Coal mining camps and communities were unique. To begin with
camps were viewed as disposable and miners lived in tents or
lean-tos. Mines would be worked until they were exhausted
or uneconomic and the men would then move on to the next
workings. With the coming of the
railways, many mining camps
became actual communities with all of the residences, retail
outlets and public buildings required to service them.
These communities were dwarfed by mine buildings and the coal
refuse that was a part of any mining operation.
Frequently, even amid the splendour of the Rocky Mountains, they
were grim and unattractive places. Houses were huts or shacks
and had an air of impermanence about them.
In some cases, enlightened mine owners wished to create
"ideal communities" with attractive "cottages" designed to lure
competent men and their families. Martin Nordegg is one
example. Since the mines generated their
own electricity, they often supplied the power to nearby towns.
The communities surrounding a mine were the first to use
electric light, and soon the towns grew.
Even though established in a particular community, when work
ceased, there was no option but to move on and miners did this
frequently. When the mine closed for whatever reason, the
town shut down as well unless there was another economic
activity to sustain it. Places such as
ceased to exist. Later on, with the end of the historic
era of coal mining in the 1950s, Coal Branch communities also
ceased to exist and mining equipment and houses.