Local finds pioneer-era train wheels in wild bush
Ever wondered what historic mementos lie in that cluttered-up old attic? Or how that rusty 1930’s Ford got in that thick ravine right by your house?
Funny enough, Sooke’s deep forests, rocky rivers and vast beaches are brimming with history; and for some passionate Sookies, digging it all up is just a good sport.
Brandon Davies, a local collector of antique and historical objects, stumbled upon something strange while wandering deep in the woods one day.
“I was venturing out below Diversion Dam, looking at old pictures and on Google satellite images to find out where all the workers were living and staying while they were building the dam there,” Davies said.
He initially set off in search of an old bridge about a kilometre below, albeit through pure wilderness.
“There was no trail at all; I was hiking through the bush and going down cliffs to try and find that bridge to cross over to the other side,” he said.
But his journey took an unexpected turn; he stumbled upon a set of train wheels abandoned in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere.
“I noticed these were sticking out of the ferns criss-crossed at an angle down a steeper embankment,” Davies said. “I pulled the bushes away and figured out what they were; it was a whole cart and everything sitting there. No wood around or nothing, that was all rotten away.”
Excited by his find, Davies picked up the wheels and took them to his truck; but since each axle weighs around 150 lbs., it was easier said than done.“This was the biggest find for me, but also the hardest day hauling it all out of there,” he said. “Took me around an hour and a half to haul each one to get to the truck.”
Still, Davies was all smiles. He’d caught himself a piece of history in a place that goes quite-a-way back.
“I camped around Diversion Dam a lot growing up, so I’ve always wanted to go further into the bush, see what’s all around there,” he said, adding that he definitely wants to go back for more historic swag.
“There’s a bunch of trashed-up old iron down the river from the old construction of the dam, it’s pretty neat,” he said.
Working as a tradesman by profession, Davies does it all for fun; with the use of a metal detector, a GPS/phone and a good bit of intuition, he just loves to check out old historic sites.
“The oldest coin I have is a silver nickel I found in Port Renfrew dated 1940; then from an old hydro plant in Jordan River I got a porcelain thing that says 1901, so that’s the oldest dated object I’ve found,” he said, adding that he’s found piles of stuff over the years, including coins and knives, pick-axes and hammers, as well as an old 1870’s frying skillet from Leechtown.
As for the train wheels, how they got there or what kind of rail-based vehicle they belonged to remains a mystery; but that’s just part of the fun, says Davies.
According to the book, The Sooke Story, The History and the Heartbeat, published by the Sooke Region Museum, work on the Diversion Dam began in 1909 by the V.I. Power Company. The dam was built to provide power to light up the City of Victoria. The dam was completed in 1911. In 1907 logging operations began in Jordan River and one-and-one-half miles of standard railway grade was built with picks and shovels.