More local railway memories

Another of the many former Lake Cowichan railway employees was Spike Rush. Straight from the prairies, on arrival at Cowichan Lake in 1938, he immediately began working for the E&N Railway as a log scaler.

The railway station

(A continuation of last week’s column profiling the lives of local railway employees)

Another of the many former Lake Cowichan railway employees was Spike Rush. Straight from the prairies, on arrival at Cowichan Lake in 1938, he immediately began working for the E&N Railway as a log scaler.

He later recalled that although he wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do (what the job entailed), he dug right in and as time went buy, he got “pretty good at it.”

At that time three companies used the railway to ship logs out, including Lake Logging and Ocean Timber.

Being the era of the railway, trains were used to haul away logs, unlike today’s method of using logging (log hauling) trucks. As such, Spike Rush, as the log scaler, would have worked at the rail yard scaling and bucking logs that required adjustment so they could easily be loaded onto the train cars.

Seven train trips a day with each train pulling twenty-two carloads of logs per trip were the norm.

During Rush’s time at Cowichan Lake, the station agent was Gordon Clark, who oversaw a crew of about ten men working three shifts.

In 1939, Rush left Cowichan Lake to join the Royal Canadian Air Force.

“We were at war!” he later recalled.

He returned to Lake Cowichan in the early 1950s, bringing with him his wife and young daughter. Having attained the position of station agent by then, his family and himself moved into the family quarters at the railway station. During that time, some of the railway employees working under Rush were Ken Higham, Bob Russell, Shorty Leask and Fred Reid.

The family became very involved in the community, with Rush helping out with Lake Days events and raising money for the ‘new’ ballpark (Centennial field), as well as coaching ball.

He also volunteered for Remembrance Day events and served as president of the local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion (Branch 210) in 1955-56.

The family moved away in 1962, about the year their oldest child graduated from Lake Cowichan High School.

The last railway station agent was Percy Cooper who, with his wife and two children, arrived here in 1963.

The family lived in the station’s living quarters. Percy attended to the business of the local railway, which by then was owned by Canadian Pacific Railway. Although the duties were similar to those of past agents, they had been modernized somewhat over the decades.

The Coopers, like those who arrived before them, were soon involved in the community. Both were charter members of the Lake Cowichan Curling Club; Betty president of the club in 1985.

Percy was a member of the local Kiwanis Club, and of the local Royal Canadian Legion branch. They were also active members of the Chamber of Commerce.

Betty owned and operated her own beauty salon here in town, as did her daughter Kathy some years later.

Both Coopers lived the remainder of their lives at the Lake, Percy passing away in 1986 and Betty several years later. Kathy remains in the area.

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