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Alberta Online Encyclopedia
When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Adapted from John Kinnear

Train wreck on Canadian Pacific Railway, near Hosmer, British Columbia. Only one of the five historic mining sites in the Elk Valley (on the British Columbia side of the Crowsnest Pass) still stands in mute testimony to a bygone era. The rest have long since disappeared; methodically reabsorbed by nature, or systematically leveled by companies preoccupied with liability issues.

At one time Hosmer was a thriving boomtown of 1,200 people. The settlement included four hotels, several churches, and even an opera house that ran silent movies. That was back around 1908, when the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR)—who had been kept from developing their own mine in the Elk Valley for 10 years by the Crows Nest Pass Freight Rate Agreement—finally brought Hosmer onstream. Determined to outdo their competition, CPR set about building the most modern, well-constructed facility they could. The site included company houses, the tipple (coal cleaning plant), mine entries, a huge fanhouse, the boiler and power houses, and 240 beehive coke ovens. Though CPR gave the endeavour a good try, by 1914, a combination of badly disturbed geology and economics led them to close the mine forever. Slowly but surely, the people left for other minesites, and CPR reclaimed what it could of its machinery.

Queen's Hotel, Hosmer, British Columbia. The Hosmer Mine Heritage Site stands today as the lone ambassador to a time when coal markets knew no bounds and new townsites and railroads were the order of the day. For 90 years, the remarkable concrete structures and coke ovens that were Hosmer's mine infrastructure have stood amongst the prolific secondary growth that envelopes them, determined to hold their ground and tell their story.

Today's Hosmer is but a shadow of its former self, but there still lies in and around this quiet hamlet halfway between Fernie and Sparwood, a veritable treasure trove of sights to see.

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