Ingenuity of Flin Flonners

Building a town on sewer boxes

Flin Flon is the only city in the world to locate its water and sewage lines above ground as a result of the problem of having to tunnel through near-impenetrable bedrock in some parts of town to bury the pipes.

  • Dirt road
    A dirt road crossing over sewerboxes in winter. 1932. (Photo courtesy of Frank Fieber)
  • Hundred stairs
    Flin Flon’s The Hundred Stairs

Instead, early town inhabitants built above-ground sewer and water lines encased in wood. These snaked throughout the town and, in fact, became the settlement's first "sidewalks." Some are still used regularly today as fully operational sidewalks.

For children growing up in Flon Flon, the sewer boxes acted as their highways, town boundaries, and protective walls. They also give the cityscape a character that is uniquely Flin Flon.

Source: Flin Flon City Website

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The Hundred Stairs

In 1935, a large flight of stairs was built for pedestrians as a short cut to get to Main Street from Third Avenue.

In 1947, local politicians conceived of 140-metre tunnel to get pedestrians between the two locations instead of having to walk up the hundred stairs. The tunnel construction was priced at $32,000.

The builders got within four metres of completing the tunnel when enthusiasm waned and the dimensions of the tunnel shrank to a point where it became a storm sewer outlet.

During the Cold War, when nervous neighbours further south were building bomb shelters in their basements, Flin Flonners figured that if worse came to worst, they could hide in the tunnel.

Source: Flin Flon City Website

Phantom Lake

As the population of Flin Flon grew, the town needed an outdoor space for young families to congregate and socialize. To meet this need, HBM&S built a worker’s ‘resort’ at nearby Phantom Lake that featured a constructed beach with swimming piers and diving boards, along with a restaurant, tennis courts, picnic areas, and a model train. Phantom Lake is where early Flin Flonners spent the bulk of their summer, and is still remembered fondly by those who spent time there.

  • Families enjoying the day along Phantom Beach
    Families enjoying the day along Phantom Beach during its heyday. July 1936. (Photo courtesy of Frank Fieber)
  • Phantom Lake and the Flin Flon dance hall
    The Phantom Lake Dance Pavillion opened in 1932. Summer activities included swimming, dancing, camping, and playing bingo games. (Flin Flon Community Archives)


Prior to 1928, the railway did not reach Flin Flon. Locals had to come up with a variety of creative ways to get materials, people, and sometimes libations to town. For example, everything needed to build the giant HBM&S project was hauled to Flin Flon in winter by teams of horses and sleighs from The Pas and in summer by barge from a temporary railhead at Cranberry Portage.

  • sled dogs
    Sled dogs were a popular mode of travel during Manitoba’s lengthy winters. (Photo courtesy of Frank Fieber)
  • first truck
    Flin Flon’s first fire truck. 1936.

Sled dogs were also a popular way of travelling during Manitoba’s lengthy winters. This is why you’ll notice an abundance of dogs roaming the streets in many photographs taken in Flin Flon’s early days.

Source: – Northroots February/March 2014

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