Thursday, 3 May 2012

Why I love Victoria (3)

It's a railway city.

After the first powerful, plain manifesto

The black statement of pistons, without more fuss

But gliding like a queen, she leaves the station.

Victoria is a railway city. Or it was. And will be again soon, I hope. Real towns have railways. The Esquimalt and Nanaimo, the Island's one remaining railway line, is temporarily out of action, but it's supposed to reopen next year with commuter trains running south to Victoria.

Until last year when the poor condition of the track forced closure of the service, you could set your clock by the "whistle" of the little diesel train pulling out of Victoria at eight o'clock in the morning. You couldn't set your clock by the sound of its return because it was rarely on time. But that was part of its charm.

This was a train you would catch for the pleasure of the journey, not to arrive anywhere on time. It would amble along, swaying from side to side on dodgy rails, stopping, before crawling across the ancient wooden trestle above Goldstream Park. It would begin and end at the quaint little station just on the Victoria side of the Johnson Street Bridge, where, alas, it will stop no more, since the short-sighted authorities have failed to fund a railway line across the new bridge.

 There is nothing quite so much fun as walking along a railway line, balancing on the rail, imagining the hordes of navvies building the line a century ago and hearing the old steam trains chugging along.

Victoria was once the terminus for a number of lines running north to Sydney and east to Sooke as well as up to Courtney. Would that they still ran! Three ran up the peninsular, one to Deep Cove and two to Sydney. Parts of these discontinued lines have become the Galloping Goose and Lochside Trails and the path on the west side of Elk Lake. All that remains of Victoria's glorious railway history are the rusty rails of the E&N. For now, all is silent.

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