If you have an interest in the coal mining history, you should go to Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park. It has the only remaining coal tipple on Vancouver Island, dating from 1912-1913. There are some other foundations and a concrete archway which once supported a big smokestack (this structure says "PCCM" for the Pacific Coast Coal Company who built it). Interpretive signs on the site are very useful for seeing what used to be here - before it was just a sinister concrete framework surrounded by forest!
There are a couple 600-foot deep shafts here, but they are both capped off with concrete.
This became a provincial park in the 1970's - it's about four hectares. The old rail grade is now a trail that runs out to Nanaimo River; it ends there, because the old bridge is long gone; but there are plans to build a new one and make this part of the Trans Canada trail. It is not a swimmable part of the river - too shallow and not a very accessible bank, either.
One reason this is the only remaining tipple, is because it was made of concrete, whereas most tipples were wooden. There have been local efforts and funding to reinforce the structure so that it doesn't collapse. You can see the reinforced sections as "clean" concrete patches on the structure if you look closely.
(Did you know that when WWII ended, the tipple on Protection Island was set on fire as a sort of "fireworks" to be seen from downtown Nanaimo? But this set fire to a pile of coal waste, which burned uncontrollably for several weeks or perhaps much longer.)
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