| NAME: Nordegg
PROVINCE: Southern Alberta
CLIMATE: Mild in Summer, cold in winter
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Summer
Town closed up in 1955.
REMAINS: The original townsite is still there with many old buildings still intact, albiet boarded up.
Every once in a while, long stretches of silence at Nordegg's Brazeau Collieries is broken by a steady hum - a rising eerie drone causing onlookers to pause pensively before it escalates into loud, uneven and tinny banging. "It's just the wind hitting the outside walls," said Dennis Morley, a 75-year-old retired Brazeau miner, to the group of tourists. Morley points to the wall of a massive, off-gray, battered structure, which more than 45 years ago was a processing facility among many other weathered buildings still standing at the 79-acre coal mining site. "Maybe the ghosts are coming back," said one tourist, chuckling. Since the early 1980s, when the Alberta government contracted a cement company to level the site and haul the debris away, Morley, along with long-time Nordegg native Anne (McMullen) Belliveau, have fought to preserve the mine, which closed in 1955 and left Nordegg a desolate playground for mountain ghosts. "When the mine shut down, everybody just packed up, and left everything as it stands today," said Belliveau, a retired Calgary school teacher who was born and raised in Nordegg more than 65 years ago. Belliveau, who now lives in the 1,800-acre hamlet in the summers and is the historian for the Nordegg Historical Society, is convinced the mine site will succeed as the future focal point of a carefully planned tourism strategy for Big West Country, also known as the David Thompson Corridor, in honour of the British explorer who trail-blazed the region from the Prairies to the Rockies from 1807 to 1811. The society is in its fifth year of a six-year, million dollar restoration program of Brazeau Collieries. Belliveau is further hopeful that last year's exploratory talks between the Canadian federal government and the provincial Municipal District of Clearwater will some day lead to Nordegg's selection as the national historic site to represent the country's coal mining industry. "They did admit we had the most complete site but they didn't say anything further, and with the wheels of government turning as slow as they do, it could take up to five years before we ever find out if this becomes a national site," said Belliveau, who published "Small Moments in Time" last April, a 207-page historical and social overview of Big West Country. The eastern gateway to Nordegg and the rest of Big West Country, accessed in the west -central region of Alberta by Highway 11, is in the community of Rocky Mountain House, about 230 kilometres northwest of Calgary. The community is home to Alberta's first and only National Historic Park and its 6,000 citizens are celebrating the town's 200th anniversary this year. Nordegg is an hour's drive west of Rocky Mountain House on Highway 11, the David Thompson Highway, which was first opened in 1968. The town was founded in 1914, three years after German entrepreneur Martin Nordegg initiated the area's first coal mining operations. Nordegg's first development plans were ambitious, with main streets laid out in a circle and side streets running in line to the centre. Looking very much like a wagon wheel, the town's urban plan - which is being resurrected in the municipal district's future design - was adopted from English planner Ebenezer Howard's 'garden city' concept, and also modelled from the Mount Royal neighbourhood in Montreal. Nordegg's townsite eventually boasted more more than 250 miner's cottages, churches, hotel, clubs, the huge Big Horn Trading Company store, a hospital once considered the most modern in Alberta, and even its own version - for a short period of time - a red light district. But shortly after creating his town, Nordegg , a German citizen, was expelled from Canada during the First World War. He returned in 1922 but sold his shares in his mining company in 1923. He remained in Canada until his death in 1948 when the town was still booming with almost 3,000 citizens, including 900 workers at the mine site. Seven years later, with locomotives fast switching over to oil and diesel, the mine ceased operations and the town, which saw its citizens quickly scatter elsewhere, belonged to the ghosts. Following several years of inactivity, the remote town site became the location of a minimum security penitentiary in the early 1960s, where prisoners moved and worked about freely and lived at the old miners' boarding house, which still stands today in the old town site. When the mine closed, Morley left the corridor to find employment but he returned and was part of the movement in the early 1980s to save the mine site and preserve the town's rich historical character. "I have gone every which way into the bushes looking for artifacts and things that might have been left behind," said Morley, who worked at the mine on October 31, 1941 when 29 other miners were killed in an explosion. Today, the old town site has many historic buildings still standing awaiting restoration. Most of the old coal-mining homes are gone but tourists and ghost town buffs can still locate the historic "garden city' street system, which is growing faint with time. There are many ruins in the bushes as well, including the two homes Belliveau grew up in. Submitted by:Johnnie Bachusky is a freelance writer in Canmore, Alberta, which is a booming Rocky Mountain tourist community of 10,000 citizens, five kilometres west of Banff National Park. Founded in 1883, Canmore for decades was also a coal-mining community until the mines closed for good in 1979.
On Highway 1, a little over 100 miles west of Red Deer, rotting houses and rusting mine equipment are ghostly reminders of the days when railroads used coal-burning steam locomotives to power their train. It was once a freewheeling town of 3500 people with 450 homes and 1100 miners on the payroll. Nordegg was a company town owing its existence to the Braziar Collieries Limited who operated the mine from 1914 until 1955. It was founded by German born Martin Nordegg with European capital. Nordegg, like so many mining towns, was not without its disasters. On October 31, 1941 a huge explosion ripped though a mineshaft snuffing the lives of 29 miners. In June of 1950, disaster struck again. This time a fire destroyed the plant. But if fire and explosions could not kill Nordegg, modern technology did. During the early 1950s the railways began switching to diesel power and, with the steam locomotives gone, there was no longer a market for Nordegg’s coal. On January 14, 1955, the mine closed for good and longtime residents sadly moved away. H.B. Chenoweth