Sunday, September 13, 2015


September 13th, 2015

Nordegg. Most local people know that Nordegg was an old mining town that is nestled at the foothills close to the Banff National Park boundary, along Highway 11 (David Thompson Highway), West of the oil and gas town of Rocky Mountain House. But what they don't know, is the history as to how it came about, and the history that is there now!

Recently, a bunch of us local, Calgary, photographers found out that a lot of the old buildings in Nordegg were going to get torn down for re-development. From my visit yesterday, they've already started with a very small amount of development on the South side. They even have a board up with the lots that will be for sale. Luckily so far, there are still some old buildings standing.

This was my first venture right into the town of Nordegg, and after all these years of driving by it, I started to regret not coming here sooner with my camera. I came to "Main Street" where on the corner sits a beautiful brick building, which was the Big Horn Trading Company building.This building used to supply the town with all of it's goods. Up the road is the old bank building, all boarded up (luckily for me the door was open yesterday) and will probably be one of the unlucky buildings that gets torn down. Next to that is the beautiful community church. The pastor and his wife, a wonderful couple, were out taking things inside the two year old new basement of the church (this was built 2 years ago after when a large forest fire threatened the town) and we started to have a grand chat. They told me where the train trestles were, which buildings were which, and the history on the church. It was built in 1935 and was originally a Catholic Church. Now, it is non-denominational. When the original Priest left the town, he removed the bell. After a few years, amazingly, the bell was found and returned, and now they ring the bell every Sunday before service, and on special occasions.

After that, my journey took me to the part I have always loved, and that is the railway. As a lad in England, I used to go train spotting and have always loved trains and the history behind them. The title photo is the first trestle away from the mine..the track continues for a fair ways then the track stops as most of the track in this area (like in the South East of Alberta too..) has been removed. Walking through the overgrown railbed, you can almost hear the trains taking out the massive amounts of coal from the mine and shipping it off to other towns and stops along the way.

I'll now post some information from multiple sites, to give you more of an in-depth history on the mine and the town itself. This truly was an amazing spur of the moment road trip, and a site I will definitely have to re-visit in a couple of years to document the changes. Enjoy your walk through this historic site!

Nordegg was a company town of Brazeau Collieries Limited. The mine was operated between 1914 and 1955 and employed 1,100 miners at its peak. The town itself was home to 3,500 people housed in 450 structures. The town takes its name from the German Martin Nordegg who personally discovered the coal seam here and financed its extraction through his connections with European capital. Interestingly when the Great War broke out, Marin Nordegg's ownership was snatched up by the Canadian government and the name was changed to Brazeau. The company store, running by the name of the Big Horn Trading Company supplied the town's goods. During the Great Depression, a relief camp was located in Nordegg. In 1937, the company began to manufacture briquettes and by 1950 was the largest producers of these in Canada, with an output of 1500 tons daily. Strip mining began in addition to the underground methods in 1946. Nordegg was no stranger to calamity. On October 31st, 1941 disaster stuck when an explosion killed 29 miners. In June of 1950 a fire ripped through the plant, but this was persistently rebuilt only to meet the end of the coal era a few years later. On January 14th 1955, the mine was closed for good. 

The heritage value of the Nordegg / Brazeau Collieries Minesite lies in its association with the development of Alberta's coal-mining industry. It is also an excellent example of coal-mining and coal-processing industrial architecture. 

By 1906, significant Alberta coal fields were already being exploited around Lethbridge, Canmore and the Crowsnest Pass. In 1907, reports of potential coal deposits in the foothills of Central Alberta attracted interest from investors, such as Martin Nordegg, who, acting as a representative of German business interests, staked a claim on some potential coal fields in this area. With further assistance from British and Belgian investors, Nordegg's German investment group entered a partnership with the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR), which resulted in the formation of Brazeau Collieries Ltd. In 1911, construction began on a processing plant, ancillary structures and a nearby town site. Two slope mines were sunk soon after. By 1914, more than 100,000 tons of coal had been extracted and the mine was processing 1,000 tons per day. By 1923, it was the most productive mine in Alberta. The railway consumed most of the mine's produce. Although the partnership with the CNoR promoted the mine's rapid growth, dependence on the railway meant that the mine was beholden to the railway's fuel needs and also had to deal with rapidly changing railroad technology. During the Great Depression, the mine was severely hurt by a sharp drop in the railway's demand for coal, due to the lack of agricultural rail traffic. Production rebounded in the 1940s when the Second World War prompted a surge in demand for coal from both the railroad and from commercial markets. Demand was so high that when the mine's processing facility was destroyed by fire in 1950, the company went heavily into debt replacing it with a larger, more modern, fireproof facility. However, in 1948, Canada's railways began converting to diesel-powered locomotives. Also, in the early 1950s, the high cost of transporting coal and the increasing availability of fuel oil made coal uncompetitive in most commercial markets. The loss of both the railways and eastern Canadian markets meant the end of the Brazeau mines. Production dropped off dramatically after 1950 and the site was officially closed in January 1955. 

The Nordegg / Brazeau Collieries Mine site is an excellent collection of early to mid twentieth century structures necessary for coal extraction and processing. The oldest structures on the site, built between 1913 and 1923, are all support buildings, such as warehouses, small dwellings, a carpenter/blacksmith shop and a lamp house. Their frame construction, brick clad exterior walls design and layout is typical of coal mine structures of that period. Other structures, such as a garage built in 1932 and the boiler, hoists, pump houses, wash house, coal chutes and storage bins built in 1946 demonstrate the evolution of the site as the coal processing technology developed. The site is dominated by the processing plant, which includes coal storage bins, the elevator, conveyor ramps, crushers, and the briquette plants. These structures, all built in 1950/51, were constructed to be purely functional and were adapted to the demands of the coal-mining industry. Their steel-frame construction and sheet metal-clad exterior walls are fireproof and give the structure a striking industrial appearance. The overall layout of the site and the placement of the structures on a hillside show the path taken by the mined coal from the extraction point above the site, through mine portals via the narrow-gauge rail system to the processing plant and, ultimately, to the rail siding and rail car loading facilities at the foot of the hill. A number of large refuse piles and slack heaps also serve to demonstrate the production capacity of the facility. 



Friday, April 3, 2015


April 3rd, 2015

History. When I was younger, I didn't really care for it much at times, but now, it saddens me to see it go. There is so much we can learn from it, but so much we don't and it's just discarded. 

Today I took a couple of passionate fellow photographers on a walking tour through the historical community of Inglewood. Some of Inglewood's oldest buildings (including the iconic brewery) date back to the late 1800's.

Our first stop was the brewery. The main reason for this is because some of the buildings on this site are being torn down soon. One of those buildings is the Fish Hatchery building. Who knew that the owners of this brewery built an aquarium and a fish hatchery on its site?? So amazing! The original owners (the Cross family) also currently have a school named after them. They had a huge impact on the city of Calgary over the years. Here's some history of the brewery and the beer brewed, taken from multiple websites:

The Calgary Brewing and Malting Company Ltd. (CBMC), one of Calgary's longest surviving businesses, was founded by A.E. Cross in 1892. In 1893 the company produced its first beer, and registered its well-known buffalo head and horseshoe logo. In 1910 CBMC bought Golden West Brewery of Calgary. In 1925 it purchased Silver Spray Breweries of Calgary, and renamed it Big Horn Brewery. In 1952 it acquired Edmonton's North West Brewing Company, and renamed it Bohemian Maid in 1958. CBMC owned or financed many hotels across the province, in order to ensure a market for its beers. A subsidiary company, Ranchmen's Trust Company, was set up in 1912 to handle hotel purchases and mortgages. In 1957 the Alberta government required breweries to dispose of hotels, and many CBMC hotels were sold in the 1960s. A.E. Cross died in 1932 and his son, J.B. Cross, took over as president. The Brewery under the Cross family was very community-oriented. It actively supported local sports through the Calgary Buffalo Athletic Association, developed the Brewery grounds as gardens for the enjoyment of Calgarians, and in 1938 established a Fish Hatchery. Two personal projects of J.B. Cross were the Aquarium, opened in 1960, and the Horsemen's Hall of Fame (a western heritage museum), opened in 1964. The Aquarium closed in 1972, and the Horsemen's Hall of Fame in 1975, at which time its artifacts were donated to Glenbow. The Brewery was bought out by Canadian Breweries in 1961, although J.B. Cross remained president until his retirement in 1963. The company was subsequently bought by Rothman's in 1969, renamed Carling O'Keefe in 1973, purchased by Foster's Brewing of Australia in 1981, and finally taken over by Molson Breweries in 1989. It was closed in 1994.
In 1875, the North-West Territories Act was passed mandating, among other things, the prohibition of alcohol across the vast reaches of western Canada. Seventeen years later, in 1892, the Territorial Government repealed prohibition. At the time, Calgary was rapidly emerging as a bustling social and economic centre in southern Alberta, and local entrepreneurs believed robust profits could be found in slaking the community’s (now legal) thirsts. In the same year prohibition was repealed, A. E. Cross - one of Calgary’s first modern industrialists and an ambitious entrepreneur - assembled a cadre of financiers to establish the Calgary Brewing and Malting Company, Alberta’s first brewery. 

Operations began in 1893 and the enterprise quickly proved successful. Over the succeeding two decades Cross re-invested the company’s profits into growth and diversification. New buildings were constructed, trade was expanded to other provinces, smaller breweries and hotels were acquired, and the company introduced soft drinks and aerated water into its product line. A confident expansionist, Cross was also a relentless modernizer; the Calgary Brewing and Malting Company was one of the first industrial users of natural gas in western Canada. 

Between the 1910s and the 1950s, the company’s fortunes ebbed and flowed with World Wars One and Two, Prohibition between 1916 and 1923, and the Great Depression. By 1961, however, the company was beset by insurmountable challenges and was sold to Canadian Breweries. The site would subsequently pass through other owners and operators before ceasing production in 1994. 

The significant buildings and structures of the Calgary Brewing and Malting Co./Molsons Brewery date from 1892 until the 1930s and feature an array of architectural visions. The earliest extant building, the 1892 Brew House and Ale Cellars , was designed by Otto Wolf, a Philadelphia-based architect and engineer. Comprising a post and beam structure with timber capitals and an exterior of rusticated sandstone and brick, the building is one of the earliest and most impressive industrial designs and constructions in Calgary. 

It was significantly expanded in 1900. In 1904, the company initiated a major expansion. Bernard Barthel, a well-known architect of breweries throughout North America, visited Calgary in that year and provided designs for several new buildings. Though it has undergone significant alterations, the 1905 Brew House reflects Barthel’s aesthetic sensibility: simple and functional with enormous windows, the new building was distinguished by its lack of embellishment and its emphasis upon natural lighting. Its simplified architecture may reflect both Cross’ utilitarian ethic and the influence of the architectural styles of Chicago upon Barthel’s work. The 1905 Smokestack designed by Barthel is also distinctive, featuring corbelled brick at the top and imitating the appearance of a column, complete with base, shaft, and capital. It has been an icon of the site since its construction. Another architectural sensibility is evident in the 1907-08 Administration Building designed by the well-known Calgary architectural firm, Hodgson and Bates. The building is clearly an office structure, distinct from the industrial structures that surround it, and features an elegant marriage of brick walls and sandstone trim. The Administration Building’s most prominent feature is a relief sandstone carving of a buffalo head and horseshoe – the iconic logo of the company. 

The 1930s witnessed two significant additions to the site. In the early 1930s, J. B. Cross, continuing his father’s legacy of community service, built a large garden adjacent to the brewery as a make work project for his Depression-era employees. Begun in 1932, the garden eventually included a variety of species of flora, fish hatcheries, waterfalls, and an 1875 Metis cabin brought to the site from near the original Fort Calgary. In the late 1930s, architect George Fordyce designed a pub in the Tudor Revival style that was incorporated into the east portion of the 1892 Brew House and Ale Celllars. The buildings, structures, and landscape elements at the site thus represent an evolution of both industrial facilities and architectural sensibilities. 

1892 Brew House and Ale Cellars : 
- mass, form, and style; 
- concrete foundations; 
- sandstone and brick walls; 
- dimensional lumber floor joists; 
- fenestration pattern; 
- original windows; 
- shallow arches above windows and doors of sandstone voussoirs and keystones; 
- modified large timber post and beam structural system and stone fireplace in pub; 
- wood subfloor and concrete floors; 
- original equipment. 

1892 Malt Kiln: 

- remaining mass, form, and style. 

1892 Original Boiler Room

- remaining mass, form, and style. 

1903 Storage Cellars: 

- mass, form, and style; 
- brick and sandstone walls. 

1905 Wash House (Empty Barrel Storage later): 

- mass, form, and style; 
- brick and sandstone walls. 

1905 Brew House: 

- mass, form, and style; 
- sandstone and brick facades; 
- original windows; 
- load-bearing sandstone and brick exterior walls; 
- concrete encased steel beams supported on cast iron columns; 
- original floor plan. 

1905 Malt Kiln

- remaining mass, form, and style. 

1905 Boiler House

- mass, form, and style; 
- sandstone and brick walls; 
- concrete roof slab; 
- original boiler. 

1905 Smokestack

- mass, form, and style; 
- brick construction; 
- corbelling and decorative masonry features. 

1905 Racking Room Storage 

(Later Full Keg Cold Storage with North Addition): 
- mass, form, and style; 
- brick and sandstone walls. 

1905 Bottling House (Empty Bottle Storage later): 

- mass, form, and style; 
- brick and sandstone walls. 

1907 Administration Building

- mass, form, and style; 
- sandstone foundation; 
- bricks walls and sandstone trim; 
- sandstone sculpture of buffalo head; 
- original cornerstone; 
- fenestration pattern; 
- brick corbels below the parapet cap; 
- original lath and plaster walls and ceilings (now covered). 

1913 Engine Room

- mass, form, and style; 
- brick walls; 
- steel beam roof structure 
- corbelled band of brick just below the parapet. 

1913 Well

- mass, form, and style; 
- brick construction. 

1932 Brewery Gardens

- mass, form, and style; 
- irregular flagstone walks; 
- concrete ponds, wooden pole railings, wooden plank railings, wooden bridges; 
- variety of trees, shrubs, and perennials. 

1933 1875 Metis Cabin

- mass, form, and style. 

From there the walk heads West, and eventually, back East, back to the brewery. 

A little history on the beer (Calgary Beer) itself...
A.E. Cross opened Calgary Brewing and Malting in 1892 – one of the oldest breweries in the province. His beer, and the buffalo logo he designed, quickly became quite popular in frontier Alberta. Operating continually for decades (it survived prohibition by exporting its beer to Mexico), the company thrived in the growing province. It bought up a couple of other Calgary breweries and the Northwest Brewing Company in Edmonton (in 1953), renaming it Bohemian Maid. Its iconic buffalo and horseshoe logo became famous across western Canada.
Calgary Brewing was purchased in 1961 by E.P. Taylor’s Canadian Breweries, later to become Carling O’Keefe. Carling kept operating the Calgary brewery. When Carling and Molson “merged” in 1989, the Calgary brewery was declared surplus and closed. In 1985, Carling discontinued Calgary Beer in Calgary, but continued to sell it in Saskatchewan. Molson kept up the practice.Twice before it returned Calgary Beer to is home market – around the 1988 Olympics and a single batch in 1992 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Calgary Brewing.
Apparently this latest incarnation is a trial run for now., with a possibility of more continuous availability. For the record, Calgary Beer is now brewed at the Vancouver Molson plant, since Molson does not have a plant on the prairies.
Aside from historical curiousity, I still see this as a small but interesting move by Molson. I always found it odd that Calgary Beer was available in Regina but not Calgary. It seems a no-brainer to try to connect the city with its namesake beer. Personally I vacillate over seeing this as a mild PR reclamation effort or as a cynical marketing ploy. Remember, this is the same company that closed all its prairie breweries in a fifteen year span of brewery-cide. It has made no efforts to preserve or protect the historical heritage of the regional breweries it purchased.  The beer brewed today has no connection, other than the name, to the Cross original, much like the sad evolution of Alexander Keith’s.

From the brewery, you head west. Some of the first old structures encountered are Bates Electric Welding, Hamilton Apartments, and Seven Oaks Court which were all built in the 1913-1919 era. Further west is the iconic National Hotel (currently called "The Nash") which was constructed in 1907. A few years ago it underwent renovations, and the brick has been "polished" and more modernized with more shops on the lower level of the hotel. I should have gone in today to see if the hotel itself was still actually in operation, or if it was strictly now a business building.
Next to the hotel is the Maclean Auction Barn which was originally called East End Livery. It is now a really awesome small business which sells locally made shirts, tea towls from Japanese fabric, and other really cool stuff. They even kept the original back wall and were gracious to let us in past the desk and take photos of the back wall too! Even the name of the shop is called "The Livery", keeping the history alive which is really nice to see in current society.

Winding through the streets of Inglewood you get a sense of the history, and the people are extremely nice and always willing to talk about the history of their homes. The last stop on the tour was the Stewart Livery Stable which was built in 1909. I really wish I had the money that I could buy this amazing building and make it into a house. Keep the outside the way it is, add a few more windows but keep the amazing wood walls and white old faded paint color. Such a beautiful building which I first saw for the first time today. It is hidden in an area you would never think it would be.

So there you have amazing 4 hour walk (and we didn't see ALL of the old buildings and blocks) through a community that is often overlooked of history.

Until next time....


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Old stuff!

Old Stuff!

March 7, 2015

When I woke up I had no intention of going for a drive with the camera. The last few months haven't produced any really good images so I felt like I lost my drive (pardon the pun) a bit and really couldn't be terribly bothered. But, with a small bonus in the bank, I could afford fuel and figured I'd head out with the weather being warm and sunny.

My main goal would be to find a farm house that is abandoned, that a fellow photographer had posted a picture of the other day in a Facebook group. All was said for location was "North of Nightingale". Not much to go on, really, but figured I'd go and look for it.

On the way there I saw a snowy owl perched on top of a power pole. Before I could turn around and get back though, there was another photographer pulled over. Unfortunately, although he had a larger lens than I do, he still chose to get out of his van and scare it thing I do know about snowy owls is that they are scared easily and when you're that close (width of the road) they will fly when you get out of your vehicle. So, with that disappointing action from a fellow photographer, I carried on to Nightingale. After driving around for a bit, I finally found it and what a great subject it is. I chose to go onto the land (there aren't any signs advising not to lol) and snap a few shots. I wasn't on there long but I'd love to go back and revisit this place when there are more fluffy clouds in the sky. A blank blue sky gets kind of boring....

Nightingale is a very, very, small community just north of Highway 564, East of Calgary, and has many barns in the area. Great for photographs like above. From there I carried on along the 564 East. I figured since I wasn't far away, I'd pay another visit to the Ghost Town of Dorothy, which is East of Drumheller, and I'd get there a totally different way than I've ever been before. The 564 turns into fairly deep and dusty gravel when you turn north, but even then it's pretty easy travelling. Then it gets to a "T" intersection and here I went right onto the 848 which winds itself (I found out...) down to the town of Dorothy. Like many places in the "Badlands", driving along and you see the odd coulee, and can see the start of the Badland formations. Suddenly, the road dives down into the coulee and the brakes get a bit of a workout on the car. The 848 sure is fun winding down towards Dorothy, with it's 90 degree hairpin corners.

At Dorothy, there are a few residents...about 4 I think. Other than that, there is an old school house which I didn't go in this time (last time it was accessible, but wasn't being used) and there is an old Church. The church used to have so much bird crap in it, and unstable structure, that you couldn't (or wouldn't...) go in. Now though, it's been restored, and from the looks of the pews inside, and the candles and books, it's used and kept up nicely.

Some information about Dorothy. This site I got it from hasn't updated or nobody has been out there, as they still state that the church has been abandoned (which it was..) for 30 years. It's definitely being used now.
The village of Dorothy, which never grew beyond 100 residents, is considered one of Alberta’s classic pioneer communities, serving as a popular social centre in the first half of the 20th century in the heart of the province’s famed Badlands Country.Dorothy is located about 15 miles southeast of Drumheller in a flat valley bottom. A few years after the turn of the 20th century, Percy McBeath, a store keeper living in the immediate area, applied to have a post office and wanted to name the site Percyville. However, the district post office inspector decided instead to name the site Dorothy, after the daughter of Jack Wilson, and early rancher who first arrived in the area in 1900. The Dorothy post office officially opened in 1908.The hamlet grew modestly and enjoyed its greatest prosperity in the late 1920s, shortly after a railway line was built through the area.At one time the village had three elevators, the Alberta Wheat Pool, the Alberta Pacific and the United Grain Growers, a grocery store, a butcher shop, pool room, telephone office, restaurant and a machine agency. A school was opened in 1937 and lasted in the hamlet until 1960. The village also supported two churches — a United Church from 1932 to 1961 and a Roman Catholic church from 1944 to 1967. The two churches were considered the focal point for the entire region’s important social events. They still stand today, but are gradually being withered away by time and the elements.Less than a dozen residents live in the hamlet today. One grain elevator, long closed down, still evades being torn down. A community hall still serves residents of the area. For visitors, there is also a small museum to inspect pieces of the once vibrant lifestyle of this unique part of Alberta. For more information on Dorothy, the curious can also go to Drumheller’s public library and browse through Hazel B. Roen’s book of the area, “The Grass Roots of Dorothy 1895-1970. The 354-page book, published in 1971, offers a touching portrait of the Dorothy region and its people. Submitted by Johnnie Bachusky.Submitted by: Johnnie Bachusky
John Percy McBeath was the first Storekeeper and Postmaster and ran the ferry at Dorothy during that time.
His youngest son James McBeath was born in Dorothy in 1914. That’s my husband’s father, the father of R.D. McBeath.
The McBeath family lived there from 1911 – 1916 and only then moved to Delia, Alberta because there was no school for the children in Dorothy.

From Dorothy, I went West to the Atlas Coal Mine which is an amazing piece of history. There are a lot of historical buildings still standing here, and one day in the summer I will pay and go on the tour and get up close and personal with this mine and it's grounds. Here is some information on this mine.

Coal Mining in the Drumheller Valley

Coal was not hard to discover in the area that is now Drumheller, Alberta, Canada. Seams of coal show up as black stripes in the badlands of the Red Deer River Valley. 

The Blackfoot and Cree knew about the black rock that burned, but they didn't like to use it. Later, three white explorers reported coal in the area: Peter Fidler in 1792, Dr. James Hector of the Palliser Expedition in 1857, and Joseph Tyrrell in 1884. 

In the years that followed, a handful of ranchers and homesteaders dug coal out of river banks and coulees to heat their homes. However, the first commercial coal mine did not open until Sam Drumheller started the coal rush in the area that now bears his name. 

The rush started when Sam bought land off a local rancher named Thomas Greentree. Sam turned around and sold this land to Canadian National Railway, to develop a townsite. Sam also registered a coal mine. Before his mine opened, however, Jesse Gouge and Garnet Coyle beat him to it, and opened the Newcastle Mine. CN laid tracks into town, and the first load of coal was shipped out of Drumheller in 1911. 

Once the railway was built, people poured in. Hundreds, then thousands, of people came to dig coal. The greatest numbers came from Eastern Europe, Britain, and Nova Scotia. More mines opened. By the end of 1912, there were 9 working coal mines, each with its own camp of workers: Newcastle, Drumheller, Midland, Rosedale, and Wayne. In the years that followed, more mines and camps sprang up: Nacmine, Cambria, Willow Creek, Lehigh, and East Coulee. 

Coal mining was hard, dirty, dangerous work. Mining in the Drumheller Valley, however, was less hard, dirty, and dangerous than it was in many other coal mining regions in Canada. This was due to both lucky geology and lucky timing. 

The geology of the Drumheller coal field results in flat lying seams, which are much safer to mine than the steeply pitching seams of the mountain mines. In addition, the coal produced in Drumheller is sub-bituminous. This grade of coal is "immature" which means it hasn't had time to build up a strong concentration of gas. Methane gas is the biggest killer in coal mines around the world. 

The timing of the Drumheller mine industry was lucky, too. By the time the Newcastle opened in 1911, the right to better working conditions had been fought for and won by miners' unions in North America. As a result, miners were provided with wash houses, better underground ventilation, and higher safety standards. When the Newcastle opened, there were laws in place to prohibit child labour, so boys under 14 were no longer allowed underground. The worst of the worst coal mining days were over, at least in North America. 

Nevertheless, early mine camps around Drumheller were called "hell's hole" because miners lived in tents, or shacks, with little sanitation and little comfort. It was a man's world, with drinking, gambling, and watching fistfights common forms of recreation. As shacks gave way to little houses, and women joined the men and started families, life improved. Hockey, baseball, music, theatre, and visiting friends enriched peoples' lives. Going downtown Saturday night was a huge event, with every language in Europe spoken by the crowds spilling off the sidewalks. No longer "hell's hole," Drumheller became "the wonder town of the west!" and "the fastest growing town in Canada, if not in North America!" 

Sub bituminous coal is ideal for heating homes and cooking food. People all over western Canada heated their homes, schools, and offices with Drumheller coal. Long, cold winters were good for Drumheller, because everyone needed lots of coal. In these years, miners had of money in their pockets. Short, mild winters were difficult. A miner might only work one day a week, and get laid off in early spring. He got through the summer by growing a big garden, catching fish, and working for farmers. 

Between 1911 and 1979, 139 mines were registered in the Drumheller valley. Some mines didn't last long, but 34 were productive for many years. Between 1912 and 1966, Drumheller produced 56,864,808 tons of coal, making it one of the major coal producing regions in Canada. 

The beginning of the end for Drumheller's mining industry was the Leduc Oil Strike of 1948. After this, natural gas became the fuel of choice for home heating in western Canada. To the mine operators, it seemed that people switched from messy coal stoves to clean gas furnaces as fast as they could. As the demand for coal dropped, mines closed. As mines closed, people moved away and communities suffered. Some communities, like Willow Creek, completely vanished. Others, like East Coulee, went from a boomtown of 3800 to a ghost town of 180. When the Atlas #4 Mine shipped its last load of coal in 1979, the coal years of Drumheller were over. 

From the coal mine I headed South. Just South of the coal mine, the road splits - left is the 564 which would have taken me back to where I turned right, to go to Dorothy. This time though, I took the 569 West as my next destination of Taylor Siding, has many shells of old cars and a couple of old buildings. Another destination I've wanted to visit since seeing some friend's photos a couple of weeks ago.The 569 goes through a tiny hamlet of Dalum. Not much here except a few farms and a church. Heading straight West, the 569 ends and now I turn North on the 841. My friend told me you can't miss it, and you definitely can't. Where the road bridge goes over the Red Deer River, you head down a well groomed road to the valley floor where trains used to haul their goods, and a couple of abandoned structures now stand along with shells of what was once, I'm sure, beautiful old cars.

The train tracks, like most in the Drumheller area and even places like Rosebud and further South are gone and just lies a pile of railroad ties. This does make the old bridges even more accessible though now, so that's not a bad thing. :)

After spending a fair bit of time at Taylor Siding, I figured I'd do a loop. I headed North to the 9 which East is Drumheller, and West is Calgary. I went West to the 840 which I crossed over from Nightingale. There are a ton of cool old barns down this highway, and a couple of interesting very small towns such as Rosebud, and Standard. Not much in Standard, really, but Rosebud seems to have more character. Just keep heading South, then I took the 561 West which ends at Highway 1.

After that it was smooth sailing back home to Calgary, and almost 500km of driving was done.

Seeing the results from yesterday's trip has re-ignited a bit of the passion and drive that I had lost. Barns and old houses represent some great craftsmanship which you don't get today, and with every one I capture, I wonder about the history and the people that lived there or built it. History which we're quickly losing to urban expansion of cities.

Hope you enjoyed this trip!




Tuesday, February 17, 2015

In Search Of The Sunrise....
I've been seeing some fantastic sunrises these past couple of months at work (I work in Airdrie, Alberta, North of Calgary) and I've seen some of my photographer friends capture some of these. This past Saturday (Feb 14th) I decided to head out to the Vulcan area as a friend advised me about this an amazing barn and abandoned house in this one area. The barn is the one pictured above, and above is all the sunrise I could get, unfortunately.

I wasn't sure how far away this place was, from Calgary, but I couldn't sleep past 4am so figured I'd get ready and get on the road so I could take my time. Heading out of my condo building I noticed the sky was break in the cloud cover. Hopefully it wouldn't be like this at the shooting location. Unfortunately, I was wrong....

On the way down South towards High River, it was getting very foggy on Highway 2. I headed East, and the fog quickly got more dense and to the point I could only see about 20-25 feet ahead of me. I get weary driving in dense fog like that, as (especially on these rural country roads..) you don't know if a moose or deer is crossing the road. Luckily no wildlife was on the highway I was on, and I eventually got to Vulcan through the fog.

Heading South then East, I got to the location and it was crazy, weather wise. The wind was blowing at about 30-40kmph and it was actually snowing at times. When I left it was only -1 so I didn't have a jacket, or toque or gloves. Luckily though, I put my hoodie on but that wasn't as warm as I had hoped in this wind. As I took some pre-sunrise shots of an old car there that rests in the trees, I was anxiously looking forward to one of these amazing sunrises. Even the weather couldn't put me off of capturing one of the sunrises we've been seeing lately.

Unfortunately though, the low level solid layer of cloud didn't really break up. The sun was pretty much up and there had been very little color. The above photo was one that I was able to shoot off in a window of about 10 minutes where there was some color. It was VERY disappointing...

Because Saturday's trip felt more like a failure than anything, since I couldn't sleep Monday morning, figured I'd head out to Keoma where I've found 5 barns and an abandoned house on one plot of land. It's a fantastic sight but you have to be picky with the direction your shooting as there are some houses in the background from the nearby town and such. Again, I was up for the sun and was hoping for a good one. Leaving Calgary the cloud had breaks in it which really add to sunrise shots. My hope was going up that I would finally get my sunrise shots. Unfortunately, again, out at the location it was extremely cold (I remembered a jacket and toque this time!) and extremely windy. I waited and waited and it was starting to get blue - the blue before the sunrise. There was a small band of orange on the horizon, but I wanted that orange bursting through the breaks in the cloud cover. Looking West (you can see the mountains quite nicely from this location) I saw the tops of the mountains in a golden sunlight....the sun was, unfortunately, already up.

Two sunrise "failures" in a weekend wasn't what I was hoping for, but what can you do when you're dealing with Mother Nature.

I'll be back out in a few weeks and hopefully by then it'll be a bit warmer and the clouds won't be as solid.



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Friday, January 30, 2015

Barns and Black and White

“The eye should learn to listen before it looks.” 
― Robert Frank

This last weekend I took a drive East of Calgary to find barns. And find barns I did!! I visited some really "out in the middle of nowhere" tiny towns/villages and areas I'd never been to before, and found some amazing barns which I'll be revisiting very soon and spending some more time there. Next time hopefully with a sunrise to go along with these gorgeous country gems!

The last few years I've really started enjoying taking photos of old abandoned barns and houses that are on their last legs. I imagine who lived in the houses, how long ago, and what life was like for these rural farmers. I'd love to talk to some of the current farmers or owners of these lands to see if they know when they were built or some historical information on the buildings. We're slowly losing a lot of the history and would be nice to know a bit more about our beautiful province.

I've also really enjoyed doing Black and White processing with the images of these old buildings, rather than leave them in color. I've always thought B&W gives more emotion
than color, and I really believe this to be true when dealing with old barns, houses, and abandoned cars growing weeds through the non existent seats, in fields.

Next weekend, February 7th, 2015, I'll be heading out East again to hopefully get some sunrise photos (I leave those ones in color because the colors we get in Alberta, during a sunrise are amazing!!), and obviously spending more time with the Barns I found last weekend, and hopefully find some more out on the country roads. :)

Until then, take care and thanks for browsing my blog!




Sunday, December 21, 2014

Clearing the brain....

It's been a while since I've been out to take photos. Mainly because I have someone I've been focusing more attention on, but yesterday, December 20th, I just had to get out, go for a drive, visit places I hadn't been before, and clear the head of some crazy thoughts that have been sneaking into my subconscious.

First stop was North or Calgary to get photos of the sunrise. Going to have to go back and re-do those one due to the extreme amount of dust on the lens. The wind was gusting so even though a thorough cleaning was done, it didn't stay clean enough for long exposure sunrise photos. Plus I have a better spot to be in now :)

Just East of Beiseker I saw my first of two snowy owls of the day. This one a male, was a poser and didn't fly away very quickly. The second one, a female, I saw towards Highway one along Highway 56 on my way back to Calgary....I opened my door and she flew off. No chance of a photo of her at all....

After that I went East on Highway 9 to Drumheller. Stopping off for my first time ever in the winter, at Horseshoe Canyon. Due to the very cold wind I didn't stay too long, but got a couple of shots. My main goal though was to visit Wayne, Alberta, which I had heard about, but never visited. I'm glad I did.

All through the valley in Drumheller the railroad tracks have been removed and the railroad ties are just stacked up in piles. The same went for the railroad tracks going to Wayne which used to be a bustling mining town of almost 2500 people. The hotel is the only original building still standing on it's main street, and has been redone and you can even stay a night or two in it. There is no cell service (at least for me..) in Wayne, but that's ok as there's a lot of history here, and with a current population of 38, it's very quiet.

I headed East and then South on Highway 56. There were a few nice barns out this way that I was able to get some shots of, and as you know, I like my old barns in photos!

When I got back to Calgary I figured I'd stop in at Fish Creek Provincial Park to see if I could spot and get some photos of, the infamous FCPP long tailed weasel. Unfortunately, it didn't show itself that afternoon. Hopefully one morning this week I'll get some shots of it prior to going up to Edmonton for 3 days at Christmas.

Anyway, it's good to get out of town, into the rural country, and relax, and stop thinking about things. Although some thoughts keep coming back, most are cured in a day like Saturday. :)



Monday, October 13, 2014

The Golden Hour

The last couple of weeks I've found out that Shawn, a security system specialist, and someone whom I've gotten along with well since I started at the datacentre, has a huge interest in photography as well. He also loves old abandoned things, and has wanted to try his hand at long exposure water shots. 

So, this past week I planned a trip to would be an early one as my mate Chris wanted some nice shots of the old abandoned CN Rail Caboose that sits in a field along hwy 7 just East of Eden Valley, on the South side of the Highwood Pass. I've never been up close and personal to this Caboose, but this morning I would walk down to it from the road and get some nice sunrise least we were hoping for a nice sunrise. There's something special about "The Golden Hour"...the peace. The calmness. The serenity.

We met near Longview and I was there at about 6:30am and got some nice shots of the moon that was in a fairly clear sky prior to Shawn and Max showing up. It was a cool morning at about -3/4 degrees celcius...good job I wore my sweater for this one!! 

We headed to the Caboose and while we were there the clouds to the East were starting to get a nice red and orange tinge on their outer edges....looked like we were going to get the nice sunrise we were hoping for. We spent about an hour and a half shooting the old Caboose and the colors in the sky kept changing every minute. The sun kissing the top of the mountains to our West was a nice sight as well.

After the Caboose, we proceeded up the Highwood Pass to the summit where I found they had never been up here before. It's always nice to be able to show people our beautiful treasures that are so close to home!! We were going to go to Upper Kananaskis Lake, but a storm blew in and it was even snowing a bit so we kept going to my favorite roadside waterfall; O'Shaughnessy falls.

Initially we were getting 6-8 second exposures at the bottom, but walking up the creek into the wooded area, it didn't take long to get to exposure times of 20-35 seconds!! I'm going to have to head out there in a couple of weeks one morning and as the sun is rising get some long (minutes?) exposures of this place....every visit there are different routes that the water takes over and around the rocks and around the mossy areas. The greens are amazing and the contrast with the yellows of the leaves and the dark rocks really provide some great shots.

After lunch in Canmore, we shot the abandoned and derelict old gas station that I'm assuming used to be run by the Native Band out there...

Another great day, with more great friends. Looking forward to seeing what we get up to in the next few weeks....whatever it is, we should be able to get some more stellar shots as always!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!