History Economy Energy Podcast Psychology

Days of Coal in Calgary, Canada

Updated on 2020-11-23 by Adam Hardy

Hugh Archibald White was born and brought up in Calgary, Canada in the 1940s and 50s. He gave me a run-down on their almost universal dependence on coal, illustrated with some great anecdotes about his grandfather, a coal and gas merchant, including:

  • the vastness of Canada’s natural resources
  • the railways and development
  • low prices and infinite availability of fossil fuels
  • Canadian winters, minus 20°C for half the year
  • why you didn’t insulate your house

Sorry for my sound quality – I used the wrong mic – doh! But Hugh’s quality is good.

Where to Listen to Coal in Calgary

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The image of an old postcard below shows a train with 3 locomotives. This was needed to get them up the steep passes. They were enormously long trains – one could wait 20 or 30 minutes for the train to pass a level crossing. They often had 2 huge steam locomotives (later diesels) and then would have more added before the climb.

The next 3 are of Canmore, a coal mining town on the road from Calgary to Banff (and on the railway). The “Opera House” was converted to a cinema.

Coal mining in Canmore started 1887 and ended in 1979. Most of the infrastructure was removed but the Opera House and a couple of other buildings and mine entrances (just doorways in the side of the mountain) remain. Tourism is the business now.

Coal mining
Coal mining in Canmore, with the Three Sisters mountains in the background.
The Glenbow Museum, Calgary.
Canmore Museum

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