The railway that used to run near our Sidney BC hotel

by admin on September 14, 2012

sidney bc hotelFrom 1894 to 1919, the Victoria and Sidney Railway helped sawmilling and agriculture communities grow on the Saanich Peninsula.

Until the Victoria and Sidney Railway was created, farmers had to haul their produce from Sidney to Victoria by oxen down a muddy wagon road. In 1874 an application was made for a charter to build a railway.

In the 21st century, many of the line’s abandoned routes lie beneath the roads and highways that act as the main arteries on the Peninsula.

The railways of the Saanich Peninsula have a great history. According to Darryl E. Muralt of the BC Railway Historical Association:

There were many tales told about the casual method of its operation. It was not unusual for male passengers to dismount at Royal Oak, grab a quick pint at the pub, and race across the field to jump back on board as the train slowly climbed the hill. Stops were made between stations to pick up farmers’ wives going into Victoria with fresh eggs and butter. Trains rarely ran on time, sometimes backed a freight car off the wharf at Sidney, hit a team of horses, or derailed a coach, leaving the passengers to walk to town.

For the 25 years of its existence, the Victoria and Sidney Railway was a main link not only between Victoria and the Saanich Peninsula, but also between Victoria and New Westminster on the mainland. New Westminster, located about 20 kilometers up the Fraser River from the coast, was at that time the main administrative centre of the province, and also the main hub for steamships and river boats that traveled, in stages, up the Fraser River into the interior of British Columbia.

Originally the Victoria terminal for the V & S was near Hillside Avenue, but in 1902 an extension was completed south along what is now Blanshard Street, then west along Fisgard Street to the Victoria Public Market building (situated on the 600-block between Fisgard and Cormorant streets, where the Fisgard Street Parkade is now). This location proved troublesome, partly because the steam locomtiives had to travel right down the middle of Fisgard Street, and in 1910 the station was moved two blocks to the east, to the northwestern corner of Blanshard and Fisgard streets.

In 1913, the B.C. Electric Interurban Railway started service between Victoria & Deep Cove. Two years later the Canadian Northern Pacific (later Canadian National) began a line to Patricia Bay. Too much competition forced the “V and S” Railway to abandon operations in 1919. Much of the original right of way has been obliterated by roads and other developments, but a section still exists along the west side of Beaver and Elk lakes and is a popular trail maintained by CRD Parks.

Today, the old rail lines have largely been obscured by roads and highways, although the railbed does serve a new role as the route for the popular Lochside Trail bike route.

Most people now rely on cars to travel between Victoria and the Saanich Peninsula, as well as public transit. Still, public or easy access transportation can be limited out on the peninsula, so companies like Oceanside Transport are stepping up to help make it easier for visitors to get to Butchart Gardens and other attractions.