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Victoria Video Club

Video documents our history of rail

Saanich News article: Wednesday September 14, 2005

Discussing club member Hugh Fraser's documentary video Last Runs on Vancouver Island (1988-1992) produced for the British Columbia Railway Historical Association, of which Hugh is also a member.

   The British Columbia Railway Historical Association was incorporated in 1961 when a small group of railway enthusiasts tried to persuade the City of Victoria to accept one of the Canadian National Railway's last steam locomotives.
   The intention was to have it operate on Vancouver Island and then place it on display. The locomotive had been bult in 1912 and was a rare treasure. When the offer was turned down by the city, the train was offered to the City of Kamloops, which displayed it at their Riverside Park for some 30 years. It has now been restored into operation and powers a tourist train during the summer months. Victoria's loss was Kamloops' gain.
   There are many such stories told in a documentary entitled Last Runs on Vancouver Island (1988-1992). It can be purchased through association member Hugh Fraser, who helped produce and edit the video. He can be contacted at 385-2760 or by e-mail at
   The video is also available at the Victoria Scale Rail hobby show in Saanich Plaza, and will be for sale at the railway association's table at the upcoming Model Train Show at the Cedar Hill Recreation Centre on Sunday, Sept. 25.


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   The 80-minute video is well worth a look, as it documents many historic railway events and provides an introductory history of our fascinating railway and steamship heritage. It tells how, in just under five years, four long-established transportation links on the Island came to an end.
   The first episode concerns the much loved Princess Marguerite, a former CPR passenger steamship that ran between Victoria and Seattle for 40 years. Fondly known as the Maggie, she had her last passenger run on Sept. 17, 1989.
   The second and third episodes of the video document CNR's 75-year history and show the last run in the Cowichan Valley in March 1988, and "The Last Train to Saanich" when the CNR terminated freight service in 1989. Taking a ride on this
Saanich train on its last run terminating at Borden Mercantile on Quadra Street is a nostalgic experience. There is also some exceptional footage of steam operations during the 1950s by well-known photographer Dave Wilkie.
   The fourth episode "Switching on Store Street" takes a look at the CPR freight service within the city, which ended in 1992. The video closes with a look at the many changes that have occured since those last runs. Old tracks now used for recreational or commuter purposes as trails for bikers and hikers.
   Fraser devoted many volunteer hours to complete the video this past June. He has been an active member of the BC Railway Historical Association since 1962, and was the one who initiated the making of this video as an association project. Many other members assisted, particularly Tom Barnes, who helped with the commentary.
   In the past, the association has published several books on the railway's history, including Timber down the Capilano, V&S the Victoria and Sidney Railway (1892-1919), and Powell River's Railway Era.
   In 1986, an earlier history of the railway was published entitled The Dunsmuri Years: 1884-1905, but this book is now out of print.
   Currently being worked on is a history of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway from the time the CPR took over in 1905 until the present day.
   This, however, is the first time the association has produced a documentary video and the members are very excited about the project. Although the railway played such a large part in the history of Vancouver Island and Saanich, it is a subject that few people know very much about.
   With so many people now using the Galloping Goose and Lochside trails as commuter links throughout the area, it is fitting this excellent video has been produced, enabling us to appreciate the heritage of the railways that once traversed those trails.
   The British Columbia Railway Historical Association currently has about 35 members, and holds monthly meetings in a lower hall room at St. Patrick's Church, 2060 Haultain Street, on the forth Wednesday of each month, except for July, August, and December.
   It will be well worth a visit to the Model Train Show at Cedar Hill Recreation Centre on Sunday, Sept 25, to learn more about the heritage of our railways through this well-produced and well documented video now on sale.