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Pacific Wilderness Railway Inaugural Trip June 24th, 2000

by Elizabeth Guenzler

Not only was this the inaugural trip of a new excursion train in Victoria but it was also my first train ride in Canada. Since developing an interest in this hobby in the mid-1990's, the focus of it had been one of education, visiting Vancouver-area railyards in conjunction with model railway shows and spending many weekends at the Victoria roundhouse over a couple of years working on the Roundhouse Museum Society project.

It was therefore with much excitement that I joined other railfans, dignitaries and interested people to ride the first run of the Pacific Wilderness Railway (PWR) from Victoria to Malahat, twenty miles north, on the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway. The PWR was a project of Ross Rowland and the late Jerry Jacobsen, with motive power and passenger cars from the Ohio Central Railway.

Pacific Wilderness GP10 705 (ex. SPCX 705, exx. MidSouth 1044, exxx. ICG 8071, nee IC 9071) and Pacific Wilderness GP10 706 (ex. SPCX 706, exx. MidSouth 1071, exxx. ICG 8228, nee IC 9226) at the Victoria roundhouse on April 9th, 2000. Note the Ohio Central reporting marks, which would be changed to PAW before operations commenced in June.

The Good Luck banner across the tracks at the Johnson Street Bridge in Victoria on June 24th . This was a unique bridge where the left side was for cars and the right side was for trains. Known as the "Blue Bridge" (it was originally black until 1979), it was built as two adjacent, independent, heel trunnion bascule bridges.

The registration table where tickets were sold for the excursion.

The commemorative ribbon and spike pin that each passenger received.

The Naden Band of Canadian Maritime Forces Pacific set up and start to entertain the guests.

The emcee for the event is CFAX Radio News Director Terry Spence.

Awaiting the train to arrive from the roundhouse and break the banner. Note that both the rail and road bridges have been raised.

The moment everyone has been waiting for.

Throngs of people gather around the Pacific Wilderness Railway train eager to board.

Maritime Forces Pacific's fireboat "Firebrand" performs a ceremonial salute as passengers boarded.

The fireboat afterwards, as seen from the Johnson Street Bridge.

On board the train and curving around to the roundhouse.

The 1913 Canadian Pacific Railway roundhouse.

We start our journey north and ths is a view near Goldstream.

The train crosses 247' Arbutus Canyon trestle bridge at MP 14.9.

Once through Goldstream, the views overlook Finlayson Arm and the Saanich Peninsula.

Looking up Finlayson Arm, a long narrow arm on the south of Saanich Inlet draining Goldstream River at Goldstream Provincial Park.

Scenery at the top of the Malahat.

I spotted a powerboat at the southern end of Finlayson Arm.

More scenery from the Pacific Wilderness train of Finlayson Arm and the Saanich Peninsula.

While crossing the 298' high Niagara Canyon trestle bridge, I tried to capture the sense of height in this photograph looking down on the trees.

Looking behind as the train crosses the Arbutus Canyon trestle bridge on the return trip.

Looking south to the front of the train as it crosses the Arbutus Canyon trestle bridge.

The door to PAW 100, ex. Southern Railway coach 3659.

Interior of PAW 300 "Malahat Mountain" parlour car (ex. BCOL coach 8 "Budd Wiser", nee GM&O 3052) The train returned to Victoria and I had thoroughly enjoyed this excursion. I drove over to the roundhouse to catch the train returning.

The Pacific Wilderness Railway train at the Victoria roundhouse site.

The PWR operated throughout the summer of 2000 and into summer 2001. Unfortunately, however, several factors contributed to the events of July 19th, when the company folded and the equipment was returned to the Ohio Central. My friend Richard Isles informed me of this and I took a couple of hours off work to document this.

PAW GP10 703 (ex. OHCR 703, exx. SPCX 703, exxx. MidSouth 1035, exxxx. ICG 8143, exxxxx. IC 8143, nee IC 9143) and PAW coach 170 (ex. OHCR 6609, nee CN 6609) at the roundhouse site before departure for Nanaimo and eventually Ohio.

PAW GP10 705 (ex. SPCX 705, exx. MidSouth 1044, exxx. ICG 8071, nee IC 9071) and PAW baggage car 1 (ex. Lewis and Clark 246, nee GN 246) at the roundhouse site. The baggage car had been the ticket office and gift shop at the foot of Johnson Street.

PAW GP10 703 (ex. OHCR 703, exx. SPCX 703, exxx. MidSouth 1035, exxxx. ICG 8143, exxxxx. IC 8143, nee IC 9143) having its reporting mark changed from PAW back to OHCR, with the stores building behind.

PAW baggage car 1 (ex. Lewis and Clark 246, nee GN 246).

Two E&N Railway GP38s made the trip from Nanaimo to Victoria to take the Pacific Wilderness Railway trainset to Nanaimo on the long journey back to Ohio.

The last three cars of the Pacific Wilderness Railway fleet leave the Victoria roundhouse area. This was a sad day for me and the many railfans in attendance, as well as those impacted by the closure. But I am glad I had an opportunity to ride the inaugural run and be a part of history. That experience and others that I was fortunate to have prior to the launch will not be forgotten.