Blog: Bankhead


I was wandering around Lower Bankhead recently checking out the remnants of the CP Rail coal mining community which existed there 100 years ago. This town was dismantled and moved back in the 1920's when the mine shut down, and although the structures were all but gone, two things remained: concrete and coal slack heaps. It was the concrete that made me ponder what has become literally the foundation of our society. Laid bare by abandonment, and too expensive and heavy to move, it stood as a monument of man's impact on Banff.

We are often surrounded in covered up concrete without our being aware, which makes visiting societal remains an eye opener as to the role concrete played in its foundations. Concrete is not an inspiring subject matter of photography. On the contrary, its utilitarian nature makes us look away and gloss over its presence. But I think it's a good thing to be aware of concrete and the role it plays in society.

C-level Coal mine

I hiked up to C-level in Bankhead today to check out the mine up there. From Minnewanka I can see tailings up the Cascade, which I presumed was from this mine. So, instead of blowing past the supply building and surrounding area, I explored and wound up on the slack heap on the side of the mountain. Although not very long, it represented a lot of waste coal and tailings, cascading down around 200 feet below the appropriately named Cascade mountain. A metal drill extension lay on the ground, along with rusted cable, likely for the rail cars, and some large pipes.

I hauled my large format camera but couldn't really find anything compelling to take a photo of. The 9 unstable mine openings were surrounded by fencing and were difficult to view and photograph. So I opted for the supply building, highlighting the graffiti which defaced the building, which in turn is defacing the landscape.

Bankhead 2

The Road to Bankhead is still closed but is cleared of snow and was being swept when I rode my bike to the site of the Holy Trinity church. It sits at the top of a hill overlooking lower Bankhead, with a view of the Fairholme Range as well as the Cascades, which was the mountain range being mined for coal. Only the foundation/basement and front steps remain. I sat on the steps, wondering what it would have been like to worship at this church back in 1910. Who were the people that attended? What was the priest like? I got out my large format camera and took two pictures, then headed up to upper Bankhead to look around.

Homesites were easy to find, and a couple of "L" shaped foundations remained. Other sites had sewer pipes sticking out of the ground. Farther north is a clearing that has what looks like was the main road, with building sites along it. Further north the town ended at a bank which had a lot of metal garbage strewn about. I could only surmise that this was where the townsfolk tossed unneeded buckets and cans when they were done with them. The whole northern bank is littered with rusted metal. A rotting barrel sits in the ground with the strap nearby.

I suppose it could all be cleaned up more thoroughly than it has been. How much work would it take? How about the sewer pipes and other utilities that are in the ground? I imagine that Parks keeps these curiosities because it now contributes to the history of the park. Funny how that works. If I tossed garbage into the park, I could face a hefty fine. But someone who tossed an old bucket over the north bank 100 years ago turns it into an historic site.