Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Hit & Miss near Hoadley, AB

A random find. Hit!

I was out near Hoadley, AB recently looking for something specific, which I found. is an occupied property and not much was visible from the road. It is heavily treed and is not the kind of place you just roll up on and expect them to welcome you. In fact, I have heard they are not big on photographers. (Miss!) I moved on, hoping to come back in the fall and perhaps the tree cover wouldn't be as dense. Or maybe I will call them up and charm them with my wit and they'll invite me in with open arms. Don't laugh, it could happen.

The drive wasn't a total bust, I got a few photos and revisited an old school that I had seen earlier this year when it was covered in snow.

Pineville School. Opened in 1914. The original school was dismantled in 1951 and this school was moved in from the nearby Harmonien District (built in 1922) and used until 1959. I read it was then sold to the Anglican church and then was later remodelled as a home. I did not look inside.

February 2017

August 2017

Better view of the old school
Just east of the school was this old place, just needs some TLC, it'll be as good as new. These were taken on a previous trip through the area, not on the same day as the school. 

Some days are better than others when out exploring. I am usually happy if I get a photo or 2 of something interesting. Sometimes it's just nice to be out driving.

Enjoy your day, hope you have more hits than misses.

References: Pioneering With a Piece of Chalk

Friday, August 11, 2017

Leavin' on a Steam Train & the Big Valley Roundhouse

Locomotive #41

I have been through these parts of Alberta several times. They are some of my favourite areas to explore. This time we took the train! The Alberta Prairie Railway Steam Train from Stettler to Big Valley to be exact. What a great trip! The gentle swaying motion of the cars, the sounds of the train as it clickety-clacks down the line at 18mph...I am pretty sure I traveled this way in another life. I loved it. If you ever have the opportunity to ride in an old passenger train...DO IT. It was a great way to spend the day with my family. The views from the train are ones you won't see by car, the entertainment is great and you might even get robbed by bandits.

Our 10 car train was lead by Locomotive #41. She was built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia in 1920 and served on the Mississippian Railroad from 1947-67. Central Western Railway brought her to Canada in 1989 and Alberta Prairie bought her in 1990. She was repainted to match the style used by the Canadian National Railway from 1920-60. In 1986 she was converted from coal to oil and currently consumes reclaimed oil. She uses 100 gallons of water for every mile traveled, or 10 gallons every 4 minutes. Wow!! It's quite literally a moving piece of history.

Old coal mine camp (as seen from the train)

Fenn: Population 3. Former General Store (as seen from the train)

Gadzooks! Train Robbers!

The trip from Stettler to Big Valley was about 1.5 hours. We then had 2 hours in Big Valley, after eating and looking in some shops, we spent the majority of the time at the roundhouse ruins. Climbing, looking, and exploring the concrete remains of this once great train hub.

The History:
Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) chose Big Valley to be one of it's divisional points, this shaped the future for Big Valley. In 1912 a second-class station was built as well as a 5 stall roundhouse, coal dock, turntable, storage sheds, water tank and more. 5 more stalls were added by 1918. The railway coming to Big Valley brought full time employment and made it a busy railway town. Sadly, the railway boom was not to last for Big Valley.

Canadian National acquired the former Grand Trunk Pacific Railway in 1923 and some facilities became redundant. Personnel from Big Valley were transferred to Mirror, AB (a former divisional point for the GTP). The Big Valley line became a branch line and traffic dropped dramatically, this was devastating for the town and the population declined quickly. The roundhouse was closed by 1948 and the station closed in 1967. The line was pulled up, except for the section that we traveled on of course.

Today the town has a population of 364, and has several great attractions. I will show you a few here but mostly I took photos of the Roundhouse site.

St. Edmund's Church (taken on a previous visit). Built in 1916.
It sits on a hill overlooking the town. You can't miss it. 

Restored grain elevator historic site, open for viewing.
(Photo taken on a previous visit)
Classic small town bank building.

McAlister Museum. Local artifacts, vehicles and machinery.
Sunfire not part of the collection. 

Now on to the roundhouse, get ready, there are a lot of pictures. I really like the roundhouse site. Also, it would be a neat place to take a drone.

Can you spot the guy that wouldn't get out of my shot? 

Grain elevator over the roundhouse wall.

The turntable. You spin me right round, baby right round like a record baby, right round round round. 

Boiler Room and Machine Shop


My kiddo doing stuff

The Pits. The others had been filled in.

I will be back in Big Valley soon to spend more time exploring the roundhouse. There are things I missed since we had a limited amount of time there.

References: History of the area from the Alberta Prairie Railway promotional material

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Dickson Store and the Danish Canadian Museum

August is the Sunday of Summer. A friend quoted this recently and I think it really sums up the feeling of August. I  have been away from my blog for longer than I intended. I had a few days off and was spending time with my family. It was a good few days and now it's time to catch up on my blog reading list and get back to work. Probably in that order.

We visited this place waaaay back on June 23. It's another great place close to where we live! The town of Dickson, AB is about 40 min SW of home. The Dickson area has great recreational and camping amenities but our reason for this visit was to see 2 different museums. One is in town and the other is a minute down the road. No point only checking out one..might as well make it a two-fer!

We first went to the Danish Canadian Museum. This area is home to the oldest Danish settlement on the prairies and as such was chosen as the site for the museum. The main building is a former girls dormitory built in 1933, it now houses a cafe, gift shop and rooms containing many pioneer artifacts and archives.

If you though that was were wrong! The museum sits on 7.5 acres and you'll want to explore it all! Follow the paths through the forest and through the manicured lawns and flower gardens. So much to see! We are even planning to go back for Viking Days this weekend coming up.

See the Tree People as you stroll through the Children's Garden of Imagination and be reminded of the many classic stories by Hans Christian Andersen.

Next we checked out Dagmar Church, a scaled down version built in the style and design of churches throughout Denmark. It seats 24 people and it is available to rent. Would be a neat place for a small wedding.

There are a couple other buildings that aren't specifically Danish in origin but are interesting local pioneer buildings, as most of you know...I love pioneer buildings!

Thomsen Pioneer Cabin, built in the 1930's.
Originally located near Dickson and made from local spruce trees.

Nielsen CPR House. This house was part of a 'Ready Made Farm',  designed to entice
settlers to the prairies. It came with a house, barn, shed, well and pump house.

There are more exhibits that I didn't take photos of, including a replica Viking Ship and a replica Dolmen (ancient burial chamber).  Check out more on their website, here!

After chatting with the friendly staff and buying a viking sword (made of non lethal foam) from the gift shop, we were on our way to the Dickson Store Museum. This is just what you might guess, an old general store with living quarters above the store. It's filled with vintage items and artifacts that you'd expect to find in a general store and a look into what it would have been like for the family who lived above and operated the store. You can also grab some candy or an ice cream. We got both.

Just west of the store is the former Dickson one room schoolhouse. (Another of my favourite things). The school was originally named Kings School in 1906, but that was an error made by the Ministry of Education,  as it was intended to be Kingo after the Danish poet. It was changed to Dickson in 1922. A new school was built in 1938 and both were used for a time. Permanently closed in 1959. I believe this is the 1st school, the 2nd school was made into a residence.

That concludes our day in Dickson, AB.

References: Pioneering With a Piece of Chalk and

Monday, July 31, 2017

Sunshine Gospel Mission

The sun shines on Sunshine Gospel Mission

I found this little church on a gravel road not too far from home and near Eckville, AB. I would have seen it last year but I turned a road too soon and missed it. At that time last year, I was chasing a school and found it's marker. The church was literally on the corner after the one I turned at. It's hidden in the trees so you can't see it as you approach from the west.

The signs on the church say this was the Sunshine Gospel Mission, Established 1946. It looks like there was once a cross on top and the bell is now missing from the tower. The inside (as seen through the open windows) is empty, except for water damage and pigeon poop. I did not venture inside.

In 1946, 3 acres was bought from the government and materials purchased to build the church. It was built by volunteer labour. The church was furnished with 54 chairs, an organ, pulpit, oil furnace, hymn books and book cases. A Ladies Aid was formed in 1950. Part of their duties was to look after the church.

A temporary closure was noted sometime in the early 1970's, but I could find no mention of when the church was last used. Memories from homesteaders in the area recall the wonderful Christmas Concerts and summer picnics with all the pop and ice cream you could ever want. It sounds like a wonderful place where the community could gather. I am sure anyone who knows the church, and passes it today, must have a mix of happy memories and also feel a bit sad at it's current state.

Look at those colours!


Faux brick

Here is the marker for Estonian school that used to be located just west of the church. I have never seen a marker like this. Unfortunately it looks like there was once photos of the schools, but they are gone now as are the schoolhouses.

References: Homesteads and Happiness
Special thanks to Fallon Elayne Moos, who helped me find this place.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Sunnyslope Shelter: More Than Just a Room

I was pretty stoked to finally go see this place. I built it up enough that my 7 year old was not uninterested...excited would be going too far. After seeing it, he rolled his eyes (something he seems to be getting better at, lord help me) and said, 'Mom, it's just a ROOM!".

Earlier that day...

The Sunnyslope Shelter has been on my list for awhile and I finally had the perfect time to go. After a busy Saturday of hanging at the lake, paddle boarding and hanging out with friends and their kids, Sunday was more low key. We had a relaxing morning and headed out early afternoon, it is just over an hour SE of home. I love how so many things are about an hour from my house, of course stopping to see unplanned things and taking back roads always makes it more than an hour.

We arrived at the location. It was hot, it was on a dusty gravel road, it was perfect. Not much around, a farm or 2 in the distance, a compressor station, and out in a field of wheat, you spot it. A door. Seemingly in the middle of nowhere. It's impressive and vaguely Hobbit-like. There was no way to access it from the front without trampling the wheat, which I was not going to do. On the other side off a lease road, was a narrow but distinct path through the wheat to the shelter. I didn't feel comfortable walking through the crops. There was also a sign posted next to the shelter reading, "Danger: Reclamation in Process. No Trespassing." I had to zoom in with my camera to read it. My son was disappointed that we were not going to see it up close. This was the first disappointment of the day for him.

Objects in the photo are farther away than they appear.
I drove back to the gravel and proceeded to take a few shots from the road, good thing for my trusty zoom lens. As I was sitting there, a bit (a lot) discouraged that we had driven all the way here (but not discouraged enough to trespass), a truck came by and stopped to ask if I was lost. I said no and explained that I was just taking photos. He was not the owner of the land, but knows them and said it was OK to go see the shelter, but to stay on the path, don't drive to it! Who would drive to it I wondered. No one I hope. I took it as a sign that the only human I'd seen on these roads was OK with it. He gave me his name just in case and left.

When I first thought about venturing into this underground crypt, I envisioned various creepy crawlies, murderers hiding out and a skunk family waiting to spray unsuspecting visitors. First I noticed the handle and slide lock were covered with webs, meaning no one had opened it recently. Phew. I opened the door as wide as possible to let in the sunlight. It looked safe. It was. Nothing to be worried about at all. It even had a covered skylight. It was cool (temperature cool, but also cooool cool). It isn't very big, only 10'x 12'. I couldn't imagine living in it, but 2 hardy souls did, one during the winter of 1902-1903 and another at various times in 1904.

Below is the history of the shelter, this note is stuck to the inside of the door. I forgot to take a photo of it but found this one at Thanks Internet!

Take a journey with me to One Mans' Castle:

Stay on the path!

Made it.

Threat level minimum.

Nothing flew out..



So that was it. My son was not blown away by it's historical awesomness. I tried to explain it's significance and that it was built before Alberta was even a Province, by the pioneers that made this province. I however, was impressed by this place and it's history and truly glad I was able to see it.