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The Crowsnest Pass is the lowest trans-Rocky Mountain pass
between New Mexico and Jasper National Park. The Pass is almost
100 kilometres long, stretching from Lundbreck, Alberta to Elko,
British Columbia. Coal put this picturesque mountain region on
Canada's economic map.
The early peoples who mined chert high on the Livingstone
Range had little use for coal, and neither did their
descendants. Europeans, with an eye to the future, marked the
location of Crowsnest Pass seams, and when the
Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) provided a means to transport coal, the region
boomed. At one time, a dozen coal mines provided a heat source
for prairie homes, a means to generate electricity, the
necessary ingredient in making steel, and above all, fuel for
the steam locomotives.
The Crow's Nest Pass Coal Company was founded by William
Fernie and Colonel James Baker and began production in 1897. It
became the single largest coal and coke producer in the region.
The Canadian-American Coal and Coke Company was the first to
begin operations on the Alberta side of the Crowsnest Pass at
Frank in 1901.
Towns grew up beside the minesvibrant communities made up
of people from all over the world. Their rich cultures gave the
Crowsnest Pass an unusual ethnic mix, but not without tension
and prejudice. The main industry was coal mining, and most of
the work was underground. This method of mining was dangerous,
given the presence of methane gas and the highly explosive coal
dust found in Pass mines. It was also labour intensive, and
manpower costs accounted for two thirds of the market price of
Trails No. 333—Coal Mining (Part Two) Crowsnest Pass
The arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway led not only to increased settlement of the west, but helped to establish coal mining towns throughout the province. Listen as historian Pat Myers explains the impact the railroad had on the Crows Nest Pass region of the province.
Click here to listen!