On my most recent post, our friend Owen asked about railroads on Vancouver Island, so I thought I would give you a "Cook's Tour" of the Island. Vancouver Island is 290 miles long and 62 miles wide. It is the largest island on the western side of North America. The spine of Vancouver Island is The Vancouver Island Mountain Range, and the highest point in the range is Golden Hinde Mountain which is 7,201 feet, and is named after Sir Francis Drake's ship, the "Golden Hind". (I don't know why the spelling was changed.) Sir Francis Drake was the first European to spot Vancouver Island, but he did not land there. There are 18 subranges in the Vancouver Island Mountains, and 210 peaks.
Vancouver Island is so large, it has two separate weather climates, the northern being the rainforest climate, and the southern being officially a Mediterranean climate, complete with vineyards producing prize-winning wine. Victoria is the southernmost city on Vancouver Island, and is the capital of British Columbia. It would take at least three or four posts to tell you everything about Vancouver Island, so I will start with the bottom and work up. (Oh, don't yawn ... I won't do it all at once ...)
This is a picture of the world-famous Empress Hotel. The hotel was built 1908 and has hosted kings, queens, movie stars and other celebrities. In 1919, Edward, Prince of Wales danced in its Crystal Ballroom and in the 1930s, Shirley Temple and her parents took refuge there after she was threatened with kidnapping in California. The Empress Hotel is an iconic tourist attraction, and every afternoon during the summer months, the hotel serves high tea (along with tea sandwiches, fresh scones, preserves and Jersey Cream) in its 'Tea Lobby' to more than 800 guests and tourists -- a little bit of "Old England".
Across the harbor from the Empress Hotel are the Parliament Buildings. Both the Empress Hotel and the Parliament Buildings were designed by the architect Francis Rattenbury, who led a scandalous life. In 1923, he left his wife for 27-year-old Alma Pakenham. He married Alma in 1925 and soon afterwards she had an affair with their 18 year-old chauffeur. In 1935, Rattenbury was murdered and his wife and chauffeur were charged. It was just like in a game of "Clue". Rattenbury was murdered by the chauffeur, in the library, with a candlestick -- well, actually it was a mallett. The chauffeur was convicted and sentenced to death, although his sentence was later commuted to a life sentence. Mrs. Rattenbury committed suicide by stabbing herself through the heart and falling into the River Avon. There is a story that the Rattenburys haunt the Empress Hotel and the Parliament Buildings.
"So", Owen asks, "What about the trains?" Here is a link to the Southern Railway of Vancouver Island, previously known as the Esquimalt and Nanaimo line. The railway line started in 1886, and it was both a passenger line and a freight line. At one time the rail line went over the historic wooden Kinsol Trestle, which is 125 feet high and 614 feet long, and is one of the highest railway trestles in the world. And let me tell you, you haven't lived until you have gone over one of these creaking wooden trestles, in a train going about two miles an hour, and there is nothing on either side but a canyon. Oh, yes... We used to walk across those trestles, and hope and pray a train didn't come along. I remember once my friend Bonnie and I made a huge sign that said "STOP" and we stood on each side of the railroad tracks until a train came by. The engineer stopped the train and chased us down the street yelling, "You little b*ggers!"
So, that is the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Next time I will tell you about the tidal wave that almost wiped out the town where I lived.