Railway Museum honours coal industry
Camrose Railway Museum and Park director Norm Prestage is looking forward to telling the public how coal shaped Camrose on Saturday during Coal – The End of an Era at the museum. Josh Aldrich/Camrose Canadian
The Camrose Railway Museum and Park will shine a light on how the region came to be while turning back the clock.
Ask most people how this area was settled and most will say agriculture which brought the trains through. While trains were integral to the development of the area, they came out chasing coal instead. Agriculture followed later, said museum director Norm Prestage.
On Saturday, the museum will be celebrating this history with the entire day dedicated to the industry and the acknowledgment that Alberta is turning the page on it.
"The government's closing of the coal power plants is what drove the choice of this special day," said Prestage. "The initial reason for the railroad coming here was to get good quality coal. The coal in this area is mostly bituminous or sub-bituminous, which is a good burning coal."
The first railroad through here was the Canadian Northern when came through Camrose from Vegreville to get to Drumheller which was eventually connected to Calgary. Around 1914, Canadian Northern then drove a line out to Nordegg from Stettler. Livestock followed not too long after but it was a few years later before trains settlers started coming here for the grain.
The provincial government announced two years ago they would be accelerating the phase out of the coal-fired power plants completely by 2030.
There were coal mines all over the area but currently only the Paintearth Coal Mine near Forrestburg, which is in its final days, and the Dodds Coal Mine near Ryley are the only remaining mine in the area.
It is the end of the line for the industry that has meant much to the region, but has been replaced as an economic driver and a source of energy by natural gas and the oil industry.
"I'm sad to see it end, but time marches on," said Prestage. "There's so much petroleum and natural gas now that it has kind of taken the place of coal."
Prestage said the coal found in this area is among the cleanest in the world.
The impact of coal was felt beyond our borders, it shaped how much of the world was formed, transforming industry and society.
"Coal drove the whole industrial revolution, the world as we know it now was built on coal," he said.
To celebrate this history the museum will open its doors at 10 a.m. and run activities through to 5 p.m., all the while there will be new displays open to the public inside while a coal miner's lunch will be available, consisting of Sausage on fresh buns, sauerkraut and all the trimmings, homemade beans, carrot sticks, Miner’s Cottage Pudding with whipped cream.
They have taken a page out of the book from last year's Hobo Days with some of their activities but have tweaked them to make them work for this year's theme. There will be poetry readings, a quilting demonstration, story readings, model trains, musical sing a longs and activities geared at the whole family. There will even be an art show on display through August and judging for the different categories will take place on Saturday.
But there is no question for Prestage what he is most looking forward to.
"I'm a model railroader so I will be running the garden railroad and explaining to people why the railroad came to Camrose," he said.
The entire day is free to patrons except for the food end of things.