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Canadian Folklore: Bankhead, Alberta

Updated: Mar 7

Ghost towns are always cool, and this one in Alberta is no different. Today I will be diving into the story of Bankhead, Alberta.


Once a bustling mining town operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway, the crumbling ruins of Bankhead now lie abandoned in the Cascade mountains of Banff National Park.

Bankhead was established as a company town in 1903. The mine began operations that same year to provide coal to Canadian Pacific Railway locomotives and Banff Springs Hotel boilers. By 1905 the frontier community was dotted with homes, shops, community buildings, and even a school. By 1911 even a hospital and hotel joined the bustling community. In its heyday, 300 men worked the mines beneath Bankhead and excavated 200,000 tons of coal per year. Over time, the once-rich coal seams began to deplete, accompanying this was labour disputes and a decline in coal demand. In June 1922, the Canadian Pacific Railway closed down the mine after being shut down since April 1922, when workers went on strike.

Since Bankhead was a company town, all economic activity dried up with the mine, and the residents drifted away. As the years passed, nature gradually reclaimed the land, and the town's remnants slowly depleted. In 1926, many of the town's buildings were moved to Banff & Canmore. The Bankhead Railway Station now sits on the grounds of the Banff Hostel. In 1930 the National Parks Act forbade future logging and mining in Banff, and Bankhead's fate as a ghost town was locked in place.

Today, an interpretive trail runs through Lower Bankhead. Signs are placed along the trail identifying the major buildings, as well as other interesting facts. Many foundations of buildings are visible. One building remains intact and contains displays viewed through the windows. Remains of the town are also visible adjacent to the Upper Bankhead parking lot. Bankhead is located on Lake Minnewanka Road, just a few minute's drive from the Banff townsite. Near Bankhead was another mine, Anthracite. This mine was a failure because of heavy water inflow in the underground. The Anthracite mine shut down in 1904 and was abandoned.

Visiting Bankhead is a captivating journey back in time. A chance to forge a connection with a forgotten chapter of Canada's history. The towns tale of rise and fall serves ass a reminder to cherish the legacies left behind by those who once thrived there.


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