Canadian Geographic - - COWICHAN VALLEY TRAIL -

Con­structed by hand be­tween 1911 and 1920, the Kin­sol Tres­tle is a mag­nif­i­cent feat of en­gi­neer­ing from the Age of Steam that to­day is the must-see site on the Cowichan Val­ley Trail. A lit­tle more than a decade ago, though, the his­toric rail­way bridge seemed des­tined to be lost. In 2006, af­ter years of ne­glect, van­dal­ism and two ar­son at­tempts, a Vic­to­ria en­gi­neer­ing firm rec­om­mended to Bri­tish Columbia’s Min­istry of Trans­porta­tion that the tres­tle be de­mol­ished and re­placed. The Cowichan Val­ley Re­gional Dis­trict agreed, and the fol­low­ing spring the prov­ince an­nounced $1.6 mil­lion in fund­ing to­ward a new bridge, on top of a pre­vi­ous com­mit­ment of $1.5 mil­lion to dis­man­tle the orig­i­nal tres­tle. That’s when Macdon­ald & Lawrence Tim­ber Fram­ing, a lo­cal com­pany spe­cial­iz­ing in build­ing and con­serv­ing tim­ber struc­tures, de­cided to study the tres­tle and of­fer a sec­ond opin­ion. “I had never been there be­fore and I was blown away by what an im­pres­sive struc­ture it was,” says Gor­don Macdon­ald, the com­pany’s CEO. “I re­al­ized a cou­ple things. One was that there was a lot of good ma­te­rial in the bridge. The other was that there were well-proven ways of re­pair­ing struc­tures like the tres­tle that hadn’t been con­sid­ered.” Macdon­ald also sought in­put from other vol­un­teer ex­perts, in­clud­ing the re­tired se­nior en­gi­neer for CN Rail who had been re­spon­si­ble for the Kin­sol Tres­tle for more than 30 years. In June 2007, Macdon­ald’s group con­vinced the Cowichan Val­ley Re­gional Dis­trict that the tres­tle could, and should, be saved. Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion would be cheaper and more en­vi­ron­men­tally sound than re­place­ment. But fore­most, says Macdon­ald, the tres­tle was sim­ply too sig­nif­i­cant to lose. “It was one of the few sur­vivors from this era when no project was too big or too crazy to be un­der­taken.” It took about a year to re­store the tres­tle, in­clud­ing a cou­ple of “in­tense months” when seven sec­tions of the bridge were re­moved, from the top deck down to the foun­da­tion, leav­ing the rest of the bridge “just stand­ing there, tem­po­rar­ily guyed to­gether,” Macdon­ald re­calls, not­ing that he barely slept dur­ing that time. The re­sult? “Our dream of mak­ing it a des­ti­na­tion has come true,” says Lori Treloar, cu­ra­tor of the nearby Shawni­gan Lake Mu­seum and a vo­cal pro­po­nent of sav­ing the tres­tle. “We have hun­dreds of peo­ple out there ev­ery week. We con­sider it a jewel in The Great Trail.”

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