What a memory treat when Jeannie Aderichin handed me her 1988 souvenir boarding pass to an excursion on the Sooke River Railway. This is not to be confused with the Canadian National Railway that operated on the route that is now the CRD’s Galloping Goose Regional Trail.
The boarding pass was given out by the short-lived Sooke River Railway Preservation Society, which ran during the 1980s.
The CNR line started during First World War as the Canadian Northern, ran until the mid-1960s. The CNR line no longer carried logs and lumber from the uplands forests but munitions shipped from Cowichan Bay to Rocky Point. The original coal-burning steam locomotives had been changed to diesel by then.
The Sooke River Railway Preservation Society, a group of rail enthusiasts who hated seeing an end to the historic railway, was led by Victoria’s Caleb Small.
The steel rails and wooden ties were still in place on the route, and this group managed to get permission to run an excursion vehicle over a three-mile section. An open-air speeder-type contraption, it was equipped with bench seats and appeared to carry up to a dozen passengers.
Passengers boarded at the intersection where the railway line crossed Sooke River Road and ran about three miles to the Barnes Station platform at Deer Trails. This was named after Jack Barnes, who owned the property of the upland before its purchase by Albert Yuen. Deer Trails, which is still used today, came from the earlier farm settlement by pioneers George and Sis Weiler.
The Aderichins recalled the thrill of gliding over the mighty railway trestles they crossed, the Charters and the Todd trestles. Other families who retain fond memories of their excursions on the line include Jackie and Danny Eddy, Gary and Meredith White and Patricia and John Handy.
Despite Caleb Small’s efforts, the group could not save the railway, and the rails and ties were withdrawn. The B.C government bought the railway right-of-way. Leased to the Capital Regional District, the corridor has become one of the most popular hiking and cycling attractions on the South Island, now known as the Galloping Goose Trail.
Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.