Canada Travel: Britannia Mine Museum a fine family spot in British Columbia – by Camille Bains (Canadian Press/Toronto Star – May 23, 2013)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

Kids can pan for gold and explore the history of gold mining at this museum on the Sea to Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler, B.C.

BRITANNIA BEACH, B.C.—A big yellow dump truck along the Sea to Sky highway is no match for the mountains-and-ocean view between Vancouver and Whistler, but curious travellers would be in for a treat if they stopped at an adjoining museum that holds the secrets of a bygone era.

The Britannia Mine Museum features the history of the copper mine that was once the largest in the British Empire and employed 60,000 workers between 1904 and 1974, when it was closed.

The museum that made its debut the following year and is a national historic site has been steadily expanding since then.
Besides a kids’ play area and a gold-panning station that’s a huge hit, the museum includes a guided train tour of a former service tunnel, similar to the 210-kilometre tunnels where workers toiled six days a week.

Guide Isabelle Akerhielm warns visitors in hard hats that the tunnel will go dark for a few seconds “and you won’t be able to see your hand in front of your face, guaranteed.”

She says miners spent much of their days working by candlelight before switching to carbide lamps and then later head lamps with battery packs on their backs.

“The thing to remember is that there are still people in third-world countries mining by candlelight,” she says, before telling visitors to cover their ears.

She unleashes a blast from a replica drill called the widow maker, so named because some miners developed the lung disease silicosis from inhaling the silica dust in the mine.

Akerhielm then displays the so-called honey wagon, which looks like an old ice-cream cart on wheels. It’s actually a travelling toilet that features a seat on either side when the rectangular lids are lifted.

A new worker’s first job inside the tunnel was to roll the wagon around the tunnel twice during his shift.

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