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The Kinsol Trestle, also known as the Koksilah River Trestle, is a wooden railway trestle located on Vancouver Island north of Shawnigan Lake in the Canadian Province of British Columbia. It provides a spectacular crossing of the Koksilah River.
Completed in 1920, its dimensions measure 44 m (144 ft) high and 188 m (617 ft) long, making it the largest wooden trestle in the Commonwealth of Nations and one of the highest railway trestles in the world.
It was built as part of a plan to connect Victoria to Nootka Sound, passing through Cowichan Lake and Port Alberni, when forestry had gained some ground on Vancouver Island and a more efficient way to transport the region's huge, old-growth timber was needed. It was not built, as some mistakenly believe, to serve any nearby mines. It was named after the nearby Kinsol Station which, in turn, took its name from a nearby mining venture grandiosely named “King Solomon Mines”, a very small mining venture that produced 18 t (19.8 short tons; 17.7 long tons) or 18,000 kg or 39,683 lb of copper and 6,300 g (203 ozt) of silver (from 254 t or 280 short tons or 250 long tons of ore—hardly enough to fill 3 rail cars) over the period 1904–1907 .
The line was started in 1911 by the Canadian Northern Pacific Railway (CNoPR) and while it was designed by engineers, it was built by local farmers and loggers, with investment funds from the Canadian Western Lumber Company, which was the largest lumber company in the world at that time. The trestle was never completed by the CNoPR, and the line only reached Youbou before construction was terminated. The CNoPR was taken over by Canadian National Railways in 1918, and its line and the trestle were completed in 1920 as part of the "Galloping Goose" rail line. The last train to cross the Kinsol was in 1979, and the trestle was abandoned 1 year later.
CN's rail service on Vancouver Island was abandoned in the 1980s and the right of way given to the provincial Ministry of Transportation. The right-of-way has been incorporated into a recreational trail system affiliated with the Trans-Canada Trail network and the Kinsol Trestle is now mainly a tourist destination.
(The following section needs updating since the trestle was retrofitted as a non-motorized traffic bridge and reopened in July 2011.)
Due to the deteriorated structure of the Kinsol Trestle, the bridge was not usable by walkers or bicyclists on the Trans-Canada Trail and was in danger of being torn down because it posed an environmental concern and danger to the public.
This created some disagreement in the community. Some community groups set out to raise money to preserve the trestle for its historical and tourism value, whereas others simply wanted to repair the break in the Trans-Canada Trail as quickly and cheaply as possible. At that point in time crossing the Koksilah required an 8.5 km (5.3 mi) detour through difficult terrain.
The Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) held a special meeting on June 7, 2007 to determine the fate of the Kinsol. During this meeting the CVRD Board received presentations from a local firm that specializes in building conservation: Macdonald & Lawrence Timber Framing Ltd proposed a conservation strategy that would see the bridge fully restored for pedestrian use as part of the Trans-Canada Trail network.
On September 20, 2007, the CVRD voted to move ahead with a feasibility study concerning the feasibility of the Kinsol Trestle. Three firms had responded to the CVRD request for proposals for restoration and the Vancouver firm Commonwealth Historic Resource Management Limited won the contract. Commonwealth has joined forces with Macdonald and Lawrence, the local timber construction firm that proposed a conservation strategy in June, 2007. M&L is local in the sense it is established in Cobble Hill (a community close to Shawnigan Lake and the Kinsol), but is world-renowned and has built many unique structures in Great Britain, received a commendation from Queen Elizabeth for its work in restoring Windsor Castle following the disastrous fire, and is working to restore the British explorer Shackleton's shack in the Antarctic and other unique projects. In November, 2007 Gordon Macdonald and his team completed a major inspection of the trestle, drilling hundreds of test holes. The final report shows that 80% of the major timbers are still sound and that it is entirely feasible to restore this magnificent structure. M&L's report comprised the major portion of Commonwealth's report presented to the CVRD on January 23, 2008. The Board members voted overwhelmingly to have Commonwealth proceed with Phase 2 of the study to provide a detailed plan of restoration, including a full evaluation of costs. This report was delivered in November 2008.
It was calculated that the rehabilitation of the trestle would cost $5.7 million. This rehabilitation option met many of the CVRD's objectives for increasing recreation, tourism and economic opportunities. The rehabilitation work will replace unsound timbers, reinforce structural piers and build a new 614-foot walkway atop the structure for hikers, runners, cyclists and equestrians, as well as ensure that the historic characteristics of this wonderful structure are preserved for the community and tourists.
The cost to rehabilitate the Trestle is a large sum, but there would be benefits brought on by the rehabilitation of the Kinsol Trestle. The Kinsol Trestle is one of the few accessible and visible reminders of the early mining and logging industries that are so much a part of the Cowichan Valley heritage, and increased tourism and recreation would create long-term economic and recreational benefits in the community. The rehabilitation would also generate over 22 years of employment for the local population with direct and indirect work on the Trestle, engineering, and project management. At the same time, persistent preservation efforts related to the Kinsol Trestle offer an instructive case for critical reflection on how settlers seek to build connection and sense of belonging to lands that they occupy.
The provincial government recognized the rehabilitation of the Trestle as a valuable commitment for the community, and committed $4.1 million to the rehabilitation project. Another $2 million is needed to reach the total cost of $5.7 million.
The official reopening of the trestle was July 28, 2011.<https://web.archive.org/web/20110406180343/http://www.shawniganlakemuseum.com/kinsol.html>
The Kinsol Trestle Capital Campaign
With the recognition that the Kinsol Trestle would be preserved and rehabilitated, an official community based campaign was created in order to promote the Trestle and to raise the remaining $2 million necessary to complete the Kinsol Trestle.
An official fundraising campaign was launched in June 2009 in order to raise the remainder of the funds needed to rehabilitate the Trestle. The official Save the Historic Kinsol Trestle Campaign came through with the support of the Cowichan Foundation and the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD). The campaign was launched on June 10, 2009, and donations have steadily been coming in from across the country since the official kickoff. While the support from the community has been significant, much more is still needed.
Construction on the Trestle is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2010, with the trestle and trail opening planned for early summer, 2011.
The Trestle reopened to the public after major renovation on July 28, 2011. It is now forms a part of the Trans Canada Trail.
- Black, Kelly (2017). "An archive of settler belonging: Local feeling, land, and the forest resource on Vancouver Island". doi:10.25316/ir-558 – via VIUSpace.
- "Historic railway trestle reopened on Vancouver Island - British Columbia - CBC News". Cbc.ca. 2011-07-29. Retrieved 2018-02-17.
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