Historic Photos from the Town of Bankhead

Between 1903 and 1922 Bankhead was a bustling coal-mining town located on the lower slopes of Cascade Mountain in modern-day Banff National Park. The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) established the coal mine and the town soon followed. The town was divided into two parts with Lower Bankhead containing the industrial components, while Upper Bankhead was where most of the residential areas were located. At its peak, the mine employed three hundred men and the town was home to more than 1,000 residents. Bankhead was considered one of the most modern in all of Alberta at that time. It had more amenities and was typically busier than nearby Banff, which is pretty hard to imagine these days.

The mine was shut down sometime in 1922 with no concrete reasons given for the closure, although it is widely believed that mining in that area was not very profitable. Many of the buildings were transported to either Banff or Canmore to be re-purposed. The church, however, was sawn in half, loaded onto railway cars, and transported to Calgary, where it remained in service until 1962.

All that remains today are a few crumbling foundations and the skeletal shells of several buildings. There is an interpretive trail that directs you through the the remaining relics of Lower Bankhead. What follows is a collection of historical photographs that depict Bankhead during its time of prosperity. If you’d like more information about the site today, or to see additional photos of the ghost town please refer to this blog post. There are also a few mining buildings from the C-Level operation, which was the highest coal seams being worked on the eastern slope of Cascade Mountain. These buildings can be located along the C-Level Cirque Trail. Enjoy these photos and then go see the old townsite for yourself!

Camp by Cascade river, near Banff, Alberta.
Roman Catholic church, 1904-1922
Cascade Hotel, 1904-1922
Tipple of “bankhead”, 1904-1922
Cascade River, 1904-1922
Entrance to mine, Alberta, 1900-1903
View of Bankhead, Alberta, 1904-1922
View of street, 1904-1922
Canadian Pacific Railway station, 1904-1922
Mine offices, 1904-1922
View of Bankhead, Alberta, 1890s
View of Bankhead, Alberta, 1890s
Street in Bankhead, Alberta, 1890s
Coal mine, 1904-1922
Miners and mine entrance, 1900s
Coal mine, “C” level, 1912
Mine entrance, Number 2 seam tunnel, 1912
Miners, 1912
View of the mines, 1920
War memorial, 1919-1922
Coal mining, 1904-1922
Cascade Canyon, n.d.
Shay locomotive number 8 at coal mine, 1920
Main entrance to Pacific Coal Company mine, 1910
Canadian Pacific Railway Train No 3 “The Dominion” derailed east of Bankhead, Banff, Alberta, 1947

The photos above were collected from the Glenbow Archives. Additional information can be found for each photograph on the Glenbow website by searching the identification number that is printed on each photo. There is also the option to purchase a high resolution copy. Stay tuned for additional posts featuring historical photos from across Alberta. We’d love to know what you think in the comment section below.

About Tyler Dixon 222 Articles
Tyler is originally from Saskatchewan, and yes he cheers for the Roughriders, but don’t hold that against him as Calgary has been his home for the past eight years. He is a teacher working at a wilderness- based treatment program for youth working to overcome addiction. Tyler is also a volunteer with the GOT Parks initiative, which aims at reconnecting Canada’s youth with our national, provincial, and territorial parks. During his time away from work, Tyler enjoys outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, and snowboarding, team sports, travelling, photography, spending time with good friends, and being at home with his wife and German Shepherd, Rome.