Recently, I put my boys to work in the coal mines! As Minecraft fans what’s better than bringing Minecraft to life? We did that one day by going to work in the coal mines! Our visit to the Atlas Coal Mines in Drumheller, Alberta was an adventure that will stay with my boys (and us) for a very long time.
Drumheller is such a unique place. If you ever have the chance to visit, you will find yourself driving through the lush prairies, then suddenly the ground just opens up! The massive valley was formed through ice age melting many, many, many years ago. In fact the entire valley was carved out by melting in less than a year! In modern times it is known as the badlands. It is also famous for dinosaurs as it has some of the richest fossil deposits in the world.
On this visit we did something a little different, another thing that is a rich part of Drumheller’s history is mining. Just south of Drumheller, just past the hoodoos, is the Atlas Coal Mine, a living history museum and by far one of the best we have ever visited.
We did the full family pass which allowed us to take a train ride, tipple tour and tunnel tour.
The train tour is I think miss named, it is really a mine cart ride, but this actually makes it much cooler (especially for your Minecraft addicts)! The carts and engine are all original, and it was cool to hear all the history and think about all the people who rode in those carts going up to the mines and work. The boys also got to work, just like other kids would have done many, many, many years ago as trappers and linesmen.
Trappers would open and close the gates allowing the trains to move through the grounds, and the linesmen changed the tracks so the trains could take a new route. It took lots of muscle to change those tracks! The boys loved their jobs.
The tipple tour was really neat. Our tour guide was an older gentleman who actually used to work at the mine. He had so many great stories, it really brought everything to life and I found it fascinating to listen to him and learn how coal was produced and what life was like back then for the workers.
The tunnel tour was quite cool. We even got to wear hardhats with lights! Our guide gave us a neat chemistry lesson at the beginning showing us how they used chemical reactions to create light before they had battery packs and light bulbs. While in the hill our guide had us turn off the lights which the boys thought was so cool. It was really, really dark with just a light at the end of the tunnel!
The actual tunnel was blasted shut as a safety precaution when the mines were closed, so you only get to see the first little bit of the actual mine. They are slowly excavating it and maybe in a few years there will be more to see. I didn’t feel this took away from the experience at all as there was so much to see and explore at the site.
And the view from the mine of the valley was breathtaking.
One of my favourite things was that the boys were allowed to really explore and get into stuff. So many living museums don’t actually want kids touching stuff, and it was such a nice change to be able to let them be curious and truly engaged without worrying. My husband loved the old blacksmith cabin. They left behind so many materials and they were wonderful about letting him explore all the old equipment, he even gave some lessons on what some of the equipment would have been used for and the guide commented how much he learned from my husband which was fun.
This was a wonderful place to visit and a fantastic step back into history, not to mention lots of cool links to Minecraft. Highly recommended and a great worldschooling experience.