Turner Valley Gas Plant A Hidden Gem!

Richard White, July 27, 2014

While the others played follow-the-leader with David Finch, our tour guide, I was busy flaneuring the Turner Valley Gas Plant (TVGP) – southern Alberta’s secret national and provincial historical site.  While the history of the birthplace of Canada’s oil & gas industry is interesting what fascinated me immediately was the untouched industrial design of the buildings and the equipment. 

Careful not to wander out of earshot of Finch (yes, I did get some dirty looks – mostly from Brenda - for wandering off), a human equivalent of “Google” with his wealth of knowledge not only of the TVGP but of Alberta history.  Who knew the Turner Valley Field continues to produce oil and gas using enhanced recovery methods? 

I learned the town of Royalties (that should be Calgary’s nickname, or maybe Stock Option City), at its peak in the late 1940s, was home to nearly 1,700 people. Today the only indication the town even existed is a monument 5.6 km from Hartell (3.2 km south of Naphtha, which has only four home remaining).  Royalties’ nickname was “Little Chicago” as the wheeling and dealing paralleled that the Chicago mafia and Al Capone.  And in the mind of locals, if Royalties is “Little Chicago,” then Longview must be “Little New York” especially given the high prices charged by the stores.  Other nearby town names included Snob Hill, Dogtown and Mortgage Heights – we need more fun names.

Another interesting factoid was that the “liquid” that gushed out of the Dingman #1 well in 1914 was so pure you could (and they did) put it directly into your car - a good thing as Calgary had no refinery back then.  Listening to Finch is like listening to a gusher; the stories and information just flow out of him. 

I would recommend the TVGP weekend tours to everyone – locals and tourists.  I am thinking it should be a mandatory school trip for children across southern Alberta. Tours happen Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays until the end of September from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is by donation.

For more information on the history of TVGP, check out the 100th anniversary You Tube video hosted by David Finch. 

  David Finch reciting a poem

David Finch reciting a poem

Gas plant as art gallery...

I have chosen just a few of the many images that allude to different schools of modern painting, ceramics, photography and sculpture that I found at TVGP.  The visual stimulation was equal to anything I have experienced in major contemporary art galleries and museums around the world.  I have given each piece a title, just for fun! 

Industrial Patina 

Fire Blanket 


Eye Balls

  Yellow Red Orbs

Yellow Red Orbs


Architecture & Industrial Design 

I think these images speak for themselves. 


The Doors...

I was fascinated by the rusted, battered industrial doors.  I learned the red dot means their is a fire extinguisher nearby.  I did not learn what the green dot meant, perhaps I should have listened better. 

door red green
door half circle

Last Word

While David was a bit annoyed by my flaneuring at the beginning, I was able to partly redeem myself when I found some sulphur chunks on the ground. And just when he thought I wasn’t listening, (I was hidden from view taking pictures of some hidden gem I had found) I was able to repeat his Hitler story back to him.  By the end of the tour, he trusted me to lock the doors behind us.

Thanks David – you are the best tour guide ever.

If you like this blog you might like:

Meeting Creek: Ghost Town Meets Art Town

Travels in small towns in North America

The Ten Commandments of a Flaneur