Locomotive No. 2116 once plied the tracks of the Sooke Hills with logs from the Sooke and Leech River watersheds.

Memories of locomotive No. 2116

The old steamer trekked the Sooke Hills up and down between Sooke and Victoria for decades, hauling cargo and passengers.

No. 2116, our favourite steam locomotive.

Back in the days of rural Sooke in the 1930s, we unsophisticated kids that lived in Saseenos would rush out to watch a locomotive hurtling by hauling a string of cars, when the steam whistle announced its onrushing approach.

Boxcars and flatdecks, while generally empty as they headed upcountry, would come charging back down from the Sooke and Leech River watersheds loaded with logs destined for the mills near Selkirk Inlet in Victoria.

Sometimes the flatdecks carried poles enroute to Minneapolis, Minn., the centre which distributed communications poles throughout the western world. The CNR established sidings at various strategic locations along the line, such as Saseenos, Milnes Landing, and Leechtown stations, where the flatdecks would be loaded. In the 1940s and early 1950s, the siding at Saseenos Station, just east of Woodlands Road, would often be the scene of poles being loaded from Alf Brown’s poleyard.

Another scene, on the eastern side of the station, might be a load of lumber being loaded onto the waiting railcars by strong muscled young men. Munn’s Mill, which stood between Ayum (Stoney) Creek and Laidlaw Road, was operating then, and it was the “Ross Carrier” from Munn’s Mill, driven by Bill Marr, that one heard whining up the hill to drop its load alongside the railcar, ready for those muscular young men to load by hand.

Before there was such a thing as the Capital Regional District, that later developed the Galloping Goose trail on the original CNR line, local folk used to hike the line, with its Douglas-fir ties supporting the steel rails on which rode the mean looking steel rimmed wheels in this photo.

The thing we all had to watch and listen for, as we neared one of the many railway trestles that were on the route at that time, was not to get caught on a trestle when a train was approaching, as they would not be able to stop in time.

Later, the trains carried munitions from Cowichan Bay to Work Point, but by that time, the locomotives were diesel – how dull, after the excitement of the belching steam behemoths.

While those days are long gone, as you join the hundreds of hikers walking the Galloping Goose trail every day now, spare a thought for the romance of the steam locomotives and the mournful haunting wail of their steam whistles which once echoed throughout the Sooke Hills.

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Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.