When you're driving along a highway and you see an enormous truck photo op, you pull off and take it. It was this truck that led us to the Britannia Mine and on an unexpected adventure.
The Britannia Mine was located right in the middle of our drive from Vancouver to Whistler and has to be the number one field trip spot for Canadian children living in British Columbia This place has fourth grade written all over it. That being said, us thirty-somethings had a fun and educational time exploring the museum.
In its heyday, Britannia was the largest copper mine in the British Empire. It was operational from 1904 to 1974 and has been seen in over fifty movies and television shows, including MacGyver, The X-FIles and Lost Boys 2.
Admission was $21.50 and included a ride on the mine train. The trains tours run on a schedule and we got there just in time to be the last two passengers on a full 1pm tour. The train ride is about a five minute walk from the ticket center over uneven terrain and several sets of stairs. it's is not handicap or stroller accessible. Also, make sure to wear sturdy shoes and warm clothes, inside the mine is cold and mucky. We found our required hard hats in a bucket at the entrance to the train.
The possibility of sudden loud noises makes me paranoid. Luckily, none of the loud noises came without warning.
Getting ready to go on a train ride, is enough to turn any adult into a little kid. It was fun and brought the anticipation of an adventure. It also reminded me of the Calico Mine Ride at Knott's Berry Farm...but real.
The actual ride time on the train was about fifteen minutes. We disembarked from the train in the middle of the mine and had a walking tour with demonstrations of the machinery. This is where things got loud.
In addition to the demonstration of drills, we got to see what it would have been like to be in the mine with only candlelight, which is is how the miners worked. We learned about the dangers of mining, Britannia had about a 170 fatalities during it's seventy year operation. We also learned about the crappiest job in the mines, the guy who pushed the toilet wagon.
We also got to poke around in the core sheds to take a closer look (including picking up and touching) at stuff mined in Britannia.
We were very excited to discover that the last part of the tour involved going inside the big building. We had no idea what was inside, but we wanted to go in!
Let me begin by telling you that the single coolest thing on the mine tour is housed inside of the big building, aka the mill. I don't think that the picture quite does justice to it. It was a "WOW" moment when we first laid eyes on it. I am talking about the giant elevator.
The lift was strictly for transporting materials up into the mine. If an employee was caught riding it, it was cause for immediate termination. And yes, sometimes the lift would break and there would be a run-away cart!
it was a little hard to focus on anything else in this enormous room, when the giant lift was so impressive. However, the room had a more important purpose, this is where minerals were extracted from the raw rocks that had been mined. We had a demonstration of the extraction process, which was very much akin to how the miners during the Gold Rush shifted through silt to piece out gold and silver, except here. they used bubbles.
We enjoyed the tour, but needed to be on our way to Whistler, so we skipped the museum. The museum looked like it would have taken about half an hour, depending on your speed. They had extensive grounds with an outdoor children's area, a section to pan for gold and a cafe. This was a wonderful unscheduled stop on our way to the mountains.
i will end with my favorite picture and sign from the Britannia Mine.
Check out the web site for the mine.