Coal's Revival and Unit Coal Trains
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A growing demand in Japan in the 1960s for coal with a low sulfur content for metalurgical uses and electricity generation led to a revival of the coal industry in the Crowsnest Pass. The new large coal developments were undertaken by Kaiser Resources Limited which later became B.C. Coal, which in turn became part of Westar Resources. Canadian Pacific's Fording Coal and Crowsnest Resources also became major shippers. A new community named Sparwood was established in the Crowsnest Pass and the old mining towns of Natal and Michel were closed and virtually eliminated. However, for the coal to be exported competitively with coal produced in other parts of the world a highly efficient mining and transportation system had to be developed.

The system that evolved was radically different from the aging and inefficient mining and handling of coal that reflected the rundown state of the coal industry in the early 1960s. The new system called for the coal to be mined largely in massive open pit mines using huge trucks to haul the coal to terminals where it was transferred to mile-long trains of high capacity gondola cars of a new design. These trains were to run in an endless cycle between the mines and a new coal terminal near Vancouver. From there huge ships called bulk carriers would carry the coal to Japan.

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