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Leitch Collieries Provincial Historic Site

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Earlier in the day, as I was westbound on the Crowsnest Highway, I noticed several ghost building ruins at the side of the road.  At the time, I didn’t stop, but later on, as I headed back towards Pincher Creek, I decided to check them out.

This building, and several other structures, are part of the Leitch Collieries Provincial Historic Site.  In winter, the parking area at Leitch Collieries is closed, and the unshoveled snow piles up on the footpaths around the property.  You can, however, access the site, by parking at the side of Highway 3, and crossing a fence (there’s a staircase that takes you over the barbed wire).

A ‘colliery’ (pronounced CALL-ya-ree ) is a mining operation, specifically, the mine and the processing facilities associated with it.  ‘Leitch” is the name of the mine’s president, Malcolm Leitch.
The Leitch Collieries were part of a coal-mining operation developed in the first decade of the 1900’s.  It was the only coal company in the area to be owned completely by Canadians.  And it was an impressive operation, that did more than just mine the coal — it also processed it, using 101 coke ovens.

Unfortunately, the operation was short-lived.  Labor strikes and the start of the first World War put a strain on finances, and the operation sunk deep into debt.  Coal production ended in 1915, and the company was liquidated in 1919.

The biggest building that’s still standing is the power house, which generated electricity for the mine, and for the nearby company town of Passburg.  These days, the old power house is missing its roof, but beams have been put in place to stabilize the structure.  There are signs and exhibits inside the old walls, as well as a small amphitheater area where, in warmer months, you could see a presentation by a park ranger.

Directly behind the power house, you can see the ruins of the washery.  As the name suggests, this was the building where dirt was washed from the coal.

Back in the early 1900’s, there was a tipple located behind the washery, and those 101 coke ovens were also nearby.  I don’t know how much of the ovens remains — I didn’t trudge that far through the snow.

Head the other direction from the power house, and you can see the manager’s house.

The manager’s house was built for William Hamilton and his family, and was designed by his wife, Ellen.  It was large, because the family had six children.  The 3-story house had indoor plumbing, hardwood floors, and 3 fireplaces.
I probably would have learned a little more about the Leitch Collieries if I had stopped during the summer months.  Many of the signs were covered by snow, and just walking around wasn’t easy.  But, it’s still a worthwhile stop, even in winter.  And if it hadn’t been so darned cold, I probably could have gotten some interesting pictures.

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