Straddling the border between Alberta and British Columbia
(B.C.) rests the small mountain village of Crowsnest. As
Crowsnest has little history connecting the area with coal
mining, its development parallels the expansion of the railway
into the Pass.
Established in 1898, when the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR)
completed a route through the Alberta/B.C. border, the
settlement became a divisional point for the new line. For much
of its history, the Crowsnest Pass consisted of only six
housesthree on either side of the track. The main buildings
consisted of a CPR station, a boarding house, a hotel, and a
church that doubled as the local school on weekdays. It took
almost a quarter century before additional company houses
appeared in the area.
Unlike other settlements in the area, the coal industry did
not materialize until late in the towns history. In 1922, the
Alberta Coal and Coke Company began construction of a spur line
in the area, but with economic prices at a downturn, production
halted, and eventually the company abandoned their plans.
During the 1930s, transients migrated through the town,
causing undue problems at the provincial border. The coal mining
industry was not immune to the Depression, and many able-bodied
men rode the rails in search of work. Crowsnest became a
gathering place for unemployed miners who made stopovers before
catching the next train east.
The winter months were particularly troublesome for the town,
when cold forced many workers to huddle around the boiler rooms
of town shops. If a light of a nearby house shone, many saw an
opportunity to beg for a sandwich. To feed one hungry miner was
to invite others from the shops. The problem became so
intolerable that a relief camp, housing a few hundred men, was
finally constructed west of the town.
During 1936 and 1937, the British Columbia provincial police
intervened. In constructing a little shack west of town, the
police attempted to screen those moving west to settle. Unless
an individual had sufficient funds or a guaranteed job, the
officers turned people back.
Crowsnest is a community that many miss on travels through
the Alberta/British Columbia border. Today, the village is no
longer apparent, and only a few remnants have survived, a
testament to what once was.