Alberta desert

Trip Start Oct 18, 2006
Trip End ??? ??, 2008

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Flag of Canada  , Alberta,
Sunday, August 27, 2006

I went to Drumheller this weekend, camped at a private campground with Charity's youth group. Hot dogs and burgers abound. The Tyrell dinosaur museum was not nearly as cool as I remember it being when I was in elementary school, although we did go to a historical coal mine (Atlas), which tickled my fancy in some regards. A few interesting things I learned from our exuberant tour guide/comedian:

The rail cars shown (see my pictures) hauled 44 tons, and at peak production were being offloaded 500 per day. When they shut down the mine in December 1956, they just parked them where they were, never to be moved again. The mine still operates an old 4' tall electric trolley, powered by what look like about 30-40 car lead acid batteries. When the mine was converted for tours, every mechanical and structural piece was safety inspected and catalogued - it took four years to make the mine safe for tour operations. The tipples were lifted onto new foundations, and steel beams were surreptitiously placed inside the buildings to guarantee structural integrity. It is difficult to notice these structural changes from the outside of the buildings.

The coal screen at the back of the tipple has an interesting story about it. Notice the horseshoe attached to the screen... A "bonepicker" stood on this screen all day, picking bones, rocks and the occasional sandwich that a co-worker would throw into the coal as a joke. He fired these out the side of the building, being unwanted materials in the coal. The good egg coal that pushed through went down the curved chute on the back end of the tipple. Throughout the day, fine slack would start to gather underneath the bonepicker's boots, and at some point he would slip, sometimes falling down the egg chute. One worker developed this safety device - he welded a horseshoe (upside down) to the side of the screen. He could then place his boot in this hoop, giving him a good foothold. Three Polish workers were being introduced to the site one day, and being very superstitious workers, immediately left the site, as upside down horseshoes are extremely unlucky. Soon, all of the tipple workers were on strike, and management was forced to boost the tipple workers' daily wage fifteen cents to get the workers back on site. Now to try this on my workplace's management...

I love the badlands scenery, but I fear I could not live there for long. It seems somewhat barren and depressing at times. The rolling golden fields of wheat and barley on the drive home served to balance the landscape zen though, they call me home for harvest...
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