Lower Bankhead Walk with the coal miners of this Ghost Town as you feel a sense of unfinished business

The Proper Function

Welcome to Dead Town 

Bankhead, Alberta was a coal mining town that existed between 1903 and 1922. Operated by a subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific Railway, which needed the coal to fuel its steam engines, the output of coal ran between 500 to 600 tons per day. A town was developed with the main operations located in the valley. The residential area was higher up and is referred to Upper Bankhead.


On June 17, 1922 a newspaper published a notice that the Bankhead Mines were closing. Then an official report from the mine was issued and no reasons for the closure were given. While it was generally understood that the mine had not been profitable, the closure would place 300 men into unemployment. Bankhead was now considered a “dead town”.

All the buildings which supported a population of 1,000 citizens, were owned by the the rail and were rented to the people of Bankhead. Many structures were moved out of the town and served as the official death nail for the town and its citizens.

In Lower Bankhead, there is an trail that takes you past various remains of the town. As you descend down some initial trails, you will come across the Lamp House. It played a vital role in that each miner was assigned a number along with their lamp. At the completion of each shift the miners would have to return their lamps. If a miner’s lamp was absent, a search would be initiated.

A short distance ahead you will reach the foundation of the Power House. Boldly constructed, this thick and deep foundation withstood the heavy vibrations of steam engines, compressors and generators. To understand the significance of this Power House you should know that it supplied electricity for homes in both Bankhead and Banff.


The above photo are the ruins to the Boiler House. The remains of this structure was utilized to burn coal in order to heat water in nine large boilers. The steam produced from that water is what powered all the machinery within Bankhead.


As you continue down the trail, imagine life as a miner in Bankhead. As a rule, you rise from your sleep at 0500 and report to the lamp house. Shortly after 0600 you would enter the mine and be paid $1.35 per eight hour day. At anytime while you working you could be crushed by falling boulders, burned by exploding gases or blown to pieces by a premature blast. If you didn’t succumb from tragedy, then Coalworker’s Pneumoconiosis (Black Lung) would progress into a chronic condition.

Transcend Thought

The discovery made on this Proper Function was a very powerful one. This is a ghost town. I am sitting on concrete steps that once led to a place of worship, there is an energy here that I can connect with. Yet, it left me somewhat unsettled because I am sure that my definition and relationship with God only transcends thought (Philippians 4:7) because of it’s lack of connection.


While I am not a particularly religious person, I know that The Proper Function is my church. For what ever reason, God reveals himself to me in nature and throughout history. Whether or not The Proper Function impacts you as it does me I am uncertain. But, place yourself on these steps and ask yourself, “Who is your God?”.



  1. “Bankhead, Alberta.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 05 Aug. 2016.
  2. “Coal Mines of Engineering Works of Calgary.” Coal Mines of Engineering Works of Calgary. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Aug. 2016.
This Proper Function
(Approximate Data)
Party Cloudy
2,315ftElevation 13.7hrsDistance From You
Coordinates51.232804°, -115.522877°
DirectionsView on Google Maps
Time1 hour


Dan is an explorer for The Outbound and founder of The Proper Function, an outdoor editorial. He is passionate about exploration and can’t stay put for more than a week.