SOOKE HISTORY: Bear Creek Valley speeder a ‘godsend’

Special vehicle used to transport passengers to Port Renfrew

Passengers prepare to load a speeder at Port Renfrew around 1950. The vehicle improved travel for area residents. (Sooke Region Museum photo)

Elida Peers | Contributed

A photo like this, which shows a transport at Port Renfrew (c 1950), might be startling for young people nowadays, but that’s really how it was.

Bear Creek Camp, alongside the famous Bear Creek trestle, was 14 miles by rail from Beach Camp, the part of Port Renfrew fronting San Juan Inlet, that most readers are familiar with today.

On the eastern side of the Bear Creek Valley, beginning in the late 1940s, vehicle traffic could drive from the Shawnigan Lake Road to have the speeder meet them at the trestle and continue the transport on the western side, through the San Juan Valley.

This speeder/vehicle route was a godsend for the folks at Port Renfrew, limited to the once-weekly visit of the CPR’s Princess Maquinna until then.

RELATED: The Maquinna plied local waters

The road connecting Port Renfrew to Jordan River and Sooke was not opened until 1958.

This photo given to the Sooke Region Museum long ago by Metchosin’s Ben Swindell, a member of the Sooke School District.

While the photo shows the main camp office and the store at Bear Creek, the scene looks as though it has dressed-up visitors; possibly it was a school board function, though the school is not in view.

The gas speeder was run by employees of B.C. Forest Products, often Andy Davidson or Johnny Krachuk. Superintendent of B.C. Forest Products, San Juan division, was Bob Robertson, whose daughter Jeannette Wilford grew up in Port Renfrew and now runs a business in Sooke.

Another local individual with fond memories of this Port Renfrew scene, and very familiar with the speeder, is Lorne Christensen, who as a youngster of 10 in Victoria began spending summers with his grandmother at Bear Creek Camp.

He recalls “Grandma was a great cook and baker, so we picked berries for her delicious blackberry pies.” The pies were set out on a shelf to cool, and suddenly Lorne and Grandma heard a big commotion and the pies were on the ground with a feasting big black bear.

Lorne says “Grandma opened the door and yelled and swore at the bear … hitting him with a broom … after he licked the plates clean he sauntered off as if it was the most normal thing in the world.”

It’s not likely that the bears manage to get at the pies in Port Renfrew today.


Elida Peers is historian of the Sooke Region Museum.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Development will bring 77 new homes to Colwood

Developers preparing land for six-storey, four-storey and two three-storey buildings on Sooke Road

Oak Bay, Esquimalt firefighters headed up the big climb Sunday

Oak Bay firefighter joins former Esquimalt assistant chief for 48-storey stair climb

Kids learn the ropes of business with free UVic entreprenuership training

The second annual Kidovate program is now open for registration

VicPD arrest man after hours-long barricade on Pandora Avenue

Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team called in to assist

Salmon fishing closures won’t save the whales, say critics

Federal government accused of going after salmon fishery as ‘low hanging fruit’

VIDEO: Alleged shoplifter caught on camera at Sidney boutique

Staff at Cameron Rose Gifts seek the public’s help locating woman

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

Loans or gifts? Judge rules woman must pay Victoria man back $7K

B.C. judge rules that woman must pay back more than $7,000 in advanced funds to man

Eyes on police after Trudeau orders blockades torn down, injunctions enforced

The RCMP in B.C. have sent a letter to the traditional leaders of the Wet’suwet’en Nation

B.C. massage therapist suspended following allegations of sexual misconduct

While suspended, Leonard Krekic is not entitled to practice as an RMT in B.C.

Cheapest in B.C.: Penticton gas prices dip below $1 per litre

Two stores in Penticton have gas below a dollar.

VIDEO: Outpouring of worldwide support for bullied Australian boy

Australian actor Hugh Jackman said ‘you are stronger than you know, mate’

‘A horror show:’ Ex-employee shares experience at problematic Chilliwack seniors’ home

Workers are paid below industry standard at all Retirement Concepts facilities

Forest industry protests northern B.C. caribou protection deal

B.C. Mining Association supports federal-Indigenous plan

Most Read