Category Archives: Sights

#FABTrip17: The hidden history along Alberta’s highway 25

Highway 25 north of Lethbridge is mostly known for one thing: cows. This is heart of “Feedlot Alley“, the highest concentration of intensive farming operations in Alberta, which produces over half of the beef consumed in Canada. While industrial farms dominate the landscape today, the area’s roots are deep underground, in the rich coal seams that run along the Oldman River. Underneath silage pits, cattle pens, and pivot tracks lie a rich heritage of boom towns, ghost towns, and a pioneer history dating back over century.


A smoky shot of the C.P.R. Station at Diamond City. As you may have guessed, Diamond City derives its name from mining, albeit coal not diamonds. The present townsite overlooking the Oldman River Valley, just to the northwest of Lethbridge, was developed to serve the growing numbers of people who had come to work in the mines and haul the “black diamonds” from deep within the ground. In operation for over 20 years, the Diamond City mine closed in 1927, although its economic fortunes were bolstered for several years after with the growth of irrigation. As for the station, it is a private residence, moved to its present location from High River to be renovated and restored. Sources: Coyote Flats : historical review, 1905-1965. Volume 1, @thelostcanuck on Flickr #FABTrip17 #explorealberta @southwestalberta @canadianbadlands @travelalberta

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In late 1910, the first shaft was sunk in what would become the Chinook Coal Mine, northwest of Lethbridge. In quick fashion, a community grew up around the mine, incorporating as the village of Coalgate in 1912. A post office was established in 1913, and for some reason was named “Commerce”, causing all sorts of confusion. With the post office having put its stamp on the community, the village soon changed its name to Commerce, which by the end of 1913 was nearing a population of 300. Increased wartime coal demand continued to boost the village’s prospects, and by the end of 1914, over 400 people lived in Commerce, most of them miners living in company accommodations. A private railway spur line was extended from Kipp, along the Canadian Pacific line west of Lethbridge, to the Chinook Mine; and an Ellison grain elevator was established trackside in 1915-16. At its peak, the community boasted a modest commerce sector, including a general store, grocer and pool hall, boarding house, and hardware store. As is the story of so many mining towns, the prosperity wouldn’t last. According to “The History of Diamond City and Commerce”, the mine closed in 1924, and its various parts were poached for use in other mines throughout the area. The spur line shut down, and the elevator moved to Diamond City shortly after, using a technique called the “Deadman Pully”. As for Commerce, it was a dead village walking. As tax revenue dried up, and being unable to meet its debt obligations, the village disintegrated, and was disorganized by provincial Order in Council in February 1930. #mybadlands #explorealberta #albertahistory #forgottenalberta #alberta #canada @southwestalberta

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The Turin district was named after a prolific Percheron stud horse, imported in the early years by eight area farmers, shareholders in the Coyote Flats Percheron Horse Co. As T.C. Noble wrote in the history of Coyote Flats, the citizens of Turin weren’t horsing around when they chose this strapping stallion to be their community’s namesake: “The raising of good draft horses proved to be a very profitable venture for those who had good range and the knowledge and patience to train horses for farm work. The Percheron was the most popular breed. Good stallions such as the one called “Turin” and from which the Turin district was named were purchased and did much to improve the local work horses of the district. The horse must certainly be recognized and given rightful prestige in the developing of our country.” @southwestalberta @canadianbadlands #fabtrip17 #forgottenalberta #albertahistory #alberta #canada

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1973: I barely knew ye

Every Saturday Night, Tom Radford, National Film Board of Canada

Hat tip to Dan Overes over at DanOCan for digging up this gem from the vaults of the National Film Board called, Every Saturday Night. Filmed in 1973, Alberta’s generational changing of the guard is captured in grainy technicolour, as the last vestiges of our pioneer-era culture struggle to remain relevant amidst the formidable social and political shift that accompanied the Lougheed-era and the boom .

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#FABTrip16: Chatting with an icon in Orion

A licensed establishment, Orion #Alberta #Canada #mybadlands #explorealberta #FABTrip16 @gregfarries

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In what has become a #FABTrip tradition when travelling through the forgotten SE corner of Alberta, we stopped in the hamlet of Orion for a chat with Boyd Stevens: lifelong resident, proprietor of Stevens Hardware, and one of a half dozen souls remaining in the community. As per usual, Mr. Stevens was convivial and accommodating, while freely sharing historical insights and colourful stories about a pioneer-era community that is passing into history.

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Road Trip: Meandering along the “Peavine” (Hwy 876).

Les mauvaises terres. Steveville #Alberta #Canada #canadianbadlands #explorealberta #specialareas

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Whenever I swing through the southeast, the road home is seldom the most direct route. Last Sunday was no exception.  On the way back from  balmy Brooks, the brood and I veered north towards the Red Deer River, taking Secondary Highway 876 into the heart of Special Areas #2. We traced the CNR’s abandoned “Peavine” rail spur north from Steveville,  stopping to photographs some ruins and ruminants, before concluding our brief sojourn with a stroll down the breezy boulevards of Sunnynook.

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