A CPR train leaves the tracks between Lake Cowichan and Duncan: not a sight you’d ever see now.

A CPR train leaves the tracks between Lake Cowichan and Duncan: not a sight you’d ever see now.

Lake Flashback: J.H. Boyd, Youbou mill, and train derailment: all aspects of Lake life that are no more

We were still fighting over old school, sawmill, and watching for trains in past years

Welcome to Lake Flashback. Reporter Lexi Bainas has been combing through oldnewspaperswiththeassistance of the Kaatza Station Museum and Archives so we can jog your memory, give you that nostalgic feeling, or just a chuckle, as we take a look at what was making headlines this weekaround Cowichan Lake in years gone by.

This week around the Cowichan Lake area…

10 years ago:

“J.H. Boyd buyer grilled on his housing plans” says the headline from the Nov. 14 edition of the Lake Cowichan Gazette.

Newer residents of the Lake area may not even recognize the name J. H. Boyd, but the site of a former elementary school and board office was a battle cry 10 years ago.

“The man planning to develop the 11.8 acre J.H. Boyd property, which he has a contract to purchase from School District 79, says there’s not much he can do about public sentiment that the land should remain in public hands.

“John Kelly’s plan…called Chinook River Estates, [is] to build 56 single family homes on 9.8 acres and another 15 duplexes on two acres.”

The huge sticking point with the public was that the land had been given to School District 66 by BC Forest Products in the early 1960s “for public education needs.”

Leading the charge were such town stalwarts as Hazel Beech, who told Kelly, “With the volume of opposition, you’re going to have a hell of a time getting this through.”

25 years ago:

“Won’t sell Youbou mill” says a front page headline from The Lake News of Nov. 11, 1992.

“The Youbou mill will not be sold, despite an article in the Globe and Mail, which reported Ian Donald, chief financial officer of Fletcher Challenge Canada Ltd. as saying that sawmills would be sold.

The executive officers of the company spoke had spoken at a meeting held in Toronto. Hugh Fletcher, chief executive officer of Fletcher Challenge Ltd. of New Zealand said the company should be profitable in the fiscal year ending June 1993.

“Donald said the company plans to reduce its cashflow to debt ratio to 50 per cent by December 1993, by a program of new acquisition, divestment of assets and reduction of capital spending.”

It took almost 10 years and ownership changes before the sawmill at Youbou finally closed in 2001, the last of the Cowichan Lake sawmills, and the end of an era at the Lake.

40 years ago:

Something you’d never see anywhere in the Cowichan Valley today, the headline of the Nov. 16, 1977 issue of The Lake News cries out, “CPR train derails”.

Back in 1977, trains were common on the two tracks serving the Cowichan Lake area.

“A Canadian Pacific Railways freight train was derailed about 14 kilometres east of Lake Cowichan last Monday morning (Nov. 7). The westbound train, consisting of two locomotives and a number of empty log cars, left the track shortly before 9 a.m., damaging about 800 feet of track,” says the story.

Log cars? Yes, indeed. A lot of logs were hauled by rail even in the 1970s, and two decades earlier, most of the logs transported around the Valley were sent by rail.

“One locomotive and 11 cars slid off the railway grade and into the ditch along the track, according to a spokesman. Information on estimated damage and the cause of the mishap was not available at press time. The train is used to haul logs from Crown Zellerbach’s log loadout at Lake Cowichan to the firm’s Ladysmith mill. The track was back in operation by Friday,” the story concluded.


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