Another image from our trip to the Badlands a few weeks ago…. The East Coulee bridge was an essential link required by the CNR and CPR railways to cross the Red Deer River and service both the Monarch and Atlas coal mines, as well as enable coal delivery by train throughout the region. The bridge was built in 1936 but was destroyed by flooding 12 years later and had to be reconstructed. It was in use until the 1970’s, when the Atlas Mine closed. The Howe Truss design is truly unique – this is the only wooden railway bridge still standing in Canada that has this boxy design. Well, barely standing, that is…the deck is completely rotting out and although there is a big push to save this amazing piece of architecture and history, it will be an expensive fix if it is undertaken. My family has a personal connection to East Coulee: my Dad spent part of his childhood there, as he and his family lived in the village while my Grandpa worked at the Atlas mine. In his memoir, my Grandpa wrote about East Coulee:
In November 1952, East Coulee had a population of about two thousand; there was a school for grade one to nine, two grocery stores, one hardware store, a lumber yard, a bakery, two vehicle repair shops, a hotel with beer parlor and also a small church. A wooden railroad bridge, which also served for vehicle traffic, connected East Coulee with the mines on the right side of the river and the Monarch camp, which was a separate little hamlet with its own school, store, and hotel with beer parlor.