Aug 212012
 
Hanger Vulcan air base

During World War Two the Royal Canadian Air Force constructed a number of air bases in Southern Alberta to be used by the Commonwealth Air Training Program. It’s here where pilots from all over the British Empire were instructed in flying fighters, bombers and reconnaissance aircraft. The airport seen here near the town of Vulcan and is an example of one of those bases.

Actually it’s not really in Vulcan and instead is some 16km away nearer a town called Kirkcaldy (Vulcan, KIRKcaldy there is a pattern here – there is also a Kirk’s Tire in Vulcan – funny stuff).

Opps, I’m off topic…

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This particular base opened in 1942 and closed by the spring of 1945. Afterwards it was used as a public airport and an industrial site, but over time fell into disrepair. Only recently has there been an effort to save or at least re-use this historical base.

Since my previous visit some fifteen years ago (no pictures) when the placed seem totally abandoned, now there is some activity. There is a sky diving operation and many of the hangers have been stabilized and seem to be used for storage and such. Plus the grounds have been cleaned up, for the most part anyway. The brush has been cut down and most old junk removed. There were lots of old tires around the site before.

This visit just one hanger seemed unused, but even it was not in terribly rough shape, save for many broken windows. Looking inside it appears as though some work was being done on it. We limited our exploration to this hanger and the immediate area.

At one corner of the base, an odd looking concrete structure is seen, looking much like a drive-in theatre screen. According to some limited information found it was used to line up sights on the aircraft (or maybe not – see comments), although how exactly that’s done was not made clear. I have seen these same exact looking structures at other Commonwealth Air Training Program bases elsewhere, so they were in some way an important feature.

In addition to this Aerodrome, there were other bases in this part of Alberta, including one in Calgary, DeWinton (or De Winton), High River, Claresholm, Fort MacLeod, Pearce and Ensign and maybe one or two others I have not yet heard of.

Of those mentioned the Calgary site has only a couple hangers left and the rest has been paved over and is an industrial park deep inside of town. High River’s is just a shadow in a field with one hanger left, used by an industry, and also for the most part obliterated, is the one at Ensign. The others however are still recognizable as air bases to one degree or another. The DeWinton one has a sign stating it’s the South Calgary Airport – we’ve visited it.

Nearly all these old airports have been used for other purposes after being decommissioned, the hangers that is, and they host or have hosted a number of business and industries over the years. These large hangers are well suited for this.

Those airports turned into industrial parks include Calgary, High River (only one building), and some of Claresholm’s and Fort MacLeod’s.

Those still functioning as a working airport to some degree include Vulcan, only recently reactivated and used today by a sky diving company for one. Fort MacLeod is also a working airport, albeit they had a new runway built over top of the old ones, and is also part industrial park. Claresholm is also half airport, half industrial park.

Those that appear totally abandoned or for the most part forgotten include DeWinton, Pearce and Ensign.

In additional to infrastructure to support the aircraft and their maintenance, for the people working here there were dormitories, commissaries, schools and sports fields. It was much like a small self contained town and they even had their own fire department. On my last visit in the 1990s many of these out buildings still stood, including one belonging to the motor pool, but these are now gone.

Notice the alignment of each airport and how all are similar in this respect. I am not sure the reason behind this, or if it was just the way it worked out. Perhaps someone can chime in?

Update November 2013: I have just learned of two more WW2 era RCAF airports, one of them in Pearce. For some reason I overlooked this one, perhaps because there is little information online or maybe that it was overshadowed by the nearby Fort MacLeod airport. These two things could have conspired to make it easy to miss – in any case, it’s on my to-do list to research.

The second new-to-me airport is in Ensign Alberta. This one is mostly gone and only some ghost outlines of the runways and some cement pads can be seen. The facilities at this airport seem smaller than the others and I have been told this was a “backup” airport, used for practice approaches and emergency landings only in support of the Vulcan (Kirkcaldy) facility. Only a hanger existed here from the looks of it, little else.

Satellite pictures courtesy of Google.

To see a World War Two era truck that may have worked at one of these airfields, refer to this report…
A treasure trove of old trucks.

If you wish more information on this place, by all means contact us!

Date of adventure: October 2011
Location: Near Vulcan AB.

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Hanger Vulcan base

One of the unused hangers.

Whatzit?

Not sure what it is but it’s interesting.

Hanger Vulcan Aerodromer

The pictures don’t do it justice – the hangers are huge!

Vulcan Aerodrome

There are other hangers in use, and only this one appeared empty.

Vulcan AB air base

There were lots of broken windows.

Hanger Vulcan air base

This building dates from World War 2.

Hydrant Vulcan air base

On old hydrant on the grounds.

Air base Vulcan AB

A drive in movie screen perhaps? See comments on what this is.

2001 Monolith

Cue the 2001 A Space Odyssey music…

Fire hydrant Vulcan Aerodrome

A number of out buildings once stood in this empty field.

Vulcan Aerodrome

Vulcan Aerodrome, the subject of this report.

Calgary Aerodrome

Calgary Aerdrome. Two hangers can be seen just above the brown roofed buildings.

DeWinton Aerodrome

DeWinton (De Winton) Aerodrome aka the unused South Calgary Airport.

High River Aerodrome

High River Aerodrome…or what little is left.

Claresholm Aerodrome

Claresholm Aerodrome, an industrial park and airport.

Fort MacLeod Aerodrome

Fort MacLeod Aerodrome, part airport, part industrial park.

Pearce Aerodrome

Pearce Aerodrome, forgotten and unused.

Ensign Aerodrome

The Ensign Aerodrome is almost obliterated.

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21 Comments on "Vulcan Aerodrome"

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Jilly H
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Jilly H

I’ve just learned a bit of Alberta history. Thank you.

jesse
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jesse

Hey do you guys know if the Vulcan hangers have any old tunnels.? thanks

jesse
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jesse

thanks I have also been researching these bases and other abandoned place. my youtube channel is called ” The Bearded Canucks” I have a couple rcaf vids up.

Chuck Rosd
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Chuck Rosd

I travel a lot on the prairies. Old, repurposed and abandoned commonwealth air training plan stations are a favourite.
To which end, the concrete structure you suggest was used to align aircraft sights is in fact a 25 yd rifle/ pistol range backstop.
Also, if you go a bit north, check out Penhold (Red Deer industrial airport)
It remained as a CF Base until the 80s, but started its life as a BCATP station. Sask and Manitoba are filled with similar sites. Brandon site is a museum. Many of the barracks and support buildings were actuslly dismantled and recycled after the war because of lumber shortages. Oddly, Hutterite colonies were often the beneficiaries because they had the human resources to tear it all down.

Stephen Wilson
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Stephen Wilson

Hi, Thanks for your interest in Canadian history.
I was in the military for 30 years. “The Wall” looks like a standard issue Canadian Armed Forces 25 yard small arms range wall to me. Keep up the good work. Thanks again.

Roger Delisle
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Roger Delisle

I have set up a web page locating most of BCATP fields in Canada.
Some are approximate location and I need more info about them.
This is the link.

http://bcatp20170202051342.azurewebsites.net/

Any info to update the locations would be appreciated.
Thanks,

Roger

Dallas Pagenkopf
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Dallas Pagenkopf

Great article. Forgot one neat aerodome, the Airdrie Aerodome became home to Atco structures after ww2 and then was bought by Alberta Pallet. Alberta Pallet still operates out of the building to this day.

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