Cadomin

While not a "classic" ghost town, Cadomin at one point did experience a period of decline that fits my definition of a ghost town. Rather than a boom-town it once was, Cadomin has now been reduced to a summer vacation spot for people who wish to escape the hustle and bustle of the City. However, during the winter months Cadomin is virtually abandoned with only miners and die-hard residents occupying the hamlet.
Map Legend
Red: Bridge foundations and artifacts
 
Yellow: Abandoned mine portal and map of Alberta Coal Branch
 
Green: Limestone Quarry
Route to Cadomin from Hinton, AB.
       .  When beginning my research on the Alberta Coal Branch the books and Internet articles I read made it seem like Cadomin was a community of very few residents and a lot of abandoned buildings. To be exact, I was expecting a population of 36 full-time residents out of 96 dwellings, the statistic offered in the 2011 census. In short, I was expecting to find a tourist ghost town, with some commerce, such as a hotel and a general store for visitors to the historic site. However, upon my arrival I saw new developments, seasonal homes, and active businesses within the tiny hamlet. This was more of a vacation spot than a ghost town. I arrived in the town in early May, before there was much activity in the area. As you move further south past the summer homes you can see the old mine shafts, carts, and bridge foundations that are still scattered around the area. Despite all of this, the hamlet of Cadomin itself has been renovated and redeveloped for holiday use. In fact, when I was talking to the owner of the local general store he seemed understandably put off by my questions about Cadomin as a ghost town. It certainly was not one from his perspective. With that being said, Cadomin does not experience much activity after the summer months and begins to look more like a classic ghost town during the off-season.
            Cadomin has a rich history in mining as it was the 2nd mine to open up in the Alberta Coal Branch. South of the town there is a very useful map of the many localities within the Coal Branch. Many of these towns are either occupied as hamlets and have current mining operations, or are ghost towns that have derelict buildings and flat grassland where buildings used to stand. If you are looking for a "classic" ghost town Cadomin is not the place to go. However, I define a ghost town as a locality that experienced a period of economic and population growth that provided access to the amenities required for a healthy municipality; such as hotels, restaurants, general stores, and hospitals. However, following a devastating economic collapse the town’s population drastically decreases and the commerce that once thrived in the town is now extinct. This definition fits Cadomin's history perfectly. When we look at the history of Cadomin itself we find that this definition illustrates clearly two distinct periods within it history: initial development, operation, and closure (1909 – 1960); and a revival period (beginning in 1969). . Cadomin not only offers a center for the rich history of the Coal Branch, it offers a nice place to camp, get a coffee, see old mine foundations, and experience old-fashioned western hospitality.
            Cadomin (an acronym for Canadian Dominion Mining) began with the coal discovery in 1912 by Frederick L. Hammond. Development lagged, but by 1917 wartime demands allowed the company to roll out greater output with projections of a total potential reserve of 75 million tons. By 1918 the mine at Cadomin Mountain was producing 150,000 tons a year (Fryer, 1976, pg. 137). However, just like many early settlements disaster eventually struck. In 1920 a mine fire brought the entire operation to a halt. The underground fire had to be extinguished by sealing off the mine (Ross, 1974, pg. 71). Despite the delay in resource development, this mine fire created a revolutionary way of mining called “rock-tunnelling”, which became the safest way to mine at the time. The company divided the mine into separate sections, so if there were a cave-in or a fire it would not affect the other mineshafts and halt operations. The town of Cadomin of course had the bragging rights for creating this new method of mining (Fryer, 1976, pg. 137). In an age of boosterism where towns would compete in attracting settlers, investors, and businessmen into the municipality, the town of Cadomin would use many media outlets to advertise their accomplishments. A largely promotional 1928 article in the Edson-Jasper Signal not only described the method of rock-tunnelling, but also the daily output of 5,000 tons, the good relationships between the miners and officials, and the many amenities such as a community hall, churches, and businesses. It even showcased the Bank of Nova Scotia branch under the management of a Mr. R. Hickson (Fryer, 1976, pg. 138).
            Like other Coal Branch towns there was steady employment throughout the Depression years as well as steady business with their main client the Canadian National Railway (CNR). However, even with a railway into Cadomin, there was no road to the outside world until 1934 when the Federal Government's relief work camps for the unemployed paid workers 20 cents per day to create a road from Cadomin to Luscar (Fryer, 1976, pg. 139). By 1946 there was a road built from Edson to Cadomin. With the spur line from Coalspur to Mountain Park, the line went through Cadomin and residents would visit neighbouring communities for social activities, gambling, and for the single men - womanizing. Cadomin was noted for having a prominent arts scene, especially for having the only symphony between Edmonton and Vancouver. Musicians were encouraged to take up jobs in the mine. The crowds were plentiful, and the ticket money was collected through the payroll (Ross, 1974, pg. 72). In 1921 the Mountain Park Coal Company opened a 5.3-mile spur from Leyland, which is just north of Cadomin, to the Luscar mine (Kozma, 2001). In 1924 the Luscar operation was expanded to coordinate the efforts of Mountain Park with a single crew train. It continued to run between Luscar and Leyland, with frequent stops at Mountain Park.
            Despite what promotional literature at the time claimed about Cadomin, life in the mines was hardly idyllic. Numerous deaths resulted from gas, gas explosions, and mine floods. In 1942 the steady work in the mine came at a cost of 5 men killed. However, the town still attracted workers and by 1933 there was a population of 1,700 people (Fryer, 1976, pg. 139). In 1941, as a result of World War II, the demand for coal increased immensely. There was an output of 350,000 tons of coal per year and a payroll of $500,000 (roughly $7.7 million in 2015 dollars), which was distributed among 350 workers (Fryer, 1976, pg. 139).  In 1948 the John Ryan Trophy for the company with the lowest workplace accidents was presented to J.A. McLeod who was the manager for Cadomin Coals Ltd., who accepted his prize at the Canadian Mining Institute meeting in Vancouver (Ross, 1974, pg. 150). In 1952 the town peaked at a population of 2,500 people, yet despite the years of prosperity 1952 was the hardest year for the town of Cadomin. In June the McLeod River flooded, washing out the rail line and the coal seam where it was being worked on 4,800-foot level. The mine closed after this devastating flood and miners were left without work. Some 2,000 residents left, thinking the town would die out (Fryer, 1976, pg. 140). However, some of the miners refused to leave and decided it was the perfect place to retire.
            Even though Cadomin’s industry vanished overnight, new mining development has taken place since the early 1970’s under the Cardinal River Coals joint-venture. Now the town’s permanent residents can have work that is close to home. On the local general store there is a sign that proclaims “WE SUPPORT CHEVIOT”, solidifying their support for the coal mining still taking place at the Cheviot Mountain near Mountain Park. But the operation most immediate to Cadomin is an entirely different type of resource extraction, a limestone quarry.. The limestone quarry exploits the Palliser formation, a unit of late Devonian age, and a formation not previously exploited by early mining companies (Steward, 1929) (GCoC, 1949). Even though the town no longer boasts a population of 2,500, Cadomin has its seasonal residents and active commerce. Leyland, a mile to the west, is now occupied by the CNR as a yard for equipment and train servicing. 
Photos
  1. Bridge Foundations
    Bridge Foundations
    Photo by Caroline Thomas
  2. Cadomin Sign
    Cadomin Sign
    Photo by Caroline Thomas
  3. A Summer Dwelling
    A Summer Dwelling
    Photo by Caroline Thomas
  4. Old Cadomin Sign
    Old Cadomin Sign
    Photo by Caroline Thomas
  5. Coal Cart
    Coal Cart
    Photo by Caroline Thomas
  6. Some Unused Buildings
    Some Unused Buildings
    Photo by Caroline Thomas
  7. Map of the Coal Branch
    Map of the Coal Branch
    Photo by Caroline Thomas
References
Fryer, Harold. "Cadomin". Ghost Towns of Alberta. Langley, BC.      
Stagecoach Publishing Co., 1976. Print. Pg. 127 - 130.
 
Geological Survey of Canada (GCoC). "Inner Foothills
           Belt Cartography." Mountain Park Coal Area Geological Map (1949). Print.
 
Kozma, Leslie. "Railways and Coal: Good Old Days on the Coal Branch." CN
            Lines 10.4, 2001. Print.
 
Ross, Toni Antoniuk. "Chapter Six: Cadomin." Oh! The Coal Branch: A Chronicle of
the Alberta Coal Branch. Edmonton, Alta.: Ross, 1974. Print. Pg. 150 - 160.
 
Steward, Charles, and Charles Camsell. "Cadomin Sheet - West of 5th Meridian
- Alberta." Alberta Geological Survey, 1929. Print.
 
Photos Taken By:
Caroline Thomas