Encountering the past in an Alberta mining community
To visit Nordegg is to step back in time.
Once a bustling town of 3,500, decaying homes and rusted mining equipment provide today’s visitors with a glimpse into the days when coal-powered trains were an integral part of the Canadian economy.
Located 150 km west of Red Deer, along Alberta’s scenic David Thompson Highway, the town was officially named Nordegg in 1914. Brazeau Collieries began coal-mining operations in 1911. In 1914, the Canadian Northern Western Railway built a railway line to Nordegg.
At its peak, the town’s mines employed close to 1,000 people. But by the middle of the 20th century, trains were increasingly powered with diesel engines. Demand for Nordegg’s coal dwindled. The mines closed in 1955. With its population dwindled down to only a few souls, Nordegg — in effect — became a ghost town.
The mine — and the community that it fostered — was not, however, forgotten. Led by the determined efforts of former miner Dennis Morley, a group of former residents lobbied for its preservation. The Brazeau Collieries site was declared a provincial historical resource in 1993. In 2002, it became a National Historic Site.
Although much of the town has disappeared, several buildings are still standing in what was once Nordegg’s downtown area. Guided tours offer access to the mine site during the summer season.
Interest in the recreational and tourism potential of the area has stimulated redevelopment around Nordegg. Residential redevelopment is taking place on the footprint of the old townsite. The community is also home to a golf course, fire department and library.