Canadian Pacific 460 at Parksville Station - early 1940's
*** For Information and Photos regarding our undertaking of the Coombs Rail Siding Project please Click Here ***
The Esquimalt and Nanaimo Division of the Canadian Railroad Historical Association was registered as a society on September 18th, 1997.
The purpose of the society is to acquire and maintain a rail museum, to reflect all aspects of railway transportation on Vancouver Island of: E&N, CPR, CNR and industrial / logging railways; to acquire and maintain artifacts for the museum, to operate an excursion train, record the history of the railways on Vancouver Island, publish & disseminate information and collaborate with other groups of similar interest.
The Vancouver Island Railway, first known as the Esquimalt and Nanaimo (E&N) Railway, was incorporated on the 27th of September 1883 by Victoria coal baron Robert Dunsmuir, to support the coal and lumber industry and the Royal Navy Base at Esquimalt Harbour. Construction began on April 30th, 1884 and on the 13th of August 1886 Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald drove home the last railway spike at Cliffside near Shawnigan Lake. The initial rail bed extended for 115 kilometres from Esquimalt to Nanaimo; hence the original name of the company. In 1888 the line was extended to the City of Victoria.
Under CPR ownership, the Victoria Sub extension from Parksville to Courtenay was completed and opened in 1914. The total lengths of subdivisions on the E&N at its peak are as follows ~ Victoria Subdivision 139.7 Miles, Port Alberni Subdivision 37.9 Miles, Lake Cowichan Subdivision 18.6 Miles, Great Central Lake Subdivision 10.3 Miles, Osborne Bay Subdivision (later called the Crofton Spur) 2.6 Miles ~ Total Miles of all tracks ever identified as a Subdivision of the E&N Railway: 209.1 Miles. This would be the all time high and remained until circa 1952 when the Great Central Lake Subdivision was first removed from service and abandoned in 1953. The exact mileage the Great Central Lake Subdivision came off the Port Alberni Subdivision was at Mile Post 35.6 at a location called Solly Junction.
The E&N Railway was to have fulfilled the agreement which brought British Columbia into confederation, to become a Province of Canada. Although it was never completed, it was still considered a small piece of the Trans Continental Rail System.
In 1905, Robert Dunsmuir's son James sold the railway company to the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) who extended it to Lake Cowichan, Port Alberni, Parksville, Qualicum Beach and finally Courtenay. At its peak, the E&N Railway had 45 stations on the main line and 8 on the Port Alberni line. Today about 25 stations remain with the majority unused and in a state of disrepair.
In 1953, CPR discontinued passenger train operations into Port Alberni. In 1979, VIA Rail
(a Crown Corporation) assumed operational responsibility for the remaining passenger service between Victoria and Courtenay but CPR retained ownership. VIA provided the rolling stock, passenger subsidy and ticket sales. Advertising was minimal so the railway was operating in isolation to the rest of Canada and North America. In 1998, CPR sold the east-west corridor between Parksvillle and Port Alberni to Rail America, and entered into an agreement to carry freight, which was taken to the barge facility at Nanaimo. At that time approximately 8,500 carloads of forest and paper products, minerals and chemicals were transported by rail on the island each year.
More changes occurred when Norske company which owned mills in Port Alberni, discontinued the use of rail service, opting for truck freight instead. With the loss of this significant revenue stream Rail America announced its intention to cease operations and leave Vancouver Island.
The railway on Vancouver Island had been operating in uncertain conditions for a number of years. Only a few freight customers remained and the trend that saw a general downturn of railways in North America was reflected in this part of the Trans Canada Railway System.
Vancouver Island citizens and communities were strong proponents of keeping the railway running and improving maintenance. Many groups tried to influence those who were responsible, but the decline continued. Finally, when Rail America announced that they would no longer provide freight or passenger service, communities on the island rebelled. The people of Vancouver Island now own the E&N right-of-way, it is managed by non-profit Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) and operator Southern Rail is under contract for the Victoria to Courtenay (Victoria Sub) portion only. The Cowichan Sub no longer exists and a section of the Port Alberni Subdivision is used for a tourist operation; with the remaining portion out of service. However, the E&N Division CRHA currently maintains and preserves this unused portion of the line on a regular basis.
Presently, as of March 2011, passenger service has been discontinued on the island due to current track and bridge conditions, however limited freight operations continue.
The E&N Division has been instrumental in the organization of E&N Railway Days, held annually, in a township along the E&N Railway since 1997. The celebration is in recognition of where construction crews from Esquimalt and Nanaimo met, completing the railway. The train arrived from Esquimalt shortly after 9:00am on August 13, 1886 at Cliffside Station (Mile 25) on the E&N Railway near Shawnigan Lake, BC. Here the party disembarked and Sir John A. MacDonald, provided with a golden spike and silver hammer by Dunsmuir's Chief Engineer, Joseph Hunter, drove home the last spike. This was very significant for it demonstrated the completion of the government's promise to the province of British Columbia in joining confederation for a Trans Continental Railway System that included the Colony of Vancouver Island.
Our division is always seeking new members and volunteers; including hobbyists and those with railway backgrounds, mechanical, management, fabricators, carpentry, electrical, engineers, conductors, instructors, MOW, signals, etc. to help maintain and enhance our heritage railway equipment & operations.
E&N Division Volunteer Work on the
Port Alberni Subdivision
To the right is a video slideshow of the E&N Division's work on the Port Alberni Subdivision since 2009 when the restoration project began. This has been the division's main focus since 2009. Sit back and relax while you get a glimpse of our work!
For more information visit portsubinfo.com Thank You.
Please do 'Like' us on Facebook: Port Sub Info (EETG)
Read the latest News Release about us and our work -- to be published by local island media ------------------------->
View and download the web flyer of Robert D. Turner & Donald F. MacLachlan's new book The Canadian Pacific's Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway available for purchase now!