My wife and I moved to Union Bay in June of 2014 and in the back of the property were railway tracks. We asked, who owned the tracks and if trains were still being used. Did we ever get a variety of stories. I decided to get some answers?
The wharf at Union Bay was the primary shipment point for the coal coming out of the Wellington coal mines. The mines remained in operation till 1966
In 1905, Robert Dunsmuir’s son James sold the E&N Railway to the Canadian Pacific Railway. The CPR built the railroad to Lake Cowichan, Port Alberni, Parksville, Qualicum Beach, and Courtenay. At its peak, the railroad had 45 stations on the main line, 36 stations on the Cowichan line, and 8 stations on the Port Alberni line.
Between 1905 and 1999, the E&N Railway was owned and operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway. Via Rail took over operation of CPR’s passenger train service, called The Malahat, in 1978, while CPR demarketed its freight operation, claiming that freight traffic was declining. In 1996, CPR reorganized the E&N as an “internal short line” named E&N Railfreight while the railbarge operations were sold to Seaspan Intermodal. In early 1999, shortline operator RailAmerica purchased the route from Nanaimo to Port Alberni, and leased the balance of the line. At that time approximately 8,500 carloads of forest and paper products, minerals, and chemicals were transported by the Southern Vancouver Island Railway each year.
Names of island railroad
Until 1996, it was called the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway (which it is still called by people living on the Island). It then spent three years as E & N Railfreight, an internal short line within then owner Canadian Pacific Railway. Operations were then sold to RailAmerica. The RailAmerica subsidiary was named E&N Railway Co (1998) Ltd. (reporting mark ENR), thus maintaining the historic name associations for the Vancouver Island line.
Union Bay station
Island Corridor Foundation
A Via Rail RDC in Nanaimo
The not for profit Island Corridor Foundation is a partnership between the Cowichan Tribes and local governments along the SVI line. After years of work and negotiations, the ICF came to agreements with both the Canadian Pacific Railway and Rail Americia, to hand over its Island rail assets to the foundation for tax credits.
In February 2006, the Canadian Pacific Railway donated its 234 km (145 miles) portion of the SVI right-of-way, which averages 30.48 m (100 ft) in width between Victoria and Courtenay, to the Island Corridor Foundation. The donation tax credit exchange was estimated to be valued at $236(C) million and encompasses 6.51 km2 (2.51 sq mi) of land, six historic railway stations and a number of trestles. In addition, CPR also supplied $2.3-million in “seed money” to the Foundation. Lands were also given that produce non-rail revenue generated by property leases and encroachments on the line
On 22 March 2006, RailAmerica donated ownership of the Port Alberni to Nanaimo portion of the SVI to the Island Corridor Foundation.
No trespassing policy
More people are starting to walk, hike and use off-road vehicles on the right of way Railway and ICF officials are asking people to stay off the tracks for their own safety.
Rail line closure and delayed re-openings
Alberni Pacific excursion train, June 2013
Beginning March 18, 2011 passenger service between Victoria and Courtenay was suspended indefinitely, due to safety concerns about the poor condition of the tracks. In April 2012 the Federal Government announced that it would match a $7.5 million grant offered by the BC Provincial Government, providing the required $15 million for basic repairs and upgrades to reopen the rail line. The line was expected to reopen, and rail services re-commence in 2013, as early the spring, but was delayed due to failed negotiations between the Island Corridor Foundation and Via Rail. In July 2014, an agreement was signed by Via Rail to resume operations with plans to have services resume in the summer of 2015, but in April 2015, the ICF stated that the resumption of service has been put on hold while the BC Ministry of Transportation and provincial government review the funds for covering repair costs. As of November 2018, passenger rail still has yet to reopen.
Daniel Arbour is the director for Area A of the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) One of Arbour’s proposals is a cycling/pedestrian trail along the rail line that would connect Union Bay with the community in Royston.
“I got appointed to the Island Corridor Foundation, and it’s been a while that we’ve been trying to get (rail service) back in (on the Island) but a lot of people, if we can’t put the rail back in, especially in our area (Area A), a lot of people would love to see some other use for the (rail) corridor,” he explained.
Island Corridor Foundation web site https://www.islandrail.ca/
While that certainly help to clear some things up, hope you enjoyed the information.