Seven kilometers from Drumheller lies the quaint little hamlet of Rosedale. It was one of the many towns and settlements established up in the Drumheller Valley providing homes for the coal miners and their families. Surrounded by the unique formations known as the Badlands, Rosedale's main attraction is the Star Mine Suspension Bridge where it was a walkway for coal miners to get across the Red Deer River to the Star Mine. Although the mine has been long closed, the 117 metre suspension bridge remains as a piece of history of the nostalgia found in Drumheller Valley long ago.
Originally, coal miners used row boats to get across the Red Deed River to work when the mine opened up in 1912. An aerial cable car system was constructed in 1919 to transport coal miners and the coal back and forth. The suspension bridge wasn't created until 1931 and finally allowed coal miners an easier way to get to work.
The tipple of Star Mine was located on the south side of Red Deer River where the coal was then loaded into the Canadian National Railway coal cars. During that time, it was the Canadian National Railway that transported the coal out of Drumheller Valley. The Canadian Pacific Railway then built a spur line that was 1.6km up the Red Deer River along with a tipple at the mine site and a bridge.
Coal mining in Drumheller Valley was less dangerous and dirty as other coal mining regions in Canada. This was attributed to Druheller's geology and topography and how the coal seams were horizontal, flat lying seams, much easier to mine than the steeper seams located further in the Rocky Mountains. Another reason why the mining was a bit safer in this region was because the coal mined at Drumheller was sub-bituminous, meaning that this grade of coal did not have as much time to build up a higher concentration of methane gas. In other mines around the world at the time, the strong buildup of methane gas was the biggest killer.
The sub-bituminous coal was ideal for heating homes and other buildings as well as for cooking food. The best for the coal was during the long, cold winters in Drumheller Valley, where everyone was in need of much coal to heat their homes. The longer and colder a winter was, the better off the coal miners were. When the shorter winters occurred, many miners were laid off and had to rely on other means of making an income such as fishing and farming.
139 mines were in operation between 1911 and 1979 with 34 being productive for a great period of time, such as the Star Mine. No one besides the Blackfoot and the Cree knew about the coal in the area until 3 explorers separately reported the finding in the valley; Peter Fidler in 1792, Dr. James Hector in 1857 and Joseph Tyrell in 1884. The coal rush of the Drumheller Valley began with Sam Drumheller, which is where the town of Drumheller's name came from. Sam sold the land he purchased from a local rancher, Thomas Greentree, to the Canadian National Railway. This was the beginning of Drumheller town and eventually Sam registered a coal mine. Unfortunately, seeing the potential of coal mining in the area, Garnet Coyle and Jesse Gouge opened the Newcastle Mine and beat Sam to having the first coal mine opened. In 1911, the first batch of coal was shipped out of Drumheller.
As the railway was built, hoards of people streamed into the valley, the greatest amount of people being from the east; Nova Scotia, Eastern Europe and Britain. In the years following, coal mines continued to spring up with a set of camp workers for each mine; Newcastle, Drumheller, Midland, Rosedale, Wayne, Nacmine, Cambria, Willow Creek, Lehigh, and East Coulee.
The suspension bridge was considered dangerous during high winds and floods but it became the miners' main access across the river up until 1957 when the mine finally was shut down. The closing of the mine was actually good timing as a year later, the hillside collapsed and the landslide covered the working area of the miners. In 1958, the Government of Alberta rebuilt the bridge after being destroyed by the hillside collapse to commemorate the mining past of the area.
*A tipple is a structure that was used for sorting and grading the coal on conveyor belts with shakers and screens and it was able to extract and separate loose rock that may have been extracted with the coal.
If the information above is out of date or we missed something, shoot us an e-mail from our contact page or leave a comment below.