Tunnels of Moose Jaw
In the early 20th century, many of the large buildings were heated by using steam, which was delivered by coal powered furnaces in the basements of the establishments. The workmen who kept the machines going in the winter months were not fond of traveling in the frigid outdoor temperatures to venture from one building to the next. Rumour has it this is the reason that prompted the construction of the tunnels that joined one building to another. But the underground passages soon became a dark, sinister world of their own.
The underground tunnels evolved into a complex and expansive network as they linked establishments together. Chinese immigrants to the area were used as cheap slave labour, but were kept from view as they lived, worked and slept in the tunnels. Times were difficult for these people who thought by traveling to this part of the world, they would find a better way of life.
This era also contained the Prohibition years and the tunnels provided the perfect unseen environment to house forbidden spirits, gambling and prostitution. Mobsters of the day, made millions of dollars peddling the stash to bootleggers and the liquor was often shipped by rail into the US, particularly Chicago. The big city connections saddled Moose Jaw with the nickname “Little Chicago.”
Though many of the tunnels have been abandoned, fallen into disrepair or were previously blocked, some remain open. These sites have been renovated into an historic tourist attraction. Visitors are entertained by the atmosphere of the early 19th century, brought to life by period décor, animatronics and actors who double as guides. Guests venture into the dark underground world and experience what daily life was like in the tunnels as an immigrant or a bootlegger.
The tours, aptly named “The Chicago Connection” and “Chinese Immigrants”, attracts tens of thousands of visitors annually.