Fernie & Elk Valley Culture Guide Issue 2 Fall 2016 - Page 5

Eric Viklund Photo Colonel James Baker, a Cranbrook landowner, and William Fernie, a former gold commissioner, formed the Crow’s Nest Coal Company to develop the coal fields of the Elk Valley.  William Van Horne, recognizing coal’s potential to drive industrial development and fuel a booming domestic market, lobbied the Canadian government for a subsidy. The Crowsnest line was built in 1898, bringing railroad service to Fernie and a way to bring coal to market for coal companies all along the line.   James J. Hill, the baron of the Great Northern Railway brought his railway from Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho, to the Kootenay region in 1901. By 1903 the line reached Fernie and service into Fernie commenced December 15, 1904. From 1905 to 1920, the majority of the Elk Valley’s coal was transported over the G.N.R. route. The Crow’s Nest Pass Coal Company’s leasing, expansion, and subsequent purchase of the Morrissey-Fernie-Michel line in 1907, allowed almost unfettered control of the region’s coal fields to the coal company and the G.N.R.  The G.N.R. line slowly became unprofitable. By 1936 the line was abandoned and the rails were lifted in 1938. The Great Northern station, built where the Park Place Lodge is located today, was abandoned. The Morrissey Tunnel is one of the last remaining reminders of the Great Northern’s foray into the region. Passenger service on the C.P.R route to Fernie stopped in 1964. The C.P.R. train station building in Fernie, one of the last surviving on the Crowsnest route, was repurposed in 1990 and now serves as the Fernie Arts Station. The Morrissey Tunnel, a landmark between Morrissey and Elko, was blasted through a band of tilted limestone around 1903 for the Great Northern Rail