Kinsol Trestle

Covering over 700 km of Vancouver Island, the VI Trail passes many beautiful places to stop and take a picture.  Some views provide amazing pictures and some are packed with history.  One place with a lot of history is the Kinsol Trestle just north of Shawnigan Lake.

It’s hard to tell looking at the Trestle today, what a storied history it has. But it’s been a rich one.  In 1911, the Canadian Northern Pacific Railway began a 250-mile line through Vancouver Island with the intention of linking Victoria with Port Alberni.  Freight and logs would be hauled along the line making it easier to transport goods around the Island.

A major link in the line, the Koksilah River Trestle, was completed in 1920 spanning 614 feet across and 145 feet above the Koksilah River. The Kinsol Trestle, the name of the enormous wood structure today, started out as just one popular name. It refers to the King Solomon copper mine that is nearby.

During the 1950’s, logging trucks were gaining traction as the transport of choice for logs instead of trains, and so the Kinsol Trestle was seeing less and less use. In 1958 major repairs were done by then owner Canadian National Railways and 1974 saw the last repairs ever completed.  May 30, 1979 was a sad day for the Trestle when the last train passed over it’s steel ties and wood beams. It was abandoned a year later.

In 1984, the Province acquired the trestle and began work to determine the future of the trestle.  From 1999 to 2008, studies were done to figure out what was to be done with the old structure.  The BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure deemed the structure unsafe in it’s current form.  It had to either be torn down or brought up to a sustainable state.  It had been closed to foot traffic for decades and would start to pose a risk to the public and to the delicate ecosystem of the river below as time and the elements took their toll.  Something had to be done.

June 2009 marked the beginning of a fundraising campaign for the trestle rehabilitation by the Cowichan Foundation.  Two years of hard work and fundraising later, 60% of the original wood and a beautiful rehabilitated trestle remains.  The Kinsol Trestle now stands as the tallest wood trestle in the Commonwealth and one of the highest railway trestles in the world.

July 28, 2011 marked not quite the end of the work but the opening of the trestle to the public.  A big celebration was had as former Duncan mayor Mike Coleman drove the “last spike” and the 614 foot long path 145 feet above the river was open for business.

Now that the bridge is finished, the Shawnigan and Cowichan Valley sections of the Great Trail, and the Vancouver Island Trail, are linked.  Hikers, bikers, runners and horseback riders can all enjoy the view from atop this amazing piece of history.

For more information about the Kinsol Trestle, its history and how to get there, see http://www.kinsol.ca.

 

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