Mine has been designated a national historic site as it is the location of the last standing coal tipple in all of Canada. This site originally had a few mine sites but Atlas No. 3 and 4 mines were shut down in 1979 and only Atlas No. 3 mine's structures were kept intact.
There are a few available tours that you are able to take when you arrive at Atlas including riding the locomotive and walking up the wooden tipple. We of course decided to take the ?Tunnel Tour? where you walk in the same footsteps that miners used to take during work each day. While we waited for our tour to start, we walked through some of the preserved housing structures belonging to coal miner's families. The coal mine site also has done an incredible job preserving old artifacts as well the original mine office, lamp house, supply hour and the wash house. There is also a 1936 battery powered operated locomotive amongst other old mining equipment. Each structure and artifact you visit has an interpretive sign that tells the tales of these men who used to coal mine here.
The tour was well worth it as well, although $15 per person seemed a little pricey. We met with our tour guide and other families and people taking the tour at the rustic wash house. She gave us some more information about the history of the coal miners and how the house operated. It was interesting to see how the miners kept their clothes clean and dry while working. They would put the clothes they normally wear in a basket and change into coveralls. A chain would be attached to the basket and the other end ran to a pulley on the ceiling before coming back down and attached to a nearby wall. By change their clothes and hang them up high in the building, they would stay clean and most of all, be warm and dry as the heat from the wash house would rise up into the rafters.
We then each got to choose our miners' gear, which was somewhat heavy. It included a headlamp on a helmet and an external battery pack that would attach to your waist. That's when the real fun started! We were taken to the wooden tipple and started to climb an inclined conveyer tunnel and went underground (which is actually into the hillside. After a steep incline, we came on top of the hill with scenic views of the badlands all around us. We stepped into Atlas No 3 Mine Portal which was really neat to see and experience. We got to see a closed off entrance to the mine and go inside another structure with tools still intact inside. Along this way, our guide kept us entertained with more history and tales of the miners. Our group made its way down the hill parallel to the tipple. There are some steeper sections so make sure you wear sturdy shoes. This was the end of our tour as we got back to the wash house again and returned our lovely miner equipment. It is about an hour and a half tour and definitely recommended if you want to learn more of the history and explore the underground where miners used to work.
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