This concrete skeleton nestled in a provincial park is the only remaining coal tipple on Vancouver Island.
The discovery of the Douglas coal seam in 1849 resulted in an explosion of mining activity in the Nanaimo area. For many years, coal was king, providing more jobs than any other industry in the region. Nanaimo and most of its neighboring towns began as coal communities, and mining would continue at some sites until as late as 1968. However, even though the area is rich in coal mining history, many of its relics have been lost.
A tipple is a structure used for loading coal into rail cars, much in the way a grain elevator unloads grain. This particular 74-foot example was built in the early 1900s for the Morden mine site. It was the first (and now last) of its kind in the region, and one of the earliest built in North America.
The Morden mine, however, was not as successful as investors had hoped. The coal deposits were patchy, and by the time enough tunneling had been completed to reach the first truly promising seam, the miners union went on strike. Production halted in 1921 and – except for a brief false start a few years later – never recovered. The mine officially shut down in 1930, leaving large deposits behind.
The tipple, also left behind, has been visibly neglected. Since concrete degrades when water seeps in and freezes over winter, it has been crumbling quickly. Each spring, chunks of concrete litter the ground below the the structure, exposing the rusting, reinforcing steel below. A group calling itself Friends of the Morden Mine is actively seeking funding for repairs, so that this piece of mining heritage has a chance to stand tall for another hundred years.
Know Before You Go
The site is accessible just off of Highway 1 on Morden Rd