Digging Deep in Kimberley: A Look into Kimberley’s Underground Mining Railway Tour
Want to dig deep and uncover our town’s history? Each June, Kimberley’s Underground Mining Railway opens its doors for another season of interactive storytelling, scenic train travel, and underground adventuring. Hop aboard a 9-ton locomotive and journey through the picturesque Mark Creek Valley and into the Underground Interpretive Centre with us! All aboard!
Our town’s origin story began with Pat Sullivan’s discovery of lead and zinc in the surrounding hillsides in the late 1800s. This led to the formation of the Sullivan Mine, which operated in town for nearly 100 years before ceasing operations. Kimberley’s Sullivan Mine was owned by The Consolidated Mining and Smelting Co., or Cominco, and grew to be one of the world’s largest underground lead, zinc, and silver mines.
The mine was unique in its development of the differential floatation process that allowed for separate recovery of lead and zinc concentrates in the milling process, and ultimately contributed to the overall economic success of the mine. During operations, the Sullivan Mine produced over 160 million tons of ore, and yielded more than 20 billion dollars in metals. The mine operated for 92 years before it ultimately ceased production in 2001.
Fun fact: During its operations, the Sullivan Mine began producing its own brand of fertiliser from ore by-products. The Cominco Gardens were designed as a natural way to show off the effectiveness of that fertiliser while creating a space of beauty for residents and visitors to enjoy. In 1987, the gardens were offered as a gift to the community, and remain a visual legacy today.
The Kimberley Underground Mining Railway is owned and operated by the non-profit Sullivan Mine and Railway Historical Society, and has been developing in one iteration or another for nearly 40 years. The project originated with the desire to have a commuter train running between the Platzl and the Kimberley Alpine Resort, to help link the resort base with our downtown core. With this original goal in mind, the “Bavarian City Mining Railway” became operational in 1994. This preliminary tour consisted of a 2km track, which journeyed to the ski hill and circled the Happy Hans Campground - Kimberley’s local campground during that time.
Over the next decade, the tour evolved to include a primary focus on mining history and education, as well as the unique inclusion of underground facilities. The immense undertaking of drilling a 750-foot tunnel began in 2006, which developed to house the Sullivan Mine Interpretive Centre. During the fall of 2006, the final preparation of the railbed, laying of the rails, and construction of the underground facilities were completed. Today, the Kimberley Underground Mining Railway mixes fun sight-seeing with interactive learning, and provides a deep dive into the mining roots which developed Kimberley into the vibrant community that it is today.
While enjoying the tour, don’t forget to ask real-life local miner (turned tour guide), Bill Roberts, about popular mining terms like “bootleg” and “hot muck”, and then see if you can spot these terms around town. Furthermore, while you’re at Kimberley’s Underground Mining Railway, be sure to uncover the additional historic attractions on the Railway grounds like the Orpheum Theatre, the Miner’s Cabin, and the North Star Schoolhouse.
The Mine Tour runs 3 times daily from Thursday-Monday from June until September. Additional 10am Express Tours can be enjoyed Saturday, Sunday and holiday Mondays. Mine Tour admission fares help to support the Sullivan Mine and Railway Historical Society.