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From the car ferry could be seen Mount Baker in Washington state - an extinct volcano covered in snow and 10778 feet high. The sea was beautifully calm and I spent the whole of the time on deck. The journey through the islands must rank as one of the most beautiful I’ve ever made- narrow channels, mountains, blue seas etc. On docking near Victoria the bus headed straight downtown and dropped me off right outside the hotel door.

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An RDC railcar arrives at Victoria and passes over the lifting bridge

I went down to the VIA station of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo line and saw the two car Budd RDC train come in from Courtenay. The raiilway and road cross the harbour on a lifting bridge . Float planes were continually landing and taking off from the harbour, including a small airliner. In the evening I went for a walk around the town - the whole place, as the guidebooks say, is more English than an English town. The architecture is pure Victorian and if it were not for the roads it could be in the UK. I walked around the park and saw a display of country dancing, but decided not to join in despite the notice inviting people to do just that. Then I wandered round the harbour and listened to a Scottish piper- I even left him a dollar!

Victoria harbour with a float plane landing


The RDC 2-car unit about to leave Victoria for Courtenay

I took the Victoria to Nanaimo train leaving at 08.15. On the outskirts of Victoria was a small roundhouse and some evidence of freight traffic. The line is owned by CP. The train passed the naval dockyard at Esquimalt before starting the climb from Langford to the summit at Malahat 650’ above sea level.

The line crosses the Niagara Canyon (260 feet deep) which uses a bridge originally on the CP mainline to Vancouver at Cisco in the Fraser Canyon. Next comes the crossing of the Arbutus Canyon on a curved trestle 220 feet high. The line then descends 900 feet to Duncan. Here there were dozens of totem poles and Indian products on sale. At Chemainus the line reaches the coast and there is B.C.'s largest sawmill. The factory used to have extensive logging lines and a steam loco is preserved by the line. Several large ships were anchored in the bay. Just before Nanaimo the line runs through a former coal mining area with speed restrictions due to subsidence.

On the approach to Nanaimo a line to the ferry terminal branched off to the east. Another freight only line to the west went off into the forests. The conductor told us at Nanaimo that we had ten minutes to go to the cafe across the street for coffee! He told me that the freightcars carrying mainly timber products came over on the train barge from Vancouver and there is a six days a week freight service. There are apparently 3 GP9s for the heavy timber trains, one for the main line pick up freight and on used at the ferry terminal. The passenger service only operates because a treaty require it to be operated in perpetuity.

The RDC at the Courtenay terminus before returning to Victoria

At Parksville tank cars are kept for fighting forest fires. The line crossed over the 1045 feet long French Creek trestle. I phoned home from a rail employee’s mobile phone at Courtenay, the Bell phone being out of order - now that is customer care. We left after a 30 minute turnround at 13.15. 1 left the train at Nanaimo and walked into the town to catch the coach back to Vancouver. On the coach I heard a considerable amount of "native" language being spoken by people of obvious Indian extraction.

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The "Queen of Oak Bay arrives at the Nanaimo ferry terminal

Because of the holiday weekend (B.C.Day) the ferry was delayed because of heavy traffic so the bus had to wait about 40 minutes. The ship was "Queen of Oak Bay". The view across the Strait of Georgia to the B.C. mountains became progressively more stunning as the ship neared the mainland. Several cruise ships were seen - Vancouver is a major cruise port for sailings to Alaska.

The Lions Gate Suspension Bridge at Vancouver

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