May 28, 2022
The Leitch Collieries, Limited was a state-of-the-art coal mining company. It was built to last; however, due to several unfortunate events, it was only in operation for 8 short years.
It is located east of Frank Slide, and it was the only completely Canadian-owned coal mining operation in the Crowsnest Pass.
Coal mining requires lots of power, so the operation had its own power plant. It was 30 feet wide by 200 feet long and constructed of sandstone and mortar.
All repairs were done on site by the carpenters, blacksmiths, and machinists on staff. There was even a locomotive repair area next to the machine shop. This area could house 2 locomotives, which were serviced once per month. Some of the work would be done from down below (which is now the location of the public restrooms).
Billy Hamilton was the manager and a part-owner. His wife, Ellen, designed the spacious home for their family of 6 children, staff, and occasional guests. The home had indoor plumbing, 3 fireplaces, hardwood flooring, and a dumbwaiter.
I love the photograph of 2 of the Hamilton girls and their enormous dog, Major. The little boy is from the Kerr family.
Another favorite photo is of the Kerr family. You can see that the family dog is at the center in their life, or at least the dog found the Geographical Center of Attention, as most dogs do. The mother is just beaming! Haha!
The collieries also produced coke, which is essential for smelting metal ores. Coke is simply “cooked” coal. This process purifies the coal, allowing it to burn at a much higher temperature. Construction of the coke ovens began in 1910, but by the time the company closed at the start of WWI, only the first 32 of the 101 ovens had ever been fired.
After the company’s remaining assets were liquidated in the 1920s, the structures were dismantled or vandalized. The coal seams were mined in the 1940s by Mohawk Collieries.