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Last updateFri, 12 Aug 2022 4pm

Artifacts uncovered at Atlas Coal Mine


    The East Coulee Atlas Coal Mine appears to be a mine of artifacts as items are still being unearthed.
    Recently, Bob Moffatt, who used to be a pony driver in the mines, found a device called a ‘railway torpedo’ at the site.
    “We had no idea that they even existed or were used onsite,” said executive director Linda Dibgy.
    Moffatt found the device at the mine and knew straight away what he had found.
    “When I was young, I worked on section gang, maintaining and repairing track,” he said. “All of a sudden, when I was checking out the new track, I saw this device and thought ‘My god, this looks like a torpedo’. I was wondering if it was even the right name for it as it is close to 60 years since I last saw one.”
    He explained to The Weekender that those devices were used to warn train engineers of possible danger ahead.
    Strapped on top of the rail track, the torpedo would explode with a loud bang and a flash when the wheel of the train would pass over it, giving a warning to train engineers to be cautious of workers or an accident on the track.
    “We used them when we were working on tracks so it would alert the train drivers we were there. There were flags too, but they weren’t always seen or they might have flown off,” explained Moffatt.
    He was puzzled to have found one on the site.
    “The question was ‘Why would they have that here?’. As I looked the tipple over more and more, I realized they were probably backing carts into that area and if the engineer was alone when it went off then he would know he went back far enough. This is the only reason I can think for them to be there.”
    The torpedoes provided lots of fun, and some trouble, for children in those days as they tried to make them explode, although they were considered highly dangerous.
    Last week, Moffatt found another item of interest at the mine, a metal sprag, used to brake coal carts.
    “It’s amazing what comes uncovered down there as time goes by,” he said. “As a matter of fact I made some wooden sprags for them which were used to brake the coal carts. I had said one of these days I would make them some metal sprags. And we only just found one of those right at the top of the gantry!”
    Again, Moffatt was puzzled to find one as he explained they didn’t take carts up there.  However, he recalls those devices were kept hidden so no-one would steal them, which could explain the unusual location in which it was found it was found.
  Used as braking devices, a driver at the front of pony-pulled carts would use them to help brake when going downhill by placing them in the spokes of the wheels to stop the wheels from turning.
  “Wooden ones occasionally would break so you had no brakes anymore. These metal ones would not break. However if you had a flat spot on a wheel, it started to bounce back and forth and would fall out.”
  Moffatt estimates the sprag found to be about 50 years old.


St. Anthony’s largest grad class celebrates success

    St. Anthony’s Catholic School was ushered into grad season this past weekend, when 29 students reached the end of their 13 year journey on Saturday.
    With caps on their heads and gowns around their shoulders the Grade 12 students received their diplomas.
    Valedictorian Cameron Dube made his hilarious yet touching speech in front of the crowded gym, filled with parents and grandparents who had no doubt made graduation possible for the students.
    Prom was held at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Stampede Grounds where students showed off their lavish gowns and suits.
    This year’s theme was “Don’t Stop Believin’”, the song by rock band Journey.
    Principal Tim Gregorash told The Mail this was the largest graduating class yet.
    “What is special is we are now able to watch these classes go from Kindergarten to Grade 12, and be able to  see such a change. We see them  face challenges and  then overcome them,” he said.

24-Hour Jam hits mark

    Attendees of the Old Grouch’s 24-Hour Jam in support of STARS were given a powerful reason to continue to support the event and STARS.
    This was the fourth year the 24-Hour Jam has supported STARS Air Ambulance and on Saturday, June 5 afternoon Christine McDougald bravely stood up in front of those gathered to support the event to tell her story, a survivor’s story.
    In February 2004, McDougald attended the Drumheller Health Centre for a routine procedure following the birth of her daughter. Because of complications she was losing blood faster than doctors could replace it. She learned STARS were called because to travel to Calgary by ground ambulance, she would have never made it to get the help she needed in time to save her life. 
    “I made sure to tell my husband to make sure our children knew how much I loved them,” she told the crowd gathered who hung on every word she spoke. “My pain was gone and I was at peace, but I was aware that this was it.”
    She received emergency surgery, but even after that, she was still losing blood. She received numerous transfusions.
    “My family was told all they could do was pray, because there was nothing more that could be done,” she said. “But anyone who knows me, knows I am a fighter, and that’s exactly what I did. I fought my way back to my three children, including 18-day-old Delaney.”
    “STARS gave me that chance to fight, and without them I would have died here in Drumheller Hospital.”
    This was not the first time Christine has shared her intimate story. She lent her words to a STARS mail-out campaign and it raised in the area of $600,000 for the organization.
    This was one of the busiest 24-Hour Jam in recent memory according to organizer Fran Nargang. She said the donation of items to the silent auction were up from previous years, and bidding for the most part was fierce. Entertainer after entertainer made their way onto the stage to lend their talents to the cause and keep toes tapping throughout the night and into the morning.
    This was also the first year STARS Air Ambulance came to the event. On Saturday afternoon, they set up tables with merchandise and information on the organization.
    Fran said they are on track to at least matching last year’s total, but they might have a boost from the infamous “Skorting of the Garry.”
    Fran’s husband Garry agreed to wear a skort for the event to show of his gams and to raise pledges. Supporter anted up  $785 to have him wear the shorts/skirt combination. He jovially dawned the outfit as he cooked, plated and served attendees. After the event, he commented he found the outfit kept him cool as he worked, and he had no problems around the deep fryer with his legs bare.


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