On its way to Youbou

From rails to trails

Rolli Gunderson continues to discuss the history of the railways, detailing how they've been turned into hiking trails.

Continued from last week

After the demise of both the CPR and the CNR railways, the overpass spanning the community of Lake Cowichan and the railway tracks along both rail grades were eventually removed. The question then was “What will happen to the rail grades?” The answer was the eventual transformation of the rail beds to a world class hiking trail.  Known as the Cowichan Valley Trail (CVT), it is the western-most section of the famous Trans-Canada Trail (TCT).  Beginning at the CV Trail terminus in the centre of town, the trails follow the former CPR and CNR railway beds, one on either side of the river. The two trails form a loop that goes as far as Shawnigan Lake and back to Lake Cowichan. The CVT also joins the main TCT near Duncan. A hikers dream, the CVT passes through some of the most beautiful scenery anywhere, including scenic Marie Canyon.

Not all of the old rail line was turned into hiking trails.

A section near the entrance to Youbou, now known as Creekside, was purchased by a land developer and became the site of many lovely homes, some of which are waterfront. Another area of lakefront homes is located nearby on a former section of the CNR rail bed. Other smaller sections within the Town of Lake Cowichan were sold to adjoining property owners. A few homes built along the western section of Park Road are located on a section of the former railway bed between Lake Cowichan and Youbou.  Lake Cowichan’s first roundabout, located at the corner of King George Street, Cowichan and Sahtlam Avenues, is partially located on a section of the former CNR railway bed. The pedestrian footbridge over the Cowichan River near the Duck Pond and South Shore Road was one of the many railway trestles that spanned the river between here and Duncan.

Several other good things came about due to the end of the local railways. The acquisition of the red CNR caboose that forms part of the Kaatza Station Museum’s outdoor train display was greatly appreciated. The caboose was delivered March 27, 1988 by the CN Extra 1000 engine on its final run. Riding in the caboose during the final trip from Youbou to Lake Cowichan was the late Barry Volkers, a stalwart of the Kaatza Historical Society and one of the few residents to be named Freeman of the Town of Lake Cowichan.  Another very important acquisition for the community of Lake Cowichan was obtaining the old CPR train station that now houses the Kaatza Station Museum.