Historical Society hopes to upgrade coal mine attraction at Nordegg

Nordegg Historical Society hopes to strike it lucky as it goes in search of government grants to bankroll an ambitious $500,000 restoration project at the historic Brazeau Collieries mine site.

Nordegg Historical Society hopes to strike it lucky as it goes in search of government grants to bankroll an ambitious $500,000 restoration project at the historic Brazeau Collieries mine site.

A 1911 log house, the oldest building in Nordegg, would be restored, repair work done on other mine buildings and a shelter built on a former boiler house, among other projects that would get underway next year.

The society has lined up $75,000 from the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation. The society and Clearwater County will match that to boost the total to $150,000.

Clearwater County West Country manager Joe Baker said the society has its sights set on federal funding through a National Historic Sites of Canada program.

“At the moment, based on the numbers we’ve got, we would hope that we get at least that amount ($150,000),” he said. “If we could get more from the feds we could up our amount.

“What we’re shooting for is a half-million-dollar project.”

Baker said the foundation turned down a funding request earlier this year because the society did not have a 10-year lease on the mine site. That detail is now being fixed and a second request will be sent in this fall and the society should know by the end of the year whether it will get funding.

If all goes well, work will begin next spring. Among high-priority projects is the restoration of the log cabin.

“It’s deteriorated quite badly in more recent years, but it is salvageable,” he said.

A home dating to the 1940s when Nordegg was a booming mine town would also be fixed up. The society also wants to restore a farrier shop, spruce up the exterior of the fan house and do some work inside the lamp house.

“Quite a bit of work could be done on the boiler house.” The brick boilers were once covered by a building, which had to be taken down for safety reasons a number of years ago. The bricks and mortar have taken a beating from the elements and the society hopes to build another shelter.

If all of the hoped-for grant money does not come through, the society will scale back its restoration project, he said.

“We’re really hoping the feds will come through on this,” he said. “We are a national historic site.”

The Brazeau Collieries mine site includes about 40 structures spread over a 75-acre site. It was designated a provincial historic site in 1993 and a national site in 2002.

The Brazeau operation produced nearly 10 million tonnes of coal between 1914 and 1955.

Its coal was used to stoke the Canadian Northern Railway steam engines that laboured through the Yellowhead Pass. The site’s coal preparation plant is considered the most complete example of such pre-1955 technology in Alberta and southeastern British Columbia.

Museum tours, which run until this weekend, began the May long weekend. The tours drew about 2,000 visitors this year and more than 10,000 people visited the free museum and gift shop.


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