Jun 212013
 
Corbin BC cabin

Located deep in a remote valley in southeastern British Columbia, Corbin is home to a few residents, some summer cabins and one giant coal mine – you can’t miss the latter. Very near the Alberta border, the town was once tied to that mine which has operated on and off for over a hundred years. Today, most if not all of its employees now travel in from other communities, but in the past this was a company town with its own railway, businesses, and a population of many hundreds.

This trip our goal was to uncover the location of the elusive Corbin cemetery. We took on a project for a client who has an ancestor believed buried there, which she wishes us to verify. Unfortunately, a sow and cub reported in the area plus a soon to arrive train cut our visit short (explained below).

While a few pictures of the cemetery can be found online, no where, at least based on my research, can the location be determined. We talked with people have reportedly visited the site, but none seemed to remember the details on how they got there. With that in mind, we had low expectations, hoping by luck we’d discover where it was at or that perhaps we’d bump into someone in town who knew. We walked up and down “Main Street”, actually the only street, to see who was at home who could help us, but had no luck. So we had some fun photographing the old cabins there (more on this later) and headed back to the main road.

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Its there that we bumped into a helpful mine employee, who came by to warn us of a few things – she asked us to avoid the mine area (no brainer there), that earlier in the day there was a bear and cub in the area and that soon a train would arrived for loading which could cut us off from our car. And as it turned out she had a rough hunch where the cemetery was.

It was, according to this person, on mine property, in the field close to the train loading area and inside the loading loop, but she knew little of its status or accessibility beyond that. It was not along any current road, that she assured us, which is sort of what we assumed anyway. Otherwise if it was that easy to get to there would be more pictures if it.

So intro the field we went, mindful of that soon to arrive train and the bears. Normally neither would concern us much, however if the bear happened in the same area as us and if it was cut off by the train too, that would make things dicey. The way the tracks loop here and nearby hills means this would force anyone (us) or any animals (the bears) into the small chuck of land of which there was no real means of escape. Not good.

The trains by the way move while being loaded, but at basically a walking pace. When you consider that a train may be well over a hundred cars long, it can take hours for them to pass.

So knowing that we had less than an hour before the train could arrive (the mine employee was very helpful) we quickly checked the edges of the field inside the loop and the areas around the tracks hoping we’d find what we were looking for. But we didn’t and with perhaps little time to spare before the train cut off our avenue of exit, we abandoned this part of our adventure. We’ll return and have since contacted others who may be able to help is find this elusive quarry. If any readers know, we welcome your input too.

There is not much left of Corbin BC today, just one street with a few houses, cabins and trailers, most of which look to be occupied seasonally. All seem in good shape, save for a couple, and as I understand it one was once a “company house”, built for mine workers and their family. Very interesting and we have fun photographing them and what ever else captures our attention – old trucks, tractors, ancient biffies, beaver dams, old log buildings and locked up sheds, the latter no doubt with treasures inside.

Looming over the “town” is the mine. They have dug coal here, on and off, for the last century and slowing but surely over time, the miners have systematically bulldozed the mountain into submission. Known, not surprisingly, as Coal Mountain, it’s been excavated to such a degree that soon they may have to change the name to Coal Hill. Maybe later, Coal Canyon. I understand that it may soon reach the end of it’s useful life, but they’ve said that before, so who knows. The scar left behind will be something, and it reminds us of the nearby abandoned Tent Mountain mine we visited in the past.

The mine, originally an underground operation, opened in the first decade of the twentieth century. It operated into the mid 1930s when challenging financial conditions and labour unrest conspired to shut it down. For the next few decades it was worked intermittently by a number of companies, mostly on a modest scale. Later in the 1970s, and with lucrative contracts in hand, a new large scale mine was built, much larger than any of the previous incarnations and this is the operation we see today. The coal was always there, they just needed to mine it on a scale to make it economical.

A CPR branch line comes in from the north to serve the mine, the only customer on this line. The track ends at the mine – it passes by the loading area, turns west and loops back on itself in a broad arc. Essentially it’s a giant train turning loop. something called a balloon track, The train moves under the loading tipple (the load out) moving slowly as each car is filled and when done it’s turned around and near where it started, and pointed in the right direction to head out. This is a process that deepening on how many cars are to be filled, can take an hour or hours to complete. There is a small spur right next to the load out, where defective cars can be dropped.

We check out the load out from a public road and studying it one can get a good idea how it works. Coal comes in by long distance conveyor, gets heaped into temporary storage piles, which is then pushed into the load out machinery using larger caterpillar tractors. This way the train is filled without every stopping. The mine employee nicely asked us not shoot the load out when we are on mine property – recall the field and the likely cemetery location are on their land and they graciously allowed us access here. I did however shoot some coal dust whipped up from the mine near the load out, but you can’t see the any of the machinery.

The rail line we see today dates from the 1970s when the mine was reopened and was for the most part was built on the grade of the old railway which operated here until the 1930s. For a time the rail bed was also used as a road.

We vacated the area before the train arrived, but did see a high rail truck travelling the line, which I presume checks out the track ahead of the train, looking for possible problems. It’s not clear how many trains use the line, but in researching it, service seems spotty at times, dependant I guess on markets and such.

Near the road leading into the mine we see a phone both…a very lonely phone booth. Interesting since you don’t see these very often any more, and so catching this one in the remote wilds, comes as a bit of a surprise to us.

We’ll of course return to Corbin – it’s not terribly far from our Crowsnest Pass stomping grounds anyway – no doubt armed with information needed to find that mysterious cemetery.

It’s sometimes a challenge to define exactly what is a ghost town. For us, it’s a place that is a shadow of it’s former self – not necessarily abandoned, but with few residents. With that in mind, this makes Corbin the most easterly ghost town in all of BC.

Update: June 2013. We knew this wouldn’t take long and someone has come forward with the location of the cemetery (thank you John Kennear). As it turns out, the mine employee was pretty close in her guess and although at the time we didn’t know it, we were within sight of the location when we turned back.

Tent Mountain can been seen northwest of town and it’s home to an abandoned open pit coal mine, which we’ve been up (twice). To see one of those reports, click the link below…
Tent Mountain was torn a new one.

If you like coal mines, check out these reports…
Abandoned coal mine cars.
Hosmer Mine Ltd., Hosmer BC.
Greenhill Mine, an incomplete tour.

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

Date: June, 2013.
Location: Corbin, BC.

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Corbin BC train tracks

A CPR branch comes in to serve the mine. There is a big loop here for loading the trains.

Corbin BC cemetery

Looking for Corbin’s cemetery.

Corbin BC coal dust

The wind churns up coal dust from the mine.

Corbin BC deer

Some of the local wildlife.

Corbin BC log cabin

This was one of the more primitive cabins seen.

Corbin BC phone booth

A lonely phone booth near the mine site and yes there was a dial tone.

Corbin BC Main St.

Main street – actually the only street.

Corbin BC old cabin

Most cabins appear quite old yet well maintained.

Corbin BC tractor

We spot another even more ancient tractor.

Corbin BC outhouse

Old tractor and old biffy.

Corbin British Columbia cabin

The mountain being mined can be seen in the back.

Mid 1960s Chevrolet pickup

A mid 1960s Chevrolet pickup in the bush.

Cabin Corbin BC

Most cabins appear to be used seasonally. Tent Mountain in back. There is an abandoned coal mine up there, which we’ve been to.

Corbin BC mine

The mine load out.

Old shed Corbin BC

An old equipment shed. I wonder what treasures sit inside.

Corbin BC cabin

A well kept cabin – a former company house.

Old trailer Corbin BC

I’ve lived in worse.

Willy's Jeep Corbin BC

An old Willy’s Jeep.

Corbin BC beaver dam

The old road south of town can be seen on the other side of this beaver pond.

Coal Mountain Corbin BC

Coal Mountain from the old town site.

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34 Comments on "Corbin BC"

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Coal Man
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Coal Man

I have a friend who works at the mine and the scuttlebutt there is it has perhaps a year or two left before things wind down. These is more coal in the area though and I believe mining the ridge directly west is one possibility they have explored.

John
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John

I worked there from 1982 to 1986. There was no one living there at that time. Esso bought the mine but really bought it to get the contract to supply Ontario Hydro and then switched it to a mine in the USA to supply and 2/3’s of the people there were laid off. Workers were bussed in from Fernie and the Crows Nest Pass at that time.

Natalie Online
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Natalie Online

I can direct you to the cemetery and will email you directions. I understand the mine isn’t crazy about having people on its property though.

JurekB
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JurekB

My great-grandparents worked in Coleman and Corbin.
In Corbin, in 1913, my grandfather was born. Then he returned to Poland.
Your blog is very interesting. I like to read.
I want to wish you a Happy New Year 🙂

Smitty
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Smitty
Hi there, nice to see the interest. I am the only full time resident of Corbin B.C. This is not exactly the town site, this is the remnants of the old rail yard. It was called “The Tail Of The Y”. The town site was farther up the Corbin Valley and is now buried under tons of overburden. The “Main Road” as you call it, is actually the former train tracks. You can still see some of the old rail ties farther down near the washout. The tracks used to go much further up the Michel creek valley. The “company house” was home to Paris and Venuta Baretelli and she lived there long after the mine went under. There used to be three of of those houses next to that one and they were for the rail yard personnel. A note, my cabin is on the foundations of one of… Read more »
R Venzi
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R Venzi

I remember Paris Baratelli sitting on the bridge past the Y going to the Flathead when I was just a kid. I also knew Venuta as she lived much longer and was a family friend. She lived in the house with the rusted sheets of tin on the roof for many, many years. My grandfather was their best man at their wedding. The white colored house was owned by the Barnes family who were a prominent family in Corbin.

Smitty
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Smitty
Well, the foundation was a long concrete rectangle with a grease pit, I am not sure if there was a building set on the foundation. When Venuta’s son put the cabin on the foundation, he only used half of it and knocked the rest down. I do have the pivot point for one of the other turntables on my property. Venuta Baretelli told me a lot about what used to be there, like the dairy, grave yard, tennis courts and the soccer pitch. I also learned a lot from the Barnes family, the other old house is theirs. The actual turn tables were used for bridges before the road was upgraded. I remember when my family first moved to Corbin they had just installed new steel bridges, and my father told me that the large long frames next to them were the old turn tables from the mine. I do… Read more »
James Sheptycki
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James Sheptycki

I’ve been snowmobiling from Corbin for years and had no idea about it’s full history until I read this, definately interesting! Can any of the grave sites be seen from the trails? I could swear I’ve seen one or two of them.

Also question for Smitty, do you have any idea who owns the green 1966 Chev truck? I have left notes on the front door of the white cabin a few times, the owner (James Barnes’ son?) phoned me once a few years back, I have since lost his number however. Thanks in advance.

James

Connor Maclean
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Connor Maclean

I do know who owns the green truck and can give them your number

Connor Maclean
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Connor Maclean

Didn’t see that you found the cemetery, sorry, but if you ever want to see inside the cabin let me know.

Connor Maclean
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Connor Maclean

My name is Connor MacLean I am the grandson of Josphine Zur whose cabin you photographed. I do know about an old cemetery on the mine land that is fairly easy to get to. I have seen it a few times. You were heading in the right direction just past the train tracks and up the hill is the cemetery. If you are interested email me.

Glen Miller
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Glen Miller

Hi I am looking for the owner of a white VW Golf that is on a property in Corbin B.C. I have the licence plate number but rcmp are unable to give me info as to whom the owner is. Could someone send me some info on the property owners of this town.Thanks for your time

jeff
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jeff

The phone booth you seemed a bit surprised by ?? Is for a lack of definition (a God send ! ) and glad to see it still there.South of Corbin is big wide open country way down into the Flathead.I have heard many stories of people in dire need having to use that phone ,and yes I have been one of them when we rolled a truck and had to walk out.You name it,winter,summer ect .people have needed that phone at that location,hope it stays there to help people when they are in a bind.There is no cell service in Corbin

Maureen Woods
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Maureen Woods

Interesting information regarding Corbin and the cemetery. I have an aunt buried there; she was 8 years old when she died and was buried there. If you go to findagrave.com and search Canada and Corbin cemetery you will see a list of who is interred there. Not sure the source of this information but I have confirmed my aunt with a copy of her BC death certificate.

Barry penny
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Barry penny

Very interesting writings. Thanx for the posts. I got onto Corbin as I was looking for an adventure around Fernie. I live in Williams Lake. Happy trails all.

Bruce Garside
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Bruce Garside

My grandmother was a school teacher in Corbin ( Margret Sykes). My mother was born in Corbin and is still alive today @ 90. I was there in the summer of 1983 and met Mrs Baretteli,we had tea in her kitchen She used to come there in the summer from Calgary.

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